THE SOLO DRIFTER: A Travel Guide to Harmonious Malaysia’s DiverCITY

Before our Asia-Pacific train-the-trainers training in Singapore, I decided to have my flight rerouted to Malaysia and took the 8:50PM flight via Cebu Pacific. There is no time difference between Malaysia and the Philippines and it took us four hours to get there.

Philippine passport holders are granted visa-free entry to Malaysia for 30 days.

So welcome to the first stop of my third #SEAtour!

What you need to know about Malaysia

  1. Federal constitutional monarchy
  2. The head of state is the king (elected monarch chosen from the hereditary rulers of the nine Malay states every five years)
  3. The head of government is the Prime Minister
  4. Consists of 13 states and three federal territories
  5. Multi-ethnic and multi-cultural
  6. The word “melayu” in Malay may derive from the Tamil words “malai” and “ur” meaning “mountain” and “city, land”, respectively
  7. The country has developed into a centre of Islamic banking, and is the country with the highest numbers of female workers in that industry.
  8. The constitution grants freedom of religion and makes Malaysia an officially secular state, while establishing Islam as the “religion of the Federation”

What you need to know about Greater Kuala Lumpur/ Kuala Lumpur

  1. National capital and largest city in Malaysia
  2. Among the fastest growing metropolitan regions in Southeast Asia, in both population and economic development
  3. Houses three of the world’s ten largest shopping malls
  4. Named as one of the New7Wonders Cities, and has been named as World Book Capital 2020 by UNESCO
  5. Means “muddy confluence” in Malay; kuala is the point where two rivers join together or an estuary, and lumpur means “mud”
  6. Protected by the Titiwangsa Range in the east and Indonesia’s Sumatra Island in the west, Kuala Lumpur is safe from strong winds and has a tropical rainforest climate, which is warm and sunny, along with abundant rainfall, especially during the northeast monsoon season from October to March.
  7. Flood is a frequent occurrence in Kuala Lumpur after heavy downpours, especially in the city centre because the structural irrigation lacks behind the intensive development within the City.
  8. Was administered by a corporation sole called the Federal Capital Commissioner from 1 April 1961, until it was awarded city status in 1972, after which executive power transferred to the Lord Mayor (Datuk Bandar).
  9. The architecture of Kuala Lumpur is a mixture of old colonial influences, Asian traditions, Malay Islamic inspirations, modern, and postmodern architecture mix.

What you need to know about Cameron Highlands

  1. Noted for its cool weather, orchards, nurseries, farmlands, waterfalls, rivers, lakes, wildlife, mossy forest, golf course, hotels, places of worship, bungalows, Land Rovers, museum and its aborigines (Orang Asli).
  2. Named after William Cameron, a British explorer and geologist who was commissioned by the then colonial government to map out the Pahang-Perak border area in 1885.
  3. Its mean annual temperature is 18 °C (64 °F).
  4. As with most of western Pahang, the Cameron Highlands is not served by any KTM railway station, the closest being in Kuala Lipis and Tapah Road. Nevertheless, there are several bus services that connect the Highlands to the other towns in West Malaysia, such as Kuala Lumpur, Ipoh, Penang and Tapah.

Kuala Lumpur

While waiting for the first trip of KLIA Ekspres, decided to have a hot milk tea at Hometown Hainan Coffee, a premium café that modernizes the culture of relaxing in a local coffee house. It is known for its “kaya,” a coconut jam made from a base of coconut milk, eggs and sugar so did not miss to try it. What I love about the KL International Airport is its full of food choices, it has different restaurants and café offering different cuisines and courses.

Had my dollars exchanged with Malaysian ringgit at the RHB Bank in the airport. It has a good deal. Malaysia uses type G power socket, similar to the British socket so bought one in a FamilyMart in the airport, costing me MYR48. Then bought a single-journey card to KL Sentral via KLIA Ekspres, a non-stop airport rail link service to KL Sentral. It costs MYR55. I must say that KLIA Ekspres is one of the best airport services I have ever seen. On the other hand, KLIA Transit is a commuter rail service between KL Sentral and KL International Airport that stops at all stations. You may buy a weekly or monthly KLIA Transit TravelCard, ranging from MYR60 to MYR400. Enjoy a 10% discount when you buy your KLIA Transit tickets from the self-service kiosk.

From KL Sentral, took a budget taxi to Amigo Hotel. Room rate for two is only MYR66 but expect that hotels will ask you to pay a tourism tax of MYR10 as a foreigner. The room is not that big but that’s fine, would need to check out at night for Cameron Highlands tour.

Had breakfast at Texas Chicken, a fast food chain. I just noticed that almost all restaurants offer free refill of soda. I know, Filipinos will love this!

The Royal Palace

Picked up by tour guide, brought to the Royal Palace. Of course, tourists are not allowed to get inside so I only have a photo remembrance outside the Palace. Since Malaysia was a British colony, they have the same UK Palace set up, guards stand there all day long and with one riding a horse.

Batu Caves

One of the best things to do in KL is to make a journey outside of the city to the colorful Batu Caves. It is an important and sacred place for the Hindu people as the limestone hill houses a number of caves and Hindu cave temples. Batu Temple Cave has no entrance fee and is open daily from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.

Royal Selangor

Next stop is the visitor centre of the largest pewter manufacturer in the world. Pewter is a malleable metal alloy. The world’s largest pewter tankard recognized by the Guinness Book of Records was made by Royal Selangor in 1985 to commemorate its centenary. Royal Selangor Visitor Centre uses technology for the self tour as you will be given a gadget with sensor. When you go to a specific spot, you will hear a voice narrating history and trivia of that section or object, just plug the earphones! Notable attractions are the unique rendition of the Petronas Twin Towers made from over 7,000 tankards; the comyns archive that contain more than 35,000 artefacts from comyns; a prestigious silver brand founded in 1645; and watch how pewter crafting is done real-time from casting, polishing to assembling.

Of course, I did not miss to buy a souvenir – a unisex wearable 24k gold plated pewter.

National Monument

This place has a great view as you get to see the see of skyscrapers from the bronze monument of seven soldiers carrying a Malaysian flag which is dedicated to the Malaysian militaries who died during the World War II and the 11,000 people who died during the Malayan Emergency, which lasted for 12 years from 1948. The seven soldiers represent seven qualities of leadership – courage, strength, sacrifice, command, unity, suffering, and wariness.

Sultan Abdul Samad Building and Kuala Lumpur City Gallery

Built in 1987, the building stand majestically with its breathtaking architecture. It was once the administration building of the British colonizers.

The Kuala Lumpur City Gallery tells the story of Kuala Lumpur’s past, present, and future through miniatures. It is located right in Independence Square (Dataran Merdeka), Kuala Lumpur’s historical enclave.

National Mosque

I really fell in love with Malaysia until our tour guide stopped here, explaining the message of this unique mosque – it represents harmony and unity of the different cultures living in Malay. It sends a message of respect of religion and beliefs. The way our tour guide delivered this, coming from his heart, I saw and it manifests how people who live in Malaysia love this country, “Nobody owns Malaysia. We just love it.”

Harriston Botique

Our last top from Klook’s full city day tour, not to mention the Petronas and Chinatown and our free lunch, is Harriston Botique. It offers more than 150 chocolate variants, including my first try’s ruby chocolates. Yes, that was my first time to hear that kind of chocolate as I only know some like milk and dark chocolates. Witnessed how they make some of their products and bought pasalubongs – a kilo of unbreakable almond chocolates, “no need to refrigerate” monkey chocolate, a bottle of cacao powders.

Chinatown and Central Market

The hotel is located in Chinatown, where there is a high concentration of cheap hotels.

One of the suggested places to shop is the Pasar Seni, also known as Central Market. The place offers Batik products and other apparel products, local handicrafts, and food. It’s just a stone’s throw away from Petaling Street.

After my worship service, I met my KPMG batchmate in the Philippines, Merk. He is now working in a shared service centre of a Malaysian low-cost airline company. He treated me to Nando’s.

Petronas Twin Towers

There are a lot of people outside the Petronas but worry not on your selfie, the space can accommodate your dream! The world’s tallest towers are beautiful whatever the angle is.

Cameron Highlands

Did not miss to visit Cameron Highlands. It is like Baguio in the Philippines. But going up here is a challenge. Took 11:45 p.m. trip at TBS (Terminal Bersepadu Selatan) to Ipoh. Didn’t expect TBS – it’s like an airport, with functioning barcode scanner for your boarding passes, and buses leave the terminal on time. Arrived at Ipoh around 2 a.m. Bus ticket costs MYR20 via 12GOAsia. From Ipoh to Tanah Rata bus terminal is three hours and it costs MYR22. When we get to Tanah Rata, the bus conductor asked if interested to rent a taxi for a tour because unlike some tourist spots in Baguio, Cameron’s are meters away so you really have to take a taxi. Got to meet a Filipino administrative staff of a travel agency who arranged the tour, thanks to that bus conductor!

Boh Tea Plantation

Thanks to our taxi driver for the tour and for taking good photos. First stop is the Boh Tea Plantation that greets visitors with a panoramic sights of undulating tea fields that stretch our for acres. The café, which has a balcony and a terrace, offers spectacular viewpoints for visitors to indulge in while sipping on a cup of tea. I bought a number of tea here because it’s cheap and the quality is promising.

Other places visited

Cameron Lavender Garden

Rose Garden

Honey Bee Farm

Other places to visit

  1. Mossy Forest
  2. Strawberry Farm
  3. Sam Poh Temple
  4. Butterfly Farm

Did not try to visit these other places as we also have them in Baguio and they are better home but the vibe in Cameron Highlands is different – not crowded and the food deserve you. You should try them!

As usual, you don’t see any theme park activities here like the Legoland because I’m not really fan of it.


Now is the time to bid good bye to Malaysia. Straight from Tanah Rata, went back to KL Sentral to pick up luggage, in time for Singapore trip. Failed to catch booked Singapore bus and yes, they are not providing refund so I needed to buy a new one.

At TBS, there are available lockers where you can rent for only MYR5 to MYR10.

At the Malaysia-Singapore border, it will take you around 30 minutes for immigration processes. It’s hassle-free in Malaysia, but Singapore is more strict.

Malaysia is my second favorite country after Thailand because of its diversity and vibe. The people’s humility manifests their love to their country.

Also, because of its cheap gas and diesel, families in Malaysia, according to our tour guide, averagely own four cars. But, Manila traffic is still heavier because of Malaysia’s good transportation system and road system. Malaysian people like to take their own cars instead of the public transportation because they appreciate more time with their family. Most of them choose to stay home or enjoy the parks with their loved ones. And that is the culture I love most about Malaysia.

Click this for the itinerary and budget.

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About the Author

Paul Michael Jaramillo
Paul Michael JaramilloChief Executive Editor
PJ is a CPA, writer, storyteller, environment and youth advocate. As a writer, his articles on national development were published in a Spanish newspaper and local news network Rappler. As a storyteller and environment advocate, his documentary films on mining and environment were featured by ABS-CBN News and GMA News. He launched his career as a CPA at KPMG in the Philippines in late 2015. He started his professional journey as an external auditor of a global workspace provider (the largest audit client of KPMG in the Philippines), global bank, leading MFCG in the Philippines and a number of shared service centres. As an auditor, his team won the KPMG Asia-Pacific Data & Analytics Challenge and coached the Philippine team that placed third to the KPMG GlobalRunner Cup. More than two years later, he led KPMG in the Philippines’ Network of Audit Innovators and Data & Analytics Champions and its academic arm, while serving as a member of the KPMG Asia-Pacific Audit Digital Transformation Workstream. He served as a member of the Audit Methodology Group and Root Cause Analysis Team of KPMG in the Philippines. He was a regular training facilitator of KPMG on audit methodology, innovation, data and analytics, professional standards and regulatory updates. He also served as a coach for newly promoted supervisors. PJ was also the Firm’s System of Quality Management Implementation Manager and a Workforce of the Future Champion. He was also a Sampling Specialist of the Firm. In 2019, PJ was a member of the Philippine Institute of Certified Public Accountants (PICPA)’s Technical Working Group on Audit Methodology. PJ led in developing some of the innovative solutions of KPMG in the Philippines. Above all, PJ is a people investor. He invests on people who have potential and talents. That makes him a coach and mentor to some young professionals in the profession and served as a People Committee member of KPMG in the Philippines. He leads advocacy projects that help communities. He produces vlogs thru his YouTube channel, PJspirations which features stories of different individuals. As a volunteer, he is the Academic Master and Head Coach of PREMIER International Learning and Development Center, which provides coaching, mentoring, training and learning programs and platforms that promote growth and development in every individual’s life and career. He is also with the Middle East and Caspian regions of KPMG as a member of its Professional Practice group and Audit L&D for the Saudi Levant Cluster, providing subject matter knowledge and guidance on audit methodology, and learning and development programs to its offices. He is a proud Ilocano and a graduate of Northwestern University.

He also conducts #IamRemarkable sessions, a program initiated by Google for women and underrepresented groups.