After a week of playing castaway, I zoomed cross-country towards Malaysia’s magnificent capital, Kuala Lumpur. My car passed palm-tree groves, colourful kampungs and signs that warned of elephants crossing the road (which I was assured happened frequently!).
My first base in the city was Anggun, a cosy boutique bolthole filled with eclectic antiques and perfectly positioned for exploring.
After shedding my bags, I ventured to the Batu Caves, just a 20-minute metro ride away. The iconic caves are home to a number of Hindu shrines, a 42m-tall statue of Lord Murugan and dozens of monkeys.
I then spent the afternoon exploring the numerous markets in Kuala Lumpur: the central market is full of textiles, jewellery and crafts, while Chinatown is packed with clothes. My favourite, however, was Jalan Alor, the street-food market just around the corner from Anggun. There, I feasted on Mongolian noodles, satay barbecue, Chinese dumplings and crisp Indian dosas, all washed down with coconut water straight from the source.
A visit to Kuala Lumpur wouldn’t be complete without an ascent up one of its iconic skyscrapers. I opted for the KL Tower, where I was treated to a panoramic view of the twin towers.
My final stop in KL was Villa Samadhi. I felt I’d earned a break after a few non-stop days of exploring the bustling city, and Japamala’s sister hotel certainly delivered. My room came complete with two outdoor rainfall showers and a huge Jacuzzi.
The only things that could tempt me out of my city oasis were the chance to try out one of Villa Samadhi’s motorbikes (you can take tours to countryside villages, elephant sanctuaries and paddy fields) and the opportunity to eat at one of its sister restaurants. I opted for Tamarind Springs, nestled in the jungle outside the city, where I feasted on Malaysian steamboat (hot pot) and fragrant curries.
Before I knew it, it was time to head north to the island of Pangkor, popular with Malaysian tourists, and family-run jungle escape Tiger Rock.
Property caretaker Mohan is impossibly welcoming and gave me a tour of the island. I loved watching ships being built by hand and being shown secluded white-sand beaches. His wife, Bavanni, then made plate after plate of the best food I have ever tasted.
Tiger Rock belongs to David and Rebecca, and the property is decorated with Rebecca’s bright paintings, swathes of patterned materials, and old family knick-knacks. I pottered between the library and pool, reading, snacking and watching for wildlife.
The final stop on my Asian adventure was Penang and the beautiful Clove Hall, located right next door to the UNESCO World Heritage site of Georgetown. Owners Jo and Jim have maintained this colonial bolthole beautifully and make you feel completely at home (if only my actual home was this elegant, with a garden pool and G&Ts on tap!). They’re both also impossibly knowledgeable, and they gave me a huge list of recommendations tailored to my interests.
I feasted on thali at Sri Ananda Bahwan, indulged my sweet tooth at China House, and drank cocktails in the Ruins of Victoria. Particular highlights were hunting for street art and exploring the pop-up market at Art Deco Hin Bus Co.
My final day in Malaysia rolled around before I knew it, and I ventured out determined to get my last hit of local culture. I hiked from the botanic gardens up Penang Hill and was afforded incredible vistas. I marvelled at the Kek Lok Si Temple (the ‘temple of supreme bliss’), which is one of the largest temples in the country, and I got purposefully lost in Georgetown’s historic centre.
I genuinely fell head-over-heels in love with this corner of the world, but I only scratched the surface of what it has to offer. I can’t wait to plan my next adventure!