The currency low oil prices and Malaysia’s weak currency has led to many locals exploring within the country. One of the fun ways to travel around Malaysia is through road trips along the vast network of highways and backroads. The folks at Says and Vulcan Post have came up with their own list of road trip routes (links here and here) and I would like to complement them by adding 5 scenic drives I’ve personally experienced in Malaysia.
1. Changlun – Kuala Perlis
This particular route inspired me to write about this post. The only freeway in Perlis starts at the cowboy town of Changlun and ends at Kuala Perlis, a seafood haven and second jump-off point to Langkawi. You will be flanked by endless rows of paddy fields throughout the drive, as if you’re on a bed of green clouds while the occasional limestone hills will assure you’re still on solid ground. The perfect time to enjoy this route is just before dusk, when you’re chasing the sunset before the night takes over.
Distance: 38.2 km, Route Map: Click here
2. Kuala Kedah – Merbok
This is a journey through time – start at Kota Kuala Kedah, an old seaside for that had withstood attacks from many invaders and end at Lembah Bujang, an ancient valley that was once a vibrant port and center of Hinduism and Buddhism in Southeast Asia. Your eyes will again feast on vast plots of paddy fields while the looming Mount Jerai will slowly show itself as you head south. It’s one of those roads that can be deserted at times so whip out that camera and go on an impromptu photo shoot!
Distance: 55.3 km, Route Map: Click here
3. Teluk Bahang – Balik Pulau
Ever wondered what’s on the other side of Penang Island? The rustic countryside awaits via an exhilarating drive along tight bends and hairpin loops before the road opens up to a wide valley dotted with kampung houses and mini-orchards. Start at the town of Teluk Bahang, gateway to Penang National Park and follow the signs stating “Balik Pulau.” You’ll pass by a dam before getting on the “roller-coaster” passing by fruit farms and a waterfall. Be sure to stop at the observation ledge before descending down into Balik Pulau for a breathtaking view of the other side of Penang.
Distance: 20.4 km, Route Map: Click here
4. Kuala Kangsar – Pulau Banding
Another “travel back in time” drive that begins at the charming royal town of Kuala Kangsar. After visiting the unique Istana Kenangan and Ubudiah Mosque, head north across a lush valley to Lenggong. This unassuming town is home to the Perak Man, at 11,000 years old is the oldest human skeleton found in Malaysia.
Once you’re done at the Archaeological Museum, continue towards the town of Gerik and take a right to Pulau Banding. It is a man-made island formed from the damming of Lake Temenggor and you can set off on an eco-adventure atBelum Eco Resort!
Distance: 141 km, Route Map: Click here
5. Kuala Kubu Bharu – Fraser’s Hill
This is one of my favorite hill drives. Start at the unassuming town of Kuala Kubu Bharu, about one hour north of Kuala Lumpur, and get on Route 55. You’ll pass by the huge Selangor Dam and turn offs to Bukit Kutu, a hikeable mountain, and Sungai Chilling, a popular waterfall for day trippers.
The dual carriageway will slowly merge into a single lane and the sharp bends will be more frequent as you ascend. Once you reach The Gap, take a left to get on a tight one-way road all the way up to Fraser’s Hill and enjoy Malaysia’s very own Little England.
Distance: 39.1 km, Route Map: Click here
6. Seremban – Kuala Pilah
Negeri Sembilan’s state capital, Seremban, is the gateway to the interior. You can either take the fast way via the new dual carriageway bridge or the old and haunted Bukit Putus road, where a bloody civil war was once fought. Stop by the Ulu Bendul Recreation Forest for a dip in the river or a half-day hike up Gunung Angsi.
From there on, you’re in the countryside where individual kampung houses with pointy roofs dot the landscape. Head to the royal seat of Seri Menanti to marvel at the old palace built without using a single nail and end your day at the former mining town of Kuala Pilah for a fiery Minang lunch.
Distance: 37.9 km, Route Map: Click here
7. Kuantan – Sungai Lembing
In yet another journey back in time, this time to the so-called “El Dorado of the East.” The drive from Kuantan is mainly along palm oil plantations until you see Gua Charas, a conspicuous limestone cave that houses a Sleeping Buddha and a colony of fruit bats.
Another 20 minutes leads you to the sleepy town of Sungai Lembing, once home to the largest underground tin mine shaft in the world. The town has two rows of shops lining main street while the tin mine and an accompanying can be visited for a fee. Nature lovers can also hike the nearby Bukit Panorama or take a four wheel drive to the Rainbow Waterfalls.
Distance: 42.1 km, Route Map: Click here
8. Dungun – Kuala Terengganu
It might not be as grand as California’s Pacific Coast Highway or Victoria’s Great Ocean Road but Terengganu’s coastal highway is packed with a chockful of Malaysiana. Coconut and casuarina trees dot the landscape while street side stalls are the best bet to try dishes and snacks unique to the east coast.
My favorite stretch starts at Dungun where the road hugs the coastline. Be on the lookout for Pulau Kapas once you reach the town of Marang, one of the many island paradises found in this state before passing by some beautiful mosques en route to the capital Kuala Terengganu.
Distance: 77.5 km, Route Map: Click here
9. Kuala Kangsar – Betong, Thailand
This is my favourite route to enter into Betong, Thailand via the northern state of Perak. Apart from my grandmother who lives in evergreen Baling, Kedah, another pull factor for me to embark on this route is the scenic view that I encounter along the journey.
Similar to the drive to Pulau Banding, this route starts at Kuala Kangsar. From Kuala Kangsar, use the new freeway which cuts through the mountain range and follow the signs towards Pengkalan Hulu and Thailand, taking a left at the town of Gerik. The greenery of the mountain range is mesmerizing and will be kept in your memory forever.
Distance: 156 km, Route Map: Click here
10. Gombak – Bentong
The Old Gombak Road is short if you’re coming from Kuala Lumpur. Nevertheless, driving through the narrow and winding road with a river running parallel to you is nothing short of spectacular considering it is not that far from the concrete jungle.
Plus, there’s a hot water spring midway during the descent and taking a dip in it is definitely recommended before continuing your journey to the bustling town of Bentong. Starting your journey on this road is easy. Avoid the Karak Highway by following the signage stating “68 Bentong” and voila, you will start an amazing journey along this 100-year old trunk road.
Distance: 55.4 km, Route Map: Click here
This article originally appeared on Dan On The Road blog.