Road trip through Eastern Malaysia
In the past year, we have been able to travel a lot through Asia, by plane. My favorite way of transportation… Air traffic is slowly starting to pick up again, but since we can’t leave Malaysia yet, we decided to explore the country by car. So we rented a car for a week and made a road trip through the east part of Malaysia.
As a tourist, you can easily rent a car here. For example, for the first three months, as long as your tourist visa is valid, you can drive a car without an international driver’s license. How it is after that or what the rules are for foreigners who come to live here, opinions are divided. One says you have to get a Malaysian driver’s license including theory and practical exam, and the other has been driving around here with his Russian paper for 20 years. Anyway, as a tourist, you can get a car here without any problems. We felt like tourists in our own country and emailed a car rental company that lent us a Proton Saga.
Since the whole tourism industry has come to a standstill, no one rents a car. Malaysians have their car, and expatriates usually have a car or are being driven around. Jeroen likes to drive in different countries, and I like to be sitting next to him and tell him exactly how he should drive. No, I’m trying to let go on that (right Jeroen?) I am just very alert. I don’t know if normally many tourists rent a car here. I think the bus, train, and plane are booked faster. Especially because the plane tickets are so cheap.
On Friday evening, we could pick up the car in Chinatown. I can’t remember who thought this would be a good idea, but to go on Friday as it gets dark and starts raining through a city of 1.8 million people turned out to be less of a good idea than we thought. We drove, with our armpits sloshing, from one traffic jam to another but parked the car in our parking lot 40 minutes later. If we ever bought a car here, at least we have the parking space!
I don’t think there is a much easier route than the one we took. The final stop was the island of Redang, about 5.5 hours drive from KL. But to give ourselves some rest, we stopped halfway in Cherating. This coastal town is located on the east side about 2.5 hours drive from the capital. You have two options, you take the toll road or you don’t take it. If you don’t, you drive on small roads where it can be quite busy. We took the highway, and so the toll and pressed the accelerator with 110 (maximum speed) on the left lane. Sounds pretty cool, but we drive on the left, and there was no chicken or tapir on the road so a very easy good ride!
It’s always busy to get out of Kuala Lumpur, but once you’re on the highway, you hardly see anyone else. The view is beautiful, lots of green, mountains and lots of palm trees. We had a great time and especially when we had to get gas after a few hours and saw the bill. One liter of gasoline costs RM1.68 this is converted €0.34! At most petrol stations someone comes walking up to you and fills the tank for you all you have to do is pay.
It surprised us how easy and fun it is to drive here yourself. At first, I didn’t like it at all, because it takes some time to get used to driving on the left, and I always have the feeling that people here don’t look in their mirrors or use their blinker. And so you see them swinging from one lane to another. ‘Stay your lane’ as you see it in America, I don’t think they’ve ever heard of it. Without the COVID period, the chances of us renting a car ourselves would have been small. Funny actually, we saw the airplane as our only means of transportation.
After two nights in Cherating, we drove on to the state of Kuala Terengganu. Here we stayed one night last year, but now we parked the car and immediately took the boat to the island of Redang. We didn’t do much for five days. We walked from our beach bed to the sea, to the pool, and to a restaurant to eat. No complaints at all! When we returned to the mainland, we had a surprise waiting for us, an empty battery. With the help of two friendly Malaysian men, the car was quickly restarted, and we began the long road, 468 kilometers straight ahead, back to Kuala Lumpur.