Since we’re changing regions, we figured this would be a great time to give a trip update. August 15th will officially mark the end of our 20th month since we got rid of it all and started roaming around the world. So what better time for an update than now, as we trade in tropical beaches for extreme desert heat. We’ve actually completely changed our initial plans and later in this update will explain why and where we’re roaming around next! This is one big update, encompassing several months, but we’ll try to keep it brief. So let’s get started!
Our Entire Southeast Asia Trip at a Glance
- Time Period: 115 days (16.5 weeks)
- Countries: 4
- Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore, Philippines
- Number of beds slept in: 42
- Place-to-place transport segments: 37
- Planes: 8
- Boats: 16
- Trains: 3
- Busses: 14
- Vans/Cars/Motorbikes: 4
- UNESCO World Heritage Sites Visited: 4
- Georgetown (MY), Gunung Mulu National Park (MY), Kinabalu Park (MY), Puerto-Princesa Subterranean River National Park (PH)
- Dives logged: 10
- Different types of locally-brewed beers sampled: 89
Route & Highlights of Roaming Around the Malaysian Peninsula
It was the happenstance of an inexpensive flight to Kuala Lumpur at a time when our 30-day stay was ending in Thailand that brought us to Malaysia’s capital. We really didn’t know much about this country before coming in and we never intended to travel here. Kuala Lumpur was initially a place to simply figure out where our next destination was going to be, so it’s a bit ironic that we ended up staying there longer than any other country we’ve traveled to so far!
Malaysia turned out to be one of our biggest surprises during our travels. And we really packed it in during those six and a half weeks, from the moment we landed in KL, where we marveled at its huge Patronas Towers and the enormous shopping malls. From there it was a quick jaunt to Langkawi to explore the ecology of this mountainous island off the country’s Northwest Coast.
Then we ferried off to Penang for some incredible eats in the UNESCO region of Georgetown, before doing a complete about-face. We turned right back around the Langkawi to celebrate our wedding anniversary in style at the amazing Danna Langkawi. After that, it was time to cool off in the Cameron Highlands to explore its famous tea plantations and do a bit of hiking. Moving on, it was a quick detour to Singapore to visit a friend who took us around exploring this vibrant city’s nightlife while, taking in a few tourist sites during the day.
Route & Highlights of Roaming Around Malaysian Borneo
We soon jetted off to Malaysian Borneo, which would end up being a highlight of our travels. Shortly after landing in Kuching, we got our first tastes of the amazing wildlife with introductions to proboscis monkeys and orangutans. It was soon time to descend to the underground again, so we set a course to the enormous Mulu Caves where we attempted to venture into the largest cave chamber in the world.
We then took a series of tiny flights to the extremely remote Kelabit Highlands for some trekking, cultural immersion, and more amazing food in and around the village of Bario. (Am hoping to post much more about these latter two experiences.) Next of the agenda was Malaysian Borneo’s other half – Sabah – and we made a beeline to the famed dive site of Sipidan, which totally lived up to its reputation of one of the best dive sites in the world. I’m still compiling all the incredible video which we also look forward to blogging about.
We then went from spotting turtles and sharks to searching for pygmy elephants and crocodiles, which took us on a series of photo safaris up and down the Kinabatagan River.
Route & Highlights of Roaming Around the Philippines
Our journey through Malaysia came to an end in the seaside city of Kota Kinabalu that has inexpensive connections to the Philippines. Since we’d always wanted to travel here, it was natural progression in our itinerary.
Our stay in the Philippines began in its capital, Manila, and we arrived just in time for Fourth of July celebrations, which is celebrated here as Filipino-American Friendship Day. We didn’t hesitate for a chance to indulge on a hot dog and watch some fireworks!
Just as Tropical Storm Egay (Linfa) was bearing down on the Philippines, we departed on a nauseating 24-hour ferry ride, followed by a series of subsequent “trains, plains, and automobiles;” or in this case “boats, busses, and tricycles.” We finally arrived at Moalboal in time for the weather to improve enough to get our first taste of the Philippines’ underwater world.
We then ventured to the tiny town of Oslob for the absolutely incredible experience snorkeling with whale sharks. https://youtu.be/2WGB2nEL87k We reluctantly left those gentle giants and ventured down to the university town of Dumaguete and onward to the tiny secluded Apo Island, where the agenda was: relaxing, scuba diving, and snorkeling around with more sea turtles than you could ever imagine.
After making our way back to Cebu, we hopped over the Palawan, landing in the town of Puerto Princesa. Its from here that we embarked on an excursion that took us into what is known as the longest underground river in the world, Puerto-Princesa Subterranean River.
Yet, for us, the real highlight of Palawan was all the incredible island hopping, which we did lots of at the island’s northern reaches, around El Nido.