Let me start with giving you the low down on ASEAN aka Association of Southeast Asia Nations. This intergovernmental partnership of 10 countries collaborate with each other to promote tourism within their region. The 10 nations that makeup ASEAN are Brunei Darussalam, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, and Vietnam. For this 50th-year celebration trip, ASEAN focused on highlighting how easy it is to travel between their nations.
My trip consisted of Indonesia, Singapore, and Malaysia. Three countries I had not been to yet. On previous travels, I’ve already visited Thailand and the Philippines (both countries that I love), so I thought it would be exciting to visit 3 new countries. You know, gotta collect all them passport stamps. But before I get into all the juicy details about each destination I visited, If you aren’t familiar with how close these countries are to each other. Please open up a new tab for google maps. In USA terms, each country is so close to one another it’s like visiting another neighboring state. Except you are exposed to completely different culture, food and lifestyles. Similar to how when you travel to Europe each country is different, I had the same feeling traveling between my ASEAN region nations.
First stop was Lombok, Indonesia, the neighboring island of Bali which will help you quickly give you an idea of how beautiful this island is. Before arriving, I didn’t do much research as I wanted to be surprised upon arrival, and that I was! From what the tour guide told me on the car ride from the airport to the hotel is, Lombok is what Bali used to look like 30 years ago. There are so many untouched crystal blue beaches with nobody using them, a ton of nature to explore, and all of the locals are the friendliest.
I spent 3 days on Lombok exploring the many beaches and remote neighboring islands only a short boat ride away. Check out these stunning photos!
After getting a solid much-needed end of summer tan, my next stop was the bustling city of Singapore. There are short direct flights from Lombok to Singapore or you can find a cheaper flight with a layover on Jakarta depending on when you book. Again, I didn’t do any research beforehand to allow room for surprise and surprised I really was! This trip only allowed 1 full day to explore, and just within the first few hours of my tour, I was already in love. There is so much color at every corner from their public housing, little India & Chinatown neighborhood to their historical buildings contrasting the modern skyscrapers. If you love color as much as I do, I can not recommend visiting enough! Though do beware of the heat… just be ready to sweat a lot and remember to stay hydrated. A little bit of sweating is totally worth it! There is also delicious fresh food found at their Tekka Markets that are at the ground floor of their public housings. After seeing these, I wish New York would do the same. I’d really never have to leave my building. And the best part is the locals were the nicest! They always waited for me to get my photo before walking and sometimes even posed for me with a smile. That is something I don’t get in New York either. I could keep on gushing about Singapore, but I’ll just let these photos do the rest of talking for me.
My third stop and country was Melaka, Malaysia. This second half of my trip was done by car, the drive from Singapore to Malaysia is actually very quick 30ish minutes from my hotel since it’s the bordering country. From there to Melaka it was another 4 hours through the lush Malaysian countryside. For this portion, if you’re lucky enough to have a driver like I did, taking a nap make the trip flash like the blink of an eye.
Upon arrival to Melaka the first thing I noticed was everyone was using full-size cars (comparing to all the motorbikes that were used in Indonesia) and there was lots of traffic because the streets are small due to preserving UNESCO world heritage status. I only spent one day here on my way to Kuala Lumpur.
From Melaka to the capital of Malaysia, Kuala Lumpur was only a short 2-hour drive. Again, I used this time to take a nap, but for the periods I was awake there was so much lush greenery. Imagine thousands of palm trees! After arriving in Kuala Lumpur our first stop was to the memorial of the fallen soldiers from WWII, Independent Square and then the iconic PETROLS towers. The view from my hotel had a stunning view of the towers. Where I was able to go up to the 86 floor for a bird's eye view of Kuala Lumpur at sunset before having dinner at their rotating skyscraper giving me a full 360 view of the bustling city! Again I only had 1 full day, though for me that was enough to grasp the cities energy… and heat.
At this point it’s day 7, I’ve already been to 3 countries and 4 different cities. My trip is starting to feel a bit like the Amazing Race of Southeast Asian Nations. I leave Kuala Lumpur in the morning for a 4-hour drive to the island city of Penang, but the was broken up by some sightseeing with a stop at Kellies Castle and then the city of Ipoh for some yummy authentic Indian food.
Last but not least I made it to the city of Penang, Malaysia. A city that has a historic bustling UNESCO Georgetown culture center and then just a short drive outside of this area you can find proper island life with pretty beaches. Just keep in mind they have jellyfish season. During my visit, I didn’t get to swim but was able to ride a jet ski for my first time at a bargain price of only 68 ringgit (they were trying to sell it for 110, so always try to bargain your price down).
That’s how I spent my last day on my 10 day ASEAN trip to celebrate their 50th anniversary. Making a full circle by starting at a beach in Indonesia and ending on a beach in Malaysia. To be honest, I’m happiest by the sea so that’s why I’m a bit bias when it comes to locations that offer beaches. Though every stop on my trip has something for everyone depending on your preferences. If you have any questions about my trip. Don’t hesitate to leave me a comment!