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Vegan Travel Guide: Malaysia

Cameron Highlands Tea Plantation

Welcome to part two of our Singapore/Malaysia vegan travel guide. We had an incredible experience in Malaysia and are still feeling inspired by some of the food we ate and interesting places we explored.

I’ve organised the post according to the cities we’ve visited so that it’s easy to search for our recommendations when you’re visiting a particular city.

We started our journey with a few days in Penang then rented a car and drove to Cameron Highlands. After exploring the highlands for several days, we drove all the way to Melaka and finished off our journey in Johor Bahru before heading back to Singapore to fly home to Melbourne. Back at the airport we were wishing we’d planned a longer holiday!

Penang

We stayed in Georgetown, Penang for four days. During our time there we didn’t have our rental car yet, so we used Grab instead. Grab is very similar to Uber and worked really well. It’s super cheap to get around and the drivers we had were all really friendly and helpful, telling us about places we should visit and foods we should try. A lot of people in Malaysia told us that the food in Penang is the best and I would agree. We definitely ate a lot of delicious food there and there we were very surprised by all the vegan options we found in Penang. Let’s get into it!

What we ate:

Sushi Kitchen

This was definitely one of my favourite places which is why we ate there more than once. They’re a completely vegan restaurant and have a few locations in Penang, all with the same menu. I actually had the same meal twice because I loved it so much. It was a spicy noodle soup called “Happy Spicy Noodle” which really did make me happy. Jeremy tried their oat milk soup and really enjoyed it too. The flavours in their soups were amazing. We also tried their mango sushi and wakame salad which was super fresh and so good!

Spicy Noodles Sushi Kitchen
Oat Milk Soup Sushi Kitchen

Pinxin

My other favourite restaurant in Penang was Pinxin. They’re located just on the corner of the old town in Georgetown and their food was phenomenal. Their portions have a good size, we did however order two mains each, because we had been walking a lot that day. This is why I think I have a pretty good understanding of how good their food is. All of the six dishes that we tried were exceptional. My favourite was their “Signature Asam Laksa”, but I also really loved their various rice dishes.

Vegan Laksa Pinxin
vegan baos pinxin

Wholey Wonder

Another place we tried out was Wholey Wonder, which is a very health-focused cafe with a yoga studio on the 1st floor. We tried their healthy pizzas and shepherd’s pie which were both really yummy. Personally I think their portion sizes were a little too small for me, but I do realise that I probably eat a fair bit more than the average person. Plus this was a very active holiday and we burnt a lot of calories which meant that I was still a little hungry after finishing my pizza. The place had a really cute interior though and if you don’t eat a lot and are into health foods, then this is the one for you.

vegan pizza in penang

Cloud Dreaming

Cloud Dreaming is a vegan cake house in Georgetown that is owned by the same people as Sushi Kitchen. They serve Western style foods like pasta and burgers and also cakes. I had their pasta which was pretty decent. It definitely wasn’t the most amazing pasta that I’ve ever had, but it was good and if you just really feel like some pasta with pesto sauce or a burger (for a quick break from all of the noodle soup), then it does the trick. What I really liked though, was their cakes. They were very light, served with fresh fruit and vegan cream and we all really enjoyed them.

vegan cake penang

What we did:

Penang Hill

If you like to have a view or take photos from above a city, Penang Hill is the place to go. You can get up there with a cable car, a private taxi OR you can walk up there. And guess what we did…we walked! The walk is very steep and along the road, which isn’t the most romantic thing, however, we did see a lot of cute monkeys that we wouldn’t have seen otherwise which made it all worthwhile. On top of Penang Hill you’ll meet all the other tourists that shoot photos in front of love hearts, put lockets on fences and eat ice creams. You get a nice view of Penang and the bridges that go across to Malaysia’s mainland. Although the walk itself was really exhausting and very very steep, I’m very glad we did it. This was the place we saw by far the cutest monkey during our whole trip in Malaysia.

penang hill view
dusky leaf monkeys

Penang National Park

There were a few things that I really enjoyed about Penang National Park, and one that made me tear up out of sadness. When you arrive at Penang National Park there’s a lot of people trying to sell you boat trips to the beaches. We decided to walk and after you’ve written your name on a ledger at the National Park’s official office, you’re free to go. We walked to Turtle Beach, which I really enjoyed. It was very humid and quite hot too, so once we arrived at Turtle Beach, we decided not to walk all the way back again and take a boat instead. Luckily there were plenty of boats just waiting for people to hop on. It wasn’t any more expensive than booking the boat at the entrance and of course don’t be afraid to haggle.We’re actually really glad that we decided to take the boat, we’re normally the type to walk, however it was a fun ride and the driver was a very animated character, Jeremy thinks it was the most fun part of the day.

However, before we went onto the boat, we decided to visit the turtle conservation centre. They had turtles in really small, individual plastic boxes swimming around. In those boxes there was nothing except for water. Not even a stone for the turtle to rest on. These baby turtles were supposedly going to be released and this saves them from predators. That at least makes sense, but what really upset us was two fully grown adult turtles being kept purely for show in separate barren plastic tanks where they had almost no room to move and absolutely nothing to do. These two turtles looked really sad and it made me tear up. I’m not sure why a conservation centre would treat the animals that they’re trying to save in such horrific conditions.

Anyway, I wanted to share this experience with you too, because I think it’s important to be honest about some of the things we didn’t like during our trip.

After our short visit to the turtle conservation centre, we took the boat back to the entrance of the National Park. The boat trip was a little rough, but I actually enjoyed it quite a lot. We did a short stop at Monkey Beach (the most famous beach of the National Park) to pick up a few more people before heading back to the entrance. The boat trip cost us 30 RM per person which is quite a lot for Malayisa, but it did save us a few hours of walking in the heat and I think it was worth it.

penang national park

The Upside Down Museum

This was by far the funniest thing we did in Penang. The Upside Down Museum in Georgetown is, well, upside down. They have lots of different rooms looking like a kitchen, bedroom, bathroom etc. all constructed upside down. The staff are there to help you and help take the photos for you from the right angles to get the best effect. We cry-laughed at so many of our photos and had a great time there.

upside down muesum penang

So this is it for Penang. On our last morning, we picked up our rental car from Europcar at Penang Airport which we used throughout the rest of our trip. The pick up went very smoothly and within a few minutes we were off to Ipoh, our next stop on this trip.

Ipoh

We only stayed for one night in Ipoh, so there’s not too many things we did. However, I have still two food recommendations for you (we always researched carefully before choosing where to eat as we didn’t have time for a bad meal) and one sight that I thought was really impressive.

What we ate:

Vegan Delights

This is an all vegetarian/vegan restaurant that hires and trains deaf and mute staff. The food was yummy there and everyone was super friendly. They also had this gorgeous blossoming flower tea which was delicious. Our favourite was probably their noodle soup with the noodles packed up inside tofu skin.

noodle soup at vegan delights
blossoming flower tea

Jaya Grocer

This isn’t a restaurant but it’s my favourite grocery store in Malaysia. Their produce was very fresh, they have a really good organic section as well as lots of vegan goodies from all over the world. If you decide to cook food by youself in Malaysia (which you’ll probably have to if you’re vegan and travelling away from the big cities) then Jaya Grocer is the place to shop. They have a few stores around Malaysia, but this one in Ipoh is great if you’re heading to the Cameron Highlands and want to stock up on some food.

What we did:

Perak Cave Temple

This is a Buddhist temple built inside a rock just outside Ipoh. It’s really quite big and very impressive. There’s a massive golden Buddha,  lots of drawings on the walls and also steps that lead up the hill, outside to a really nice viewing area where you can see as far as the Cameron Highlands. It took us maybe 45 minutes to visit and walk through the cave temple and was definitely worth it. Entry is free.

perak cave temple

After our quick one-night stop in Ipoh, we continued our journey to the Cameron Highlands. It’s about a two hour drive where you’ll see lots and lots of palm trees. The road was really good and it was a very easy and smooth drive. We wish we had more time in Ipoh as we really liked the people and the energy of the place, we would recommend more than one night here.

Cameron Highlands

We stayed in Cameron Highlands for three nights. However, we didn’t eat out there at all, because there wasn’t really anything that we could or wanted to eat in any of the restaurants. Luckily, we made sure when booking our Airbnb that it had a proper kitchen that allowed us to cook simple things like pasta and noodle soups. Because we didn’t eat out, I won’t be able to give you any restaurant recommendations, however, I would highly recommend to buy most of your groceries in Ipoh before driving up to the Cameron Highlands. There’s plenty of fresh produce stands up there to get vegetables and fruits, however, their grocery stores are super small and there’s not a lot of options. In fact, my mum was craving tofu and we visited five different stores before we could find any.

We did have had a really great time exploring Cameron Highlands though and if you enjoy a long walk then the next few tips are for you.

What we did:

Hike 1: Trek 10 & 6a

On our first full day in Cameron Highlands we did this monster of a hike. It was around 10km long and probably took us around three to four hours. The path starts with trek 10 at Tan’s Camellia Garden in Tanah Rata (there is a parking area close by too, in case you’re using have a rental car). First you walk through a landscape that looks like you’re on the moon, this doesn’t last for long though and soon you can find yourself in the middle of the jungle. The path is pretty steep up the hill until you reach Gunung Jasar where we took a quick break and enjoyed the great views. After that you walk along trek 6a until you reach a lot of bush that you’ll have to fight through to get to the chayote and eggplant plantations. There are ropes installed to help you downhill as it can be quite slippery, especially after rain. Walking through the plantations was, well, smelly (because of all the manure), but also pretty impressive. After maybe another kilometre you’ll find youself on a tarred road that will lead you to a cute village of tea plantation farmers as well as the tea plantations itself. You then follow the small path that goes right through lots and lots of tea which I thought was pretty cool. This path finishes at the Cameron Valley Tea House 1 and then you have two choices; you can either call a taxi and get driven back to your starting point OR you do what we did and walk the last 4.4km along the road until you end up back at the car park. The walk along the road was super hot when we did it, but we actually had a really friendly stray dog follow us back to the car. He was really well behaved and really respected our personal space. He just walked next to us, I guess he just wanted some company. Anyway, he made this walk up the road a lot more fun and we were sad to say good-bye.

cameran highlands trek 1
cameron highlands house
jungle walk cameron highlands
jungle walk cameron highlands
cameron highlands view
Cameron Highlands Tea Plantation

All in all we really really enjoyed this hike. It’s very diverse, there’s jungle, bush, various plantations and in our case a stray dog that keeps you company along the way.

Hike 2: Trek 6b & 5

On our second day we did a slightly shorter walk. We started at the Cameron Highlands Forestry Department where we walked through the Forestry Camp Site until we reached trek 6b that led us uphill through the rain forest. The path is pretty clearly marked, whenever there’s any intersections, there’s also signage showing where to go. We walked along trek 6b until we reached a small hut at an intersection where we then took trek 5 downhill. At the end of trek 5, guess who joined us ? The dog from the day before! We were absolutely stunned that this guy found us again at the other end of town. Anyway, once trek 5 finishes, we walked along the road until we reached the Parit Falls parking lot where we then took the path to the Parit Falls which also led us back to the Forestry Department. The falls itself weren’t anything special, at least not for someone coming from Switzerland or New Zealand. We did enjoy this walk though. We were completely on our own, there were no other hikers around (this may have also been because technically the path was already closed due to rain season but we did it anyways). It’s not as diverse in scenery as the first hike we did, but it was really nice to walk through the jungle and just listen to all the noise that’s happening there.

cameron highlands trek 2
dog in cameron highlands

That’s all I have for you from Cameron Highlands. We then drove all the way to Melaka. We took a lunch break outside Kuala Lumpur where we ate at Fortunate Coffee Malaysia which is a fully vegan cafe that makes all sorts of foods. Our favourite dish was their vegan waffles which we had for dessert. The owner was very friendly and had a nice chat with us to ask about our travels and make some recommendations when we finished our meals.

fortunate coffee malaysia burger
fortunate coffee malaysia waffles

Melaka

Personally, I think Melaka had the best town-centre of all the places we’ve visited in Malaysia with lots of cute shops and a river to walk alongside . However, it has been the most difficult place to find good vegan food (except for Cameron Highlands, but in that case we expected not to have a lot of options). It’s not so much that there isn’t any vegan-friendly restaurants, but more that we were there at the start of the week and all these restaurants were closed on Mondays and Tuesdays. There was one cafe, however, that made a really yummy smoothie bowl and good coffee for us so I’ll share that with you now.

What we ate:

Navy Cafe

As already mentioned in the short introduction to Melaka, there was one cafe that we really enjoyed during our visit. This was Navy Cafe. It’s fairly small and located in the town centre. We actually just wanted to take a quick break and have a coffee, but thought we might as well look at the menu to see if there were any vegan options. And because their smoothie bowls sounded great, we tried one. It was delicious and refreshing and big enough to share.

smoothie bowl melaka

What we did:

Explore the Town Centre

We only had one full day in Melaka and thought the best way to experience this city is to just walk around in the town centre and see where it takes us. I really enjoyed the little shops that could be found everywhere in Melaka’s towncentre. My favourite one was this beautiful pottery shop that we walked passed by accident. Unfortunately I can’t remember the name of it and wasn’t able to find him on Google either. However, I remember that the  shop is located along Jalan Tokong which is one of the streets in the middle of the town centre. We bought a very cute tea lamp there and the owner was super friendly too.

Another thing I really enjoyed while exploring Melaka, was walking along the river. There were again lots of little shops and cafes along the waterfront and some of the houses had beautiful paintings on them.

street art melaka
pottery in melaka

Our last stop (before heading back to Singapore and then back home to Melbourne) was Johor Bahru which is the Malaysian city just across the border to Singapore.

Johor Bahru

We didn’t actually do a lot in Johor Bahru except for dropping of our rental car. We arrived very late in the afternoon after having driven to Johor Bahru from Melaka and only staid there for one night before catching the train back to Singapore (which by the way was super straight forward, very cheap and I would recommend taking it). However, I still have one last restaurant recommendation for you.

What we ate:

Noodle Face Express

We actually ate here twice as we did struggle to find any other good vegan options close by. Noodle Face Express is inside the shopping centre “Johor Bahru City Square” which is just opposite the train station where the train leaves for Singapore. They’re a vegetarian joint serving noodle soups, burger and bento boxes. They have does quite a few vegan options too, the food comes out super quick, is tasty and pretty cost effective too.

noodle face express noodles

Et voilà! That’s it! This is the end of this two part series about our trip to Singapore and Malaysia. I hope you enjoyed this longer post and found it useful if you’re traveling soon or at least entertaining. Please let me know if you have any comments, I would love to hear from you!

Annick xx

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