Six Places for Women to Find Adventure in Perak and Beyond in Malaysia

by | Apr 17, 2024

Gunung Lang Perak Malaysia
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Last updated on April 25th, 2024

Featured image: Perak is a less-visited part of Malaysia that is perfect for solo travellers | Photo by Tourism Malaysia

The region offers both adventure and tranquillity for solo women

by Karen Gershowitz

When most women think of Malaysia, they focus on Kuala Lumpur and the country’s white sand beaches. Those are wonderful destinations, but less than three hours north of Kuala Lumpur is Perak and its neighbour, Penang. These areas are less traveled and waiting to be discovered.

Nestled on the west coast of Peninsular Malaysia, Perak offers a blend of nature, history, crafts and cuisine. The drive takes just over two hours or you can take a train for $9 or less. With its friendly locals, safe environments, and a plethora of attractions, it’s an ideal destination for solo women, where you’ll never feel alone. Whether you’re meandering through historic streets, enjoying the natural splendour of Royal Belum Park, or simply staring at the sea from a white sandy beach, you’ll find that these regions offer both adventure and tranquillity. The warmth and hospitality of the people will make you feel welcome.

Six highlights of Perak and Penang

For women seeking adventure, this region has a lot to offer. Here are just a few of the highlights.

1. Royal Belum State Park

Nestled in the heart of Perak is a breathtaking expanse of ancient rainforest, dating back over 130 million years. It is a sanctuary for nature enthusiasts and anyone seeking a serene wilderness experience. The park is renowned for its diverse and unique fauna and flora. There are more than three thousand species of flowering plants. Most notable is the rare and awe-inspiring Rafflesia, sometimes referred to as the tiger orchid. It is the world’s largest flower and can grow to three feet across on a ten-foot-high stalk and weigh up to fifteen pounds.

The Royal Belum is the upper part of the Belum-Temenggor rainforest complex which can be reached by boat from Pulau Banding. The upper Belum is a wilder area than the rest of the park since access and human activities are more regulated there. The landscape is lush, with streams, waterfalls, and lakes. Several tour companies offer boat tours starting there. These generally include a trek into the rain forest, a knowledgeable naturalist guide, a visit to an Aboriginal village and a chance to relax under waterfalls.

The rainforest is home to fourteen of the most threatened mammals in the world, including the Malayan sun bear, the Malayan tiger, the white-handed gibbon and the Indian elephant. Three hundred bird species have been sighted there. Guided tours are available, some specializing in bird watching.

The park is about four-and-a-half hours north of Kuala Lumpur. The best way to get there is to drive, but you can take a bus or train and then get local transportation.

Because the park is so extensive, you’ll want to stay overnight. In fact, a three-day stay is what you’ll want to fully enjoy the park.  Accommodations range from eco-friendly resorts to comfortable houseboats. The Belum Rainforest Resort is a popular choice, providing comfortable lodgings that emphasize sustainability and conservation.

Royal Belum National Park Rainforest Perak Malaysia

Royal Belum National Park / Photo by Tourism Malaysia

2. George Town: Home to the Penang Botanic Garden

George Town is a colonial port on the island of Penang. Center City is a wonderful place to wander; it’s been designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It’s filled with alleys lined by two and three-story pastel-painted row houses filled with shops and restaurants.

If you are a lover of orchids, the Penang Garden is a must-see. Within an octagon-shaped enclosure are 128 orchid species, predominantly indigenous Malaysian varieties.  There are also fern and cacti collections, an aquatic garden featuring water lilies and lotus, a formal English-style garden, and a Japanese garden. Within the garden are numerous species of wildlife, including macaques, giant squirrels, dusky leaf monkeys, and others. Lovely strolling paths will take you through the verdant landscape and past a waterfall.

Admission is free.

While in George Town, you will eat well.  Restaurants and street food abound, blending Malay, Chinese, Indian, Thai and European influences. You can also take cooking classes. The Tropical Spice Garden Cooking School offers hands-on classes or a cooking demo beneath shady trees. You’ll learn tips and tricks for producing authentic, spice-laden cuisine of Malaysia and SE Asia.

There is a wide range of accommodation. Here are two to consider: 23 Loveland and Seven Terraces. Both are small, woman-friendly boutique hotels.

Cityscape of George Town Malaysia from the seashore. Aerial view

Ariel view of George Town / Photo by a_medvedkov 0n Envato

3. Taiping: The Town of Many Firsts

Taiping is a must-visit for those who appreciate history and nature. It’s home to Malaysia’s first museum, first railway, and other well-preserved colonial buildings. One highlight is the stunning Lake Gardens, the first public garden in Malaysia. The scenery includes lakes, ponds, a zig-zag bridge, and hundreds of flowering trees. The park is in the center of the city, so it is easy to walk to, no matter where you stay.

Taiping is said to be Malaysia’s wettest city. The months of June through August are drier and are a better time to visit.

Bukit Larut is home to the oldest hill station in Malaysia, built in 1884 to provide a cool retreat for the colonial officials. It is now a flower-filled forest reserve that preserves the atmosphere of a colonial hill station and offers a natural peaceful sanctuary.

The Perak Museum, founded in 1883, is the first and oldest museum in Malaysia. Among it’s exhibits are nature, cultural and Indigenous people galleries. There are wedding costumes, masks and handicrafts.

Zoo Taiping & Night Safari is the only zoo in northern Malaysia. Indigenous animals, as well as animals from other geographies, live in natural environments. The night tour, illuminated by special lighting that mimics natural moonlight, allows visitors to view animals at a time when many of them are most active.

Novotel Taiping Perak is located at the heart of Taiping Town. It’s a 15-minute walk to the Taiping Lake Garden and Perak Museum.

Stunning Taiping Lake Garden in Perak Malaysia

Taiping’s Lake Garden / Photo by Tourism Malaysia

4. Gua Tempurung: An Underground Adventure

For the adventurous, Gua Tempurung offers one of the largest limestone caves in Peninsular Malaysia. Estimated to be four million years old, it features stalactites and stalagmites, as well as underground streams and waterfalls. You can choose from different tours, ranging from easy and dry to challenging and wet. Guides are required for the most difficult trips.

You have the option to do others on your own at your own pace. The shortest and easiest tour is about forty minutes on paved paths and a few stairs. I personally wouldn’t consider the difficult tours, with six hundred steps and wading through the river.

Gua Tempurung caves in Perak, Malaysia
Gua Tempurung caves in Perak, Malaysia / Photo by Tourism Malaysia

5. Pangkor Island: Time to Relax

Pangkor Island is a gem off the coast of Perak. This island is a paradise for those who love sandy beaches, clear waters, and a relaxed vibe. Pangkor is less well-known than other Malaysian beaches, and visitors may feel like they have the place to themselves. 

One highlight is the Sri Pathirakaliamman Temple. It is Pangkor Island’s only Hindu temple and the only sea-facing Indian shrine in Malaysia. The best time to visit is during the month of Massi (February or March) when devotees come to celebrate Kali’s birthday.

You can also rent a bicycle to explore the island at your own pace, visit the Dutch Fort, stop at charming fishing villages, or unwind on one of the many beaches. The island’s small size makes it easy to navigate.

Pangkor Island is easy to reach from the mainland by flight or ferry. There are accommodations to fit every taste and budget, from simple guesthouses to opulent resorts. Two recommended places are Tiger Rock and Pangkor Laut Resort.

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Beach at Pangkor Laut Resort Pangkor Island, Perak, Malaysia

The beach at Pangkor Laut Resort on Pangkor Island / Photo by Tourism Malaysia

6. Ipoh City: The City Built on Tin

Ipoh is a blend of the classic and modern. It is the third-largest Malaysian city and the capital of Perak.

It’s often referred to as the City of Millionaires, referring to the vast fortunes made during the boom of tin mining (which peaked in the 1950s). The architecture reflects that wealth, showcasing impressive buildings from the British Colonial era such as the Railway Station, Town Hall, and Court House, as well as colonial-era Chinese shop houses.

Ipoh is famous as a food destination. People come for Ipoh white coffee, a smooth and aromatic brew that’s a morning ritual for the locals. There are also succulent pomelos, kaya puffs (a flaky crust surrounding local pandan jam), salted chicken, and many other local specialties. Kafe Little Nam Yeong is a great place to try while you’re in Ipoh.

Kellie’s Castle is about thirty minutes from Ipoh. Perched on top of a hill alongside the Raya River, it was supposed to be the most modern building of its time (early 1900s). The plan included Malaysia’s first elevator, a six-story tower, secret tunnels, a tennis court, and a rooftop courtyard for entertaining. It was never completed. The rooftop is now open to visitors; it provides panoramic views of the beautiful surrounding area.

Recommended Hotels: The Banjaran Hot Springs Retreat.

Aerial view of ‘IPOH’ landmark on a limestone mountain in Ipoh city, Malaysia

Aerial view of ‘IPOH’ landmark on a limestone mountain in Ipoh / Photo by Tourism Malaysia

If you go to Perak

Flights from Toronto:  There are no direct flights to Malaysia from Canada, but there are various airlines that will get you to Malaysia via major hubs in Asia like Air Canada; Eva Air; Cathay Pacific; Philippines Airlines, Air India, Emirates; Etihad; Korean Airlines; and Turkish Air. Click here to search for flights now.

You may want to consider having a tour operator plan all the logistics for you:

Asian Overland Services & Travel Sdn. Bhd., Selangor, Malaysia

Contact Number: +60 3 4252 9100
Email: [email protected]

Royal Scenic Holidays, Toronto, Canada

Contact Number: 1-888-302-8886
Contact Person: Ms. Catherine Chiu
Email: [email protected]

One Dream Travel, Vancouver, Canada

Contact Number: 1-855-663-3736
Contact Person: Mr. Ricky Poon
Email: [email protected]

Disclaimer: We’re always proud to showcase countries from around the world that are welcoming to women over 50 and female solo travellers. Since we haven’t experienced this country, we want to let you know that the material for this article was provided by Tourism Malaysia, as part of a sponsored campaign with JourneyWoman. 

Find a woman-friendly tour to Asia in the JourneyWoman Women's Travel Directory

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Karen has been traveling solo since age seventeen, when she flew to Europe and didn’t return to the US for three years. She got severely bitten by the travel bug and since then has traveled to over ninety countries and has visited all fifty states -- many of them multiple times. In her career as a marketing strategist she traveled the world conducting thousands of meetings, focus groups and interviews. Her skills as an interviewer have persuaded total strangers to talk candidly about the most intimate of subjects, personal bankruptcy, illness and religion. When traveling for pleasure, those same skills helped her to draw out people’s stories. Karen’s first book of travel stories, Travel Mania: Stories of Wanderlust, explores the confluence of travel and life events, and how travel has changed her beliefs and life direction. Wanderlust: Extraordinary People, Quirky Places and Curious Cuisine continues those stories, addressing memorable food, people and places she experienced in her travels.


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