Legends & Longhouses

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Malaysia, Borneo

Best time to go: May to September

11 Nights | from £2,695pp

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Holiday type: Tailor-made

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  • Explore the historic and high-rise marvels of Kuala Lumpur
  • Take a longboat ride into the heart of Batang Ai to visit a traditional Iban longhouse
  • Watch countless bats stream from enormous caves at dusk
  • Roam among carnivorous plants on the slopes of Malaysia's highest mountain
  • Relax on a palm-fringed beach lapped by the South China Sea

Day 1 Kuala Lumpur
You'll recognise the Malaysian capital as you fly in, its skyline dominated by the unmistakable Petronas Towers –symbolic of this rapidly modernising capital. But in the shade of those highrises survive reminders of the city's heritage, from its settlement by Chinese and Malay tin-prospectors a century and a half a back to independence and the evolution of a thrilling metropolis. With two days to explore, you'll unearth historic gems and some of Asia's tastiest food.
Shangri-La Kuala Lumpur

Day 2 Kuala Lumpur
Sprawling KL can be befuddling, so get your bearings with a jaunt up the Menara KL, the world's fourth-highest telecom tower;drink in the panoramic vistas from its 421-metre-high observation platform, higher even than that in Petronas Towers. Plan your route from on high: look for the British colonial buildings around Dataran Merdeka (Independence Square), the old King's Palace (Istana Negara), the colourful Chinese Thean Hou Temple and the splendid Moorish architecture of the Railway Station and Sultan Abdul Samad Building. As dusk falls, dive into the bustle of Chinatown, absorbing the atmosphere at the oldest Hindu temple in the city, Sri Maha Mariamman, before bargaining hard for nibbles and knock-off clothes at Petaling Street night market. If the delectable aromas wafting from food stalls set your mouth watering, tuck in at a traditional Malay restaurant while enjoying a cultural performance by dancers and dramatists.
Shangri-La Kuala Lumpur | Meals: Breakfast

Day 3 Kuala Lumpur / Kuching
Embedded in the South China Sea is an emerald island, the natural jewel that's Borneo. The perfect spot to touch down is Kuching, capital of Sarawak state, a charming settlement stretching along the riverbank with a feline grace –no wonder its name means 'cat'. Visit the upside-down-umbrella City Hall and learn about the region's diverse tribes at the absorbing Sarawak Museum, or browse the exotic fruits at the local market (a word of advice: avoid the durian –it tastes as foul as it smells!)
Hilton Kuching | Meals: Breakfast

Day 4 Kuching / Batang Ai
Delve into the verdant heartland of Borneo on a journey past pepper, rubber and cocoa plantations to Batang Ai National Park, the Sarawak stronghold of the 'man of the forest' –the orangutan. This is also where you'll find the big cultural gems of Sarawak: the longhouses of the Iban people, mostly accessible only by boat. Hope aboard for a short journey to the upmarket version, the Hilton Batang Ai Longhouse Resort, from where you can venture out to meet the local indigenous groups.
Hilton Batang Ai Longhouse Resort | Meals: Breakfast

Day 5 Batang Ai
Various tribal groups make up nearly half of Sarawak's population –notably the Iban, whose longhouse communities line the many rivers snaking through Batang Ai. Get a taste of Iban hospitality at the Ukom longhouse on the banks of the Engkari River, only an hour's ride by longboat from your resort. Be warned: the welcoming ceremony is a riot of music, gongs, warrior dancing –and locally brewed rice wine!
Hilton Batang Ai Longhouse Resort | Meals: Breakfast

Day 6 Batang Ai / Kuching
With Iban songs still ringing in your ears, return to cosmopolitan Kuching for a day of meandering. Stroll the waterfront, admiring restored colonial shopfronts and listening to the dialects of the various ethnic groups while longboats chug past along the Sarawak River. The biggest dilemma is choosing which local delicacy to try for dinner: noodles, seafood or murtabak (bread parcels stuffed with curry)?
Hilton Kuching | Meals: Breakfast

Day 7 Kuching / Mulu
Trace the tessellated shoreline beneath you on a flight north-east along the coast to Miri, jumping-off point for the steamy jungle of Gunung Mulu National Park. This is Indiana Jones territory, a verdant wilderness of lush primary rainforest pierced by karst limestone pinnacles and riddled with vast cave systems. Get subterranean, taking a longboat journey to one of the world's largest and most spectacular cave complexes. The real thrill, though, comes at dusk. Head to the observation deck overlooking Deer Cave and watch: as the sun sets, an invisible switch is tripped and hundreds of thousands of bats spew like a writhing black serpent from the mouth of the cavern.
Mulu Marriott | Meals: Breakfast

Day 8 Mulu
Chugging along the Melinau River on a longboat is like riding along a green tunnel, the dense rainforest and tall rock faces forming green walls on either side. Drift past the settlement of the semi-nomadic Penan tribe, who hunt with blowpipes in the surrounding jungle, to reach Wind Cave. Be dazzled by the King's Room, decorated with glittering stalactites, stalagmites and rock corals. Bigger still is Clearwater Cave, stretching some 40km into the mountainside;follow the raised plank walkway along the limestone cliff into its seemingly endless passages.
Mulu Marriott | Meals: Breakfast

Day 9 Mulu / Kota Kinabalu
If Sarawak boasts the longhouses and caves, Sabah has the peaks, the plants and the swathes of sand. Take time out on the inviting beaches of the state capital, Kota Kinabalu, where the cerulean waves of the South China Sea lap the sand, and kaleidoscopic tropical fish dart around the corals of Tunku Abdul Rahman National Park just offshore.
Shangri-La Tanjung Aru | Meals: Breakfast

Day 10 Kota Kinabalu
The highest mountain in Malaysia, 4095-metre Mt Kinabalu, is surrounded by verdant skirts of rainforest, packed with a dizzying variety of plants. Visit the Mountain Garden or take a walk along one of the marked trails to spot some of the species unique to Borneo, not all of them harmless –at least, to insects and small mammals: the carnivorous Nepenthes (pitcher plant) digests small beasts, as you'll discover on a guided walk among rhododendrons and orchids.
Shangri-La Tanjung Aru | Meals: Breakfast

Day 11 Kota Kinabalu
You deserve a rest –and the beaches lining the coast around Kota Kinabalu offer ample opportunities. Catch the fragrant tropical breeze while lazing in the shade of a swaying palm –then, when you're ready for action, choose from snorkelling among the colourful reef fish to kayaking, horseriding, windsurfing or deep-sea fishing. And, of course, there's an array of restaurants and food stalls cooking up countless tempting dishes to fuel your fun.
Shangri-La Tanjung Aru | Meals: Breakfast

Day 12 Kota Kinabalu
Tear yourself away from the beach to catch your homeward flight this morning.

At A&K all of our journeys are individually tailored to suit your needs and timescale. As a guide, this 12 day suggested holiday will cost from £2,695 per person, based on two sharing, including international flights.

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Annie, Brandon, Debbie, Margaret, Vicky Smith, Lynne and Rachel - are experts in designing travel experiences across the region to suit your personal needs, interests and budget.

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Useful info


Fly to

Kuala Lumpur/Langkawi (Malaysian Airlines)

flying time

11 hours 30 minutes non-stop

time difference

GMT +8 hours


Not required for UK passport holders

Health Requirements

Yellow Fever certificate if arriving from an endemic area

Best time to travel

November - April (Peninsula Malaysia)
March - October (Borneo)


Malaysia's climate is tropical and humid, with humidity high in the mornings and lower in the afternoons. A typical day is warm and humid with balmy evenings. The main rainy seasons fall from November to February.

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