Maximise your time in Asia by taking an overnight flight from the UK to Singapore.
Asia’s Lion City is a high-rise, high-octane mix of Chinese, Malay, Tamil and British colonial influences. You’ll discover, however, that it has a style and spirit all of its own. From the riverfront Fullerton Bay Hotel, built on the site of the original British stronghold at Fort Fullerton, you are perfectly placed to explore. There’s no rush: head for a drink in its rooftop Lighthouse Restaurant and gaze out at the Singapore River where Sir Stamford Raffles docked in 1819.
On a private guided tour you’ll discover the history of Singapore. In Merlion Park you’ll come face-to-face with, and appreciate the significance of, the curious half-fish and half-lion national symbol. The vast Thian Hock Keng Temple is one of Singapore’s oldest, and most outrageously colourful, Chinese shrines, while the National Orchid Garden in the Botanic Gardens boasts one of the world’s greatest plant collections.
The iconic Petronas Towers in Malaysia’s capital, Kuala Lumpur, will be close to the five-star Mandarin Oriental, where you’ll be spending the next three nights. Head south from your hotel to reach the shopping hub of the Golden Triangle. To the north is the traditional Malay quarter of Kampung Baru and west takes you to the delights of Chinatown and Little India.
Take a tour of the capital’s key monuments, from the old King’s Palace to the strikingly modernist Parliament House. Kuala Lumpur was founded only a century and a half ago, and you can learn about its short, dramatic history at the National Museum. There’ll be a chance to cool off at the Lake Gardens and to explore the colonial buildings around Dataran Merdeka before hitting the incense-laden air of Chinatown.
Malacca has a rich cultural heritage, having been occupied by Sumatran Hindus, Ming-era Chinese, Portuguese traders, and colonials from Portugal and Britain. Explore this cultural melange at the Portuguese fortress of Porta de Santiago, the ruins of St Paul’s Church, Baba Nyonya Heritage Museum, the Chinese Cheng Hoon Teng Temple and the antique shops of Jonker Street. And don’t miss the delicious Nonya cuisine!
Today you’ll head deep into the primary rainforest of Taman Negara National Park, whose pristine wilderness spans over 4,300km2. A boat will take you through the humming and chirping jungle to your lodge, where you can attune your ears further to the electrifying wildlife calls on a night walk through the humid foliage.
Admire the views from the Canopy Walkway, where you’ll walk 45m above the forest floor. As you head up Teresek Hill you’ll glimpse monkeys and squirrels scurrying through the trees. Keep your eyes peeled: if you’re lucky you might see a tiger, elephant or leopard, or come across a Rafflesia, the world’s largest flower. A river boat trip to the gushing cascades at Lata Berkoh will cool you down after your jungle walk.
You’ll feel the climate change from tropical humidity to pleasant coolness as you drive to the Cameron Highlands. Peninsular Malaysia’s premier hill station is a district of verdant hills blanketed with the tessellated green quilts of tea plantations. Amid the splendour you can roam the undulating highlands feeling cool breezes and basking in the heady scents of tea.
Visit the morning market, vegetable farms, rose gardens and tea plantations before you head to the coast. On the way there’s the royal town of Kuala Kangsar, which boasts the exquisite Ubudiah Mosque. After crossing Penang Bridge you’ll reach Georgetown and the historic Eastern and Oriental Hotel. This was founded in 1885 by the Armenian brothers who built Raffles in Singapore.
A local guide will help you discover the heritage of Georgetown, unearthing some of the treasures created by its unique ethnic blend. At Fort Cornwallis, where Captain Francis Light first landed in 1786, you can admire the colonial architecture and explore the byways of the old Chinese waterfront settlement. Visit the extraordinary Cheong Fatt Tze Mansion and then relax in the delightfully shaded Botanic Gardens.
One of the most beautiful tropical islands in Asia, Langkawi, is your next port of call. It’s time to relax and take things at a slower pace. The Datai will be your home here with its private stretch of sand being one of the region’s most alluring beaches. The hotel’s rooms, villas and suites nestle into a hillside range amid pristine rainforest, rustling with hornbills and monkeys.
Recharge your batteries lazing by the turquoise waters, in between sampling the food at the resort’s gourmet restaurants or perhaps enjoying an indulgent spa treatment. It’s also worth taking an hour or so to join the resident naturalist for a walk through the 10 million-year natural history of the rainforest. Expect monkeys, lizards and, perhaps, a rare colugo, or flying lemur.
It’s time to tear yourself away from this island paradise. Your return flight back to the UK awaits, but we won’t be surprised if you’d rather spend a few more days in idyllic Langkawi!