How many times we have heard that, when packing for holidays, we should do a pile with all the clothes we want to bring and one with the money we think we will need, and then we should take half the clothes and double the money? Well, it is usually true, without piling the money, that is not handy at all. For most of our holidays in 2017 we have spent a lot more than our budget and we haven’t packed too wisely, although our trip to Malaysia was not too badly planned. To almost complete our series about Malaysia, we are sharing our tips in a nutshell. Mr Wander has already talked about the itinerary here, and I will tell you what to bring and what not to bring on your trip, with examples of our mistakes. I am talking about two full weeks as we did.
At least a pair, you will need them for the boat tours. If you like to wear them when visiting, pack two to three pairs, but remember that women will need them to cover their knees in some places like the Batu Caves. Capris are also fine, but choose them wisely, I bought a pair (see them in the following picture) that were just in between sizes for me and they were not too comfortable for some activities as they ended up being too tight on the knees when sitting.
A few pairs of trekking trousers, joggers, or tracksuit bottoms, as to hike in the rainforest you will need long trousers. I was extremely comfortable with my old tracksuit bottoms as I prefer to carry my stuff in a bag and I don’t mind not having pockets too much; Mr Wander, on the other hand, prefers trek stretch trousers as they have plenty of pockets. Keeping in mind that it is muddy in many places and that not every accommodation offers a laundry service, you will need two (if you also use shorts) or three pairs (if you only use long trousers for your excursions) in order to have time to wash them if you get covered in mud as we did in the Mossy Forest.
It is hot and you won’t be able to reuse the ones you used in your trekking trips. Pack eight or ten but be prepared to have to wash a few, I prefer that to over-packing. Choose white clothes when possible, mine are mostly purple, black, and blue, but it is better to have light coloured clothes in order not to attract insects, you don’t want them to think you are a flower!
I am always for packing a nicer shirt and a comfortable skirt that I know I can use a few times just to go around in the city. The classic little black dress will always come in handy, I have a stretchy LBD that doesn’t need ironing and is pretty plain and can work during the day or for a nice night out. I had a jumpsuit and I also bought one there but, if you want to wear it to travel, remember that it is comfortable but you need to undress completely if you need to use the ladies’ room, and that may not be handy when carrying a few layers.
Underwear and socks
Pack many pairs, one per each day at least, and plan on having to wash them anyway as you may end up so soaked in mud that your underwear is also muddy! If you use your underwear depending on what clothes you are wearing (I couldn’t see myself with a black bra showing from a white top for example), pack accordingly. I took with me three white and three black bras to have time to wash them after hiking and to swap them without stressing my little colour-obsessed brain!
Plan for all kinds of weather but without overdoing it. You will need a warm jumper, hoodie, or cardigan for the means of transport and for the Cameron Highlands, and a rain jacket. I have a trench coat that looks like the one Inspector Gadget uses and I decided not to buy a new item; all in all, I am happy with the choice, it is not lightweight or easy to pack as a rain jacket but it is long and covers most of my thighs if worn normally or my backpack and my bust if worn as a cape (this was my favourite way of using it as I wouldn’t sweat and still be protected). We carried an umbrella just in case as we could also use it to protect us from the sun as well but I don’t think we used it at all.
Swimming suits and accessories
Depending on how many days at the beach you have and on accommodations with swimming pools, I would say have at least two so you can have one drying while you use the other one. We took goggles as we knew we had a swimming pool and also we wanted to make sure we could have a look underwater if needed, they are pretty small and light, and won’t affect your luggage allowance. Here is a perfect example of Mr Wander posing with his going-to-the-beach outfit:
Scarves and hats
Yes to both as the scarf can cover your shoulders when visiting a place of worship or just when getting sunburned outside or too cold in public transport. The hat, obviously, is great while exploring as even in the forest the sun filters through the branches. Choose one with a wide brim to protect your neck as well.
Have a small backpack to carry your bottle of water, your sunscreen, and your insect repellent as you need to have those always with you. I had a smart handbag as well for the days out in the city as this one was light and easy to flatten, but I realised it was not the best quality of eco-leather as I ended up with brown marks around my shoulders; a tote bag is your best choice.
Now some serious piece of advice on bags: Pack wisely your daily bag, I am rubbish at that, I always carry a 50000 mAh power bank as if I were to take days of time lapse videos, a camera, my phone, the water and all the usual things I would have in my handbag at home. As a result, I have felt overwhelmed a few times as the heat was too much when combined with the weight of my backpack. Carry a bottle of water; a small power bank if you use your phone for pictures, the single charge ones are pretty light, although you will probably have enough with a full charge for most days; tissues and wet wipes or hand sanitiser as, I’ll say it once again, you will end up covered in mud more than you would wish.
Your trekking shoes will be your best friends, as they usually are when exploring. Do not buy new ones for your trip or, if you do, use them a few times before travelling, walk in them for a few hours in order for your feet to get used to them and for the shoes to adapt to your feet, you don’t want blisters when climbing to reach the Mossy Forest. Trainers are also a good idea as most routes are not as hard as to require hiking shoes, but again use old trainers that you don’t mind damaging, a couple in our Mossy Forest tour were wearing brand new tote trainers and we saw the horror in their eyes when they saw the mud in front of us.
Flip-flops are another unmissable item; as I don’t like walking bare feet but most accommodations ask you to take your shoes off, I had a pair to use just indoors and one for going out. I also had a pair of sandals (see them in the picture above with one of my jumpsuits) to go with my smart-casual outfit but you can definitely use your flip-flops and pack one pair of shoes less. If you decide to bring this extra pair, try not to go for ballerinas or completely flat shoes as your back should always have the support of a 3-4 cm heel, especially when walking a lot.
One microfibre bath towel will take up little space and will save you in some cases, they are very light as well. We also brought a beach towel although our last accommodation provided towels for the beach and the swimming pool; it is handy to have one especially for the boat tour. Remember to pack your microfibre towel or a hand towel in your hand luggage as most airports have showers and you can refresh yourself if you have a long stopover.
Don’t overdo it, I am guilty of that but I am improving and I took almost just what was needed this time. Most accommodations offer basic toiletries, so just pack a travel size shower gel and shampoo for the airport and emergencies, toothpaste and toothbrush, deodorant and perfume although you can skip this one as it is not the best idea in the forest, sweet smells attract insects and you don’t want it to conflict with the insect repellent anyway. I always pack a few emergency things such as plasters, disinfectant, manicure set, and sewing kit. If you wear make-up, make sure it is long lasting and with sun protection factor as the sweat will try its resistance. I don’t use wipes anymore for removing my make-up as they are hard on your skin and create too much waste, but I have carried them on this trip as I had a few packs I bought before switching; your best choice is some detergent and cotton pads.
Sunscreen and insect repellent
It doesn’t matter the colour of your skin, wear sunscreen every day, not just on holidays, as melanoma is one of the most common cancers. SPF between 15 and 30 is perfect and will provide your with the best possible protection; 50 SPF makes no real difference according to this article. We usually buy the spray bottles as they are a lot handier and can be easily applied in a moment as the product is never too thick and can be spread evenly.
The insect repellent can be strong or extra strong, you don’t have too many problems in the areas we have visited. Doctors still advise to apply sunscreen first and insect repellent after in order not to reduce the effects of the latter, but remember that this will lower the efficacy of the sun protection. The combo products with both, apparently, are not as effective as the two separate products.
More details: We use cruelty free toiletries and make-up and you can find many brands that suit your needs, but most of our toiletries are Superdrug own brand and we were quite happy even with their insect repellent. Talking about make-up, most of my products are produced by The Green People and I am quite happy with the foundation, the powder, and the blush as they let my skin breath, don’t contain talc and SLS, and the first two have SPF 15; their mascara is not my favourite as it smudges a bit but I can’t offer a good alternative at the moment; my eyeliner and eye pencil are not cruelty free as I bought them over two years ago, they last very long, and I don’t want to throw them away and add to waste, I will keep you posted as soon as I finish them, almost there now.
I have decided to carry a travel size toiletry bottle filled with clothes detergent and I suggest you do the same.
Tissues and wet wipes
Carry a few packs of tissues for your bags although you will have tissue boxes in the rooms, and a travel size hand sanitiser if possible, or wet wipes if not, as you may often find basins near the temples but it is for worshippers and you shouldn’t use them to refresh yourself after a hike.
I usually don’t go out without drying my hair even when it is hot as it only takes me 2 minutes. I brought a hair dryer with me and my hair straightener, both travel size, and I suggest you do the same as most budget accommodations don’t include these kinds of appliances.
We didn’t carry tablets or any other devices apart from our phones and our cameras but we carried a small extension lead as sometimes accommodations have few sockets. Malaysia have the same sockets as the UK, so no need for adaptors but you should consider carrying one if your appliances come from different countries.
It may sound like we had too much, but we each had a big backpack that weighted about 11 kg and a smaller one as hand luggage of about 7 kg, which were pretty easy to carry up and down the stairs when no lift was available. Our biggest worry was space but our 60 l bags were enough. My small backpack can be attached to the front of the big one but I found it too complicated to carry as I can’t keep balance, I preferred to carry the small one in front instead.
One last suggestion, especially if your blood type is 0, which makes you vulnerable to insect bites more than anyone else, try to avoid sugary drinks (I know you can’t resist teh tarik but try to avoid it at least when hiking) and drink black tea and coffee without sugar as that makes your blood bitter and insects don’t like that!
That’s all for now, stay tuned,