This route brings you to Peninsular Malaysia's most historically significant destinations: Kuala Lumpur, Penang, and Melaka. You'll learn about the earliest trading ports and colonial history, and have time to shop and savor local treats.
Days 1 & 2: Arrive in Kuala Lumpur
After arriving in Malaysia's capital city, allow yourself a full day to recover and just spend your time wandering through the city's streets. Start at Merdeka Square, the focal point of colonial KL. Just behind the Moorish Sultan Abdul Samad Building, in the streets surrounding the Jame Mosque, you'll find KL's Little India of sorts. Continue your walk to the Central Market, where nearby coffee shops can provide a place to rest. After exploring stall after stall of Malaysian handicrafts at the Central Market, if you still have time and energy, cross the street to Chinatown, where you'll find more shopping, a street bazaar, and the Sri Mahamariaman Hindu Temple.
Day 3: Melaka (Malacca)
Take an early-morning bus to Melaka and spend the day exploring the town's historic heart. The most important things to see here are the Stadthuys, the history museum, located in the hard-to-miss red colonial building; the Cultural Museum, in a replica of a Malay-style palace; and the Baba Nyonya Heritage Museum, located inside an old millionaire's mansion. From the Baba Nyonya Museum, head to Jonker Walk to wander through temples and antiques shops.
Day 4: Penang
Take an early-morning bus back to KL, then board a flight to Penang. Allow 1 day for the journey. Check into your resort at Batu Feringgi so that when you arrive, you can unwind with a cocktail as you watch the setting sun from the beach.
Day 5: Georgetown
Here's what I have to say about Georgetown: Don't plan your time too closely. Start off at the Penang Museum and Art Gallery, where you'll get a brilliant overview of the island's history and cultures, then just spend your time walking through the streets. Attractions are all situated within walking distance, but don't rush: Take time to peek in the shop doors and snack on the local treats you'll find along the way. Just make sure you're at the Cheong Fatt Tze Mansion in time for the 11am or 3pm tour -- consider it a must! Afterward, mosey over to the E&O Hotel for either lunch or high tea in the old colonial dame.
Day 6: Penang Hill
The funicular train up the side of Penang Hill was originally built in 1923 to take British colonials up to the cooler climate of the hill, where they built lovely country homes and gardens. The new funicular railway will open in 2011. Get there before 9am to beat the long queue. At the top of the hill, you'll find restaurants, temples, and trails, one of which will lead you down to the botanical gardens.
Days 7 & 8: Back to KL
Hop a flight back to KL to prepare for your return home. If you have time, you can stock up on gifts at Kompleks Kraf Kuala Lumpur -- you'll find something for everyone on your list, in all price ranges, at this handicrafts showroom.