Here goes my three-week solo backpacking trip to Malaysia, Brunei, and Indonesia. I spent a couple of months cooped up at home so I can save money for this trip along with many others I had planned this year. It was finally time to implement my plans and personally see and experience places I’ve been ogling behind a computer screen for a long time.

I booked (very) cheap plane tickets a year prior to three main “areas”: Sabah in East Malaysia, Java Island in Indonesia, and Peninsular Malaysia. Three weeks was definitely not enough to visit ALL of Malaysia, Brunei, and Indonesia. I only picked a few places to visit because I wanted to take my time in each destination and not skim through too many places. I was still unable to avoid hectic overnight itineraries because of uncooperative flight schedules, though. Traveling more slowly was the reason why I didn’t go to Bali despite its easy accessibility from Java Island.

Rough itinerary map of my three-week solo backpacking trip in Malaysia, Brunei, and Indonesia

Although I prepared a somewhat thorough itinerary before the trip, I had to make changes along the way. Most of them were borne out of pleasant surprises like choosing to visit a place earlier after meeting a cool group of travelers headed there or overstaying in a place because I liked it so much. On the other hand, I also experienced disappointment from trying to visit a volcanic crater only to find out later that it was closed to visitors due to high-risk volcanic activity. It was on this trip that I received the worst news that will definitely negatively affect my future travels.

All of these unforeseen circumstances made me learn to keep going (self-motivation), not dwelling too long on bad thoughts or things we can’t change, being flexible, having an open mind, and enjoying the moment while we are still able.

Itinerary Summary

Part 1: Kota Kinabalu and Brunei: 5days backpacking in Sabah, Borneo, Malaysia

Kota Kinabalu, Sabah, West Malaysia (Day 1 to 2)

  • Clark to Kota Kinabalu flight
  • Kota Kinabalu Airport LCCT Bus commute to KK City Center
  • Hostels in Kota Kinabalu
  • Kota Kinabalu Island Hopping
  • Walking tour around Kota Kinabalu

Labuan Island (Day 3)

  • Kota Kinabalu to Brunei via Labuan/Menumbok
  • A night in Labuan: duty-free island in Malaysia
  • Ferry to Brunei: Labuan to Serasa to Bandar Seri Begawan

Brunei (Day 4)

    • Brunei Backpacker hostel
    • Proboscis monkey spotting in Brunei: BSB River Tour
    • Walking tour of Brunei capital, Bandar Seri Begawan overnight

Lawas, Sabah (Day 5)

    • Ferry via Lawas: Brunei to Kota Kinabalu, mainland Sabah
    • Kota Kinabalu to Jakarta flight

Part 2: Java Island, Indonesia DIY Itinerary

Jakarta (Day 6)

Around Jakarta: Kota Tua, Jalan Jaksa, Jalan Tharmin

Yogyakarta (Day 7 to 10)

  • Jakarta to Yogyakarta Flight
  • Walking tour of Yogyakarta
  • Borobodur Temple Compounds
  • Prambanan Temple Compounds

Day 11 to 14: Mount Bromo (Day 11 to 14)

  • Yogyakarta to Malang Train
  • Malang to Ngadas Land Commute
  • Ngadas Walking Tour and Homestay
  • Ngadas to Cemoro Lawang, Mount Bromo on foot / hike
  • Three days in Mount Bromo
  • Mount Bromo to Probolinggo to Bondowoso by Bus
  • Around Bondowoso; Failed plan to Ijen crater

Baluran National Park (Day 15 to 17)

  • Bondowoso to Baluran by Bus
  • Wildlife Encounters in Baluran National Park

Surabaya (Day 18)

  • Baluran to Surabaya by “travel” van
  • Quick walking tour of Surabaya
  • Surabaya to Kuala Lumpur Flight

Georgetown, Penang (Day 19 to 22)

  • Kuala Lumpur to Georgetown, Penang by bus
  • Walking tour of Georgetown
  • Afternoon in Penang Hill

Kuala Lumpur (Day 23)

  • Georgetown to Kuala Lumpur by bus
  • One night in Kuala Lumpur
  • Kuala Lumpur to Clark Airport Flight