Malaysia & Singapore: travel books to read before you go


This excerpt from Lonely Planet’s Malaysia, Singapore & Brunei guide provides a selection of travel literature to get you in the mood for your trip.

Into the Heart of Borneo (1987) by Redmond O’Hanlon is a hilarious account of author and poet James Fenton’s journey into the Bornean interior in search of the fabled Sumatran rhinoceros.

Ghost Train to the Eastern Star (2008) by Paul Theroux sees the opinionated, perceptive travel writer get laid low by a tummy bug in Penang (holed up at the E&O no less!) then stick the knife into Singapore’s Lee Kuan Yew.

Stranger in the Forest (1988) by Eric Hansen follows the intrepid author on his hike from Sarawak to Kalimantan and back with no proper papers, an unreliable map and a slender grasp of the local lingo.

Urban Odysseys (2009) edited by Janet Tay and Eric Forbes is a mixed bag of short stories set in Kuala Lumpur that capture the city’s multifaceted, multicultural flavour.

From Majapahit to Putrajaya – Searching for the Other Malaysia (2005) by Farish A Noor is a collection of the local journalist’s trenchant observations on the country.

The Golden Chersonese and the Way Thither (1883) by Isabella Bird is a stiff-upper-lip account of the doughty Victorian-era traveller wending her way through the Malaysian jungles of Selangor and Perak, and crossing the Bukit Genting pass on the back of an elephant.

In the Footsteps of Stamford Raffles (1992; also titled The Duke of Puddle Dock) by Nigel Barley is part biography and travelogue as the author shadows the journey east made by the founder of Singapore.

Singapore Swing (2007) by John Malathronas exposes the quirkier side of the island state as the author hangs out with paranormal investigators and at brothels and opium dens in his search for Singapore’s true soul.

More travel literature reading lists for other destinations can be found here.