A Guide to Malaysia
Some countries strike us as a perfect island paradise ideal for sun worshippers and scuba divers, others tempt the more adventurous types, looking to trek up mountains or delve deep into jungles. Some countries have a select few cities filled with history and plenty of cultures, crazy nightlife or huge shopping malls. However, one country that does have it all – offering both the perfect location for a short break, and the perfect solution for travellers that don’t want to miss out on adventure. Malaysia is one of those places.
Boasting a myriad of attractions, the country is a melting pot of cultures and it has plenty to offer every type of traveller, the tropical weather, only adds to Malaysia’s appeal. So which of Malaysia’s destinations should be on your bucket list and why? Here are just a few ideas.
Where else to start but with Malaysia’s bustling capital? Kuala Lumpur is a diverse city populated by people from a variety of cultures and countries including China and India. This diversity is evident not only in the delicious food on offer (seriously – you can find anything here) but also in the cultural attractions too.
The colourful entrance of the Batu Caves, a Tamil shrine, is a popular day trip out of Kuala Lumpur and now frequently found on travel bloggers’ Instagram pages. More centrally, Buddhist Than Hou Temple is one of the largest and oldest temples in South East Asia.
If temples aren’t your thing, Kuala Lumpur’s skyline is full of high rise towers, many showing off incredible architecture. The Petronas Twin Towers stand out and are the tallest buildings in the city, but the highest viewpoint is actually the KL Tower thanks to the hill on which it stands. Head up to the 360* panoramic sky deck for incredible views over the city.
Alternatively, Kuala Lumpur also hosts hundreds of birds at the City Bird Park. This is the world’s largest free-flight aviary, and a great way to spend an afternoon immersed in nature.
If all of that isn’t enough, Kuala Lumpur’s shopping is some of the best in the whole of South East Asia. The Bukit Bintang neighbourhood is swarming with shoppers hopping from mall to mall, whilst the Central Market caters to bargain lovers and those searching for more unique handicrafts or souvenirs.
Only an hour away but a stunning escape from the fast-passed city life sits Langkawi, an archipelago in the northwest of Malaysia. The largest island, Pulau Langkawi, offers the perfect escape for those looking for a bit of R&R, but this isn’t all the main island has to offer. Listen out for shrieks of excitement coming from those heading off on a jet ski tour from Pantai Cenang, or nervously watch parasailors flying high above your head whilst waiting for your turn. For those who can handle heights, Langkawi is home to the steepest cable car in the world, carrying you up to a pedestrian bridge offering views over the Andaman Sea.
And if that all sounds a little too much, Langkawi offers a great excuse to sit back and watch the sunset whilst sipping on a cocktail.
Georgetown will swiftly steal your heart. The capital of Penang just oozes culture, so for those who love art, this is the place for you.
The old town area is a UNESCO World Heritage site, thanks to its well-preserved colonial buildings and clan houses. The brightly painted terraces, home to hipster cafes and souvenir shops, are juxtaposed with temples of various religions. Tourists flock to popular street art spots, many of which combine painted walls with 3D elements, but the creativity doesn’t stop there. Art Lane is an interesting project showcasing young artists’ work without them needing approval from UNESCO. Hidden gems like this, combined with the colour and culture that Georgetown is full of, means it is an inspiring place for anyone creative.
As if this wasn’t enough the food and drink scene in Penang is an exciting blend of different cuisines, including Malaysian, Indian and Chinese. Hence why Penang is known as a foodie’s paradise. The smells drift from hawker stalls, almost leading you into a trance as you follow the scent. High-end establishments do exist, but it’s the local restaurants and street stalls that will lead you to have at least 5 meals per day. It’s just impossible to choose with so many amazing cuisines all in one place.
When the sun goes down and you’re close to bursting with delicious food, head to one of the numerous speakeasies dotted around the town. Walk through fridge doors, guess key codes and find doors disguised as walls; the speakeasy culture here will leave you tempted to push any opening to see what you might find.
For those who long for green, open spaces (and some cooler air!), the Cameron Highlands are just one example of Malaysia’s beautiful countryside. Rolling hills provide land for tea plantations and winding roads offer access to some incredible viewpoints. Multiple trail routes of varying difficulty and length lead you around the area and into the Mossy Forest, where the roots of towering trees provide trusty footholes as you trek higher up the hills.
Once the climbing is over, you can relax at the BOH Tea Factory whilst learning about the tea-growing process, or fuel up for the following day in one of many street food cafes lining the main road in Tanah Rata.
Malaysia hosts a great wealth of destinations. Fancy hanging out with orangutans in their natural habitat? Head to Borneo. Fancy diving in the tropics? The Perhentian Islands are for you. Enjoy hiking? Mount Kinabalu offers a moderate climb (the summit height is 4000m), leading to an incredible view of a spectacular landscape.
With all of that and more, Malaysia surely should be high up on your bucket list? It has so much to offer, whatever you’re searching for, you’re bound to find it here.