With its superb beaches, tasty cuisine and miles of breathtaking scenery, Malaysia is a winning destination. Tourists can choose from any number of resorts in Malaysian Borneo in the east or Peninsular Malaysia in the west .
The lively island of Penang is a popular spot as is the capital Kuala Lumpur (often referred to as KL), home to the awesome Petronas Towers.
Other top attractions include the rain forest, the oldest on the planet or Malaysia’s many nature reserves. Malaysia’s about the same size as Norway and almost three quarters are covered in trees and forests. Watersports, snorkelling and diving are all on offer and shopping in the vast outdoor markets can be fun. A more unusual sport is spelunking (cave exploration) in Gunung Mulu National Park, which houses the longest cave passage in Southeast Asia.
Getting there/getting around Malaysia
Plenty of British airports offer flights to Penang, Kuching, Langkawi and Kuala Lumpur and Malaysia’s main international airport in Sepang, about 75kms away from KL.
Once you’re there, you’ll find a number of domestic airlines with reasonable prices. It’s probably the best way to get around in East Malaysia. On Peninsular Malaysia there’s a good bus system in places and plenty of trains to choose from too. It’s even possible to head to Singapore or Thailand on the Eastern and Oriental Express.
Beaches in Malaysia
Many of Malaysia’s gorgeous beaches are privately owned, either by resorts or by individuals, which can be quite a shame. However on Langkawi Island, head for Pantai Cenang, Pantai Tengah or Datai beach. Many of the beaches will be close to tropical wildlife and have superb facilities on offer too. Port Dickson is the nearest beach resort to KL and after a two hour journey, offers visitors sandy beaches and warm waters.
Head to Tioman Island in the south-east for great underwater fun; it’s got crystal clear waters and is close to any number of offshore reefs. If you’re up for a grand trek, head for Kampung Juara, about 6km from the island’s main village, Kampung Telek. For those on a budget, the Perhentian Islands in the north-east are a must. You’ll find plenty of cheap accommodation along with top diving sites and lovely beaches. Sun-worshippers on Borneo can head for Golden and Turtle Beaches on the west coast or look out for one of Sarawak’s natural parks along the coast.
Sightseeing around Malaysia
KL is home to the famous 88-storey Petronas Towers, which tower over the vibrant city below. And it marries its high-rise splendour with a thriving Chinatown, a Little India, bustling markets and any number of beautiful temples. Its National Museum, filled with art, culture and historical treasures, is also worth a visit.
If you’re a nature lover, you’ll have to pick out which of the country’s many national parks to visit. These include the world-famous Sepilok Orang Utan Sanctuary, found in the Sepilok Forest Reserve, after a 20-minute drive from Sabah. It will give you a chance to meet orangutans being rehabilitated and sent back into the forest, and enjoy its numerous trails.
Other highlights include the Rantau Abang Turtle Hatchery found at Rantau Abang, about 60km south of KualaTerengganu. It’s been created as an attempt to shore up the numbers of Giant Leatherback Turtles and from May to September you’ll be able to spot these enormous 2.5m creatures laying their eggs.
Other highlights include boat cruises, staying in a traditional longhouse in the Batai Ai National Park, climbing Mt Kinabalu or heading to the Endau Rompin State Park to camp, go rafting, fish or swim.
Family attractions in Malaysia
Malaysia’s child-friendly and hassle-free for families. The kids will love KL’s many theme parks, which include Sunway Lagoon, Desa Water Park, Butterfly Farm and Cosmo’s World. For amazing scenery head up Penang hill on a train and enjoy the views.
Any trips to the rainforests will be fun, and you can also take the kids to Underwater World in Langkawi. It’s got 5,000 types of marine species on show. Other Langkawi attractions include a crocodile farm, a snake sanctuary and a Sky Bridge which offers superb views 700 metres above sea level.
Day trips in Malaysia
If you’re based in KL, head for the Blue Mosque, it’s just a 40-minute train ride away. With the world’s tallest minarets, it’s named after its gorgeous aluminium dome and overlooks a landscaped garden which features nine Islamic art galleries.
Batu Caves are near KL as well. Visitors throng to climb up the 272 steps which lead to a rock-hewn temple with ornate Hindu shrines and the Ramayana Cave with its walls which are covered by depictions of Indian legends. There’s also Carey Island which is known for its music, traditional dances and wooden masks.
Visitors on Langkawi can head off to numerous unspoilt islands for lakes, waterfalls and jungles or catch a cable car ride up Mount Mat Cincang for superb views.
Eating out in Malaysia
There’s a whole world of choice from Chinese to Indian and Eurasian and Malay dishes. It’s quite acceptable to eat the street food – just make sure it’s properly cooked – or head for one of the many restaurants. You’ll find Malaysian food’s spicy although often moderated with coconut milk, noodles and rice.
Typical dishes will include satay (skewers of beef or chicken with a delicious spicy peanut sauce) and sambal, a hot sauce used with seafood, chicken or beef dishes.
Nightlife in Malaysia
KL’s karaoke scene is hugely popular with locals and tourists alike. Every kind of musical taste from techno and indie to garage to trance will be catered for and venues range from top of the range to the slightly seedy.
Head to Sultan Ismail, Jalan Ampang and Bukit Bintang – known as the Golden Triangle – for the most famous clubs. You’ll also find venues in Hartamas and Bangsar and most hotels have their own lounge bars and in-house clubs.
Shopping in Malaysia
Shoppers will love KL for its bustling open-air markets (usually open day and night) and its superb shopping malls. Mall fans will love the enormous Berjaya Times Square which has more than 1000 shops including the Body Shop, Debenhams and Levi’s.
There’s also the Central Market for arts and crafts, Petaling Street in Chinatown for T-shirts and toys and Suria KLCC for designer wear.
Shopping junkies should remember that a countrywide sales carnival is held in August and September or take advantage of the duty free zones in parts of KL and Penang and Langkawi. A whole range of goods from alcohol, phones, cameras and cosmetics are on offer. Aside from KL’s markets, most other towns have night markets with a huge range of goods on offer.