Most people are aware of Kuala Lumpur as a stopover or city break, but not many people have experienced the other great destinations Malaysia has on offer. With a fusion of Malay, Chinese and Indian ethnicities and influences, the country is a melting pot of diversity, incredible cuisine and magnificent sightseeing.
There’s so much to enjoy in this magical country: Penang is a foodie’s heaven; Borneo is home to jungles and exotic wildlife; Kuala Lumpur is modern and a shopper’s paradise; Langkawi offers pristine beaches and serenity. This is a holiday destination with something for everyone – beaches, wildlife, culture, relaxation, gourmet experiences and shopping.
1. Malaysian Borneo. Malaysian Borneo is divided into two states – Sarawak in the south and Sabah in the north (divided by the small nation of Brunei). There are plenty of options for adventure in Borneo, including exploring the rainforests – there is an impressive matrix of canopy walks through the dense trees; head to Sabah for some of the world’s premier scuba diving sites; climb Mount Kinabalu; take a cruise down the Kinabatangan River and witness proboscis monkeys, orang-utans, crocodiles, pythons and elephants in their natural habitat. Of course, you could just lie on one of the many gorgeous beaches and do nothing at all!
2. Sepilok Orang-Utans. Located in Sabah, the Sepilok Orang-Utan Rehabilitation Centre was the first of its kind in the world when it opened in the 1960s. The Centre cares for orphaned animals and releases them back into the wild. Tours with feeding are conducted daily.
3. Batu Caves. These enormous long tailed-macaque monkey-filled limestone caves are found just 13km north of KL. Climb the 272 steps near the Lord Murugan statue and explore one of the most popular Hindu shrines outside of India. The Thaipusam Festival is held annually here in January/early February.
4. Cameron Highlands. Home to the BOH Tea Plantation and Factory, the largest tea plantation in South-East Asia offers plenty of natural beauty and tea tasting. The Highlands are a deliciously cool retreat from the crowds and heat, and is famous for serving up High Tea featuring cream tea and locally made strawberry jam.
5. Penang. This UNESCO World Heritage Site is the home to many famous hotels such as the Eastern and Oriental Hotel founded by Sir Stamford Raffles. A visit to the Tropical Spice Garden is a great way to see the best of the local flora and fauna in one location. Gurney Drive lies along the seafront and overlooks a series of beaches. Food sellers set up here at night and Gurney Plaza has some good souvenir shopping. The capital George Town is full of Peranakan architecture.
6. Genting Highlands. If you’re looking for an Asian-style Las Vegas, this is the place for you! With casinos, theme parks, bars, restaurants and plenty of nightlife, there’s no shortage of things to keep you entertained. The Genting Skyway will also transport you 3.4km over the lush 120 million year old rainforest and the Chin Swee Caves Temple.
7. Kuala Lumpur. This dynamic city has plenty to appeal to most visitors. Visit the Golden Triangle for nightlife, bars, clubs and restaurants. The Islamic architecture of the National Mosque is a sight to behold. The mosque can accommodate 15,000 worshippers. Take a wander through Chinatown and visit the temples, great food outlets and market. Of course, the Petronas Towers are a major attraction – and hard to miss!
8. Langkawi. This is one of the most commercialised islands in Malaysia, but this doesn’t detract from its beauty. You can easily do some day island hopping and discover crystal clear water and beautiful beaches. The cable car is also a great way to see the vistas on high. The island’s duty-free status means you’ll often buy a beer for less than a bottle of water!
9. Malacca. Similar in some ways to George Town in Penang, you’ll find colonial-influenced architecture and delicious street food. Malacca has a much more small-town vibe however, and is famous for its Portuguese tarts.
10. Sipadan Island. This is one for the divers amongst you. Recognised as one of the best dive sites in the world (including by CNN Travel), the Island has limited numbers of divers per day, so apply for your permit at least a month in advance. But you’re guaranteed an amazing experience.
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