Malaysia is a beautifully harmonious mix of cultures and a mesmerising contrast of the old and the new. The country is composed of two regions, East Malaysia on the island of Borneo, and West Malaysia, or Peninsular Malaysia, which borders Thailand. On the Peninsular, you will find an array of Malay, Chinese and Indian influences, ocean-side towns with sandy beaches, fertile plains, dense jungle and highland villages; while Borneo is host to a wild, dense jungle and large river systems where you can experience the lifestyle of local remote tribes, orang-utans and mountains.
Kuala Lumpur is the capital of Malaysia and provides visitors with a fascinating mix of skyscrapers and domes; amazing food; mega-sized shopping malls and bustling markets; and an abundance of mosques and temples, historic monuments and beautiful parks.
Things to see and do
Kuala Lumpur is the largest city in Malaysia and there’s plenty of things to see, including the Petronas Twin Towers – the world’s tallest twin towers and second and third tallest singular towers; the 421m-high KL Tower - the world's fifth tallest structure; Planetarium Negara – a centre for Space Science Studies; the Lake Gardens – a 920,000 square metre garden with a Butterfly Park, Deer Park, Orchid Garden and Bird Park; and Muzium Negara – the National Museum. While you’re in town, you will also want to take a walk through the Chinese Night Market in Chinatown, where you will find the streets are littered with vendors selling a range of items, including CDs and DVDs; watches and perfumes; and visit popular shopping malls such as Pavilion KL and Mid Valley Megamall. If you want to truly experience local lifestyle, shopping and eating are the best ways to do it and there are plenty of opportunities for both.
Penang is called the Pearl of the Orient and is a paradise for food lovers with Chinese, Nonya, Malay and Indian cuisine reflecting the cultures that exist throughout the country. Take a rickshaw tour throughout the city to explore the streets with a local who knows them the best. Visit Kek Lok Si Temple, at Ayer Itam – the largest Buddhist temple in South East Asia, and its seven storey Pagoda of 10,000 Buddhas, as well as a 30 metre bronze stature of the Avalokiteshvara (Kuan Yin) – the Goddess of Mercy, on the hillside above the pagoda. You can also visit the 2,300 hectare Penang National Park, the Tropical Spice Garden and admire the views from Penang Hill.
In the Cameron Highlands, three small towns are surrounded by breathtaking scenery, dotting the winding road to the tip of highlands - lush mountain peaks, waterfalls, tea plantations and terraces of vegetable, fruit and flower gardens. Around 150km north of Kuala Lumpur, the Highlands reach 5000 feet above sea level and is the highest area on the mainland. It’s a cool escape in the heat of Malaysia, with temperatures no higher than 20 degrees and rarely lower than 10 degrees all year round. Cameron Highlands is Malaysia’s largest tea-producing region, as well as being the major supplier of legumes and vegetables through Malaysia and Singapore. Highlights include Boh Palas Tea Plantation, a strawberry farm, honey bee farm, market square, a small Buddhist temple, a rose garden and butterfly farm.
Melaka is in the south and is the oldest city, founded in 1400 by Sumatran, Prince Parameswara. The city shows off the rich cultures of all who’ve settled here - the Chinese in 1405; Portuguese in 1510; Dutch in 1641; and the English in 1795. Each influence is seen in the architecture – Fort A’ Formosa, constructed in 1511 by the Portuguese; St John’s Fort, reconstructed by the Dutch in the 18th Century with its canons pointing inwards towards the mainland to combat the threat of invasion from inland; St Peter’s Church, built by the Dutch in 1710 and the oldest Catholic church in Malaysia; St Paul’s Church built by the Portuguese and later turned into a burial ground for Dutch nobles; and Francis Xavier Church, a gothic church built by the French priest Father Paderi Fabre in 1849. It is worth visiting the Muzium Rakyat – the People’s Museum; and the Beauty Museum, which has pictures and articles of every form of body “beautification” from around the world – including foot binding.
Must do activities
The Pinnacles at Mulu National Park in the Sarawak region in East Malaysia are an imposing wall of limestone needles which spike along the side of Gunung Api (Fire Mountain). The peaks are nestled amongst luscious green vegetation and the whole area is peppered with rare ochids and pitcher plants.
Sarawak Chamber is widely recognised as the largest known cave chamber in the world and was discovered relatively recently in 1981 by British cavers. The chamber is located on the northern side of the Melinau Paku Valley, and is part of the Gua Nasib Bagus, (Good Luck Cave).
Mountain Torq Via Ferrata at Mount Kinablu was listed in The Guinness Book of World Records as the highest iron road in the world.
Labuan Islands Wreck Dives are a collection of one large, and six smaller islands off the coast of Sabah in East Malaysia. It is a popular spot for diving enthusiasts.
Pulau Sipadan is located off the North Eastern coast of Borneo, the tiny island is a complete gem of tranquillity. From the surface it appears like any other island, just a small 40 acre area of greenery and coastline, but beneath the surface of the crystal blue waters lies an entire world of dazzling underwater life. Sipadan is home to over 500 species of coral, and more than 3000 species of fish.
Orang-utan Spotting - Malaysia is that it is the native home of the orang-utan species and the Borneo rainforest is one of the only places in the world where they can be found in the wild.