It could be confidently posited that Malaysia is the dream Southeast Asian destination. Heavy investment in high technology and infrastructure means things run smoothly, but at its core, the hustle, bustle and spontaneity of the region is still very much alive and kicking. A rich, diverse melting pot of Indian, Chinese, European and of course, Malay influences offers intrigue at every corner, with the culture and cuisine as variable and voracious as anywhere in the world. What’s more, compared to its affluent, glamorous neighbour Singapore, things are relatively affordable here.There really is no reason not to, then. From tropical resorts to Borneo eco-tours, street food paradise to religious festivals, the phrase ‘something for everyone’ never sounded so succinct. Whatever your tastes or itinerary, make sure you include a few of these; our 5 IDEAL places to visit on your holiday to Malaysia.
The historical city of Melaka should have a place near the top of any Malaysian holiday itinerary. Dubbed as “The Historic State, its rich history and heritage mean it’s been declared a World Heritage Site accordingly. Some of the historic sites which have earned Melaka this recognition include the Dutch Square, which leads to Asia’s oldest Dutch building, and the Christ Church, which was home to British colonialists keen to worship while here. Located in Melaka City, the capital of this coastal state, is Cheng Hoon Teng Temple which is one of the country’s oldest and most sacred Chinese temples and contains many historical and cultural preservations. The city is also home to a large, vibrant Chinatown, with the main thoroughfare Jonker Street famous for peddling antiques and trinkets. If you’re on the hunt for souvenirs, this is the place to be. Melaka is also a foodies heaven and at the weekends, Jonker Street Night Market is the place to come to try an array of delicious street eats.
Offering rolling tea plantations and dozens of hiking trails in a uniquely refreshing climate, if you’re an outdoor enthusiast, The Cameron Highlands is the ideal getaway in the peninsula. Hiking through the verdant, lush mountain pathways and exploring the local villages grants you the privilege of an insight into the authentic lifestyle of those who dwell in the plateaus of Main Range. Visit The Mossy Forest and climb to the top of Gunung Irau, the area’s tallest peak, and embrace the chance to get in and amongst the area’s exotic plants. Finally, the Highlands is also home to a plethora of waterfalls, with Parit Waterfall and Robinson Waterfall the most popular and striking.
If hiking isn’t your thing, the district offers less strenuous outdoor activities too, with most visitors indulging in British-Style high tea on terraces overlooking the many tea plantations of the area. Boh Sungei Palas is arguably the best place for tea aficionados and tours are available year round. Of course, tea isn’t the only thing that thrives in the Cameron Highlands. Because of the temperate climate, this is the only place in Malaysia where strawberries grow, and as such, you can visit the strawberry farms and go picking the fruit. For a more savoury treat, the noodle cafes along Jalan Basa provide bowls of the good stuff by the bucket load. Oh yes.
The capital of Malaysia, Kuala Lumpur, is one of the great Asian megacities, centred by its most iconic skyscrapers, the Petronas Towers. The country’s blend of Malay, Indian, Thai and Chinese cultures of the country is at its most apparent here, and the cuisine, in particular, is at its most diverse, punchy and flavoursome on the streets of the city. Indeed, this is a foodie mecca pretty much unrivalled anywhere else on the planet. It’s one of the world’s cheapest places to eat truly well, with Hawker Centres slinging bowl upon bowl of fragrant soups and rich, deep curries for the price of pennies.
The national dish of char koay teow (a smoking hot wok stir fry of seafood and noodles) is a must try here, and the Penang version of laksa known as assam also shouldn’t be missed should you chance upon it. It’s quite different from the laksa most of us are familiar with, shipping out the coconut milk and instead given richness and depth through tamarind water and dried fish flakes. Go get it. If you need to walk off all of that great food, then a trek to the Batu Caves to experience what civilization was like hundreds of thousands of years ago is a must. Inside these caves, huge limestone hills and Hindu shrines and statues stand proudly. The perfect backdrop for the budding travel photographer, we think.
Northern Borneo brings its focus to the wildlife of Malaysian rainforest and has resorts and lodges that will grant you the opportunity to wake up with the view of the greenest trees you’ve ever seen. This destination is considered one of the most eco-friendly locations to travel to in the region, keeping your carbon guilt low and your footprint light. There’s some fascinating wildlife here; keep your eyes peeled for the extremely rare Pygmy Asian Elephant and Sunda Clouded Leopard, or traverse the rainforests and mountains in search of Bornean Orangutangs.
Home to the indigenous Dayak people, visiting north Borneo offers a great opportunity to engage with local communities via homestays and tours. And for the adrenaline junkies out there, zip lining through the forests and hiking through Mount Kinabalu will get the pulse well and truly racing.
Langkawi borders with Thailand and is a laid-back destination which promises ultimate relaxation. And boy does it deliver. If you want to see arguably the best views in the country, take a trip to the SkyBridge to get an awesome view of the jungles and even admire the Philippines long in the distance. Be warned, this island gets super busy as it attracts both foreign tourists and is popular with Malaysians. It’s home to the largest indoor aquarium in Malaysia so, if you have an interest in the bounty and beauty of the sea, this destination is for you. Just remember to book your tickets in advance for this one to avoid disappointment.