Malaysia is one of the best countries in Southeast Asia because it’s got such a diverse mix of cultures. The combination of Malay, Chinese, European and Indian influences have created a varied, rich culture. It is also a very diverse country in terms of nature and landscape. You’ll find beautiful beaches to relax on, amazing rainforests packed with wildlife, and a very modern city of Kuala Lumpur. There is a little bit of something for everybody in Malaysia which is why it should be on everybody’s bucket list. But there’s so much going on that you might not know where to start if you do visit. As Malaysia is huge, you’re never going to do it all in one trip, but it is one of those countries that you could return to over and over again and still find something new. On a first trip, you might concentrate on one of these highlights.
On the first trip to any country, it’s always a good idea to visit its capital city. It will give you a taste of all of the different things that the country has to offer in one handy package. That’s why you should start your Malaysian adventure in Kuala Lumpur. This great city blends the modern with the traditional and it’s packed with amazing things to see and do. You’ve got a good choice of places to stay in Kuala Lumpur – from the high end expensive places to the more budget hotels, so even if you’re trying to keep costs low, you’ll still be able to find somewhere nice to stay. During my visit in 2017 I stayed in a 4 star Fraser Place hotel, however if you want to save money and have a bit more of your own space, you might want to go for an apartment instead. It’s not that hard to find an affordable and cozy studio for rent in kl which is often better than staying in a hotel. Having your own kitchen space means you can cook your own food instead of eating out all night and you’ll have a bit more independence.
There are all sorts of amazing things to do in Kuala Lumpur and you could easily spend your entire visit there. But if you want to see more of the country and you’re not staying in the capital for that long, there are a couple of places you’ve got to visit while you’re there. The architecture is one of the highlights in Kuala Lumpur and the crown jewels of the city are the impressive Petronas Towers. Taking a tour of these giant 88 story steel towers is the best way to get a great view of the city. You can find more photos from Kuala Lumpur in my Facebook album.
The Little India district is another great highlight of the city. This beautiful area of the city is packed with loads of shops selling traditional Indian spices, clothes, and crafts. There are also some well-known massage parlours in the area that are very popular with tourists and locals alike. If you love Indian cuisine, you’ll find loads of great restaurants in the area serving authentic food as well.
If you prefer more peaceful places or if you want a break from the hustle and bustle of the city, visit the island of Penang. Its beautiful gardens are really impressive. You’ll find this tropical spice garden in a secluded spot on the road that runs around the island. The plants are well cared for and you can take a tour with lots of interesting information about all of the plants and wildlife. There’s a nice gift shop there which sells nice handmade souvenirs instead of the normal tacky stuff you usually expect to get in a gift shop. The tours are incredibly cheap, coming in at about 5 $ per person so it’s a cheap way to escape the stress of the city for a while and enjoy the incredible natural features in Malaysia.
While you’re on the island of Penang, you should also check out the local street food. You’ll find some of the most exciting street food in the world here so it’s an absolute must while you’re in the area. The ray fish curry is a particular favourite in the area and you probably won’t find it anywhere else in the world. If you are into architecture and culture, you might want to visit something a little more traditional. The Kek Lok Si temple in Penang is one of the largest Buddhist temple complexes in SE Asia with some stunning pagoda temples and beautifully maintained gardens. If you want a taste of traditional Asian culture, this is the best place to find it.
If you want to see some incredible wildlife, you absolutely have to visit the island of Borneo while you’re in Malaysia. The idyllic beaches on Sipadan Island are home to some incredible Hawksbill Turtles. They’ll swim through the crystal clear water right up to the beaches so you can get up close and personal with them. You can take to the waters with some scuba gear and see all sorts of other amazing wildlife as well. Under the sea, you’ll find over 3000 species of tropical fish including manta rays, barracuda and even some sharks.
The best way to get into the heart of the Borneo jungle is to take a boat trip up the Kinabatangan River. As you move toward the centre of the island, into the thick jungle, you’ll catch a glimpse of elephants and orangutans swinging in the trees. Just watch out for the crocodiles and large lizards along the banks. Look upward and you’ll find some incredible unique birds like the Kingfisher. You can stay in one of the luxury lodges nestled in the heart of the jungle and take a night tour to see another side of this mysterious and awe-inspiring landscape.
If you really want the best view of this amazing island, you need to climb to the top of Mount Kinabalu. This huge 4000 m mountain is a UNESCO world heritage site which is popular with tourists in the area. It’s a very accessible climb with a lot of well-maintained paths so you don’t need to be an expert to make it on top. Some people like to do the climb in one day but most people tend to stay in the Laban Rata, a luxury hut around two thirds of the way up. There are some great hot springs nearby where you can relax for the evening before climbing to the summit the next morning. The wildlife on Mount Kinabalu doesn’t disappoint either. There are over 5000 different species of plants here as well as orangutans and over 300 species of birds so, even though it’s important that you watch your footing as you climb, make sure to look around and take it all in on your way up. When you finally reach the top, you’ll have a beautiful view of the entire region. If it’s a particularly clear day, you can sometimes even see all the way to the Philippines.
Have you been to Malaysia? Have you seen Kuala Lumpur, or perhaps Borneo? Got some tips to share with us? Write down in a comment!