Malaysia has a total landmass of 3,29,847 square kilometers. Kuala Lumpur, with the world famous Petronas Towers, swanky malls and gourmet restaurants, makes up for only 243 of those square kilometers. So what’s out there in the rest of Malaysia? Sangeetha Sampath finds out top off beat places to visit in Malaysia.
Think Malaysia, and world-class sky scrapers, glittering malls and irresistible shopping come to mind. But just beneath the glitz, sparkle and shopping sales, lies another side of Malaysia—wild, quirky, filled with rugged mountains, tropical jungles and ‘dare-you-to-eat-this’ food.
Be sure to pack your adventurous side! Malaysia packs in together all Wonders of Asia.
Watch what we’re talking about in this video:
Places To Visit In Malaysia
Rugged Malaysia: Kota Kinabalu
On The Map
KK or Api Api, as it’s locally known, is the thriving capital of the Malaysian state of Sabah, in the island of Borneo. During World War II, KK was razed to the ground by the Allies to slow Japanese invaders from advancing. Today it is invaded by travelers and adventure enthusiasts who are attracted by its luscious islands, tropical rainforests and national park.
Things To Do In Kota Kinabalu, Malaysia
#1 Trek The Mountain
Once you’ve checked in to your hotel room, change into your trekking shoes and head out to Kinabalu National Park. Towering over the park is the 13,400-foot Mount Kinabalu, Malaysia’s tallest peak, a mecca for climbers and hikers. Be warned that the trek is not for the faint-hearted.
#2 Swim The Sea
If trekking is not your thing, change into scuba gear and head for the coast instead. Tropical Malaysia is home to a vibrant and colourful marine life. There are plenty of dive shops and schools that can teach you everything from diving basics to certificate courses where you can earn your diving license.
#3 Walk The Wetlands
Take things a little slow with a lovely boardwalk through thick, emerald-green mangroves at Kota Kinabalu Wetlands Centre, one of the best places to visit in Malaysia. The mangroves teem with wildlife and birds and by the end of the day, you’ll know your Cinnamon Bitterns from Yellow-bellied Prinias.
Get soaked by the Kiansom waterfall, spend a day at Tunku Abdul Rahman Park and shop till you drop at Handicrafts Market, one of the fun places to visit in Malaysia. You’ll be lucky if you can see the rare, giant parasitic Rafflesia flower, also known as “carrion flower” because it smells like dead meat.
Explore The Wild Side Of Malaysia Through This Video
Thrilling Malaysia: Taman Negara
On The Map
Taman Negara is a national park spread over 4343 square kilometers across three different states. Within its borders is one of the oldest rainforests in the world, plenty of rare tropical wildlife and a roaring river.
Things To Do In Taman Negara, Malaysia
#1 Trek The Jungle
No visit to the tropics is complete without a trek in the jungle. Thick vegetation, incredible insects, the sound of wildlife over the roaring river—a jungle trek through Taman Negara gives you a glimpse of what it would be like if the Jungle Book came to life.
#2 Visit The Locals
Taman Negara is home to the Orang Asli people. Translated from Malay, it means the ‘original people’. Their settlements are dotted all across the park and you can pick up a life skill or two from them—like shooting a blow gun. Just the thing you need if you get hungry in the jungle!
#3 Walk Among The Trees
Taman Negara also features the longest suspension bridge in Malaysia. Set at tree-height, the bridge gives you a rare glimpse into the rich bird-life of the park. Walk among the trees and you’ll know what it must have felt like in ‘Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon’.
Visit pet tuskers at Kuala Gandah Elephant Sanctuary, one of the best places to visit in Malaysia for experiencing wildlife, where elephants are caught, trans-located and trained for public use, try your hand at fishing and speed down the rapids. If you’re lucky, you may spot the elusive and rare tapir, an animal that has the face of an anteater with a short, elephant-like snout, the feet of a pig and is black and white in colour.
Quirky Malaysia: Kuching
On The Map
Kuching is the capital of the east Malaysian state of Sarawak. It’s reputed to be one of the most beautiful and cleanest cities in Malaysia.
Things To Do In Kuching, Malaysia
#1 Prowl The Streets
Kuching, meaning ‘cat’ in Malay, has a laidback, feline grace to it—picturesque buildings, a gentle river, and the steady, unhurried pace of life, gives the city a small-town feel. The best way to soak it in is by discovering it on foot. On the way, drop in at The Cat Museum for a feline fix.
#2 Go To The Park
Bako National Park is small, but densely packed with incredible flora and fauna. It is also Sarawak’s oldest national park, one of the best places to visit in Malaysia for natural beauty. Bako is home to 7 kinds of ecosystems ranging from beaches to grasslands to swamp forests. But the most amazing sight is bound to be the strange, colourful sandstone rocks carved out by millennia of wind and wave erosion. Shaped like arches and sea stacks, they have coloured patterns formed by iron deposits.
#3 Cruise The River
Kuching has a beautiful waterfront that epitomises the old-worldly charm of the city. Stroll along the waterfront or take a kayak down the river. Tip: do it at sunset. The setting sun paints the water gold and red.
Make a date with the Sarawak Museum, spend an afternoon dolphin watching and try your hand at caving.
Exotic Malaysia: Penang
On The Map
Situated on the north-west coast of Malaysia, Penang, which means ‘Island of the areca nut palm’ is often referred to as the Pearl of the Orient. It is one of Malaysia’s most multi-cultural cities with people of almost all communities and faiths, calling it home.
Things To Do In Penang, Malaysia
#1 Relax By The Beach
Once you are done trekking, kayaking and touring the jungles, head to Penang’s beaches to recover. The coast is dotted with silver sand beaches and turquoise blue waters. After a few hours of horizontal non-activity on the beach chairs, you will have recovered enough to explore the many water-based activities.
#2 Flutter Around The Butterfly Farm
The Butterfly Farm at Penang is the tropical world’s first live museum, one of the amazing places to visit in Malaysia. It has over 7000 varieties of butterflies and 300 tropical plants. It’s a great place to spend an afternoon and is a delightful learning experience for kids and adults alike.
#3 Eat Your Way Through Malaysia
Of course, no trip to Malaysia is complete without street-style and hawker-style food. Arm yourself with an empty stomach and head to Gurney Drive. Situated on the sea-side, you’ll find every type of restaurant, from sit-down places to stand-and-eat style carts. And while you’re at it, do try everything—from cuttlefish to cockles to 100 year old eggs. It’ll make for a great travel memory!
Inhale the aromas at the Botanical and Spice gardens, visit old-style fishing villages and go scuba diving to see the coral reefs.
Planning a trip to Penang? Watch this video to know more
Malaysia is just a short hop away by flight from India, and is in fact just 2.5 hours ahead of India. It is home to people of different ethnicities and faiths, including Malays, Chinese and Indians. You’d be surprised to learn that Tamil is one of the main languages in Malaysia along with Bahasa Melayu and English. No wonder then that Malaysia is called ‘Truly Asia’.
Expect warm, tropical weather. Pack light clothes that breathe, a sturdy pair of shoes for all the walking you’ll be doing, and headgear to protect against the tropical sun, these are some of the best places to visit in Malaysia.
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