Cleaved in half by the South China Sea, Malaysia poses as two countries in one.While the peninsula flaunts bustling cities, colonial architecture, misty tea plantations and chill-out islands, Malaysian Borneo hosts wild jungles of orangutans, granite peaks and remote tribes. Throughout these two regions is an impressive variety of microcosms ranging from the space-age high-rises of Kuala Lumpur to the traditional longhouse villages of Sarawak.
Uniting all its pockets of ethnicities, religions and landscapes is the food; between the Chinese-Malay ‘Nonya’ fare, Indian curries, Chinese buï¬€ets, Malay food stalls and Dayak specialties, with some impressive Western-style food thrown in for good measure, travelers will never go hungry here.
Top tourist spots:
Kuala Lumpur: Besides being a busy city with orderly skyscrapers and six-lane highways, it is also a place to find colonial architecture and lots of greenery. Home to the Petronas Twin Towers, the city is a shopping paradise with some of Southeast Asia’s largest shopping malls, housing the world’s top brands, and street markets where you can get one-of-a-kind items.
Sure there is a lot of traffic, but turn a corner and the city bursts to exotic life with mosques and temples side-by-side, street markets and towering high rises; added to this are the hundreds and thousands of restaurants serving every imaginable type of food to suit every budget.
Penang: An island off the northwest coast of peninsular Malaysia, Penang is blessed with a multicultural history that has led to a fascinating fusion of East and West. Claimed by the British East India Company in 1786, the island’s city center of Georgetown — listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site — is filled with colonial architecture, temples and museums. In Penang, one will find an exciting mix of jungles, coasts, farm-land and fishing villages along with the country’s largest Buddhist temple.
Perhentian Islands: This small archipelago with two main islands – Besar, the bigger, and Kecil, the smaller, boast of splendid beaches, white sand, an amazingly blue, shallow sea and the shadow of tall palm trees. Apart from tourists, the islands are mostly uninhabited, making them a perfect place to disconnect and take a break from the hustle and bustle of modern life.
Cameron Highlands: Sitting 1,500 meters above sea level, the Cameron Highlands is an extensive hill station named after William Cameron, the British surveyor who stumbled upon the these picturesque green hills in 1885. The area hosts the largest tea plantations in Malaysia, which give it the characteristic, fuzzy appearance that attracts thousands of tourists. With temperatures rarely dropping below 10°C or rising above 21°C, this is the coolest region of Malaysia, and a longed-for destination for a break from the tropical Malaysian climate.
Taman Negara: With an extension of over 4,000 square kilometers, the national park of Taman Negara straddles three Malaysian states, and is under close protection, being the home to many species of endangered animals, such as the Malayan tiger, the crab-eating macaque and the Asian elephant. Bird watching, excursions through the dense jungles of the park, and the night walks,where the lack of light brings out the sounds of buzzing insects and sweeping trees are particularly thrilling.
Petronas Towers: Kuala Lumpur’s Petronas Twin Towers are an example of Malaysia’s urban design excellence. Designed by American architecture star César Pelli and officially inaugurated in 1999, the towers were the tallest buildings in the world until 2004, and are still the world’s tallest twin buildings. Each rising to a little over 450 meters from ground level, and with 88 floors of offices, the towers’ most impressive feature is the double-decker bridge which connects them on the 41st and 42nd floors. From the bridge, at 170 meters above ground, visitors can enjoy a spectacular view of the city below their feet.
Chinese New Year: Malaysia is one of the few countries in South-east Asia to celebrate Chinese New Year, which falls in January or February, in a grand manner. The Chinese communities around the country adorn their houses, streets, and other establishments with traditional red decorations to ward off bad spirits. Fireworks, along with lion and dragon dances, are performed as part of the 15-day period.