Every time I visit a new country, I am often overwhelmed by the places I want to see and visit. Given limited time and resources, there’s only so much ground I can cover. Here are ten of the best places that, for me, will show a fellow traveler the best there is about Malaysia. Pick one, two or all of them and have fun!
1. Kuala Lumpur
Known as KL to its locals, it is without a doubt the most well-known destination in Malaysia. It’s the first stop for many travelers, and is a great jump-off point for the rest of the country. Don’t forget to visit the iconic Petronas Twin Towers for a bird’s eye view of the city, and do some shopping at the Suria KLCC. But don’t limit yourself. The city has many places of worship for population’s diverse faiths, including the oldest and richest Hindu temple in KL the Sri Mahamariamman Temple. The city is a colorful conglomeration of Chinese, Malay and Indian influences. While it is very modern and cosmopolitan, KL still has spots that give visitors a glimpse into its past.
2. Langkawi, Kedah
The 99 islands that make up Langkawi gives its visitors a gamut of choices when it comes to beaches and water related activities. It’s great for relaxing and enjoying a laid back holiday, but it also offers activities for the more adventurous folks. Langkawi was also given the status of World Geopark by UNESCO, effectively protecting the forests and other environmental resources around it. Langkawi is also the only place in Malaysia that is duty free, making it a good place to shop for souvenirs.
3. Kota Kinabalu, Sabah
The capital city of Sabah is a known destination for the adventure seekers who want to climb Mount Kinabalu. At 4,095 metres above sea level, it is one of the popular climbing destinations in Asia. The mountain is also home to a very diverse wildlife, both in flora and fauna. The city also has its share of cultural venues, such as the Sabah State Museum and the Ethno Botanic Garden. The Padang Merdeka (town field) is also a historical location as it was where the declaration of Sabah’s independence and the formation of Malaysia took place.
4. Malacca City
Malacca City is a key piece to Malaysia history, as it was the center of the Malay world during the 15th and 16th century. Because of the occupation of several colonizers, the city has an interesting mix of architecture influenced by the Dutch, Portuguese, British and Chinese. In 2008, Malacca was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Jonker Walk is a favorite spot for tourists for the Chinatown.
5. George Town, Penang
This capital city of Penang was named after King George III of Britain. Its colonial structures were preserved thanks to strict rent controls implemented by the local government, and was also named a UNESCO World Heritage Site because of its unique architecture and town structure. Explore the town by joining walking heritage tours, or have a taste of authentic Malay, Indian and Chinese food.
6. Cameron Highlands
This 712 sq. km. hill station is a great place to escape the sweltering tropical heat of Malaysia. It’s a three hour bus ride from Kuala Lumpur, but the buses are very comfortable, and the view on the way up the highlands is amazing. The lifestyle in the highlands is less hectic than the lowlands, and it isn’t uncommon to find a nice cafe for a relaxing meal. Of course, adventure seekers have plenty of activities like hiking or jungle exploration to pass their time.
7. Genting Highlands
Also known as Resorts World Genting, this hill resort-slash-entertainment hub that gives a Las Vegas feel to the mountaintop retreat. The “Fun City Above the Cloud” is Malaysia’s only legal, land-based casino. It has five hotels, several restaurants and three theme parks. The temperature holds steady at 14°C to 25°C all year round.
8. Taman Negara National Park
This national park is said to the be the oldest jungle and best kept tropical rainforest in the world. It has the most extensive protected area of virgin rainforest in Malaysia, and much effort has been given to its protection and preservation. Guests can come and enjoy comfortable amenities while taking in the majestic views of the Taman Negara.
9. Gunung Mulu National Park
Malaysia is rich with UNESCO World Heritage Sites, and the Gunung Muu National Park in the Malaysian Borneo region is no exception. The park has a long history of cave exploration, with a diverse species of flora and fauna. The yearly Mulu cave excursions strive to retain the exciting and sense of adventure that the original explorers have experienced. However, its main focus is to promote environmental awareness and the park’s significance in maintaining a balanced ecosystem.
10. Klang, Selangor
It may come as a surprise that Klang is on this list, as many travel sites and guides don’t consider this as a “must see” place. I’m adding it to this list for the food alone. The Claypot Chicken Rice is considered to be the tastiest around, and the Hokkien-style dish bak kut teh (pork rib tea) has its roots here. Klang also boasts of the best seafood dishes in the Central region, and is often visited not just by the locals but also by foreign nationals. Take a peek at Little India as well, for affordable bargains and colorful sights.