16 experiences you don't want to pass up in Malaysia
With a blend of historic sites, adventurous attractions and spectacular scenery, Malaysia offers visitors a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. Rich in modern and age-old traditions, uncover the diversity of 16 unique experiences you don't want to miss on your travels to this South-eastern Asia destination.
Flanked by colonial landmarks, natural beauty and high-flying adventures, Malaysia envelopes travellers with impressive sites and spirited locations.
Expanding upon some of the country’s most magical attractions, Matador Network, an online travel magazine, recently published “16 Travel Experiences to have in Malaysia before you die”.
In it, author Lee Wei Xin, a former resident of the country, offers up her take on more than a dozen “must do” and “must see” experiences, from the highest points well above the clouds to the lowest adventures, diving under the sea.
Hike Mount Kinabalu
The author begins with advising travellers to hike Mount Kinabalu, the tallest peak of Borneo’s Crocker Range in Sabah. She details the hike takes a couple of days and you need a climb permit. Because Sabah Park only issues a limited number of them, Xin advises applying for one well in advance through the official website. She also recommends travellers present themselves respectfully during the hike, as Mount Kinabalu is considered a sacred mountain.
Visit Batu Cave
The long hike will make climbing the numerous steps leading to Batu Cave seem like a breeze. The writer describes it as one of the country’s most popular sites, especially busy during Thaipusam. If big crowds do not deter you she suggests visiting during that time. Xin advises the best way to get there is to leave KL Sental in a KTM Commuter. While she writes this direct route takes less than 20 minutes she discourages driving due to heavy traffic.
Explore Mulu Cave
Another cave that makes her list is Mulu Cave. Located on the island of Borneo, the author writes that Gua Mulu in Miri is the world’s largest cave, plus it’s a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Xin recommends if you want to walk into Mulu through "The Headhunter’s Trail” you’ll need to hire a licensed tour operator.
Tour Gua Kelam
A fourth choice for visitors is to tour Gua Kelam. The author describes this limestone cave as one of the most distinctive in the country. Visitors will find it near the small town of Kaki Bukit, about 33 km to the north of Perlis, Kangar.
Hike Taman Negara
For a mountainous adventure high above the ground, the writer recommends travelling the longest canopy walkway on the planet while hiking through Taman Negara. Located in the Titiwangsa Mountains, Xin especially suggests the adventure for first-time visitors. The walkway swings from the treetops a full 40m above the ground, stretching for 530m. For the truly adventurous, the writer proposes hiking through the jungle after dark and exploring some of the park’s nocturnal creatures.
Skydive in Pulau Langkawi
Continuing with some of the author’s high-flying suggestions, the next recommendation she gives is to go tandem skydiving in Pulau Langkawi. Xin describes this as Asia’s highest skydive and the only one of its kind in the country. She writes the instructors are professional, certified by the Australian Parachute Federation and well trained. She includes that all participants are filmed so you can re-watch your adventure again and again.
Take a hot-air balloon ride over Putrajaya
While your adrenaline is still pumping, the author continues with the suggestion of taking a hot-air balloon ride over Putrajaya. She specifies that the annual 3-day Putrajaya International Hot Air Balloon Fiesta takes place each March, with flights beginning at 7am and 6pm daily.
BASE jump off Kuala Lumpur Tower
Yet still, there’s also the option of BASE-jumping off the famed Kuala Lumpur Tower. Xin details the four-day long KL Tower International Jump Malaysia is hosted by the tower each September or October. Whether you jump yourself or keep your feet planted firmly on the ground, she writes the annual event brings in around 100 BASE jumpers from upwards of 20 countries to take the leap.
Fly a Wau
You can also choose to fly a Wau in Kelantan, a suggestion the author offers as an option either in late May or the early part of June. A popular item in the state, Xin describes the Wau Puyuh as an enormous traditional kite. Visitors, she writes, can view the sky full of with them during the five-day-long Kelantan International Wau Festival, taking place each year on Gating Beach, Tumpat.
Dive Pulau Perhentian
For a unique adventure under the sea, the author advises diving with giant turtles in Pulau Perhentian. She suggests doing so during dive season, which normally lasts from mid-March through late October. While the huge leatherback turtles used to be visible laying their eggs ashore at Rantau Abang, Xin says they don’t do this anymore because of all the visitors. If you do come across one of the large turtles underwater, the writer asks travellers to be conscious of their sensitivity and not disrupt them too much.
Explore Minangkabau architecture
Back on solid ground, Xin recommends exploring the Minangkabau architecture in Negeri Sembilan. The structures amaze other Malaysians too, as residents of mountainous west Sumatra resettled the area in the early years. A few years ago, the author says the Astana Besar Seri Menanti made the national heritage list, one of ten historic structures to be named.
Another option she offers is to view the colonial landmarks of Malacca, a historic canal city. She writes the Dutch, Portuguese and British all once colonized the area, leaving behind a number of colonial, western structures. The author describes the most famous as St. Paul’s Hill, the Red/Dutch Square and A’Famosa Fort. She adds that visitors will also see Chinese and Malay culture intertwined with buildings depicting Peranakan culture.
For fun for all ages, Xin submits visiting Asia’s Legoland, part theme park and part water park. Found in Iskandar Puteri, Johor, the author describes the resort as “76 acres of pure fun” and the first Legoland resort for Asia since 2012. To save money on admission, the writer recommends purchasing a combo ticket online before you go.
Enjoy seafood in Labuan
Xin doesn’t leave food off the list, either. One of her suggestions is to feast on inexpensive seafood in Labuan. She writes the area is known as the “Pearl of Borneo”, complete with impressive beaches and exceptional seafood at great prices. Options, she says, include fresh local crab and lobster, along with delicacies such as Jelurut, Ambuyat and Punjung. Specifically, she mentions several good restaurants including the cosy Anjung Ikan Bakar, Anjung Ketam, Tanjung Aru Seafood and Kampung Nagalang Seafood.
Food-hunt in Penang
For another treat, the author recommends going food-hunting in Penang. Xin writes the location is one of the best for foodies, named the #1 culinary hot spot by Lonely Planet in 2014. She says the best representation of what the area has to offer is Char Koey Teow, and that you’ll find the very best version of it for sale at Siam Road, near Anson Road. When you’re finished food hunting, Xin then proposes renting a bike and checking out famous murals in the area.
Drink white coffee in Ipoh
To top off a great meal, the author advices treating yourself to a cup of sweetened white coffee in Ipoh, Perak. She says the smooth, foamy drink is like a taste of Malaysian history, as it was created when the Hainanese first sailed to NanYang in search of mining jobs during the late Qing dynasty. Xin writes the coffee gets its appearance from evaporated milk and was promoted as the country’s official drink during the 2010 World Expo Shanghai.
No matter whether you’re experiencing the best food and drink or climbing to new heights, this former Malaysian citizen says there’s plenty to see, do and experience in Malaysia.
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