Malaysia things to see and do

Tourist offices

Tourism Malaysia in the USA

120 East 56th Street, Suite 810, New York, NY, 10022, United States
Tel: (212) 754 1113.
www.tourism.gov.my

Tourism Malaysia in the UK

Malaysia House, 57 Trafalgar Square, London, WC2N 5DU, United Kingdom
Tel: (020) 7930 7932.
www.tourism.gov.my

Things to see and do

Batang Rejang

The mighty Batang Rejang river is the gateway to Borneo’s tribal heartland. Visitors who come here in May and early June can visit the longhouse homes of the Iban tribe, which shelter generations of the same family, recalling traditions that date back thousands of years. The best places to arrange a local guide are the jungle outposts of Kapit and Belaga.

Batu Caves

Just 13km north of Kuala Lumpur, the remarkable Batu Caves are a series of dramatic limestone caverns, dripping with stalactites, revered as a Hindu shrine. Every year in January or February, millions of devotees parade through the chambers and perform ritual acts of self-mortification for the spectacular Thaipusam festival.

Cameron Highlands

To escape the heat of the lowlands, the British colonials retreated to the hills north of Kuala Lumpur founding tea plantation and hill resorts in the cool Cameron Highlands. Today, this is Malaysia’s best known hill station, with trekking and tea-tasting as the main atttractions.

Forest Research Institute of Malaysia

Just a short train ride from central Kuala Lumpur, this scientific research centre (www.frim.gov.my) offers peaceful walking trails, jungle swimming holes and a 200m long rainforest boardwalk, suspended high in the canopy. It’s a fine retreat from the hubbub of the city, and the Zoo Negara and Batu Caves are close by.

Gunung Mulu National Park

A former haunt of headhunting tribes, Gunung Mulu National Park (www.mulupark.com) is a World Heritage site, thanks to the most extensive cave system in the world. Five caves are open to the general public, and many more can be explored by caving expeditions. You can also trek along a former headhunters’ trail and climb to the razor-sharp limestone outcrop known as the Pinnacles.

Impressive mosques

Tour Malaysia's most impressive mosques including Kuala Kangsar, the Ubudiah Mosque, the State Mosque in Seremban, the Tranquerah Mosque, one of Malaysia's oldest, in Malacca, Kuching's Sarawak State Mosque, with its magnificent gilt domes and Labuan's futuristic An'nur Jamek Mosque.

Johor

In the southern state of Johor, be sure to watch the trance-inducing Kuda Kepang dances in Muar, accompanied by the euphony of ghazal music and devotional chanting.

Jungle trekking

Go jungle trekking in the Taman Negara National Park (www.tamannegara.org). There are many clearly marked trails including a canopy walkway. Expert guides should be hired from the Wildlife Department at the Taman Negara Resort at Kuala Tahan.

Kota Bharu

Bordering Thailand on the east coast of Malaysia, Kota Bharu is alive with the culture and customs of the Malay peninsula. The town is famous for its traditional kites and shadow puppets and eating at the Kota Bharu night market is one of Malaysia’s great feasts. Festivals abound, including the Kite Festival in June and Puja Umur (the Sultan's birthday) in March/April.

Kuala Gula Bird Sanctuary

Don a pair of binoculars at the Kuala Gula Bird Sanctuary in Ipoh, host to over 150 species of birds. Lucky visitors may see smooth otters, long-tailed macaque and ridge-back dolphins.

Kuala Lumpur

A fascinating colonial history and rich cultural diversity make Kuala Lumpur one of Asia’s most invigorating capitals. Highlights include the Islamic Arts Museum, the National Mosque, the atmospheric streets of Little India and Chinatown, the historic architecture around Independence Square and shopping in the city’s space-age malls.

Kuching

The capital of Sarawak is a bustling metropolis by the standards of the tribal villages inland, but a sleepy backwater compared to the cities of Peninsular Malaysia. Highlights include temples and mosques, quirky museums, colonial relics and animated markets.

Lake Chini's

In the interior of Pahang, visit Malaysia's answer to Loch Ness: Lake Chini's waters are said to contain mythological monsters that guard the entrance to a legendary sunken city.

Langkawi Island

Malaysia’s premier resort island, Langkawi boasts white sand beaches, fringing coral reefs, swaying palms and superior shopping, thanks to the island’s duty free status. Ferries and flights come here daily from the mainland and you can continue by boat to Satun in southern Thailand.

Malacca

The best place to relive Malaysia's colonial past is its oldest city, Malacca (www.tourism-melaka.com), the one-time capital of Malay sultans and Portuguese, Dutch and British seafarers. A couple of hours south of Kuala Lumpur on the west coast, Malacca is famous for its Portuguese and Dutch colonial architecture, and its fascinating hybrid cuisine, which fuses Indian, Chinese and Malay influences.

Malaysian longhouse

Stay in a Malaysian longhouse, which are common along the rivers in Sarawak and Sabah, and are really entire villages housed under one single roof, inhabited by native communities. Visitors should be accompanied by a local guide.

Mount Kinabulu

Climbing Southeast Asia's highest peak is one of the highlights of a trip to East Malaysia. Located in Kinabalu National Park, the soaring granite dome of Mount Kinabulu reaches 4,094m (13,432ft), and the summit offers epic views over the island. Most people start the trek before dawn to catch sunrise at the summit. No technical skills are required, but a guide and a climbing permit (which can be bought on location) are compulsory.

Mountain resorts

Take respite from Malaysia's humid cities and soak up the magnificent views from the mountain resorts of the Central and Cameron Highlands.

Orang-utan sanctuary

Offering the rare chance to see wild orang-utans in their natural habitat, the Sepilok Orangutan Rehabilitation Centre in Sandakan, Borneo, exists to rehabilitate orangutans rescued from hunters and loggers. In fact, it has the world's largest population of these 'wild men of Borneo', numbering some 80 individuals.

Pedas Hot Springs

Bathe in the restorative waters of the Pedas Hot Springs, 30km (18 miles) south of Seremban. Visitors will find bathing enclosures, dining and recreational facilities.

Penang Bird Park

Horticulturalists and bird lovers ashould head for Penang Bird Park (www.penangbirdpark.com.my). This landscaped park in Seberang Jaya is home to over 400 bird species and specially designed aviaries are placed among manmade islands with beautiful waterfalls and ornamental gardens.

Penang's beaches

Relax on Penang's sun-kissed beaches (www.tourismpenang.gov.my), and explore historic colonial George Town, the island's capital. Penang is also famous for its food.

Perak Tong temple cave

Explore subterranean Malaysia, with a visit to the cave temples at Perak Tong, Sam Poh Tong and Kek Lok Tong. The Museum Cave has a display of statues and murals from Hindu mythology.

Perhentian Besar

Visit the twin islands of Perhentian Besar and Perhentian Kecil (www.pulauperhentian.com.my). The country's most beautiful islands boast pristine white beaches, crystal clear waters and are still relatively unexploited. The islands are popular for scuba-diving and snorkelling with accessible reefs.

Petronas Twin Towers

Looming over downtown Kuala Lumpur like twin rocket ships, the iconic Petronas Towers were the world’s tallest buildings from 1998 to 2004. Soaring to 436m (1,453ft), the towers are linked by a glass walkway with a viewing deck on the 41st floor. At the base of the towers is the Kuala Lumpur Convention Centre and the swish Suria KLCC mall.

Puja Umur

Attend one of Malaysia's annual festivals, magnificent spectacles bursting with colour. Puja Umur (the Sultan's birthday) is celebrated with a week-long festival, beginning with a parade in Kota Bharu. The Annual Sabah International Dragon Boat Festival is also popular.

Pulau Perhentian

The twin islands of Pulau Perhentian (www.pulauperhentian.com.my) are a vision of paradise, and a perfect antidote to the over-development of many resort islands in South East Asia. Life here moves at a slow, tropical pace and apart from basking on the sand or swinging beneath a palm tree, diving and snorkelling are the main diversions.

Rainforests

Traverse Malaysia's stunning rainforests and jungles. Templar Park, 22km (14 miles) north of Kuala Lumpur, is a well-preserved tract of primary rainforest. Jungle paths, swimming lagoons and waterfalls lie within the park boundaries.

Scuba-dive

Malaysia is a famous scuba diving destination, with teeming reefs and sunken islands that attract plenty of megafauna, including schooling hammerheads and rare whale sharks. There are dive sites all over the country, but the finest lie around the islands of Sipadan and Layang Layang, offshore from Sabah in East Malaysia.

Snake Temple

For an unusual attraction, go to the Snake Temple in Penang, which swarms with poisonous snakes, their venomous threat countered by heavily drugging them with incense.

Taman Negara

Malaysia is covered in pristine jungles, but Taman Negara National Park (www.taman-negara.com) offers the chance to get deep into the rainforest without having to cut a path through the lianas. Marked trails and boardwalks snake between the trees, offering the chance to spot monkeys, snakes, deer and tapir. Expert guides can be hired from the Wildlife Department at Kuala Tahan.

Tasek Perdana Lake Gardens

Southwest of Kuala Lumpur’s bustling Chinatown, the Lake Gardens are one of the capital’s top attractions. Highlights of this calm green space include the KL Bird Park, with dozens of exotic species, and lush gardens devoted to orchids, hibiscus and butterflies. In the centre is the National Monument, marking the defeat of Communist forces in 1950.

Tugu Negara

Walk in the delightful parkland surrounding Tugu Negara, Malaysia's National Monument in Kuala Lumpur, which commemorates the ultimately successful struggle against the occupying Japanese during World War II and communist insurgents in the late 1950s and early 1960s.

Unusual sports

Play one of Malaysia's traditional, unusual sports, including gasing, or top spinning (called Main Gasing), which uses tops fashioned from hardwood and delicately balanced with lead, Wau-kite flying and Sepak Takraw, a game like volleyball, played with a ball made of rattan strips.

Edited by Jane Duru
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