Malaysia Adventure Travel Guide 2014: Ideas and Inspiration
PureTravel Says: “Among all South-East Asian countries, Malaysia has emerged as one of the most visited visitor locations, with tourism greatly contributing to the local economy. Its population is mostly comprised of Malays, Indians, Arabs, and Chinese. The country federation that gained independence in 1957 has come far in terms of its global economy and development. As a major exporter of rubber and palm oil across the world, Malaysia is a blend of age-old tradition and westernization. Visitors from all over the world are attracted to this unique country all throughout the year.”
Holidays In Focus
Malaysia has an abundance of visitor destinations all over the country. Depending on your choice and duration of holiday, you can choose sightseeing, participation in various sports and adventure games or both.
Singapore gained independence from Malaysia in 1965. We have produced a separate guide for Singapore. Due to their locations, visits to Malaysia and Singapore can be easily be combined whilst in the region.
Today Malaysia is a federal constitutional monarchy, situated in Southeast Asia and consists of thirteen states and three federal territories. The country is divided into two separate regions by the South China Sea; Peninsular (west) and Borneo (east). Malaysia shares land border with the countries of Thailand, Indonesia and Brunei and also has traditional maritime borders with Singapore, Vietnam and the Philippines.
Culture and History
Kuala Lumpur – The capital city and here you will find many diverse cultures and traditions living under one roof. The city has risen from what was nothing 150 years ago, into a bustling city. The diversity is aptly visible in its tallest buildings and a deep sense of tradition in the lanes of Chinatown scattered throughout the city. This is the city where you can find almost all colours of Malaysia.
KL, as it is affectionately known to the locals, contains a wealth of history. Explore the many sights including the colonial centre of Dataran Merdeka (Independence Square), Chinatown, Little India and Little Arabia, the Arab district. Also on your list of places to visit should be the Sultan Abdul Samad Building, Masjid Jamek and the National Mosque known as Masjid Negara. In the area is St Mary’s Cathedral and Dayabumi Complex. See the National History Museum, National Art Gallery and Royal Selangor to see the pewter being manufactured. There are mosques, temples and religious sites galore within KL. Why not head for either the Petronas Twin Towers (KLCC) or the Menara Telekom Tower for stunning views over this magnificent city. The Twin Towers are 452 meters tall with a shopping mall on the lower floors and the KL Tower, which is a telecommunications tower, is 421 meters tall. When you want to relax KL is blessed with many shopping malls and local markets which sell everything from top designer names to local handicrafts.
Explore the area in KL known as the Golden Triangle, a modern district with shops, restaurants and nightlife including clubbing and bars.
Melaka City - The travellers that have made the journey describe Melaka city as the soul of the country. It is the port city of Malaysia and presents a multicultural world in a traditional Malayan atmosphere. If you decide to take a tour of the city, many distinctive sights are waiting for you. You can hire a local taxi or even specially arranged city tours, which ensure you see all the notable sights.
Baba Noyna Heritage Museum - This museum is an excellent opportunity to see some nostalgic fashion. Here you can see antique furniture of Victorian and Dutch designs with Chinese influence. You can hire guides to show you around the museum and who can explain the eras to which the antiques belong.
St. Paul’s Church - Located in the Historic Quarter of Melaka City is St Paul’s Church. Here you can visualize intricately designed tombstones in the cemetery and a marble statue of Saint Francis Xavier who was a frequent visitor to this church. There are wonderful views of Melaka City from the summit of Bukit St. Paul. This church retains high regard as a symbol of Catholicism in East Asia.
Stadthuys - Situated in Jalan Kota, Melaka City, it is a museum of architectural eminence. This takes you to the Dutch era in Malaysia with a huge red town hall with Dutch colonial architecture. In addition, there is the History and Ethnography Museum here.
Penang - If you are interested in exploring the Chinese culture of Malaysia, Penang is the place for you. Lively Chinese culture, colonial architecture, and huge temples are the major attractions of Penang such as the snake temple. As the sprawling main center of Penang, Georgetown is a major attraction for people interested in exclusive shopping and Malaysian or multi-cuisine food items. Kek Lo Si Temple is the largest Buddhist shrine in the country and is located here. For sea-lovers, even the north coast beaches are spots for recreation and relaxation. Butterworth is in the state of Penang on the mainland and is linked by the 13.5km long Penang Bridge.
Badan Warisan Malaysia - This is a museum of UK National Trust. Here you can enjoy the antique Malay architecture, crafts, books, etc. It is located in the Colonial Mansion, Kuala Lumpur.
Galeri Petronas - There is another location for art lovers named Galeri Petronas. Here you can study contemporary style photographs and paintings. These paintings depict the Malaysian history and culture. Art can also be found at the Islamic Arts Museum, Pelita Hati Gallery of Arts and National Art Gallery.
Festivals - Among some other attractions are the various festivities observed by the country as a whole. There are Hindus, Buddhists, Chinese, Christians and more that live in Malaysia and all of the festivities are carried out with fervour and a festive mood that is infectious. The Independence Day called “Hari Merdeka” is celebrated with great enthusiasm in the country. You can also join in with typical Malayan celebrations like Hari Raya Puasa, Maulidul Rasul, Qingming festival of Chinese, Vesak of Buddhists and Diwali of Hindus.
Sarawak – See the longhouses in Sarawak, the communal dwellings home to the indigenous tribes which are found in the rivers and in the mountains, make for an interesting sight. Also visit the Niah cave in Miri whilst in Sarawak.
Street Food – The local streetfood is not to be missed! Make your selection from the Malay hawkers and the abundance of other foods on offer.
Other Kuala Lumpur Attractions - If you are in the city why not also make time for the following Kuala Lumpur sightseeing tours:
- See it all on the Kuala Lumpur hop on hop off bus.
- Culture at the Malaysian Philharmonic Orchestra, the Dewan Filharmonik and at the Theatre at Sutra Dance Theatre.
- Flea market shopping on Jalan Masjid India street, Central Market, Petaling Jaya and Jalan Pasar Market.
- Craft shopping at Craft Complex, Kompleks Budaya Kraf and Jalan Ampang.
- Wildlife and nature at Kuala Lumpur Bird Park, Deer Park, Kuala Lumpur beach areas and the Urban Park Taman Tasik Titiwangsa.
- Kuala Lumpur shops and shopping mall heaven at Pavilion Mall, Starhill Gallery, Sungei Wang Plaza, Bukit Bintang Walk and Berjaya Times Square.
- Let the fish nibble away the dead skin from your feet at a Fish Spa.
- History at the Royal Palace, the Kings Palace and Parliament House.
- Religious sites including Thean Hou Temple, Sri Mahamariamman, Masjid Putra, Arulmigu Sri Ramalinga Eeswarar Temple and Sze Ya Temple
- Museums including Police Museum, Asian Art Museum, Bank Negara Money Museum, Biomedical Museum, National Archives of Malaysia and the Science Museum at the National Science Center.
- Sights include National Planetarium and Putrajaya Bridge.
- Parks and gardens at Agricultural Park and Taman Tasik Perdana
- Architecture of Istana Negara, the Luth Building, Queen Victoria Fountain and Railway Station and Administration Building and Chinatown clan house on Petaling Street.
- Landmarks of Tabur Hill, Menara Olympia and Kuala Lumpur Memorial Library,
- Amusement and theme park at Sunway Lagoon and a zoo and aquarium at the National Zoo.
Borneo is actually divided between three countries. Malaysian Borneo includes the states of Sabah and Sarawak. Sarawak has the largest city in Borneo, Kuching and the city in Sabah is Kota Kinabalu.
Sarawak & Kuching – Kuching is a vibrant and modern city with an abundance of shopping malls. There is also history and culture at the Sarawak Museum, Kuching Cat Museum, the Tua Pek Kong temple and old shop houses. Explore the numerous natural features of the state including the National Parks of Bako and Kuching Wetlands National Park and the Semenggoh Wildlife Center, which has an orangutan orphanage. Kuching also hosts the Rainforest World Music Festival. Relax at the end of the day with a famous Sarawak Laksa, a spicy coconut broth dish. The second largest city in Sarawak is Miri.
Sabah & Kota Kinabalu – Kota Kinabalu is a modern city with plenty of history and culture waiting to be explored. The area is also well known for its leisure and conservation areas. The waterfront area of the city has of restaurants, bars and a nightclub. The Royal Sabah Turf Club in nearby Tanjung Aru hosts horse racing on a weekly basis. The North Borneo Railway also begins here. There is golf, a country club and marina. Whilst in the state be sure to explore amongst some of the best known natural sights in the world including the Kota Kinabalu City Bird Sanctuary, Sabah Zoo and Botanical Park and the Rafflesia Forest Reserve.
Nature and Wildlife
Walking and Sightseeing- Malaysia is a great country to explore on foot whilst taking it at your own pace. You can also take up a walking exercise in terms of power walking up and down the hills of Lake Gardens in Kuala Lumpur. You can wander around Kuala Lumpur’s Chinatown, Merdeka Square and Little India. You can view heritage buildings or just relax and immerse yourself in the Malaysian atmosphere. There are places to relax such as the Kompleks Budaya Kraf, where you can enjoy the art gallery. You also try your hand at making some pottery or batik art.
Jungle Expeditions- Among the plethora of exciting adventures to be had here, jungle expeditions are high up on the wishlist and can be arranged by local specialist tour operators. Young children enjoy swimming in jungle streams in such expeditions. On the island of Langkawi on the way, forested mountains attract some trekkers. But feeding sea eagles at these islands is one of the major attractions for kids and elders alike. Tropical beaches attract swimmers across the world. Different varieties of flora and fauna will meet you through the dense forests. Don’t be surprised if along with floral varieties, you also come across varieties of elephants and panthers.
Rivers and Lakes- There are a myriad of fresh water lakes for boating and fishing for those who wish to enjoy the luxury of these sports. The largest fresh water lake is located in Peninsular Malaysia called Tasik Bera at Pehang. There is an artificial lake at Terengganu where Tasik Kenyir is located. This is also the largest hydroelectric dam in the country. You can also be a witness to the green revolution in Malaysia if you visit Paya Indah Wetland at Selangor. Here you can witness the conversion of a barren land of tin mining into lush greenery with thriving wildlife.
Caves of Malaysia - Other than the world-famous Batu caves, there are many other cave-sights in Malaysia. Gua Mulu is a world heritage site. In addition, another cave converted into an activity center for many visitors is called Gua Tempurung. Gua Gomatong at Sabah is famous for its varied birds’ nests. However there are many caves in Malaysia that have, until date, assumedly remained unexplored.
Taman Negara National Park - Those interested in wildlife should not miss Taman Negara National Park. Many endangered species of animals like elephants, tigers, rhinos and the like inhabit this area. The forest in this area is very thick and many guided tours are available to show you different animals. The real surprise is that though this is the world’s oldest jungle, this has remained aloof from natural and manmade interference.
Butterfly Reserve - The Butterfly Park Reserve is located in Lake Gardens, Kuala Lumpur. Here you can watch various species of butterflies from giant monsters to delicate and beautiful creatures. In the adjoining Bug Gallery, you can also watch giant centipedes and spiders. The National Monument is also located here.
Bukit Nanas Forest Reserve - This is the place for those who are interested in exploring the lowland forest of Malaysia. Many guided tours are available here to show you the variety of animals and plant kingdom species.
Lake Gardens - The Lake Gardens is the place to relax and enjoy the local nature. There is an aviary, Orchid Park known locally as Taman Orkid and a hibiscus garden too. As shown earlier, here you can hire boats on the Lake Premier and spend a quiet evening relaxing.
Sungai Kinabatangan – Here you can cruise along the river through the jungle and keen eyes will spot proboscis monkeys and if very fortunate, also the orangutan.
Cameron Highlands – Explore the Cameron Highlights which is Malaysia’s biggest hill station with plantations and jungle trails. You will also enjoy the mountain air, which is cool and refreshing.
Beaches – Perhentian Islands have some lovely pristine beaches as well as opportunities for snorkelling and swimming and relaxing. Langkawi also boasts some beautiful beaches.
Adventures and Activities
Boating and Water Sports- The Lake Gardens is at the edge of central Kuala Lumpur and is where many boat-racing activities take place. You can also simply relax in the lake with rented boats. In the Central City, there is a large open-air pool at the Chin Woo stadium near Chinatown. You can swim here and there are water slides and bubbling pools for children.
Rock Climbing in Batu Caves- The Batu Caves are one of the major attractions for people who want to explore traditional Malaysia. An American discovered the caves, a focal point for Hindu belief, 120 years ago. You can also view a huge statue of Lord Murugan, a Hindu deity, at the Sri Subramanyar Temple. The monkeys of the region are also among the major attractions. These caves and the limestone caves at Templer Park, remain a fascinating place to visit.
Labuan International Sea Sports Complex- Enjoy the excellent water sports at Labuan International Sea Sports Complex which is one of the most visited island destinations.
Golf and Tennis- For those people who love to include a few relaxing sports on their itinerary, then why not play a round of golf. In addition, you can play tennis at Bangsar Sport Complex or Chin Woo Stadium.
Paragliding - Many paragliding expeditions are also available here. High mountains, their steep slopes with huge rocks on uneven terrain attract trekkers too.
Bike Racing - Those who like to enjoy heavy-duty bike riding can participate in automobile racing competitions held on country roads.
Diving – Why not try diving at Pulau Sipadan, which are islands off the coast of Borneo. You can also swim here with sharks and turtles in the beautiful sea.
Why not plan to spend the most romantic holiday of your life in Malaysia as the country lends itself perfectly to those seeking beautiful scenery and plenty to do.
When to Go
The temperature does not vary greatly in Malaysia and is usually about 30C during the day with high humidity throughout the year.
The rainy season affects the Peninsula east coast and western Sarawak from late November to mid-February. On the Peninsula’s west coast and Sabah September and October are usually the wettest months. Rain may be more frequent in the mountainous areas such as Cameron Highlands and Kelabit Highlands.
- Remove your shoes when entering temples and homes of Malayan people.
- Remember that you are visiting a traditional country full of cultural beliefs and therefore when visiting temples, shrines and other religious sites, you will be required to cover your shoulders and knees.
- When eating with your hands, especially in public places or public gatherings, it is better to eat with the right hand, as eating with the left hand considers a low standard in Malaysia.
- Use your right hand while accepting or giving money.
- Do not point your foot at anyone; it remains as a cultural offence.
- It is better to learn the art of greeting different people with different religious beliefs so that your greeting presents equal respect.
- A valid passport and travel documents are required for every visitor to Malaysia. In addition, every visitor has to fill a disembarkation card.
- Visitors from Asian countries do not require a visa when their visit does not extend more than a month (such as Cambodia, UK and more).
- Possession of drugs in Malaysia is illegal and if caught could result in the death sentence.
- If you are exploring the country on foot, you must use pedestrian bridges and pedestrian traffic lights. Remember the vehicles do not stop at zebra crossings.
- Bargain for your taxi costs before entering the taxi as drivers do not use the meters.
- Public displays of affection are frowned upon.
- To drive here you need to possess an international driving permit. As is common at many places across the world, drinking and driving is a punishable offence in Malaysia.
Malaysian States - There are thirteen states in the federation of Malaysia and 3 federal territories, which are:
West Malaysia – Malay Peninsula - States – Johor (Johor Bahru), Kedah, Kelantan, Pahang (Kuantan), Perak (Ipoh), Selangor, Terengganu, Negeri Sembilan, Perlis, Melaka (Malacca), Pulau Pinang and Federal Territories – Putrajaya, Kuala Lumpur
East Malaysia – Borneo - States – Sabah, Serawak and Federal Territory – Labuan
Religions - Islam, Hindu, Animism, Chinese Religions including Buddhism, Confucianism, Taoism.
Malaysia Formula 1 - Malaysia is home to the Formula 1 Grand Prix at the Sepang Circuit.
Commonwealth Games - Malaysia hosted the Commonwealth Games in 1998 at the National Stadium Bukit Jalil.
Kuala Lumpur Marathon - KL marathon, summer 2009.
KL International Airport - the main airport into Malaysia is KLIA or the Kuala Lumpur International Airport.
UNESCO World Heritage Sites
- Gunung Mulu National Park
- Kinabalu Park
- Melaka and George Town, Historic Cities of the Straits of Malacca
- Archaeological Heritage of the Lenggong Valley
National Holidays in 2014
14 January - Birthday of Prophet Muhammad
31 January - Chinese New Year
1 May - Labour Day
13 May - Wesak Day
7 June - Malaysia King's Birthday
28 and 29 July - Hari Raya Puasa
31 August - Merdeka Day
16 September - Malaysia Day
5 October - Hari Raya Aidiladha
25 October - First day of Muharram
25 December - Christmas Day
By Julie Bowman