Towering cities, idyllic beaches, lush rainforests and unrivalled cuisine make up the diverse fabric of Malaysia, where the buzzing metropolises of Kuala Lumpur and Singapore give way to gushing waterfalls, tea plantations and orang-utans. The vastness of the mainland and its surrounding islands unfurl with an endless sense of adventure, perfect for wanderers looking for the ultimate variation of city glitz and wild.
Go waterfall hunting in Langkawi
Rainy season in Langkawi is home to a labyrinth of waterfalls, transforming from dusty trickles in the summon months to gushing spectacles during low-season. Hire a car for a day spent driving the wide and largely quiet island roads. Visit the several falls one by one; each different yet beautiful, a hot and humid afternoon is pleasantly subdued by the deep watering holes framed by thick forest.
Camp in the Perhentian islands
A true slice of paradise within the azure waters of the South China sea, Perhentian Kecil is a mecca for travellers yearning for a slice of calm. With no roads to speak of and very little accommodation, the island is rarely crowded and maintains its sense of remoteness. The Rainforest campsite is nestled in the canopies behind the shores of Rainforest beach, offering the perfect back-to-nature escape for budget travellers and nature lovers alike. It’s remote location (30-minute walk through the foliage to the main hub of Long Beach) means that communal dinners are cooked and prepared by the site’s local owners – encouraging travellers to mingle, eat and share stories along an old oak table under the stars each night. A flurry of deserted white sand beaches are available only by boat – once deposited on the shores by a local fisherman, you’re free to swim and bathe in silence for a few isolated ours before being picked up again. Bliss!
Roam tea plantations in the Cameron Highlands
A 3-hour drive north of Kuala Lumpur gives way to the emerald tea plantations of Malaysia’s largest hill-station area. The sticky heat of the city is swapped with fresh mountain air, where fleets of weekenders can roam the plantations, enjoy high tea and pick strawberries amidst endless swathes of green. Remnants of the areas colonial past are stark, discovered in 1885 by British surveyors and quickly utilised by British planters who realised the potential of its fertile grounds for growing tea. The town itself and its surrounding architecture are distinctly British, leading to a fascinating mixture of Malay and British influences and customs. Take a few days to get acquainted with the slower pace of life; rummage through the mossy forest with its thick foliage and sweeping viewpoints, followed by a visit to the century old BOH plantation, offering ample opportunity to learn about the local tea industry and enjoy the glass-house tea room overlooking a blanket of terraced green.
Climb the KL Tower
With a skyline punctured by sprawling skyscrapers towering above leafy banyan trees and bustling food-stalls, there’s no better place to view Malaysia’s capital than the KL tower. As the 7th tallest telecommunication tower in the world, the TV tower offers a 360-degree view of the city from a 300-metre-high observation sky deck, with panoramic views unrivalled even by the infamous Petronas Towers. The tower’s wall to wall glass sky box extends out from the sky deck ledge offering a dizzying suspended feeling above the bustling streets below.
Hike through jungles in Borneo
Over in the eastern Malaysian states, Kuching offers a fascinating introduction to contemporary and tribal life in Borneo. Sarawak’s sophisticated capital is characterised by a blend of heritage shop houses and narrow alleyways lined with cafes and market stalls. Though the capital of Malaysian Borneo, its laid back vibe is a refreshing alternative to the flurry of Asian cities which have succumbed to the weight of tourism. Kuching maintains its sense of wild – with no high-rises littering the view and the jungles fare never far away. Take a trip to the Semenggoh Wildlife centre for the increasingly rare opportunity to see orang-utans in their natural habitat. The creatures roam free in the jungle surrounding the rehabilitation centre, though daily feeding routines allow for sightings if you’re lucky. Bako National Park is the oldest and smallest national park in the surrounding area; accessible only by boat, its remote location adds to the allure. Several jungle trails give way to waterfalls, mangrove swamps and dense tropical vegetation, home to wild proboscis monkeys who hide in the canopies. Most trails lead to the South China sea, where you can hail down a local fisherman near the shore for a boat ride around the island’s infamous sea stacks.
Discover the Street Art of Penang
Most travellers use Georgetown Penang as a stopover destination to the glistening island of Langkawi, but those who stay a while will be rewarded. Penang is a town to lose yourself in. A potent injection of Asian culture and creativity, colourful Chinese shop houses blend with old colonial architecture, wherein a jumble of old-world Asian influences collide with an increasingly cosmopolitan urban centre. Georgetown offers a unique cultural vibrancy made possible through the influx of migrants from China, India and Indonesia in the 19th century, allowing for a diverse local identity. The winding roads of Little India, littered with trishaws and roadside restaurants, brim with gusts of Indian spices and fragrant incense. Turn a corner, and the towering Mosques and Sari shops give way to Chinese temples and red paper lanterns, which line the chaotic cobbled streets of Chinatown. Following the annual Georgetown Festival in 2012, Lithuanian artist Ernest Zacharevic decorated the city with interactive street murals depicting Georgetown life. The engaging art pieces have put Georgetown on the map as a creative hub and an art tour across the city will reward you with kaleidoscope streets sprawling with colour and originality.