Malaysia: Truly Asia
Malaysia has an astounding range of attractions for visitors, offering experiences and activities that appeal to all tastes. It offers steamy jungles packed with wildlife, beautiful beaches, idyllic islands, culinary sensations and multi-ethnic cultures.
With its magnificent natural beauty and unique cultural heritage, Malaysia is a fascinating Southeast Asian destination. Populated by a blend of Malays, Chinese, Indians and indigenous groups Malaysia boasts a rich cultural heritage, from a huge variety of annual festivals and wonderful cuisines to traditional architecture and rural crafts. There’s astonishing natural beauty to take in too, including gorgeous beaches and some of the world’s oldest tropical rainforest, much of which is surprisingly accessible. Malaysia’s national parks are superb for trekking and wildlife-watching, and sometimes for cave exploration and river rafting.
Malaysia is like two countries in one, cleaved in half by the South China Sea. The multicultural peninsula flaunts Malay, Chinese and Indian influences, while Borneo hosts a wild jungle of orang-utans, granite peaks and remote tribes. Throughout these two regions is an impressive variety of microcosms ranging from the space-age high-rises of Kuala Lumpur to the smiling longhouse villages of Sarawak.
Yet despite all the pockets of ethnicities, religions, landscapes and the sometimes-great distances between them, the beauty of Malaysia lies in a country that is one of the safest, most stable, diverse but manageable in all of Southeast Asia.
Top Reasons to Visit Malaysia
BEAUTIFUL NATURAL LANDSCAPE
From rainforests and mountains to beaches and idyllic tropical islands, Malaysia is a land of astonishing natural beauty.
Not far from Malaysia’s cities and towns, you’ll find rainforests and mountains, beaches and idyllic tropical islands, blue seas and coral reefs, and an abundance of peculiar flora and fauna, all so accessible it’s a wonder these places aren’t overwhelmed by tourists. With some of the world’s oldest tropical rainforest and countless beaches and islands, trekking, snorkelling and scuba diving are common pursuits in Malaysia. Mount Kinabalu, a UNESCO World Heritage site and Southeast Asia’s highest peak is one of Malaysia’s major tourist attractions attracting trekkers from far and wide to Borneo.
Not-to-be-missed natural wonders:
Malaysia’s national parks, with their superb landscapes and unusual animals, are a magnet for nature-lovers, while its islands attract divers eager to explore the mysteries of the deep.
Set well inside the tropics and comprising everything from pristine ocean to coastal mangroves, lowland rainforest and mountain moorland, the range of habitats on the Malay Peninsula and Borneo is only matched by the diversity of its fauna – over 700 species of birds and more than 200 kinds of mammals. You don’t have to be an ardent nature-spotter to appreciate this: even a brief visit to any of the region’s national parks – or just the FRIM forest reserve on Kuala Lumpur’s outskirts – will put you face-to-face with clouds of butterflies, troops of monkeys, and an incessant background of insect noise. The crystal-clear waters and abundant tropical fish and coral of Malaysia make snorkelling and diving a must for any underwater enthusiast.
Best places to see wildlife up-close:
In Malaysia, variety is the spice of life. The multicultural traditions of the region offer the food-lover a gastronomic experience like no other.
One of the best reasons to come to Malaysia is the food, comprising two of the world’s most venerated cuisines – Chinese and Indian – and one of the most underrated – Malay. Here, Chinese food boasts a lot of the provincial diversity that you just don’t find in the West’s Cantonese-dominated Chinese restaurants, while Indian fare is predominantly southern Indian, lighter and spicier than northern food. Malaysia (particularly along the peninsular west coast) has one of the best assortments of cuisines in the world. Start with Chinese-Malay ‘Nonya’ fare, move on to Indian curries, Chinese buffets, Malay food stalls and even impressive Western food.
Most renowned culinary centres:
Malaysia boasts some of the world’s most vibrant cities hosting fabulous cuisines, interesting cultural traditions and great shopping.
Malaysia’s cities have been attracting tourists for generations, especially to its capital and largest city, Kuala Lumpur. More fun and easier to negotiate than Bangkok, grittier than Singapore and more eclectic than Hanoi, the buzz about Kuala Lumpur is as palpable as its intoxicating aromas of sizzling satay, stinky durian, sweet incense and petrol fumes. However, its multicultural character is what makes Kuala Lumpur such a fascinating place to visit. Malaysia’s other colourful and historic cities are also worth exploring where you can savour delicious cuisine, admire heritage architecture, visit a longhouse and indulge in shopping sprees.
Must-visit cities & towns:
PRISTINE ISLANDS & BEACHES
Malaysia’s beaches and islands are prime tourist hotspots for snorkelling, diving or just lazing around on the beach.
Malaysia is blessed with abundant natural landscape of which its beaches and islands are among the best in the world. Some of the best known holiday destinations are its islands and beaches, particularly Pulau Langkawi which is made up of a group of 99 islands. These tropical beach paradises summon up images of romance and carefree days under swaying coconut palms. Sunbathe on the palm-fringed, white sandy havens of Pulau Langkawi, dive/snorkel the pristine waters of the twin islands at Pulau Perhentian, Terengganu or simply take in the dramatic jungle-hill views from an idyllic beach spot. Whatever your choice of sport, you will have the most relaxing holiday on Malaysia’s best islands and beaches.
Must-visit islands & beaches:
Best Time to Visit Malaysia
This being the tropics, year-round travel is possible. Rain falls fairly evenly throughout the year and the difference between the main October to April rainy season and the rest of the year is not that marked. The exception is the east coast of Peninsular Malaysia, which receives heavy rainfall from November to mid-February. During these months many east-coast resorts close and boat services dwindle or stop altogether. Travel along the west coast is not affected. The states of Sabah and Sarawak receive high rainfall throughout the year, but it is heaviest from October to March.
The ideal time to visit most of the region is between March and early October, when you will avoid the worst of the rains and there’s less humidity, though both ends of this period can be characterised by a stifling lack of breezes. Despite the rains, the months of January and February are rewarding, and see a number of significant festivals, notably Chinese New Year and the Hindu celebration of Thaipusam.
Where is Malaysia located?
Malaysia consists of two geographical regions, Peninsular Malaysia and Malaysia Borneo, which are divided by the South China Sea.
Bordered by Thailand to the north and connected to Singapore in the south by a causeway and a bridge, Peninsular Malaysia occupies the extreme south of mainland Southeast Asia, lying between 2 and 7 degrees north of the Equator. Off the west coast is the Strait of Malacca, while the east coast looks out onto the South China Sea.
Generally referred to as East Malaysia, Malaysia Borneo comprises the states of Sarawak, the largest in Malaysia, and Sabah, which together occupy more than half of the country’s 127,445 sq miles (330,000 sq km). The states are located in the northern part of Borneo, the world’s third-largest island, which they share with tiny Brunei and Kalimantan, Indonesia. Borneo lies about 373 miles (600 km) east of Peninsular Malaysia, from which it is separated by the South China Sea.