Top 10 Things to See and Do
1. A maze of narrow, zigzagging lanes intersecting broad streets, where rustic market stalls sit at the feet of gleaming skyscrapers, Georgetown in Penang is a captivating collision of Old and New Asia. With the inner city of Georgetown designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2008 (in recognition of its unique cultural and architectural landscape), and temples, tumbledown shops, restaurants, hotels and modern urban facilities scattered across the city, Georgetown is an endlessly fascinating place to explore.
2. Meet the captivating head-hunter tribe who have lived in Sarawak for hundreds of years and immerse yourself in their rich tribal culture with an overnight stay in their traditional Longhouse; during this time, you will have the opportunity prepare and eat a meal with them, participate in traditional dances and learn more about an intriguing, time-honoured society.
3. Borneo is undoubtedly one of the key orang-utan capitals of the world, and these majestic primates can be seen in multiple locations throughout the island; visit the thick forest of the Danum valley to see them swinging effortlessly between the densely concentrated branches, or glide along the Kinabatangan to spy them gazing curiously back at you from its banks. Speilok Orang-Utan Sanctuary (possibly the most popular place on earth to see the famous ginger ape) is also not to be missed.
4. Selingan Island (the second largest of a small cluster of islands floating between the Philippines and Malaysia boundaries) is the best place in Malaysia to see both the green turtle and Giant Leatherback turtle, with numerous nesting sites along its shores. Spend a night on the island to witness the turtles scuttle from the sea to the sandy shores to lay their eggs, and marvel at tiny hatchlings being sent out into the ocean on their first journey ever.
5. Situated on the sandy shores around 8 kilometres east of Dungan, the resplendent Tanjong Jara Resort sits on the precipice of crystalline waters over gardens of coral that are a diver’s paradise. With over 20 dive spots, both beginners and veterans are welcomed and catered to, and you can even opt to certify for a PADI Open Water diving licence.
6. Sprawling over 4343 square kilometres in a tropical tangle that seems simultaneously impenetrably wild and enticingly ethereal, Teman Negara is a vast protected rainforest that stretches all the way from Pahang to Kelantan. Tigers, elephants, leopards and rhinos all hide between the maze of trees, ferns and flora, and it is advisable to consider at least a long boat trip or overnight trek when visiting Taman Negara if you want to do more than simply scratch the surface!
7. The historic port city of Malacca is another of Malaysia’s spellbinding UNESCO World Heritage Sites; once at the epicentre of trade with India, Siam, China and Indonesia, today Malacca is an intriguing multicultural microcosm of historic architecture, museums, restaurants and endless cultural attractions.
8. Soaring skywards for 4095 metres above northern Borneo, Mount Kinabalu is easily the highest mountain in the Malay Archipelago. Although a challenging climb to the summit, when you see the sun rising over the magnificent jungle of Borneo, you will not have any regrets.
9. If you’re an adrenaline junkie looking for the ultimate jungle adventure in Borneo, look no further that its fierce rapids! White water rafting through the jungle is an unforgettable experience, and a variety of companies offer tours and experiences to suit all levels of ability.
10. From its modest beginnings as little more than a shanty town, Kuala Lumpar has rapidly evolved into a vibrant, glittering metropolis, home to the tallest skyscrapers in all of Southeast Asia. From the urban facilities that are almost futuristically modern to ornate temples and mosques and ramshackle traders stalls, you could stay for weeks and still not explore everything that this extraordinary city has to offer.
Top 10 Family Experiences
1. With its very own 64 acre nature reserve (home to orang-utans and an excellent Orangutan Education Centre) Shangri-La’s Ria Resort is the ultimate Malaysian destination for the whole family. A plethora of fun and educational activities run by the resident Kids Club will keep the little ones endlessly entertained, while mum and dad can relax with a luxurious treatment at CHI, The Spa, or play a few rounds of golf on the championship course.
2. For a day trip that will surely be high on the to-do list for the under-10s, visit Johor Bahru in the south of Malaysia, where Legoland Malaysia is located. With over 40 rides, shows and attractions, as well as a water park and an enchanting Miniland (where over 30 million bricks of lego have gone into the recreation of numerous Asian landmarks), your only concern will be fitting all the fun into one day!
3. One of Malaysia’s most luxurious hotels, The Four Seasons Resort in Langkawi is nonetheless completely welcoming to families! Surrounded by a landscape that will leave you spoilt for choice when it comes to activities (whether diving in the crystalline waters, trekking in the jungle, bird watching or embarking on an island hopping tour), it also has an excellent Kids Club, and plenty of facilities to keep families entertained.
4. Kuala Lumpar is a city positively overflowing with exciting family attractions: from the world famous Berjaya Times Square theme park (where a looping rollercoaster swoops and dips past the railings and balconies of the Berjaya Times Square mall) to the colourful fish of the KLCC Aquarium and the equally vibrant birds of the Kuala Lumpar bird park, there are also engaging educational experiences available at the kid-sized city of Kidzania, and splashy fun to be had at the Sunway Lagoon water park.
5. Located directly on the white sandy shores of Batu Feringgi beach with an Adventure Zone that boasts drop-down slides and obstacle courses, as well as an endless array of organised activities at the Kids Club, the Golden Sands Resort is undoubtedly one of the most family friendly resorts on the island of Penang.
6. Borneo is not just an island exclusively for the intrepid veteran jungle explorers – there are plenty of adventures to be had for all the family. Go wildlife spotting in the more accessible Sabah rainforest, explore the Danum Valley, or float down the Kinbatangan River at dusk for the chance to spy proboscis monkeys building their nests for the night.
7. A few hours from the bustle and chaos of Kuala Lumpar, a small village called Kuala Gandah is home to a fantastic Elephant Orphanage Sanctuary. Sure to be an unforgettable visit for all the family, you are able to ride, feed and help to wash the elephants, while having a unique opportunity to learn more about these gentle giants.
8. The Island of Penang is more than just idyllic beaches and stunning scenery! Other attractions include a tropical fruit farm (not to be confused with the Tropical Spice Garden!), a colourful butterfly garden and several beautiful temples and natural landmarks.
9. If you are hoping to explore the colourful coral world that shimmers in rainbow hues beneath the seas surface, head to the east coast islands. Ideal for families, with diving companies well-equipped to cater to all levels of ability, the eastern islands such as Perhentian, Kapas, Redang and Tioman all offer excellent snorkelling opportunities and even the chance to swim with enormous turtles!
10. The tropical paradise island of Langkawi offers an abundance of activities that everyone can enjoy. Kick back and relax on the stunning beaches, explore the freshwater rock pools, or board the famous Panorama Langkawi cable car and ascend to the summit of the mountain for breathtaking views over the island.
Top 10 Honeymoon Experiences
1. Explore the magnificent mangroves of Kuching Wetlands National Park by boat; glide through the serene waterways in the morning for the best chance of spotting dolphins, or late afternoon for a glimpse of the proboscis monkeys leaping from tree to tree. For an atmosphere of truly awe-inspiring romance, however, the best time to visit is undoubtedly at sunset.
2. Surrounded by spectacular tropical rainforest and set on a gorgeous stretch of white sandy beach, the Datai Langkawi is Langkawi’s most stylish luxury property, and the perfect setting in which to begin your married life together. Relax and unwind by the striking swimming pool, which looks out across the treetops to the azure blue sea; indulge yourselves with a variety of treatments at the luxurious spa, or play a few rounds in the newly opened gold course that sprawls through the rainforest, with several holes adjacent to the ocean.
3. Not every resort can boast a beach fabled to be one of the most beautiful in the world, but the Pangkor Laut Resort simply counts that among its many astonishing attributes. A private island resort that is only accessible to its fortunate guests, the Pangkor Laut offers a variety of villas - so whether you would prefer to be perched atop a dramatic hill, set on stilts over the crystalline waters or nestled amidst the lush tropical gardens, there will be a private luxury location to suit you!
4. Enjoy the spectacular moments when the fiery Malaysian sun melts seamlessly into the endless ocean with a sunset cruise; glide around the islands, enjoy a chilled glass of wine and simply absorb the spellbinding atmosphere of a moment that you are certain to always remember.
5. Nestled on a sandy bay with the sparkling turquoise sea spread out before it and the spellbinding mysteries of the jungle sprawling out behind, the Bunga Raya Island Resort boasts private villas set on stilts and located on treetops, offering possibly the most exotic form of privacy imaginable. Plunge pool villas (each with their own balcony plunge pools) are set closest to the beach, and top-quality diving and snorkelling sites are just a stone throw away; guided treks in the jungle are also offered, and you can unwind at the end of the day with exquisite Malay and European cuisine at the main The Longhouse Restaurant.
6. Ensure that you leave your honeymoon with more than just a tan by taking a Malay cooking class! A variety of high quality cooking schools operate across the country, equipping you with the skills to cook authentic (and delicious) dishes in small classes under the guidance of experienced chefs, always using fresh ingredients.
7. Sipidan Island on the east coast of Malaysian Borneo is renowned for being home to some of the best scuba diving anywhere in the world. Prepare for spectacular reef walls that descend over 600 metres, over 3000 species of vibrant tropical fish, and unforgettable encounters with turtles, rays and even sharks.
8. No trip to Malaysia or Borneo would be complete without a wildlife tour – and with their infinite stretches of jungle and rainforest (which are endlessly humming, rumbling and cawing with life), awe-inspiring national parks and abundance of wildlife sanctuaries, your only problem will be deciding where to start!
9. Malaysia’s islands are some of the most beautiful to be found anywhere in the world; marooned among clear, turquoise waters and blanketed with white sands and miles of pristine tropical rainforest, take an island hopping tour and discover the true gems of Malaysia scattered in orbit of its mainland.
10. Set aside a day to explore the astonishing Batu Caves, located just 13 kilometres north of Kuala Lumpar. Officially discovered 120 years ago, they are now a sacred site for Malaysia’s Hindu population; the site consists of three main caves and several smaller ones, and plays host once a year to the colourful Thiapusam. Prepare to be greeted by monkeys on your arrival!
Culture in Malaysia
Although it has become something of a canvas for influences from around the world (particularly in the uber modern metropolis of Kuala Lumpar), Malaysia is still a predominantly Muslim country, and its society remains relatively traditional. Visitors should avoid behaviour that deviates from establish cultural norms – for example, both men and women should dress conservatively and avoid exposing torsos in particular, while bearing in mind that overt public displays of affection are frowned upon. In general, locals are friendly and welcoming to visitors, and you will be met with respectful courtesy in return for your own.