Fancy a glamorous shopping spree in a super-modern mall? Malaysia. Can’t decide between Indian and Chinese for dinner, but want your food to be cooked with authenticity and flair? Malaysia. Want a bit of snorkelling along a coral reef, but also a trek through a lush rainforest? Malaysia. Tempted by a stroll on the beach, but also a little flutter in a high-end casino? I think you’ve got it by now… MALAYSIA!
There’s one compelling reason why Malaysia should be at the top of your bucket list; it has everything. I’m not kidding.
As one of just 17 multi-diverse countries on earth (meaning it hosts a huge proportion of the world’s species), Malaysia provides a rare chance to see endangered and little-known species. But it’s also a country with a rich cultural history, meaning that arts, architecture, and poetry abound.
With one of the best economic records in Asia, the capital, Kuala Lumpur, has got some ultra-fancy shopping centres and high-end restaurants. But the countryside has also got some stunning beaches, reefs, tea plantations, rainforests, and so much more if you’re looking for something more “Asia-authentic”.
What’s even better is Malaysia’s proximity to culturally disparate nations like Vietnam, Singapore and Indonesia, meaning it’s a fantastic place to start an epic tour of Southeast Asia. And it’s super-accessible from abroad as well, with flights from London to Penang Airport, for example, running regularly.
With so much to do, it’s hard to know where to start. So here’s our handy guide to the best of Malaysia, to help you get the most out of your Southeast Asian adventure.
Amazing Malaysia food
What better place to start? Even just the thought of Malaysian cuisine seriously gets my taste buds tingling. Malaysian food is enriched by the influence of various different cultures: most notably, Chinese, Indian and Javanese. Unmissable dishes include:
- Ayam Percik – barbecued chicken with a zingy chilli, garlic, ginger and coconut milk percik sauce
- Botok Botok – steamed banana leaf parcels of spicy seasoned steamed fish
- Kuih – mouth-sized portions of soft, sugary pastry
- Laksa – a spicy noodle soup
Even the names sound delicious, am I right?
Head up to Borneo and check out the Mulu Caves. These incredible natural structures are host to the largest cave chamber in the world, as well as the rather terrifying-looking Wrinkle-Lipped Bat.
From there, you can make your way to Mount Kinabalu, the highest mountain in Borneo. It’s famous for its spectacular greenery and biodiversity, hosting over 100 mammalian species and 326 species of bird.
Or head to the visually stunning Georgetown inner city in Penang. Its unique architecture, Peranakan culture, and colonial townscape is something to behold. Keep an eye out for the amazing street art around the town. It sets a fantastic example of urban art done well.
Alternatively, take a load off by visiting one of the many islands for some beaches, scuba diving and snorkelling along a coral reef. Or you can do what I did and get yourself totally lost on the Perhentian Islands.
It’s hard to believe, but there is a place in Malaysia you can head to for some fresh, chill air and Devonshire Tea, making you feel right at home. The Cameron Highlands offer fruit-picking opportunities, hiking … And how could I forget, a visit to their amazing tea plantations?
The world’s oldest rainforest
I’ll be angry with you if you go to Malaysia and skip out on Taman Negara. Why? Because it’s the oldest rainforest in the world! You’ve got some serious Jurassic adventures (of the good kind) awaiting you out here. Tree top adventures. Indigenous people adventures. Do it.
Just make sure you find some time for some…
Shopping in Kuala Lumpur
It’s not really my deal, but a helluva lot of people head to KL for some serious shopping. It’s a cosmopolitan city, that’s for sure, so you can’t miss a trip to Suria KLCC beneath the epic Petronas Towers.
From Mulberry to Marc Jacobs to Vans to Starbucks, Pavilion Mall is another one sure to scratch your shopping itch. But I prefer something with a little more of a local flavour in Petaling Street, which is host to Kuala Lumpur’s most famous street market.
Whether you’re planning to splash some designer cash or just keen to pick up some trainers and eat some ice cream or to vege out in their cheap-as-chips cinemas, Kuala Lumpur has something for everyone.