Ask anyone who has traveled to Malaysia: It’s home to some of the most unbelievably stunning and undiscovered spots in all of Southeast Asia. Sure, Malaysia boasts any number of fascinating tourist attractions, but it also has more than a few surprises up its proverbial sleeve that most visitors simply don’t expect to find. What’s more, Malaysia has an especially vibrant culture, exceedingly friendly locals, incredible food, and world-class shopping centers. And that’s just for starters.
1. Malaysia’s Glorious Beaches
While you might assume that one Southeast Asian beach is more or less the same as the next, Malaysia’s beaches, which are easily some of the world’s most beautiful, will prove you wrong. Even if you aren’t the type of person who enjoys catching rays on the sand while sipping a Mai Tai, you’ll almost certainly fall in love with the Malaysian beach experience right away.
The beaches of Redang are especially notable; this diminutive and tropical island paradise is located just off the east coast of the country’s mainland. Since there’s hardly anyone around, you’ll almost feel as though you own the island, where you’ll be surrounded by sheer beauty. Redang may very well be the most relaxing place in the world.
If you’d prefer more of a tourist-oriented experience, check out the beaches of the Perhentian Islands and Langkawi. They’re just as remarkable as those of Redang, but there’s a bit more activity.
2. Malaysian Culture
Malaysia is a cultural paradise. It’s a genuine melting pot, with influences from countries including India, China and just about all of Southeast Asia. You’ll find that Penang is the country’s cultural hotbed.
Spend a day walking through the capital, George Town: It’s a UNESCO World Heritage site loaded with all sorts of cultural destinations and British influences. There’s also plenty of history to take in, starting with the area’s stunning colonial architecture, grand mosques, Hindu and Buddhist temples, and classic churches. Don’t miss out on the Snake Temple. Located just south of George Town in Bayan Lepas, this 165-year-old Buddhist temple is home to numerous live snakes, so don’t forget to bring your camera.
3. Malaysian Food
After you sample the local fare, you’ll probably be pleasantly surprised by just how uniquely mouthwatering Malaysian cuisine really is. Restaurant menus are much more diverse than most anticipate, so bring your appetite. Head to Penang, which is widely considered the country’s food capital, to sample Malaysia’s best dishes.
Much of the local Malaysian fare is centered around rice and noodles that feature curry and coconut flavors. Be sure to try the Laksa Penang. This is a savory sour noodle soup with a nice spicy kick to it.
Even if you’re in a rush and need to catch a bite from a street vendor, you’ll still find an incredibly wide selection of flavors to choose from. In fact, some of the best Malaysian street food is comparable to what you’ll find in restaurants. Don’t leave Malaysia without trying street food like Roti Canai, Chicken Satay, Beef Rendang and Nasi Lemak.
4. A Happening Urban Center
Kuala Lumpur is a world-class city with a dreamy and almost otherworldly aura you’ll never forget. Even if you only spend a day or two in the city, which is often referred to as “KL,” it’s nevertheless a must-see. Like other large cities, you’ll find just about everything you could possibly want in KL, but in distinctly Malaysian style.
Some of the highlights of the Kuala Lumpur experience include delicious street fare, remarkable views from the 1,483-foot Petronas Twin Towers, and unique shopping opportunities at centers and market bazaars. The markets, by the way, are quite unconventional here: You’ll be able to haggle with vendors to obtain the items you want at a price that fits your budget. And be sure to take the KL Monorail to travel through the city with ease.
5. Malaysia’s Natural Beauty
You can spot orangutans quite easily in Borneo. They’re scattered around the jungles of Sepilok, so have your phone ready to take a snapshot. Make the trek up Mt. Kinabalu and you’ll have an unbelievable view of the jungles and the area’s small villages. There are guided group trips offered that guarantee tourists will see the best of Malaysia’s natural environment.
If you’d like to take to the water, put on your scuba or snorkeling gear and swim around the Tioman and Perhenthian Islands. You can even white water raft at Kuala Kubu Bharu. There’s also the very popular Tropical Butterfly Farm found at Teluk Bahang. Or check out the tea plantations in the Cameron Highlands. Malaysia even has caves. The most notable is called the Turtle Cave, found in Gunung Mulu National Park.
Ready to cross Malaysia off your bucket list? SkyStub’s round-trip airfare from New York City (JFK) to Kuala Lumpur.