The crystal waters of Semporna, the ancient forests of Sarawak, the cultural feast of Kuala Lumpur … Malaysia has it all
A charming country in Southeast Asia, Malaysia is divided into two parts by the South China Sea. Eleven states are on the Malay peninsula on the west and two states are in Kalimantan on the east. This vast land integrates the beauty of Nature with the essence of culture, art and food. Summer lingers all year round with a constant temperature of 26-30oC.
Vacation in Primeval Rainforest
- The Datai Langkawi
“My dreams take me over the emerald green forests to the hills capped with mists…”
The beautiful verse refers to Langkawi, the islands on the northern part of west Malaysia by the Andaman Sea, surrounded by azure waters, covered by rich vegetation, and guarded by rolling mountains.
Tucked away in the northwest corner of Langkawi, The Datai Langkawi resort tells the story of the old and new, leaning against the most ancient mountain range of Southeast Asia – Machincang, facing a vast primeval rainforest and overlooking the stunning Datai Bay. Multitudes of wild animals add more liveliness to the place. Every guest here has the chance to encounter big geckos, flying lemurs, giant squirrels and many other precious animals.
The Datai Langkawi wins the hearts of many not just because of the unique natural beauty, but also the name Kerry Hill, named for the world-renowned architect and the creator of minimalism style.
In September 2017, The Datai Langkawi embarked on an extensive renovation, the most substantial enhancement since its opening in 1993. At the core of the resort’s offering, the spectacular surrounding nature plays a significant role in presenting unique experiences in the rainforest, sea and adjacent mangroves, that are all led by the resort’s dedicated team of naturalists and marine biologists. Nature also forms the base of the spa and well-being programs, with specially crafted spa treatments and holistic activities.
All of the 121 rooms, suites and villas have enchanting views of the lush tropical rainforest, and some even of breathtaking vistas of the Andaman Sea. A diverse selection of cuisines are centred on locally grown ingredients with a distinctive Malaysian and Asian flair. The Pavilion, where Thai cuisine is celebrated, is innovatively modeled after a birdhouse and is situated atop 30-metre stilts with far-reaching views of the rainforest.
Inspired by a tribal bamboo longhouse, the newly-built Nature Centre holds a library of reference books on the natural world of Langkawi and Malaysia, a lounge for guests to relax and listen to stories from the wild by Resident Naturalist Irshad Mobarak and team, and a Tea Corner serving specially curated teas by Langkawi’s well-known traditional Malay medicine guru using herbs and spices from plants native to the rainforest.
The Spa is situated alongside a small winding stream surrounded by the sounds and subtle aromatic scents of the rainforest. Focusing on aligning wellness with Nature, The Spa has five treatment villas, including a spa suite complete with a steam room, sauna and jacuzzi overlooking the lush tropical jungle. The philosophy of beauty through health is complemented by the international expertise of Bastien Gonzalez and Phyto 5.
A wide range of natural activities are available. In addition to the much-sought after morning and evening walks, as well as butterfly and beach walks around the grounds of the hotel, there is a new Datai observatory deck, which is a 15-metre-high, 20-metre long canopy walk, as well as initiatives to protect, sustain and increase the precious flora and fauna around the resort.
Other popular experiences offered by the resort include cooking classes, sailing, golf, and island excursions.
At present, only a very few cities in mainland China have direct flights to Langkawi, including Guangzhou, Chengdu, Kunming and Guiyang. Visitors from other cities have to transfer in Kuala Lumpur or Penang. After arriving at the airport in Langkawi, it takes another 40 minutes to drive to the resort.
- Gunung Mulu National Park and Ayus Wellness Experience
“Vertical cliffs and incredibly steep slopes reach summit ridges before dropping abruptly down to deep gorges and hidden valleys. Jagged limestone pinnacles, bleached white, spear out of the lush green canopy. Cave passages twist and wind their way through the mountains, opening into chambers so large that defy description and dwarf you into insignificance.”
For nature lovers especially, the Mulu National Park in Sarawak is a place they never want to miss. Due to the sophisticated landforms, many activities here demand certain certificates and qualities from visitors and some can only be approached under the guidance of a professional guide. So the first thing to do after arriving is to go to the Mulu National Park Headquarters for registration which is located near the entrance.
There are numerous caves in the park, but only a few are open to visitors. The enormous Deer Cave is easily accessible from the Headquarters. Every evening, millions of bats fly out of the cave looking for food. The Cave of the Winds has many beautiful stalagmites and stalactites, a fantastic waved ceiling and is known for the nice breeze that runs through the cave system. Within close proximity of the Cave of the Winds yet another wonderful cave is found – the Clearwater Cave through which an underground river of over 108km runs. Real caving enthusiasts can go adventure caving at the Turtle Cave, Racer Cave, Lagangs Cave, and of course the biggest cave of all: Sarawak Chamber. All these caves are for intermediate or advanced cavers only and proof of previous caving experience needs to be provided.
Mulu National Park also has much to offer above the ground, such as a visit to Paku Waterfall, a guided tour to the Canopy Skywalk, animal discovery in the evening, and some strenuous jungle treks and climbing, which require at least 3 to 4 days, and remember to make reservations at one of the basic lodges along the treks where you can stay overnight. One of the absolute highlights is the ‘Pinnacles Trail’. The pinnacles are actually a series of 45 meter-high limestone spikes that are clearly visible above the surrounding vegetation. The trek is not an easy one. It starts with a normal walk through the vegetation, followed by a light rise with some actual climbing. The last part is the most challenging as there you will have vertical climbs, dangling ropes and metal rung ladders. The most strenuous part of the climb is probably the way down.
Inspired by this amazing rainforest, Prof. Gerry Bodeker, the Chair of Mental Wellness Initiative of the Global Wellness Institute has recently launched a wellness program – Ayus Wellness Experience – based on Mulu National Park and Mulu Marriott Resort and Spa inside the park, to exalt the rainforest exploration to a higher holistic experience of wellbeing.
Before your visit, Ayus Wellness will work with you to determine the right program for you. Follow the guides to the depth of the ancient rainforest for an all-round immersion, walk over the canopy, explore the caves, bath in the highly mineralized Clearwater Pool, and practice meditative breathing and integrative yoga in Nature. If it interests you, you can also step on a discovery trail of medicinal plants guided by a modern day Penan healer who will explain to you the purposes of the plants and how the medicine is prepared. For centuries, the nomadic Penan community has depended on the rainforest as their pharmacy and used it for everything from skin conditions to snakebites, digestive conditions and diabetes, and even for spiritual protection. Then go back to the resort site to enjoy wellness cuisine based on Borneo plants and herbs, Borneo mountain rice and native fruits, vegetables and salads. Have a deep tissue massage or other therapeutic treatments using skincare and aromatherapy products derived from traditional knowledge. The popular anti-aging options include facials and body scrubs based on the local herbal and Borneo highland rice, and enzymatic face-washes.
If you happen to have sleep problems, try the special sleep enhancement program which draws on both recent sleep science and Eastern wellness traditions in ensuring deeper, longer and more restful sleep with an additional charge of USD 80 per day.
Every evening, AWE hold lectures and share with guests the scientific basis behind all these experiences so as to help them continue the healthy lifestyle back home.
It’s not easy to get to Mulu National Park. Fly to Miri, a small city in Sarawak, from Kuala Lumpur and then take another flight to Mulu. From Miri to Mulu, there are two flights every day and it takes 30 minutes. There is no highway connecting the two places, which means no buses or cars are available.
Semporna, A Crystal Dream
In Malaysian, Semporna means “perfect”. It refers to the fishing town Semporna and its surrounding picturesque islands. The latter gives the name a romantic and mystic sense.
Quietly dwelling by the east coast of Sabah, the beautiful veil of Semporna has been unfolded slowly. It doesn’t offer as many water activities as other world famous islands do, but its scenery is by no means second to any. Pure white sands, crystal sea water with changing colors and abundant marine creatures make it a top diving destination. It is also home to Bajau, a people without nationality who live on fishing. They are known as the sons of the sea.
Semporna town is often used as a transportation junction where some middle quality hotels, fair numbers of seafood restaurants and several agencies offering island tour are located.
An hour’s boating away from the town’s dock to the southeast direction is the non-resident and non-accommodation island Sipadan. The jagged underwater landform and marine spectacle makes it a dreamy site for advanced divers. After the 5 meter-deep shoal, it drops down directly to 600 to 700-meter deep sea. You will see everything from corals, sea anemone, big fish shoal to turtles, sharks and the shocking Barracuda Point where thousands of fish densely gather together to form a scene like the hurricane eye. According to the government’s policy, only licensed divers can dive here and just 120 people are permitted to enter the island every day. It means you need to apply for entry at least 2 to 3 months in advance.
Not far away from Sipadan is located Kaplai, known for its over-water rooms. While walking on the wooden boards connecting the houses, you will see lovely fishes swimming back and forth just under your feet. If you are lucky enough, you will meet big turtles. On either side of the boards, colorful flowers bloom at the fullest in the sea freeze. If you are seeking thrills, this is definitely not the place for you. But if you are eager to escape the hustle and bustle of the city and slow your pace of life, then just come here. No matter which direction you turn, you will unfailingly encounter a breathtaking sea view.
Lying northeast of Semporna town, Pompom island still keeps the most primeval look of Nature. There is a sea turtle incubation base which attracts many children. A group of little turtles running toward the water is really a cute scene. Visitors can choose from beach houses and over-water houses at POMPOM Island Resort. The resort boasts the biggest Spa in Semporna, offering authentic Malaysian spa experiences. Compared with other islands, Pompom has many more water activities, such as canoe and kayak, banana boat, cruising, in addition to snorkeling and diving.
Mataking Islands are composed of Mataking Island and Mataking Kecil Island. The two are half kilometer away from each other. When the tide rises, the two are separated by crystal waters and when the tide ebbs, they are connected by a white “sand bridge”. Many people say it has the best water quality in Semporna. From shoal to deep sea, the water color changes layer upon layer. Don’t forget to try the swing on the sea, visit one of the five underwater post offices in the world, or enter for the honeymoon program if you come with your beloved. Plant a tree and engrave your names on the trunk. Climb into the observatory and count the stars above.
To get to Semporna, firstly fly to Kuala Lumpur or Kota Kinabalu where you can transfer on a flight to Tawau Airport. Then you need an hour’s drive from the airport to Semporna town. Most resorts offer pick-up services. Otherwise, book a car in advance or just take a taxi.
A Multi-cultural Capital
Kuala Lumpur, the capital of Malaysia, is a place brimming with various charming cultures. It is also known as the Food Capital of Asia.
Upon arrival at the airport, jump on the red SKY BUS or yellow STAR SHUTTLE to KL Central which takes about one hour. Then start your city tour from here with the LRT line which covers almost all the destinations worth a visit.
The next stop after KL Central is Pasar seni, the location of Kuala Lumpur Railway Station. Built in 1910, the old station attracts many to come for its castle style construction. It was once the busiest transportation junction before being replaced by the modern KL Central. Today, some trains and metro lines are still passing here.
Cross over the bridge, and the three-floor Central Market is before eyes. It’s known as an art market where you may find a lot of traditional goods like batik art ware, local specialties, bags and shoes of Southeast Asia style. There are also some small-scale galleries. Precious Old China is a famous local restaurant. The signature dishes include Nyonya Pai Tee (Nyonya gold cup), Nasi Lemak (coconut milk rice), Nyonya Ayam Pongteh (Nyonya chicken).
Ten minutes’ walk away is Chinatown on Jalan Peta Ling. Evenings are more alive than in the daytime. A diversity of stalls sell various things from silk, clothes, porcelain to herbs, but it is not an ideal shopping destination due to the lack in quality and selling points. By comparison, the food sold here are worth a try: longan jucie, Musang King durian, black-and-white milk tea, fried noodles and Bak-Kut-The at Restaurant Kim Lian Kee, roast pork and chicken rice at Kedai Kopi Lai Foong, and more.
Shopping is surely another important attraction of Kuala Lumpur. Shopping malls are scattered all around the city selling world-famous brands and offering big discounts. The Petronas Twin Towers KLCC is not only a striking city landmark but also an amazing shopping destination. Tourists can get a “The Tourist Privilege Card” at the service desk on B1 floor which will give special discounts to overseas tourists. On the fourth floor, Madam Kwan’s gives some innovative interpretation to traditional Malaysian cuisine. Curry Laksa, Nasi Bojari (Three Color Rice), and banana ice-cream are among the most popular. The Pavilion, with a futurist façade, mainly features luxury brands. It a comprehensive complex that integrates shopping, cuisine and recreation. The Mines Shopping Mall imitates the water scene of Venice. Water streams run through the mall with boats travelling along them. You can even enjoy a romantic dinner on the boats. Other recommended ones include Sungei Wang Plaza, Imbi Plaza and Starhill Plaza.
There are many five-star hotels in the city. JW Marriott Kuala Lumpur enjoys a privileged location opposite the Pavilion. The same for Shangri-La Hotel, Kuala Lumpur which stands next to The Petronas Twin Towers. The Ritz-Carlton, Kuala Lumpur is in Bukit Bintang, boasting two swimming pools and perfect spa facilities. The Banyan Tree Kuala Lumpur is a comparatively new hotel which offers a full view of The Twin Towers.