Ready to embark on a journey yet can’t decide between tropical diving,
mountain hiking and city breaks? Come to Malaysia and realize all your travelling dreams!
With Indian temples backed by ancient rainforests, post-modern skyscrapers juxtaposed with mosque minarets, and lush mountains and beaches, Malaysia is a land of multicultural splendor. Throughout the ages, Malaysia’s stunning landscapes, deep-rooted culture and customs, unique traditional crafts and authentic cuisine have endured.
Malaysia is located in Southeast Asia and consists of Malaya in the southern part of the Malay Peninsula and Sarawak and Sabah in the northern part of Kalimantan Island. The whole territory is divided into two parts, East Malaysia and West Malaysia, by the South China Sea. Temperature variations are small throughout the year, with the rainy season from October to March and the dry season from April to September.
Leisure experiences: beaches, valleys, cities
From city trips to beach wandering, from food hunting to wellness experiences, Malaysia is a great place for a leisure trip.
Sipping tea at Cameron Highlands. Once upon a time, British colonisers who couldn’t stand the tropical heat ran to higher ground, where they built mountain villages and started a tea-growing industry, with the Cameron Highlands in Pahang being one of the most famous. Nowadays, locals and tourists come here to escape the summer heat.
Ranging from 1,300 to 1,829 metres above sea level, the Cameron Highlands are dotted with lush tea plantations and the temperature rarely exceeds 30°C. Hiking, strawberry picking, and of course, the classic experience of sipping tea from a bronzed cup as you look out over the endless tea plantations are all must-try.
Boh Sungei Palas tea plantation is ideally located in the hills north of Brinchang, with views of the tea fields, and offers not only tea tasting but also a tea interpretation centre and a café. Complimentary tours guide guests through the tea-making process. A boutique offers a wide range of teas for purchase. The café offers fresh tea and innovative desserts such as egg yolk pineapple cheesecake and green tea tiramisu. Finally, take a stroll along the paths of the plantation.
The Cameron Valley Tea House, located on the road between Ringlet and Tanah Rata, is also a great option overlooking the tea fields. There are no guided tours, but it’s still possible to wander the plantations on your own. The Boh Tea Garden is a relatively remote site, a 40-minute drive from Tanah Rata, with a velvety green landscape. Here you can sip tea on the outdoor terrace, buy boxes of tea, and visit the plantation and tea factory.
Taking a bling-bling tricycle tour of Melaka City. Melaka City, the historic port city known as the peacock city of Malaysia, is indeed gorgeous. Crimson coloured buildings left over from the colonial era line the streets, blending elements of various cultures such as Portuguese, Dutch and British. Old shops and mansions have been transformed into galleries and hotels. The most unique feature is the endless stream of bling-bling tricycles, decorated with Hello Kitty neon lights, Frozen characters and lighting fixtures. Ride the cute trike past the Sultanate Palace and around Dutch Square. A replica of the palace of Sultan Mansur Shah, who ruled Melaka in the 15th century, Sultanate Palace, houses an open-air cultural museum and gardens. Dutch Square is lined with trees and has a beautiful fountain built in 1904 in honour of Queen Victoria. As night falls, the neon lights on the tricycles begin to flicker, making them a beautiful sight on the road. It’s hard to resist the urge to take a selfie, isn’t it?
Going to the beaches. Malaysia is also one of the best honeymoon destinations in Asia due to its many beautiful islands. Pulau Perhentian on the north-east coast of West Malaysia is one of the most famous, consisting of Pulau Perhentian Besar and Pulau Perhentian Kecil, with primeval forests, swaying palms, clear waters and golden sandy beaches. The wind is blowing and the crystal-clear waters of the sea contrast with the golden sands of the beaches. As well as sunbathing on beach loungers, the underwater world is quite wonderful. Snorkel among green turtles, barracudas and colourful coral reefs, or dive to the sunken cargo ship MV Union Star, where stingrays and trevally roam around. Numerous resorts have been built on the island with good tourist facilities, but it still boasts crystal clear waters. There are also jungle hiking trails through langur habitats and a string of glistening crescent-shaped white beaches.
Situated on the east coast of Sabah, East Malaysia, Semporna is a pristine and stunning location consisting of the small town of Semporna and numerous outlying islands. The island of Sipadan is about an hour’s boat ride south-east from the town’s jetty. The island is uninhabited, and its jagged underwater terrain and marine life wonders put it high on the list of the world’s top diving destinations. Beneath the sea, five metres of shallows are followed by depths that drop vertically 600 to 700 metres. From coral, anemones and schools of large fish of all shapes and sizes, to turtles and sharks, there is also the chance to encounter the stunning ‘Sea Storm’ – a storm of thousands of sea fish densely packed together in a hurricane’s eye.
Bon appetite in George Town, Penang. The streets of George Town Penang are bustling with buildings of local features as well as British elements, and boutiques selling arts and crafts. But the best thing about this place is probably the food. The city is dotted with major food markets, restaurants and cafes. Recommendations: chicken curry at the venerable Hameediyah, rice noodles at the Lorong Baru stall, grilled satay skewers and spicy-sweet Rojak salad at the Anjung Gurney night market, and stir-fried river noodles with prawns at Kafe Heng Huat. Desserts are naturally a must-see, and we recommend the wide selection at China House.
Take a cooking class in Kuala Lumpur. With Penang’s laksa, Ipoh’s chicken and bean sprouts, and a wide range of cendol with coconut milk, Malaysia has always been a culinary destination. And the fading colonial influences of the Dutch, British and Portuguese have also left their mark on Malay recipes. To bring home some Malay flavours, take a cooking class – Kuala Lumpur offers a wide selection of cooking classes, where skilled chefs will guide you step-by-step through the preparation of fried prawns, nasi lemak (coconut rice), beef stew and more.
Outdoor activities and adventure
majestic mountain ranges, magnificent national parks, and abundant natural resources all provide opportunities for outdoor adventure in Malaysia.
Climb Gunung Kinabalu. Gunung Kinabalu is the highest mountain in Borneo, the highest point between the Himalayas and New Guinea, and Malaysia’s first UNESCO World Heritage Site. From the bottom, the cloud-covered peak (4,095 metres) is far more awe-inspiring than any other in the Crocker Range, and the view from the top is breathtaking.
The journey is approximately 8.7 kilometres each way, with new natural wonders at every turn. Rugged steps and rocky paths lead you step by step to higher forest lines, past moon rock faces, alpine meadows and ferns, rhododendrons, bamboos and, at Panalaban (3,272 metres above sea level), then you can have an overnight stay at the lodge and an early morning ascent to the granite summit to greet the sunrise the next morning.
Tip: The dry season from March to August is suitable for climbing. A limited number of permits are issued each day and climbing must be done with a guide.
Trekking at Taman Negara. Despite Malaysia’s natural splendour, it is also facing serious environmental challenges, making the unspoilt natural environment of the Taman Negara National Park all the more precious.
Taman Negara National Park is a pristine 4,343 square kilometre reserve spanning the states of Pahang, Kelantan and Terengganu. It is home to a 130-million-year-old rainforest, one of the oldest in the world. Follow the trails and be surrounded by the sounds of the various animals that live in the jungle; caddisflies whistling through the forest, macaques chattering in the branches and hornbills rattling high above. If you’re lucky, you may encounter a gaur, tiger, elephant or the extremely rare Malay peacock pheasant. Stroll the 45-metre-high canopy walkway, take a firefly boat ride or join a night hike to see the animals at night.
Adventure and Wellness at Mulu National Park. Borneo is one of the world’s oldest islands, dotted with rainforests and wildlife, and home to Mulu National Park. In the park, limestone pinnacles add to the landscape of 60-million-year-old rainforests, winding streams and deep caves.
A walk through the rainforest will reveal some bizarre caves, and some of these caves play host to thrilling spectacles on a daily basis. More than 2 kilometres long and 174 metres high, Deer Cave is the world’s largest cave passage open to the public. It is home to two to three million bats, of which there are 12 species. They gather in circles at the top of the cave and fly out of the cave together from 4pm to 6pm every day, forming a spiralling cloud. This breathtaking sight can be witnessed from the observation deck outside the cave. Winds Cave also attracts many visitors due to its beautiful stalactites, with a wavy roof that allows the breeze to pass through. Not far from Winds is Clearwater, the longest cave in Southeast Asia, nurtured by 108 kilometres of river.
The Ayus Wellness Experience (AWE), created by Global Wellness Institute Mental Wellness Initiative, in partnership with the Mulu Marriott Resort and Spa, takes the rainforest adventure to the next level with a holistic healing journey for the body, mind and soul. Take a yoga or meditation session deep in the forest with a professional guide or jump into a mineral pool. AWE has invited a local healing master to lead guests on a journey to find and identify the magical plants in the jungle. Upon returning to the resort, enjoy a healthy meal prepared from these precious herbal ingredients. The sleep programme is also one of AWE’s signature offering, blending Eastern healing wisdom with modern science to enhance guests’ quality of sleep. Each evening, AWE shares with guests the science behind each experience in a lecture, so that people can continue their healthy lifestyles when they return home.
Getting to Mulu National Park is not easy. One needs to fly from Kuala Lumpur to the small town of Miri in Sarawak and then take a flight to Mulu. There are two flights a day from Miri to Mulu and the journey takes about 30 minutes.
Wellness retreats in Malaysia
With its diverse ethnic and cultural history and rich natural resources, Malaysia is home to some of the world’s oldest healing approaches, with specialised Chinese, Indian and Malay traditions, allowing travellers to escape the hustle and bustle of city life and enjoy a relaxing and peaceful journey of wellness.
Banjaran Hot Spring Resort. Ipoh’s first luxury natural spa resort, nestled in a 22.7-acre valley in northern Perak, surrounded by limestone mountains and lush rainforests, the resort offers a tailor-made holistic wellness experience. 44 Garden Villas, Water Villas and Lakeside Villas provide comfortable accommodation, each with private access to the resort’s natural hot spring. Experience ancient Malay therapies and a range of treatments such as acupuncture, gua sha, Ayurvedic massages and Himalayan salt scrubs. The resort is only a 15-minute drive from Ipoh City and a 2-hour drive from Kuala Lumpur.
The Datai Langkawi. Immersed in the heavenly sounds and light fragrances of the rainforest, each room and villa in the resort has an outdoor balcony with views of nature, while the spa is nestled beside a meandering stream, and the five spa villas offer a range of treatments inspired by the ancient Malay tradition and philosophy of Ramuam, which incorporates therapeutic botanicals and herbs found in the rainforest. In addition, VOYA’s innovative skincare products provide a holistic experience t. The jungle surrounding the resort is home to an abundance of wildlife, and during your stay, you are likely to spot black langurs, geckos and colobus monkeys.
Spa Village at Tanjong Jara Resort. A spa brand managed by YTL Hotels and is present at luxury resorts around the world, Spa Village is passionate about introducing personalised and locally inspired experiences that combine the natural ingredients of the destination with ancient healing practices. Located on the east coast of Peninsular Malaysia, the fairytale-like Tanjong Jara Resort faces a crescent of golden sandy beaches with sweeping views of the turquoise waters, and verdant palm trees rustling in the sea breeze. The resort is modelled on a 17th-century Malaysian palace, with gardens and pools interspersed throughout. Rooted in the concept of “Sucimurni”, which means spiritual purity, health and abundance, the Spa Village combines the unique natural ingredients of a variety of local herbs and plants with the skills of resident Malay therapists to relax and rejuvenate the body and mind.
Spa Village at Pangkor Laut Resort. The resort is located on the private island of Pangkor, surrounded by white sand and turquoise sea, and set amidst ancient rainforests. The beautifully designed villas are set high in the hills, nestled in lush gardens or above the tropical waters. The resort’s Spa Village offers a variety of treatments from China, Japan, India, Thailand, Bali and Malaysia. Facilities include 9 outdoor treatment pavilions, 3 healing huts (including a herbal hut, an Ayurvedic hut and a Malay hut), 2 bath houses, and a boutique retail shop. 22 beautiful spa villas are located on the beachfront with direct access to the Spa Village.
Spa Village at Gaya Island Resort. Located in the lush mangrove forests of Malohom Bay off the coast of Borneo, the resort is surrounded by pristine beaches, the mesmerising silhouette of Mount Kinabalu, and the island’s flora and fauna. Harmoniously blending in with the natural surroundings, a series of hillside boast magnificent views. The Spa Village offers a wealth of treatments combining local natural ingredients with traditional Sabahan aboriginal healing methods. From the specialised rice scrubs and masks of the Kadazandusun people to the ancient therapies of the Bajau sea nomads, the Spa is rooted in ancient traditions and aims to help guests restore balance to their bodies and minds. The resort is committed to eco-sustainability in order to minimise its carbon footprint on the environment. As such, walking is encouraged throughout the resort and the use of motorised vehicles is minimised.
Spa Village at Cameron Highlands Resort. The resort is perched on the Cameron Highlands, Malaysia’s summer retreat and tea-growing region, overlooking a stunningly idyllic landscape. Expanded from a 1930s villa, the interiors are ornate, romantic and nostalgic, with grand French doors, wood-beamed ceilings and plantation shutters combined with Asian silk colours and textures. The resort’s Spa Village is a tea-inspired wellness experience. Ancient tea ceremonies, the healing traditions of the indigenous Orang Asli people, and aromatic herbs made from Cameron roses and tea leaves combine to create an pampering journey for the senses.
Sustainable artificial islands
Malaysia is building three artificial islands off the coast of Penang, all centred on sustainability, biodiversity and livability, with autonomous public transport networks, extensive green spaces and advanced design projects.
Shaped like a lily, the islands will comprise several multi-purpose areas to accommodate up to 18,000 residents, and will also feature beaches, urban wetlands, parks, forests, a cultural district, a technology centre and a 25-kilometre-long waterfront. The artificial islands will be free of private cars and will be connected by a public transport network on land, water and air, as well as cycle paths and elevated boardwalks for pedestrians. The islands will be powered by renewable energy, and buildings will be constructed from bamboo, local timber and recycled materials.
Eco-corridors will connect forest reserves to beaches. And in the residential and commercial areas, animals and water creatures will live freely in the canopy and waterways that run through and around the islands, undisturbed by human activity.
According to the designers, the goal of the project is to create a socially and economically inclusive development while preserving the area’s rich biodiversity and natural habitat.
It has not yet been announced when the BiodiverCity artificial islands will be be up and running, but the project is part of the Penang 2030 vision. This government-led programme aims to improve Malaysia’s livability, economy and environment through sustainable projects and developments.