Things to do in Malaysia

Our top activities in Malaysia

Coast to coast

Langkawi Island, in the northwest, is well-known for its duty-free outlets, watersports and low-key beach bars however, youíll also find ancient primary rainforests fringed by secluded white sand coves with views from Langkawi Cable Car and Sky Bridge the best places to take it all in. On the opposite northeast coast the two inhabited Perhentian Islands, Besar and Kecil, can be reached via ferry from the jetty at Kuala Besut to offer travelers a quintessential glimpse at life overlooking the South China Sea. Rays, turtles and clownfish swim over coral to entice snorkellers into translucent shallows whilst, on land, bleached beaches lead to palm trees and jungle treks. To the southeast, Tioman Island is a marine and nature reserve surrounded by sand and highly recommended dive sites, with protected turtle hatching beaches on the east coast and monkey-filled tropical rainforests, inland, presenting one of Malaysia's finest locations to escape and relax.

Rainforest adventures

Taman Negara twists and tangles its way across nearly 4,500 sq km of ancient rainforest with gigantic ferns and flowering rafflesia, pinpricked with glowing fungus and trunk-hugging orchids, providing protected habitat for Malaysiaís wild elephants, sun bears, rhinos and leopards. Walking within Mt Tahanís forested foothills accompanied by a guide from the local Batek tribe, or cruising through jungle rivers on a longboat, can be amazing experiences. Learn to spot paw prints or listen to bird calls before settling down for a night in the jungle.

Multi-cultural tours

The hawker stalls of Gurney Drive and the blend of Anglo-Indian-Chinese architecture has long attracted visitors to George Town on Penang although, since 2010, itís probably become better known for its commissioned street art. Ipoh, the capital city of Perak, is also a multi-cultural highlight with Sam Poh Tong temple, an amazing food scene and the shop houses within the old town district adding to the colonial heritage.
Head south to Malacca and youíll discover Indian, Tamil, Chinese and Portuguese communities living side by side. Malacca has long been influenced by visiting merchants with the street markets on Jonker Walk and churches, mosques, forts and Chinese temples, such as Cheng Hoon Teng, within the old town, prime examples. For a cultural experience with a difference, stay in a longhouse in Sarawak where local Iban and Jambu communities offer a warm welcome as you learn about tribal traditions and delve into Malaysiaís headhunter heritage.

Balance with
Malaysian Borneo

The mix of lowland rainforests, vast cave systems and Mount Kinabalu (4,095m) make Borneo a naturally exciting accompaniment to mainland Malaysia, particularly with the sandstone headlands and untamed beaches of Bako and Tunku Abdul Rahman National Parks. Of course, no trip to Borneo would be complete without getting up close to the wild man himself and thereís nowhere on earth better than Sepilok Orangutan Rehabilitation Centre from where to learn more about the importance of protecting Malaysiaís rainforests and standing up to profit-hungry palm oil producers.
Photo credits: [Coast to coast: Achilli Family | Journeys] [Rainforest adventures: Phalinn Ooi] [Multi-cultural tours: Phalinn Ooi]
Written by Chris Owen
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