Getting to know Malaysia
Even those on a tight budget will find plenty to do and see in Malaysia, which has something for everyone.
Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia’s capital city, is home to some of the world’s best shopping and architecture, including the Petronas Towers and numerous colonial palaces and buildings.
There are a plethora of attractions within a short drive of the capital, including islands, mountains, and record-breaking caves, as well as countless temples and an opportunity to explore the fauna-rich jungle of Borneo.
With its stunning coral reefs and white-sand beaches, Malaysia is a popular snorkeling and scuba diving destination.
Kuala Lumpur's Petronas Twin Towers
The Petronas are the world’s tallest twin towers, rising an impressive 452 meters into the sky.
The 88-story towers have 76 elevators, making them one of the largest in the world.
The two towers are connected by a double sky-bridge on the 41st and 42nd floors, which are reinforced concrete, steel, and glass.
The 6,9-hectare KLCC Park below and Kuala Lumpur’s skyline can be seen from the observation deck’s highest point.
Although IBM, Microsoft, and Huawei Technologies all have offices on the upper floors, Suria KLCC, one of Malaysia’s largest shopping malls, occupies the lower floors.
This shopping and entertainment complex features over 300 shops, an art gallery, and even enough space for a Philharmonic Hall.
Batu Caves in Selangor
The Batu Caves complex, which is less than an hour outside of Kuala Lumpur, is made up of three main caves and a number of smaller ones, many of which contain Hindu god statues and shrines that date back over a century.
A 272-step colorful escalator leads to the main cave, known as Cathedral Cave, which is adorned with statues, altars, and string lights.
A 43-meter-tall gold statue of Lord Murugan greets visitors at the bottom of the stairs.
Visitors can explore the caves on their own, or they can join a guided tour to learn more about the history and geology of the area.
Thousands of Hindus visit the cave to celebrate Thaipusam, which occurs in January.
A marine park protects this cluster of small islands, which was once a popular resting place for traders traveling through Southeast Asia.
Only the two larger islands, Pulau Perhentian Besar and Pulau Perhentian Kecil, provide accommodations, shops, and amenities; Pulau Perhentian Besar is more popular with backpackers, while Pulau Perhentian Kecil is more family-friendly and upscale.
To get around the island, you can either take a water taxi or take a scenic walk through the jungle, which is a highly recommended option because you’ll get to explore the island’s jungle trails and take in the stunning ocean views as you go.
In addition to the usual scuba diving, snorkeling, and kayaking, visitors can participate in turtle conservation programs and gain exclusive access to the nesting grounds of the endangered species.
Mountain Kinabalu, Sabah
Mount Kinabalu, Malaysia’s tallest mountain, stands at nearly 4,000 feet above sea level.
Kinabalu Park, Malaysia’s oldest national park and a UNESCO World Heritage Site, includes the mountain.
There are numerous plant and animal species that call Kinabalu home, including the critically endangered orangutan. This is due to the ecosystem’s unique mix of alpine meadows, grasslands, and shrublands.
Climbers flock to Mount Kinabalu, but it’s notoriously difficult to reach the summit.
To hike the trails, visitors must reserve lodging and hire a mountain guide in advance, as the park only issues 185 climb permits daily.
It is legal for people under the age of 16 to participate in climbing groups, but there are some limitations.
Prior to attempting the climb, climbers should plan a stay at the Kinabalu National Park, which is already at an altitude of over 1,800 meters, to allow for acclimatization.
Gunung Mulu The national park, Sarawak
With its impressive limestone pinnacles that look like people, this World Heritage Site may be better known for its enormous caves, but they’re just as beautiful.
Some areas of the park are difficult to access because of the dense rain forest, which is one of the reasons these caves weren’t fully explored until the 1970s.
Additionally, the cave systems here are massive: both of these cave systems contain the world’s largest passageways and the world’s largest underground chambers.
With 122-meter-tall ceilings, cascading waterfalls, and an opening over a sinkhole more than a kilometer wide, Deer Cave is one of the most stunning places to visit.
Trekking up to the Sarawak Chamber and Paku Waterfall is an option for park visitors, as is the Pinnacles Summit Trek, a three-day ascent that includes ropes, ladders, and a strenuous walk through the jungle to get to.
In addition to the hawksbill turtle, whale shark, monitor lizard, and hundreds of other coral species that call Sipadan Island and the surrounding waters home, the oceans surrounding the island are home to the world’s richest marine habitat.
Also known as one of the best diving destinations in the world, the island requires a permit in advance and only 120 permits are given out per day, making it extremely protected.
A speed boat ride of an hour is required to get to the island.
The island’s beaches and reefs are all within walking distance of one another, making it a great place to spend a day.
For environmental reasons, visitors can no longer stay on the island (the nearby Mabul Island provides lodging), so they come here early on as part of snorkeling and diving tours.
It is mandatory that all visitors depart the island by 3 p.m.
The Sepilok Orangutan Rehabilitation Center
Orangutan orphans rescued from the pet trade or illegal hunting are cared for at the Sepilok Orangutan Rehabilitation Center.
There is a primary goal at Kabili-Sepilok Forest Reserve, which is a 4,300-hectare area of virgin forest, to teach these orangutans the skills they need to survive in the wild (in fact, replacing what they would normally learn from their mothers) so that they can be released into the reserve when they are ready.
The reserve is home to more than 80 free-roaming orangutans.
Visitor can learn about orangutans and their current challenges at the center but cannot interact with them or approach them. They can see the nursery and climbing area through a glass window and attend feeding times (seen from an elevated platform) twice daily.
The boardwalk that runs through the heart of the park is a great place to take a stroll and observe the orangutans as they play and jump in the nearby trees.
It takes five to ten minutes to get to the top of Penang Hill via the Penang Hill Railway, an air conditioned funicular that ascends the 2,007-meter-long route.
Mid-stations are available, but only on request and are used primarily by residents who live near those stations.
1.6-kilometer nature trail through rain forest and tropical gardens; a canopy walk 40 meters above ground; ziplines; and the Skyway, which offers three viewing platforms with a 360-degree view of the bay and islands; all of this can be found at the top of Penang Hill.
George Town's Kek Lok Si Temple
At the foot of Air Itam mountain, Malaysia’s largest Buddhist temple is perched on a hill.
In terms of Asian temples, the seven-story Pagoda surrounded by 10,000 Buddha statues at Kek Lok Si is a relatively new one, having been built in 1890.
Kwan Yin (the Buddhist goddess of mercy) is depicted in a 36-meter-tall statue at the pagoda, which is surrounded by gardens, ponds, and prayer halls.
Tourists from all over Southeast Asia visit the temple, which is one of the most sacred pilgrimage sites in the region.
The temple’s Chinese New Year celebrations are especially lovely because the entire space is festooned with thousands of lanterns
Langkawi Sky Cab, Kedah
There are numerous attractions at the top of Gunung Machinchang mountain, including a pedestrian skybridge, accessible by the Langkawi cable car.
Passengers can also get off at a middle station to access a viewing platform.
There is a 15-minute ride in glass-bottom gondolas that takes in the bay, the Telaga Tujuh waterfall, and the turquoise waters surrounding Langkawi Island.
Additional amenities, two additional viewing platforms, and a trail that descends all the way to the middle station are available at the top station, which also includes a skybridge.