Global Destination Reviews: The Best Places in Malaysia to Explore, Shop & Island Hop

person_outline Sophie Grove
Jun 27, 2019

folder_open Destination Reviews

timer 32 min read

Malaysia is one of Asia’s hidden gems. It’s home to satay, the tallest twin buildings in the world and some of the most beautiful beaches in the world.

  • Population: 31.6 million
  • Capital: Kuala Lumpur
  • Best time to go: The weather is hot and humid year-round with tropical rain showers. On the east coast, the wet season runs from November - February, which is when the west coast is sunny and dry. The wettest months on the west coast are April to October, which is when the driest months are on the east coast.

Kuala Lumpur & Around

Unlike some other South-east Asian cities where travellers arrive and get out of town ASAP, Kuala Lumpur is a worthwhile destination of its own.

Visit the famed Batu Caves

400 million years in the making, The Batu Caves are a series of monkey-filled limestone caves perched up on a hill. The enormous Holy Hindu shrine & the rainbow staircase attract around 5,000 visitors a day. You can scale the gruelling 272 steps for a glimpse back in time when the aboriginal tribes inhabited them.

Slow down at the sprawling green spaces

Located within the concrete jungle of KL, the Forest Eco Park was created to preserve the actual jungle. Try the canopy walk and wander amongst the rainforest in the heart of a city. If that's not enough of a nature fix, stationed within the Perdana Botanical Gardens is the Orchid Garden - with footpaths, fountains, and over 120 species of orchids. Then there’s the Hibiscus Garden, where you can find Malaysia’s national flower in full bloom.

Chow down at Jalan Alor

Chaotic, famously delicious and slightly overrun by tourists - Jalan Alor is the cultural heart of the city’s cuisine and a world away from the luxury malls. It’s recognised as the best and cheapest in the city, plus it’s a mad mix of Malay, Chinese and Indian influence. Warning: making your mind up over so many delicious stalls & restaurants may seem overwhelming.

Get back in touch with nature

Head to Butterfly Park and marvel at the hundreds of colourful butterflies or the Bird Park that spans 20+ acres. It’s one of the largest public aviaries in the world and is well respected for its conservation efforts. Nearly 500 species call the National Zoo home, it’s run by the Malaysian Zoological Society & has fascinating conservation programs and guided tours.

Party the night away in Bukit Bintang

Visit Bukit Bintang, the main pubbing & clubbing district for a night out on the town. You’ll find plenty of places to grab a few drinks with the array of trendy pubs, bistros, cocktail lounges, karaoke bars and rooftop clubs. Our pick? The Heli Lounge Bar! It’s at the top of a skyscraper, on a freaking helicopter pad. With killer views, it morphs into a sprawling rooftop bar every night.

Admire the views from above

KL's claim to fame is the Petronas Towers, the tallest twin towers in the world. While there’s an observation deck 86 levels up, it’s often the view from looking up that is the most impressive. We suggest a ride up the KL Tower for better views of the city. Since it’s the 7th tallest tower in the world, the visitor deck is the highest place to view the city from. It even acts as an observation tower for sighting the moon to mark the beginning of the holy month of Ramadan!

Shop til you drop at Central Market

Also known as Pasar Seni, the Central Market has been developed from a former wet market to an artsy building jam-packed with local products, antiques, souvenirs and arts & crafts. It sells everything from tourist trash to amazing local handicraft.

Cameron Highlands

Stroll through one of the world’s oldest rainforests

It’s a little out of the way, but something we couldn’t leave off our list! The Taman Negara National Park is estimated to be around 130 million years old. Whether you’re looking to set out on a 100km trek or simply wish to take an afternoon stroll - it’s the perfect place to explore.

Langkawi

If you’re in need of a little R&R, head to Langkawi for the laid back lifestyle.

Views from the top

First things first, it’s time to hitch a ride in the steepest cable car in the world on the Langkawi SkyCab. The near vertical trip to the top of Mount Mat Cincang offers views of rainforests, islets, and waterfalls that will take your breath away. Once you reach the top, it’s another short trip to the Langkawi Sky Bridge - the longest curved suspension bridge in the world where you’ll get exhilarating (and terrifying) views.

Get hopping

Langkawi is also known as the Jewel of Kedah, made up of 99 drop-dead gorgeous islands. A popular thing to do is island hop to explore the out-of-the-way areas. You can hop on a boat to see all the different islands on offer or explore Bond-style on a jet ski tour.

Ignore TLC & chase those waterfalls

  • Telaga Tujuh Waterfalls - Also known as Seven Wells Waterfall, these are the most picturesque and undoubtedly best falls on the island. Make your way 91m to the top where seven refreshing pools, as well as a great lookout platform from the second tallest mountain, await. A slippery rock serves as a natural water slide for locals.
  • Temurun Waterfall - This 200m three-tiered beauty is the tallest waterfall on the island and also offers a stunning trek through the rainforest. Watch out for monkeys and don’t feed them – they're aggressive! The best bit? Once you reach the top, there are natural pools to cool off in.
  • Durian Perangin Waterfall - This one comes down the slope of the highest mountain on the island. It was named after the Durian trees that bear a delicious tropical fruit found in abundance around the area. It’s got 12 tiers so comes complete with a series of pools and bridges to explore along the way. Take lunch - it’s also a great picnic spot!

Explore the Night Markets

Langkawi’s night markets are best seen at sunset with some delicious street food in hand while you browse the cheap souvenirs (yes, this is bartering territory). They are held every night somewhere throughout the city, and tasty local treats, such as nasi ayam or nasi lemak, can be sampled for as little as 25 cents.

Penang

Considered one of the best places for street food in Asia, if not the world. From mouth-watering eats to fascinating history, Penang packs a punch.

Check out the paint job in George Town

The council hired an artist to brighten up the streets with his depictions of local life back in 2012. Since then, many artists have followed in his footsteps by leaving their mark in the form of hip and trendy street murals. From walls to traffic lights, everything is a work of art as you walk along! Once you’re mural-ed out, you cannot leave without seeing the ‘Blue Mansion’, a UNESCO World Cultural Heritage Site. It’s one of only three traditional Chinese mansions still standing outside of China.

Work up an appetite on the Peaks of Penang

Head up to Penang Hill or Flagstaff Hill for some welcome respite for the heat down below. It rises 821m above sea level and is one of the most popular attractions in the area for its breathtaking panoramic views of the whole island. Standing on the hilltop at nearby Air Itam, the iconic Kek Lok Si Temple is the largest Buddhist temple in Malaysia.

Since Penang is the street food capital of Asia, stroll through the hundreds of hawker stalls offering everything from samosas to spicy noodle curry!

Outer Islands

Tioman Island

It’s considered to be one of the most enchanting islands in the world, so it should come as no surprise that Tioman Island is dotted with a remarkable variety of beaches. There’s Paya Beach for peace away from the crowds, Juara which has some of the best surfing on earth and Genting is ideal for fishing and offers a more authentic look at local village life.

Top tip: If you’re looking for a day out when on Tioman, consider a tour to Coral Island. This picturesque slice of marine heaven can be easily reached by public ferry for the best snorkelling opportunities in Malaysia.

Perhentian Islands

This place is the ultimate tropical getaway. The two islands are Besar (literally: big), and Kecil (literally: small) and are as different as night and day. Besar is the larger island and consists of families, honeymooners and exxy luxury resorts. While Kecil is the smaller and more budget-friendly option. Here you'll enjoy long lazy days at Turtle Beach and Coral Bay, and when the sun sets, the beach parties kick off!

Borneo

It’s the third largest island in the world and has a wild abundance of wildlife and nature on offer.

Climb above the clouds

Challenge yourself with a climb up Mount Kinabalu. It’s a relentless 2-day climb with an elevation of 4,000m, but reaching the top and seeing the sunrise from Malaysia’s highest peak makes it all worthwhile. See if you can spot Rafflesia flowers, more commonly known as ‘the corpse flower’ - the world’s largest and smelliest flower, along the way.

Spot orangutans

Seeing orangutans in their natural habitat is one of the best wildlife experiences you can have and it’s only possible to do so in Borneo and in the northern parts of Indonesia.

Set of Survivor

Kota Kinabalu is an island not far away famously known for being where the reality hit show Survivor is filmed. Sanke Island is a tiny island crawling with venomous sea snakes and is not for the faint-hearted.

 

And that’s just the surface of what’s on offer in Malaysia. If you want to embrace the bustling city life for yourself, why not consider an internship abroad? Our Internship opportunities are endlessly growing with the bustling business scene in Kuala Lumpur.

Take me to Malaysia!

Sophie Grove

Sophie Grove

Sophie was a Social Media Coordinator & Content Marketer for Global Work & Travel and a travel lover at heart. When she’s not busy double tapping and sharing all your amazing travel inspiration on our social pages, she’s busy planning her next escape! Her next big bucket list items include skydiving over Dubai and camping on the Great Wall of China.