Top Five Places to Visit in Malaysia

Ever since British/Malaysian millionaire Tony Fernandes decided to start a low-cost airline in Asia similar to Ryan Air, Kuala Lumpur has become a major hub serving over 30 million travellers a year.

Most tourist only have time to discover the capital city of Kuala Lumpur during a layover to another destination but thanks to the KLIA Express train that travels from the city centre to the airport in just 28 minutes even a short stopover allows enough time to see some of the city and sample its wonderful food.

With its impressive 88-storeys, the PETRONAS Twin Towers are Malaysia’s crown jewels, a magnificent feat of architecture that is majestic during the day and dazzling at night.

Surrounded by state of the art shopping malls and vibrant markets selling exotic street food to surpass even Bangkok, Kuala Lumpur is worth a visit in its own right, but with so much more on offer why not take the time to really discover what Malaysia has to offer.

With this in mind, we have compiled our top 5 must-visit attractions in Malaysia that we think stand out above and beyond the rest.

PETRONAS Twin Towers

Watch the sunset from the 86th floor of the PETRONAS Twin Towers in Kuala Lumpur for a breath-taking panoramic view of the city.  When the tower’s switch their lights to ‘on’,  the stunning sights become truly mesmerizing. As dusk become the hours of darkness, every minute’s view seems more magical. 

Tickets cost RM85.00 and can be purchased online by visiting www.petronastwintowers.com  With all the naturally expected hype and promotion, tickets do seem to get booked quickly. Booking well in advance is recommended.

Pinang Peranakan Mansion

Escape back in time with a visit to colonial Georgetown in the former British capital of Penang where you will find Victorian architecture surrounded by a vibrant Chinatown. Pinang Peranakan Mansion is the former home of the Peranakan family and now a museum showcasing how Penang’s high-society lived at the turn of the century. The artifacts and the mansion itself offer insight into the many material possessions accumulated by one infamous rich man and his family and make an interesting part of a day trip. A must-visit whilst in Penang. For further information visit www.pinangperanakanmansion.com

Langkawi Cable Car

Langkawi cable car

The island of Langkawi near the border with Thailand not only has the best beaches in all Malaysia but an incredible cable car that transports you 708m above sea level to the summit of Mt. Machinchang. If you want to conquer your fear of heights this is spectacular way to help you shift your focus on to a stunning backdrop. Take a walk along the curved pedestrian only Sky Bridge for incredible views of the surrounding countryside and the Andaman Sea. For more information and booking tickets online, visit www.panoramalangkawi.com

Semenggoh Nature Reserve

The Semenggoh Nature Reserve in Borneo is the best place on earth to come face to face with an orangutan in its natural rainforest environment. Home to 25 semi-wild orangutans, 11 of which were rescued after being abandoned by their mothers, the park aims to provide a safe haven for these exquisite animals. The best chance of encountering orangutans is at their 8 am feeding, but if it happens to be raining you may be out of luck as they don’t like to get wet.

Sipadan National Park

Rising 600m from the seabed, Sipadan Island is the only oceanic island in Malaysia and is home to some of the best diving found anywhere on the planet. Located in the Celebes Sea, just off the east coast of Sabah, this living marine museum teams with over 3,000 species of fish and is home to the very rare and critically endangered hawksbill turtle.

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My first trip to Penang Malaysia

things to do in malaysia

Our business trip to Penang

It was my task to look up the Penang airport website in google and arrange public transport for the group once we landed in Malaysia for the last leg of our trip. Unfortunately there was a lot of out of date information, and after checking the listed bus timetables for what felt like hours, we decided it would be more reliable for one of us to search for Penang car rental websites. Penang was the location of our next business meeting with our overseas business clients. We arrived at Penang airport and picked up the hire car. After such a bargain price, (less than 150 MYR) we certainly did not expect luxury, however we were more than happy with our spacious Skoda Octavia. Penang International Airport, is located very near to Bayan Lepas, which is at the south eastern tip of Penang Island, and it is also one of the busiest airports in the country.

I’d never been to Malaysia, let alone Penang, yet I’ve always been intrigued by its diverse culture and had dreamt about experiencing its wonderful food. I’d heard that folks in Panang were proud of their well flavoured dishes and love sharing their great recipes. I could not wait to experience that.

getting to Penang airport

Expectations of travelling to Malaysia and Penang

I had been swatting up on Malaysia in many online Asia travel guides, and it did not take much to admit that Malaysia is an adventurer’s paradise. This hidden jewel offers so much natural beauty, from mountains, bushland and jungles to stunning white sandy beaches and gorgeous blue and green seas. Malaysia also has a wide diversity of animal life including the very rare Leatherback turtles. We unfortunately would not get chance to see that much nature, but I was curious about the cities here, its financial links and of course where we were aiming for, Penang. The Malaysian island of Penang has a colourful capital called George Town. This multicultural destination is a superb place with loads of exciting places to discover, fascinating sights to see and a lifestyle that visitors soon learn to love.

With an intriguing mixture of east meets west, Penang promotes well its modern style, yet it also maintains its traditions and old world charms. Far from being just a promoted pitch in any travel guide, Penang has all the bells and whistles and beckons many visitors with beautiful coasts and delightful cuisines.

It’s been said that some of the most enjoyable meals you will ever taste can be found in the renowned food capital of Malaysia, Penang. I was about to find out if Penang lived up to that amazing reputation.

Eating out in George town Penang

After our 11 hour flight, I was famished and my workmates suggested a getting a local bite to eat. When we drove to Penang Lane George town, my colleagues recommended a little place that they had enjoyed once before, a restaurant that would leave a little place in my heart. Indian, Malay and Chinese, the three favourite foods that I crave often, surround you as walk from street to street, sizzling under your nose! Yes “fast food” options are everywhere. Locals love to eat on the roadside, at outdoor food stalls and all get served in just minutes. As we reluctantly walked past the most amazing smells of garlic, oils and spices, I wondered what delights awaited my taste buds. Then we arrived at the restaurant!
I did a double take at the name on the sign as we arrived outside; Veloo Villas. Having viewed the building’s exterior, I desperately needed to ‘investigate’ the inside. I had to fight an inner resistance! Let me explain a little more. An exaggerated desire for excellent hygienic conditions, is a deeply ingrained ethic that I can trace back to my youth. “Locals eat here regularly” I was repeatedly told. “And yet they still offer mixed reviews” was the finishing sentence. Not the reassurance that I was looking for. completely out of my comfort zone, we sat down at a plastic table on white plastic chairs. The food was served to me on a huge banana leaf that was laid on my table mat! Yes curry, rice, starters bread, side dishes, you name it ..all on the same leaf. I grew to enjoy the atmosphere. Overall, for our Penang business trip, food was indeed very cheap and most pleasant, yet It was a love hate relationship. It was an experience that I will never forget. What was the food like? Incredibly tasty. I still crave their madras dishes now. Was my hygiene paranoia reassured? No, not completely. However, it was indeed a fantastic evening and we were made to feel so welcome by our hospitable servers. What a trip to remember. Six courses later, it was time to drive to our cheap and cheerful hotel, the Grand Inn on Penang road. When I say cheap, I mean perfect. Perfect for anyone on a budget and perfect for reassuring people like me. Yes it was spotlessly clean. I would say that we found two rare gems that will with a certainly go in my travel memoirs of Malaysia.

Discovering Malaysia

Cut in half by the South China Sea, Malaysia is, in fact, two countries that combine the best of India, China and Southeast Asia all rolled into one. Add to this a little bit of colonial charm left over from years of British rule and you now have a modern state with its eyes firmly focused on the future.

The vast majority of Malaysian’s live on the peninsula in modern cities complete with skyscrapers and an intercity rail network. Malaysian Borneo, however, remains a land shrouded in mystery where ancient rainforests and orangutans battle to survive against a wave of deforestation.

While Malaysia is a land of many faiths, it is worth noting that over 60% of the population is Muslim and that Malaysia regards itself as an Islamic state despite a large group of the population being Buddhist, Christian and Hindu. The benefit of being a multi-ethnic society is that members of the government who consider themselves as being moderate Muslims have the backing of non-Muslim minority and are able to stay in power. While Malaysia may be divided religiously there is no doubt that the nation is united when it comes to the wide variety of foods that each group brings to the table.

laksa malaysian food
Similar in many ways to Indonesian style food, the dishes you will find in Malaysia represent the many groups that call the country home, be it freshly caught fish and shrimp from the South China Sea, to Malay Chicken Satay. Add to this delicious Chinese sauces and flavours mixed with spicy Indian curries and you have a gourmet’s delight of food options to choose from.
A favourite street food in Malaysia is the national dish of Nasi lemak which consists of rice cooked in coconut milk, fried anchovies, cucumber, hard-boiled egg all wrapped in a banana leaf and drizzled with spicy sambal sauce.

 

petronas twin towers malaysia travel

The capital city of Kuala Lumpur or KL as the locals call it has become a regional hub for people travelling around Asia mainly thanks to Malaysian/British millionaire Tony Fernandes and his low-cost carrier Air Asia.
Even if you are just passing through Malaysia on route to somewhere else it is well worth taking the 28-minute express train ride to the centre of town and exploring the Petronas Twin Towers and all the wonderful shopping KL has to offer.
For travellers looking to explore deeper into Malaysia drive a couple of hours south to the birthplace of Malay culture in the port city of Melaka and soak in its mellow vibe while admiring its historic centre.
To imagine life during British rule head north from KL to Penang and its capital Georgetown, a UNESCO World Heritage site that also boasts a thriving Chinatown.
From Penang, journey inland to the tea plantations of the Cameron Highlands where you can play a round of golf before sitting down for high tea.
Tourists looking for picture postcard beaches flock to the island of Langkawi near the Thai border where you will find all the big name hotel-resorts.

malaysia beach

Unlike life on the peninsula Borneo is less developed with most people visiting the island for the chance of seeing an orangutan in the wild and while it may still be possible, it is easier to visit the Sepilok Orang-Utan Rehabilitation Centre in Sabah and learn about what they are doing to save this wonderful creature.

orangutan
Adventure and eco-tourists can marvel at a place that contains over half the plants found on earth while hearing tales of how the tribes in Borneo where head-hunters until the British cured them of their gruesome tradition.
With every adventure sport possible, Borneo is a wonderful place for adrenalin seekers looking to run the rapids on the Padres River or repel down limestone cliffs to explore prehistoric caves.
Diving around Sipadan Island is said to be the best to be had anywhere on the planet with over 3,000 species of fish hundreds of corals and Hawksbill Turtles all in abundance.

diving in malaysia

No matter where you choose to spend your time in Malaysia the country has something that will appeal to every kind of tourist.