5 great reasons to visit Malaysia

An inspiring mix of wild nature and dynamic cities, Malaysia is a country of inspiring contrasts. It’s strategic trading position has provided a fertile ground for enterprise and exchange, creating stunning architecture, a good modern infrastructure and a welcoming diverse culture. With so many experiences on offer, here we’re sharing our top 5 reasons to visit Malaysia:

Magnificent street food

Malaysian food is like a smorgasbord of the best culinary cultures in Asia. Being in such a strategic location, the Strait of Malacca, the country is a mix of Malay, Chinese and Indian traditions and each has its own cuisine. The result is incredibly diverse, rich and above all tasty.

Nowhere is this culinary richness more evident than in the amazing food stalls and Kimberly Street in George Town Penang is a great place to start your gastronomic adventure. Among the plethora of options available, there are a few particularly delicious dishes you must try. Penang prawn mee (prawn noodle soup), Lor bak which consists of a variety of foods such as prawn fritters, bean curd wrapped sausages, fried tofu, century eggs, cucumbers (and more depending on your preferences), served with two sauces: Lor Bak black sauce (sweet) and a choice of chilli sauce. Finally, Char koay teow is a scrumptious dish that you shouldn’t miss out on as it’s a local delicacy. There’s also Chinese Dim Sum, Bengali bread and side dishes galore… you’ll be spoilt for choice.

Street Food LTB

Diverse, colonial architecture

Once you’ve relinquished your chopsticks, a gentle walk is in order. George Town in Penang has a variety of UNESCO heritage sites that history enthusiasts will love. Influenced by numerous countries including China, Sumatra, India, Portugal, Netherlands, Britain and Malacca, Malaysia is a conflation of culture and architectural styles. A colonial building adjacent to a Chinese-style mansion across from a bright yellow Hindu temple is the norm.

On the surface it may seem to be a disjointed mix of architecture, art, culture, cuisine and history, but somehow it fuses into one vibrantly eclectic whole. Visit St. George’s Anglican Church having made a detour on the way to visit the Sri Mahamariamman Temple. Not happy simply comparing two 19th Century religious buildings? Why not pop to Kuan Yin Teng (Goddess of Mercy), famous for being Penang’s oldest Taoist/Buddhist temple, and which has survived the centuries unscathed? Next, stop off at the Masjid Kapitan Keling Mosque that is just around the corner, the first permanent Muslim institution to have been established in the city.

You might like to wander around Pinang Peranakan Mansion, a museum dedicated to Penang’s Peranakan heritage. Or experience modern Malaysia with a visit to the Hin Bus Depot, now given a new lease of life as an art centre.  You’ll get a feeling of the recent past already made history, with the colourful murals, airy grounds, and a nice café which is an ideal spot to rest your feet. Once the caffeine has done its thing you’d be wise not to miss the street art on offer. The city commissioned a collection of murals featuring 16 international street artists; various motifs from deeply religious symbolism to historical landmarks that represent the local identity, all combined together in artistic expression. But wait, before you go, you still have time to visit Penang’s national park for a gentle walk through the jungle or, if you had a second helping at a late lunch, take the 250-metre-long canopy walk for a view of the forest at sunset.

Architecture LTB

Untouched beaches

Malaysia’s beaches are among the most beautiful. From the innumerable islands to visit, such as Perhentian, Kapas, Redang, Lang Tengah and Tenggol, we have singled out a journey to the stunning Tioman Island. If you plan to let your hair down and relax with nothing to do but soak up the sun and appreciate the surrounding natural beauty, this is the place for you.

Just off the east coast of Peninsular Malaysia, the Tioman Island (within the Mersing Marine Park) is densely forested and sparsely populated. It can be easily be reached by boat and it offers serenity and natural beauty galore.

If you decide to liven things up and interrupt your moment of Zen, the island is surrounded by numerous coral reefs and offers great snorkelling and scuba diving. With beautiful waterfalls in the lush tropical jungle there are several other activities to enjoy too.  Jungle treks are a great way to see the island interior and, depending on your preferences, there are several to choose from. For example, Tekek – Juara trek trail is two hours long (or three and a half hours if crossing from settlement to settlement) or Tekek – Air Batang with its relatively level concrete path which is less demanding. One of the most popular treks would have to be Monkey Beach – Monkey Bay. Walking along Monkey Beach to its northern end, a footpath leads to the side of Monkey Bay which is a gorgeous hourglass indented beach. If you see a family of monkeys, ignore them and don’t offer them any of your food, heroically carried by your water taxi.

Visit Tioman for absolute tranquillity; it is secluded, rustic and overwhelming. For a real break from the hustle and bustle of everyday living, put your smart phone aside (poor Wifi connection will help), forget current affairs and work drama and simply enjoy the tropical fauna and flora of every shade of green imaginable.

Beach LTB

Stunning national parks

Malaysia is home to a 130-million year old rainforest and you can experience this ancient world by visiting the country’s National Parks. Taman Negara is the oldest in Malaysia, established in 1938 as King George V National Park but renamed in 1950 following Malaysian independence. Here, you can walk through rainforest canopies on rope bridges, trek through the forest floor stopping off at idyllic waterfalls and ride along the Tembeling river through both rapids and slow moving waters. Taman also presents an opportunity to visit the indigenous Orang Asli. They have a nomadic way of life and a rich knowledge of their environment and a glimpse into their world is a fascinating experience.

Belum rainforest on the Thai border is another brilliant place for nature enthusiasts. A rather luxurious resort is located amongst the trees overlooking a beautiful lake and it’s a very comfortable base from which to explore.

Tamar Negara LTB

Insightful and comfortable homestays

A visit to Malaysia should certainly involve exploring traditional Malay culture. A brilliant way to do this is to stay in a beautiful longhouse with welcoming Malay hosts. Suka Suka Homestay is between Penang and Perak, situated in lush countryside overlooking a lake. It’s run by Aziz and his family and is composed of a series of private longhouses and a main house, dating back to 1920, where cooking lessons and relaxed activities take place. Your hosts provide guided tours of the nearby village, including a stop at the market for some coffee, and visits to farms. Aziz’s wife prepares mouthwatering traditional dishes across the day and hosts the cooking classes. Aziz is happy to show you how to wear traditional sarongs and tell you old stories that underpin modern Malay culture.

Suka suka homestay

Sam Clark is CEO at Experience Travel Group.

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