Malaysia is not particularly known as a big tourist destination. 25 million people visit the country yearly, most of which come from Asia. The European or American tourist usually picks countries like Indonesia, Thailand or Vietnam. Malaysia, however, is an excellent destination with a lot of variety. Traveling through the country is easy with great and affordable domestic flying options. The 90-day free visa for Europeans and Americans is a sign of how welcome you are a supposed to other Asian countries that only give you a 30-day free visa. The roads are in very decent condition and hiring a car to drive around is an option that is recommended for all who love to see more of the country.
Here are a few places to visit, including some hidden gems in Malaysia.
How can you not visit the capital city? Kuala Lumpur is a city in fast development. The government is anticipating for the future and that is visible. Kuala Lumpur is mostly known for a large number of malls. The larger area of Kuala Lumpur, called Klang valley, houses over 250 shopping malls, including 1 Utama, the 7th largest mall in the world. Other famous malls are Pavilion, Suria and Sun city.
The second fame of Kuala Lumpur is food. Malaysians rarely cook at home and would rather go out to dinner. This has resulted in a stunning amount of restaurants and food courts. There are truly too many options in all price categories.
Walk around in Ipoh and you will notice the hipster vibe and street art pop out. Walk into any of the nice looking coffee bars and get a true taste of culture. Just outside the city, you will find temples that have recently be renovated. Sam Poh Tong is the most famous one. Visit during Chinese new year and you might catch a traditional ceremony that includes writing down wishes and hang them in one of the trees. It results in a jaw-dropping scenery with all the pink and red colored notes.
It is considered the luxury destination of Malaysia. It is an island that includes some of the country’s best beaches and top resorts. Less of a cultural destination and more a relaxing and sunbathing place. Have a look at the newly opened Ritz Carlton for the ultimate luxury resort experience.
Other Malaysian islands
Considered a hidden gem, not well known to the general public and definitely not the tourist. Malaysia has a few amazing islands to visit. But if you go, you will have a very private feel and experience with, what you could consider the best beaches in the country. We especially love the Perhentian islands. Cristal clear water and sceneries indistinguishable from places like Fiji or the Maldives.
Tea lovers be welcome. Driving through the Cameron Highlands is a must. Visit some of the farms and enjoy the views you get when walking uphill. It is a place many backpackers visit for the walks you can do here but they are perfectly fine for the exclusive tourist.
An area to visit for two things. The botanic gardens, including a Japanese garden. Come at the right time and you can witness a tea ceremony. Missed it? Not to worry. Dress up in traditional clothing and take a picture in the tea house. Close to the gardens, you will find a not very typical hotel called Colmar. Modeled after the French city Colmar, it is more of a mini village. You can sleep there and enjoy all the hotel facilities but most people come to have a look like a day trip.
When you are in cities like Kuala Lumpur you will often see places that serve Penang food. The cuisine is not too different but it has what you could call an x-factor. It is hard to explain really. Most of the time they are being more experimental or flamboyant with their dishes. Penang itself is truly a tourist destination for both foreigners and locals.
A historical city with a city center listed as a UNESCO world heritage site. You can still clearly see influences from other countries like the Portuguese, the Dutch and the Brits. The main reason to visit would be to learn more about Malaysian history and culture. The region is now dominated by the Chinese with an estimate of around 60% of the population being Chinese.
(images by Lonely Planet, Shutterstock)