Malaysia Travel Guide
Malaysia is a country with two distinct parts. Peninsula Malaysia constitutes the long fringe of land, extending down from Asia, which borders Thailand and Singapore. The South China Sea separates the mainland from the less populated East Malaysian provinces of Sabah and Sarawak. The dense jungles of Sabah and Sarawak support abundant plant and wildlife and Mt Kinabalu in Sabah stakes its claim as the highest peak in Southeast Asia.
It is the peninsula that seems to attract the most visitors, probably because of the diversity it offers in the way of people, activities and climates. The highland regions offer cool relief from the clinging humidity of the mainland, while Langkawi is the popular choice for sand and surf enthusiasts. The east coast, particularly the northern Kelantan province, offers the chance for an interesting cultural exploration of traditional Malay life. The city of Kota Bharu and its surrounds is possibly the most fascinating part of the peninsula, and the least visited, with a remote beauty and rich culture.
The west coast is favoured for historical interest, and is where Malaysia's capital city, Kuala Lumpur can be found; it is the icon of Asian prosperity and the meeting point for expats and city slickers who enjoy the energy of urban life. The city is a powerful mesh of tradition and technology, vying for equal status.
Merdeka Square (Dataran Merdeka)
Address: Kuala Lumpur
The 328-foot (100m) flagpole rising from Merdeka Square is one
of the tallest in the world, and marks the place where Malaysia
achieved independence at midnight on the 30th of August 1957. The
square is the heart of Malaysian nationalism and one of the few
places in the city where historic old colonial buildings can still
be seen. The city's colonial past is still very much alive in the
architecture of the surrounding buildings and the large field still
hosts the occasional cricket matches. The Tudor-style Royal
Selangor Club rests on one corner of the square, looking onto a
large video screen displaying religious messages and
advertisements. The Club served as a social centre for Kuala
Lumpur's British residents; its doors are now open to anyone who
can afford the membership fees. In keeping with die-hard customs
women are still not allowed entry to the bar, except by invitation.
Other buildings of interest around the square include St. Mary's
Church, purported to be the first church built in Kuala Lumpur; the
Abdul Sambad building, built in 1893 and named for one of the
sultans; the High Court building; and the old Town Hall. There are
some shops and restaurants in the vicinity and it is an interesting
area to stroll around - the square is also nice to visit at
Address: Kuala Lumpur
The crowded and colourful Chinatown area is a jumble of shops,
food, smells and people. The central section of Petaling Street is
closed at night to traffic and the street is transformed into an
exciting, brightly lit experience. Vendors spread their wares onto
the pavement and one can stroll along endlessly taking it all in.
Merchandise ranges from jewellery to toys and t-shirts - with lots
of fake brands on sale - and bargaining for the best prices is
accepted practice and part of the fun. There are many stalls in the
market during the day but Chinatown is a more special experience at
night, with the bright lights promising good photographs. However,
no matter what time of day you visit, be sure to stay vigilant with
your possessions as pick pockets are a problem in the area and the
crowds, noise and multitude of distractions make it easy for them
to operate. Chinatown's popularity is gradually causing a rise in
both prices and petty crime, which is unfortunate, but there is
great fun to be had, the food is always yummy, and there are
certainly still bargains to seek out. Apart from all the exciting
shopping and food, there are some great Chinese temples in the
area, for those who want to experience a touch of the culture. Kids
generally love the bright and busy area.
Address: City centre. Ticket Booth: Tower 2, Concourse Level Kuala Lumpur
Admission: MYR 84.80 (adults), MYR 31.80 (children). The towers are open to the public Tuesday to Sunday 9am to 9pm (closed from 1pm – 2:30pm on Fridays), but tickets go on sale at 8:30am.
The Petronas Towers are designed to impress and encapsulate
Malaysia's emergence as Southeast Asia's commercial and cultural
centre. Celebrated as among the tallest towers in the world and the
tallest twin towers, the building stands at a height of 1,483ft
(452m) and the two towers are joined by a skybridge extending 192ft
(58m) across. Traditional geometric principles of Islamic
architecture have been followed using modern technology, with an
inspiring result. The Petronas Towers are used as office complexes
that form part of the Kuala Lumpur City Centre Development Park.
The towers dominate the city skyline and are particularly beautiful
at night when they are lit up like a beacon. Many people will
recognise the building from the popular film Entrapment, and other
movies and programmes.
There are limited tickets per day so it is a good idea to get there early or book in advance online. On the tour you will cross the famous bridge and go up to a viewing platform on the 82nd floor. The views of the city are phenomenal. There is an exhibition detailing the development of the towers and a gift shop selling souvenirs like books, postcards, clothes and miniatures.
Travellers should note that there have been scams involving fake Petronas Towers tickets - tickets should only be booked at the ticket office or through the official website listed below.
Kuala Lumpur Railway Station
Address: Jalan Hishamuddin Kuala Lumpur
British architect AB Hubbock was inspired by North Indian
Islamic design when he conceived this magnificent railway station,
which could easily be mistaken for a sultan's palace. Spires,
minarets, towers and arches explode against the backdrop of
skyscrapers emphasising the glory of Moorish elegance. The building
is lovely and has been very well-maintained, and it is a refreshing
sight in a city which actually has very little colonial
architecture, and few historic old buildings. It serves not only as
an aesthetic vision but is in use as an important commuter station;
inside it is fairly unremarkable and looks much like other
stations. Opposite the station there is an administrative building
which is also architecturally interesting. Inside the station there
is a small railway museum on the evolution of railway technology in
Malaysia; the exhibition is intriguing for railway fanatics, but
for those not particularly interested in the technology it may be a
waste of time. The Kuala Lumpur Railway Station is ultimately more
of a landmark than an attraction - it only requires a quick walk by
and photo shoot and shouldn't occupy much of your time - but it is
a charming building which attracts rave reviews from many visitors
to the city.
Friday Mosque (Masjid Jamek)
Address: Jalan Tun Perak Kuala Lumpur
Masjid Jamek, the Friday Mosque, is located where the Gombak
River flows into the Klang River; with palm trees and curved steps
leading to the water's edge, the mosque is a haven of peace and
tranquillity set among the buzz and rush of modern Kuala Lumpur.
The mosque is situated on the spot purported to be where the
founders of Kuala Lumpur fist set foot. The design was inspired by
Mogul mosques in northern India. Cupolas and minarets top the brick
walls and arched colonnades. As with all mosques, a visit calls for
conservative dress and the removal of shoes; the mosque staff at
the entrance supply women and men with appropriate attire for a
mosque visit if they have not come prepared.
If you only visit one mosque in Kuala Lumpur the Friday Mosque is probably the best option, but the National Mosque is also worth investigating. A modern contrast to the Friday Mosque, the National Mosque was completed in 1965 and remains one of the largest mosques in Southeast Asia - the vast main prayer hall can accommodate up to 10,000 people. Many of the city's Malay office workers congregate here for the Friday afternoon prayers. The impressive 18-point star-shaped dome represents the 13 states of Malaysia and five central Pillars of Islam. Entry is only permitted once prayers have been concluded. Robes can be borrowed from the desk at the mosque entrance.
Perdana Botanical Gardens
Address: Jalan Perdana Kuala Lumpur
Admission: Theres a small admission fee for the Butterfly House, Bird Park, and Orchid and Hibiscus Gardens on weekends. Daily 7am to 8pm.
Telephone: +603 2617 6404
These beautiful gardens, established in 1888, form the green
belt of Kuala Lumpur, and the lakeside loveliness with a backdrop
of skyscrapers is reminiscent of New York's Central Park. The lush
vegetation surrounds a vast lake, with a number of romantic bridges
and plenty of space to relax, read a book, go for a walk or jog, or
socialise. Visitors can take a leisurely boat cruise to enjoy views
of the gardens from the water. There are numerous attractions
within the gardens, which incorporate the National Monument,
Butterfly House, Bird Park, Orchid and Hibiscus gardens, and
Malaysia's Parliament House situated at the northern end. There are
wonderful playgrounds for little ones and if you are travelling in
Malaysia with children a jaunt to the gardens is the perfect way to
let them blow off some steam. The water and shade make the Perdana
Botanical Gardens (formerly known as the Lake Gardens) a cool
refuge from the humidity and crowds of the city, and for those
interested in the indigenous plant life there is plenty to see.
There are numerous restaurants fringing the gardens but the best
option is to pack a picnic and spend a few hours in some green
National Museum (Muzium Negara)
Address: Jalan Damansara Kuala Lumpur
Admission: MYR 5 (adults); MYR 2 (children aged 6 to 12). Daily 9am to 6pm.
Telephone: +60 (0)3 2282 6255
Many of Malaysia's historical artefacts and cultural treasures
are housed in the National Museum, which is an appropriately
designed building, reflecting the Minangkabau architectural style
of the region. Ethnographic and archaeological exhibits include
life-size dioramas depicting various aspects of traditional
Malaysian life. Shadow play (Wayang kilt) displays reflect the
ancient artistry of the nation, while exhibits of traditional
weapons such as daggers (kris) and machetes (parangs) reveal the
Malaysian pride in functional aesthetic forms. The museum covers a
lot of time and subject matter and can seem discordant as a result
of the many topics and occasional lack of linkage between periods
and themes; as a result, it is a good idea to join one of the free
guided tours that do the rounds daily at 10am (in several different
languages) so that you can ask questions and get a bit more
information. Apart from the extensive permanent collection there
are always temporary exhibits. There is a cafeteria and museum
shop, and the premises are equipped for disabled visitors.
Photography is permitted in the museum but only for private use and
only with hand-held equipment. The air conditioning is a big plus
on hot Malaysian days!
Address: Kuala Lumpur
Admission: A small entrance fee is charged
Stalagmites and stalactites festoon the interior of these
impressive limestone caves, together with the Hindu shrines that
honour their deities. The caves were discovered by the American
explorer William Hornaby in 1881 and are very interesting in
themselves, but have since become a Hindu holy site, particularly
associated with the celebration of Thaipusam, a three-day religious
festival during January/February. Thousands of devotees flock to
the caves during the festival to pay penance and undergo rites of
self-flagellation that are fascinating, if a bit disturbing, to
observe. The largest of the caves, Temple Cave, is reached by
climbing 272 steps to its entrance from which a path leads to
Museum Cave, housing a dazzling display of ornamental religious
art. There is a clear view from the top to the Subramaniam Swamy
Temple, set within a large cave that extends for 262 feet (80m).
Onsite companies offer rock-climbing opportunities as well. It is a
good idea to take some water as the climb up is tiring. Those with
physical difficulties may struggle. Beware of the monkeys: they are
cute and fun to photograph but they also steal things that take
their fancy, so hang on to your belongings and keep an eye out.
Taman Negara National Park
Address: Kuala Lumpur
Taman Negara contains some of the oldest rainforest in the world
and spans thousands of square miles of protected land. Its richly
diverse fauna and flora have evolved over a staggering 130 million
years. The best way to explore the diversity of plant and animal
life is by 'trekking' along the jungle trails. Although seldom
seen, a small population of nomadic Orang Asli people still live in
the rainforest, their makeshift shelters appearing in clearings
among the jungle growth. Guided tours to tribal villages are
available from several operators. Besides trekking, the park's
other attractions are fishing, river rafting or bird watching and
climbers can explore the Peninsula's highest mountain, Gunung
Tahan, at 7,175 feet (2,187m). The best time to visit Taman Negara
is between March and September. There are numerous canopy and
trekking tours offered but it is ideal to avoid the tours and do
your own thing to really experience this jungle world. It is easy
to self-guide in Taman Negara. Hiking the main path across the park
takes about three days and there are wooden refuges to camp in at
night to keep you safe. The jungle sounds at night are incredibly
special, if a bit unnerving for the uninitiated. There are several
luxury lodges within the reserve, but budget accommodation can be
found on the outskirts.
Melaka (Historic City)
Address: Kuala Lumpur
Telephone: +60 (0)6 233 3333 or (0)6 281 4803 or (0)6 293 3913 (tourist information)
The fascinating seaside city of Melaka (Malacca) preserves the
historic convergence of Chinese and European cultures. Its
strategic position on the Straits of Melaka brought a tide of trade
with China, India, Siam and Indonesia. Colonial powers wrestled for
control, and much of the Portuguese influence from the 1500s is
cemented in its architecture. The most notable cultural presence
today is predominantly Chinese. Chinese merchants continue to ply
their trades in the tradition of their forefathers. Open-air
markets burst with colourful fruit, vegetable and fish produce. The
oldest Chinese temple in Malaysia, Cheng Hoon Teng, together with
the vast Chinese cemetery, support a thriving industry entirely
dedicated to the deceased.
The merging of Chinese and Malay cultures has produced a unique ethnic group found in Melaka, the Baba-Nyonya. The remarkable lifestyle of this micro-culture can be explored in the dedicated Baba-Nyonya Heritage Museum. Jonker Street is an attractive thoroughfare, almost always strung with traditional Chinese lanterns, which often hosts night bazaars and festivities on weekends. Trips on the Malazza River are popular, and there are many historic buildings to explore, including the Stadthuys, which was once the seat of the Dutch administration and now houses a history museum. There are also some interesting ruins on St. Paul's Hill.
Tunku Abdul Rahman National Park
Five pristine islands comprise this 4,929-hectare (12,100 acre)
park. The islands are: Gaya, Mamutik, Manukan, Sapi and Sulug. Each
is an idyllic composition of white beaches and offshore coral reefs
hugging inland forests teeming with animal life. Visitors are
welcome to camp, trek, swim and snorkel around each of these and
they are all incredible destinations.
Gaya Island is the largest of the five; it has been a forest reserve since 1923 which has helped to preserve the dense tropical forest that covers it, traversed by great hiking trails. There is a legendary beach in Police Bay and well-preserved coral reefs for divers and snorkelers. There are two luxury resorts for accommodation.
Manukan Island is the second largest and the most popular with Malaysian locals. There are good beaches on the south coast and the eastern tip of the island, and it is the most developed of the chain with plenty of tourist facilities and fun activities on offer.
Mamutik Island is the smallest, but still has its share of loveliness, with wonderful beaches and coral reefs. There is very limited accommodation but for those few who do stay on the island it is a tranquil and beautiful retreat.
Sapi Island is very popular with foreign tourists and can get quite crowded during the day - it is in demand for its white beaches and the great diving and snorkelling available off its shores. There is accommodation and good tourist facilities but after the last ferry departs in the evening it too becomes tranquil.
Sulug Island is the most pristine and untouched of the chain, and the furthest from the mainland. It is the ideal destination for those seeking peace and quiet. There are good reefs off the south of the island.
This mushroom-shaped island is known among divers around the
world for its unique seascape and exceptional beauty. A rich
variety of marine life shimmers through the translucent waters
surrounding this oceanic island: something like 3,000 species of
fish, hundreds of species of coral, and numerous turtles, rays and
sharks frequent the area. Sipadan Island tops the Malaysian
itinerary for serious scuba divers; it is located in the world's
most bio-diverse marine habitat, and is frequently called the best
dive site on the planet. The famous underwater explorer Jacques
Cousteau described the underwater world of Sipadan as 'an untouched
piece of art'.
In an attempt to keep it untouched, the Malaysian government has taken measures to preserve the fragile ecosystem. The island was a disputed territory, claimed by both Malaysia and Indonesia, until 2002 when it was ruled part of Malaysia. Since then the dive resorts were ordered off the island, the amount of divers allowed in the water per day was limited, and night dives were banned. This means you can't stay on the island itself, but there are popular resorts nearby, like the Sipadan Kapalai Dive Resort and the Sipadan Pom Pom Resort.
Telephone: +60 88 486 430/2
Mount Kinabalu rises from the Kinabalu National Park at an
impressive 13,500-foot (4,101m), the highest mountain between the
white peaks of the Himalayas and those of New Guinea. Despite its
formidable height, it is a comparatively easy climb that has been
enjoyed by tourists of varying ages and fitness levels and takes
two to three days, depending on how you want to tackle it. Most
people spend a night at Laban Rata before mounting the summit -
Laban Rata is actually the name of a big hostel which caters to
hikers, but it is also generally used as the name for the area
where people rest for the night. From the rest camp it is a three
to four hour hike up to the summit; if you want to watch the
sunrise from the top - a magical experience - then you should aim
to leave very early, between 2am and 3am. There is some weird and
wonderful vegetation on the trail ascending the mountain through
the jungle and the views from the top are astounding. Hikers should
be aware that although the summit can be reached without any
special equipment or technical climbing skills, some people may
experience the dizziness and shortness of breath associated with
altitude sickness. Climbing Mount Kinabalu is an extremely
rewarding experience and one of the top activities in Malaysia.
Niah National Park and Niah Caves
Telephone: +60 (0)8 2246 575 / 775
The Great Cave of Niah is one of the largest limestone caves in
the world, and an archaeological treasure house. It was here that
archaeologists discovered the evidence of man's existence dating
back 40,000 years. A display of tools, rock paintings and human
skulls tell the story of ancient civilisations. The rest of the
park is dominated by limestone and lush tropical vegetation, loomed
over by the magnificent Gunung Sabis peak, at 1,294ft (388m). Once
you have paid admission you will be ferried across a small,
crocodile infested river in a motor boat, and then trek for an hour
or two through the jungle to reach the caves. The walk is rewarding
in itself and if you're lucky you'll see some wildlife. The caves
are huge, dark and sometimes smelly (from the habitation of bats
and birds); they bring out one's inner Indiana Jones and exploring
them is exciting. Be prepared for slippery conditions because
although there is a wooden boardwalk it is always wet. It is also a
good idea to bring a flashlight if you want to explore properly.
The Great Cave and the Trader's Cave are currently open to the
public but unfortunately the Painted Cave has been closed since
2012 and it is unclear when it will reopen. You can still find
ancient rock paintings in the area though.
Sepilok Forest Reserve and Orangutan Sanctuary
This vast equatorial rainforest is an enchanting destination
that is best explored through self-guided trails. The most
interesting diversion from these trails is provided by a trip to
the Sepilok Orangutan Sanctuary. Here orangutans that have been
rescued find temporary shelter and rehabilitation before their
re-release into the forest; the centre was set up in 1964 to raise
orphaned baby orangutans. The sanctuary gives tourists and
researchers the priceless opportunity to observe and interact with
the animals in their natural habitat. Visitors are restricted to
the walkways but the orangutans often come over to interact. The
orangutans are fed twice daily on the feeding platform, at 10am and
3pm, and it is a good idea to time your visit to witness this.
Photography is permitted but there is an extra charge to bring in a
Another amazing attraction in the Sepilok Forest Reserve is the Sandakan Rainforest Discovery Centre (RDC), a remarkable place which allows visitors to explore the jungle canopy on a series of raised walkways and platforms. It is an environmental education facility and the canopy tours system is the only one of its kind in Malaysia. For nature lovers - particularly bird watchers and those interested in tropical flora and fauna - this is a must.
Address: Hill Resorts
The holiday retreat of Bukit Larut, known formerly as Maxwell
Hill, is the oldest hill station in Malaysia and is situated seven
miles (12km) from Taiping, at an altitude of 3343 feet (1,019m).
Bukit Larut is located in the wettest part of the country and
receives a lot of rain, but it is also blessedly cool compared to
the lowlands. This peaceful hill station, founded in 1884, has
resisted the sweep of commercialism and the limited accommodation
and lack of development give Bukit Larut an old-world colonial
charm which the more popular and commercial hill stations no longer
have; eight charming little bungalows nestled on the hillside
provide the only holiday accommodation at the station, which
ensures that it can never be overcrowded. The journey to the top of
the hill station is an exhilarating climb, through virgin tropical
jungle, that can only be undertaken by four-wheel drive; private
vehicles are not permitted at the hill station, but there is a Land
Rover at the foot of the hill which makes the trip up regularly
from 7am to 6pm. From the summit, magnificent panoramic views of
the west coast of the Malaysian peninsula, from Penang to Pangkor,
can be enjoyed. Bukit Larut is perhaps the most authentic of the
hill stations and a delightful place to spend time on a Malaysian
Address: Hill Resorts
The holiday destination of Cameron Highlands is the largest hill
resort in Malaysia, located at the northwestern edge of Pahang
state at an altitude of 6,001 feet (1,829m). This fertile region
comprises a series of villages scattered along the main road amid
terraced plantations bursting with vegetable, tea, flower and
strawberry plantations. The colourful Cameron Highlands rose
gardens and Tudor inns share the best of British customs, combining
colonial charm with Malaysian beauty. While on holiday, the scenic
drive along the main route of the Highlands can be taken at a
leisurely pace to include a stop at the Kuala Who Forest Recreation
Park and the Lata Iskandar waterfall.
The pleasure of a holiday in the Cameron Highlands (besides the temperate conditions) is the choice of attractions. While the emphasis is on relaxation, this can be achieved with the inclusion of strolls through Brinchang's market square, pottering around the handicraft stores, or unwinding at the Buddhist Temple. Besides Brinchang, Ringlet and Tanah Rata are quaint towns to explore from Cameron Highlands. Other popular holiday activities in the area include trips to the tea plantations, strawberry farms and waterfalls. Walks are numerous and scenic and can be enjoyed at leisure over a few days. The Cameron Highlands' 18-hole, par-71 golf course is open to the public.
Address: Hill Resorts
Louis James Fraser was a controversial, solitary figure who
arrived at the seven hills that have come to be known collectively
as Fraser's Hill and set up camp on one of the cool, lush summits.
The Scottish pioneer disappeared under mysterious circumstances
before the area's potential as a hill station was recognised but
others followed him to investigate the site and found it perfect
for a highland retreat. Fraser's Hill rests at 5,000 feet (1,524m)
above sea level, within the state of Pahang, and is north of the
Genting Highlands. The hill station is only about two hours' drive
from Kuala Lumpur.
Fraser's Hill is a peaceful and cool place, a preferred holiday destination for bird enthusiasts and nature lovers. Jungle trails, waterfalls and colourful nurseries nestle peacefully in the landscape and are complemented by golf and horse-riding activities. There are extensive hiking trails in the area, and these are a big draw for those who want to explore unspoiled jungle. The scenic route from the base of the station twists and turns along a 22-mile (35km) stretch. Holiday accommodation is provided by a range of hotels, chalets and colonial bungalows. Although Fraser's Hill has been developed for tourism there are now regulations in place to ensure the jungle is protected from further development and remains as magnificent as it is.
Address: Hill Resorts
The Genting Highlands holiday resort, often called Resorts World
Genting, has none of the colonial old world atmosphere of the other
hill stations. Its main purpose is to entertain Kuala Lumpur's more
affluent citizens. To this end, the Genting Highlands resort offers
the only legal, land-based casino in Malaysia, a cable car, a
four-hectare (10-acre) artificial lake, a number of hotels, a
handful of fun theme parks (indoor, outdoor and water park), a
horse ranch, and a golf course. The hill resort is less than one
hour's drive from Kuala Lumpur, or can be reached by a trip in the
cable car, the Genting Skyway, which was the fastest and longest
gondola lift in Southeast Asia when it was built. Little of the
dense virgin rainforest that once covered the area survives and the
Genting Highlands, affectionately known as the 'Fun City Above the
Cloud' is a modern playground with no hint of the quaint
colonialism or natural splendour normally associated with hill
stations. However, the resort does still offer a welcome respite
from the humidity, standing at 6,562 feet (2,000m) above sea level.
Most Malaysians flock here on holiday to enjoy the vibrant
nightlife of dinner shows, discos and gambling.
Langkawi is the collective name for a group of 104 tropical
islands located 20 miles (30km) off the northwestern tip of the
peninsula. Pulau Langkawi is the largest and most developed island
that draws holiday visitors to its duty-free shores. Much of the
island's prolific development has been focused in the town of Kuah,
also the embarkation point for visitors travelling by ferry, and
there are plenty of shops and modern amenities to be enjoyed.
However, most visitors on holiday in Pulau Langkawi leave the shops behind in favour of the stunning mountainous interiors, limestone outcrops, waterfalls, hot springs and pristine beaches. The best of these beaches, Pantai Kok, lies reclusively on the island's western side, a short distance from the spectacular Telaga Tujuh Falls.
Pulau Langkawi's mystique would be incomplete without a legend. The story relates that a Malay princess was wrongfully accused of adultery and sentenced to death; her dying words laid a curse on the island. Her tomb and the associated Padang Masirat ('the field of burnt rice') can be found a few miles west of Kuah. There is no indication, however, that this beautiful place is suffering under a curse!
Langkawi is easily accessible by boat or air, although during monsoon season the ferry crossings may cease.
The popular Malaysian holiday destination of the Perhentian
Islands (Pulau Perhentian) is made up of two islands, Perhentian
Kecil (Small Island) and Perhentian Besar (Big Island), which are
situated about 12 miles (20km) off the northeast coast of the
Malaysian Peninsula. Known as a hippie getaway, the Perhentians are
a backpacker's paradise. The fishermen double as tour guides, and
simple beach bars spill out onto the pristine shore. There is more
high-end accommodation available, but the islands have become
iconic on the budget traveller's Malaysia itinerary.
The islands are located within the Terengganu Marine Park and offer a largely undeveloped tropical paradise with stretches of white sand, wildlife, and nearby coral reefs. Diving and snorkelling trips around the islands are offered and the water is so clean and clear that you can snorkel off the beach. Perhentian Besar offers more upmarket accommodation than its neighbour. Three Coves Bay, on the north coast, is the best place to watch turtles between May and September.
The islands can be reached from the town of Kuala Besut; taxi boats shuttle visitors between the two islands. Note that the east coast monsoon often renders the islands inaccessible between November and January.
Tioman (known locally as Pulau Tioman) is a magnificent,
ecologically rich and picturesque island. The 24 mile (39km)
stretch of land shelters dense jungles flourishing between mountain
peaks. Descriptive appellations, like Dragon-Horn Hill and Lizard
Village, are inspired by the tropical charm of the island and its
legendary namesake, a fairy-tale dragon princess.
Tioman Island was aptly chosen as the location for the mythical Bali Hai in the film South Pacific. Pristine beaches hug the island's perimeter, lapped by the clear water that reveals luminous coral reefs and abundant marine life. The settlements of the island comprise a handful of villages located around the coast, while the hilly inland area is virgin forest, best explored along the famous Cross-Island walk. While on holiday on Tioman, scuba diving and snorkelling equipment can be hired, and PADI diving courses are offered in Salang and Air Batang.
June to August is high-season on Tioman; November to January is monsoon season (the island is almost deserted over this period). There are daily flights to Tioman Island from Singapore and Kuala Lumpur. The main departure point for boats is from the coastal town of Mersing, with the journey taking one to two hours. There is also a daily high-speed catamaran service between Singapore and Tioman - a four and a half hour trip.
A mountainous island with an interesting and somewhat
tempestuous past, Pulau Pangkor welcomes visitors to its beautiful
beaches and resorts. Now with a population of approximately 25,000,
the island was once a hideout for pirates and the chosen location
for a Dutch fort constructed to assert trade dominance in the
region. The Dutch, however, were not in charge for long, with local
leaders allying with the British to force them out.
Thankfully the days of colonisation and violence are long gone and guests now find the island an ideal spot for relaxation. Pulau Pangkor proudly promotes eco-tourism and the island is home to an impressive variety of wildlife as well as lovely scenery. The tourist infrastructure is very good, with a variety of accommodation available and lots to keep visitors entertained. The beaches are easily accessible and favourites include Pasir Bogak, Teluk Nipah and Coral Beach. Those looking to delve into some island history can enjoy attractions such as the Fu Ling Kong temple, an ancient Chinese temple; Tiger Rock, a granite boulder bearing the etchings of a tiger dating back to 1743; and the Dutch Fort. There are also tombs to be explored and exciting treks up Tortoise Hill for the adventurous.
Known for its spectacular beaches, unspoiled forest and striking animal and marine life, as well as its agreeable climate, Pulau Pangkor is a wonderful Malaysian retreat.
Address: Central Market, China Town Kuala Lumpur
Food Type: Asian
With Chinese Malay Kampung architecture and a stylish and clean
interior dotted with antique furniture, Bon Ton is one of Kuala
Lumpur's most popular eateries and has a stylish yet laid-back
atmosphere. Bon Ton used to be located in the Lot 10 shopping mall,
but in early 2013 it moved to Central Market in China Town. Once
you've tried the sesame crusted salmon fillet with roasted mashed
potato and cream of chilli cilantro, there's no turning back. Open
daily for lunch and dinner. Reservations recommended.
Address: 215 Jalan Tun Razak Kuala Lumpur
Food Type: Indian
Specialising in North Indian cuisine, Bombay Palace is one of
Kuala Lumpur's most popular restaurants and sees hundreds of locals
and tourists dining here each week. With majestic décor fit for a
king, Bombay Palace delivers. Try the Lamb Vindaloo if you can
handle the heat or for dessert try the Dil Bahar or Pista Barfi.
Open daily for lunch and dinner. Reservations recommended.
Address: 31 Jalan Berangan, Changkat Bukit Bintang Kuala Lumpur
Food Type: British
This award-winning restaurant is the perfect sanctuary for
British or European tourists and expats yearning for a taste of
good food from home. The menu is wonderful, with classic meat and
seafood dishes, like steak and Guinness pie and slow-roasted pork
belly. Albion serves breakfast, lunch and supper and even yummy
things in between. Reservations recommended.
Address: 92 Jalan Petaling, Kuala Lumpur Kuala Lumpur
Food Type: Middle Eastern
This Arabian gem, slightly incongruous in the middle of Kuala
Lumpur's Chinatown, is a popular option, especially with
vegetarians. The service is renowned for its friendliness and
traditional staples like hummus and falafel feature strongly in the
menu. Carnivores won't be disappointed either! The restaurant is
open for lunch and supper daily.
The hospitals in Kuala Lumpur and other major Malaysian cities are of a high standard but medical facilities may be lacking in rural areas. Comprehensive medical insurance is recommended.