Jungle trekking, scuba diving on the reefs, turtles’ sanctuaries and crazy nights. Visit Malaysia, a paradise for adventurers of all kinds.
The legendary Labuan
The pearl of Labuan has become a legendary epithet thanks to Emilio Salgari’s novels, being the nickname of Sandokan’s lover, Lady Marianna Guillonk. Today, this island surely remains a real pearl, being a free port and a landmark for diving experts. And for those who prefer to observe aquatic nature while remaining dry, the Labuan Marine Museum is the place to be.
Speaking of immersions, Semporna’s archipelago is probably the place that resembles the most a diver’s heaven. Solitary atolls, the whitest sand you’ll ever see and a see bed as diverse as you wish for.
The most reckless travellers will find the perfect accommodation at the Seaventures Dive Resort, an ex-oil rig turned into one of the most isolated and fascinating lodgings in the world.
Kota Kinabalu: the reef and the mangrove
Kota Kinabalu connects the needs of the adventurers with those of the culture junkies. Its picturesque City Mosque and swarming markets will let you take a deep glimpse to the Malaysian lifestyle, while its closeness to the Tunku Abdul Rahman National Park and to Mount Kinabulu makes it the perfect starting point for both maritime and wildlife expeditions.
Tunku Abdul Rahman National Park
Swim over the most colourful reefs in Malaysia and wait for the last tourist ferry to leave: that’s when you’ll get the best from these 5 islands archipelago, with simple commodities that are still quite in harmony with the unspoilt environment. Gaya is surely the most technologically advanced of the islands, while Manukan is the most popular among the residents. Mamutik and Sapi make some good choices for scuba diving and snorkelling, while Sulug remains a wild and untouched paradise.
Park Kinabulu and the hiking trails
Prepare for a hike on the border between fantasy and reality. Extending around the namesake mountain, Park Kinabulu hosts some of the most phantasmagoric environments you’ll ever see on Earth. Close encounters with macaques? You can bet on that. Carnivorous plants and ginormous orchids? Yep, it’s full of those. Mythological creatures? Well, are red leeches and giant earthworms enough?
And if all this has left you exhausted with surprise, don’t miss a relaxing break at Poring Hot Springs, with its rejuvenating baths and perfectly harmless butterfly farm.
The multicultural Penang Island
After all this wildlife, it’s maybe time to get back to civilization. Penang Island will let you relive the grandeur of the colonial era, as it is full of buildings and architectures that underline the mixture between the Western culture and the incredibly variegated Indonesian world. As an example, in the capital city, George Town can be found the colonial Fort Cornwallis, the Chinese temple Khoo Kongsi, the Kapitan Keling Mosque, the Buddhist temple of Kek Lok Si and the Hindu temple of Sri Mahamariamman.
Ipoh’s Dim Sum
Hiking, swimming, discovering: there’s no doubt you’ll get very hungry at some point. Then head to Ipoh, where you’ll get the chance to try one of the fastest growing food trends in Asia and all over the world: dim sum. A culinary tradition that has always existed to accompany tea, dim sum has now been extended to every hour of the day, with its tasty small portions making the perfect choice for a varied meal or snack. Some of the dim sum’s evergreen choices include steamed dumplings with various fillings, the pan-fried turnip cake, spring rolls, the bao (steamed or baked pork-stuffed buns), rolled rice noodles and the tofu pudding. Try them at Restoran Foh San and remember to arrive early: the place gets packed in a blink of an eye.
Kuching and the most expensive fish in Malaysia
From an affordable meal choice to its complete opposite. If you’re looking for a thrilling culinary adventure (for your palate and for your wallet), visit the Hoi Tin Lau Restaurant in Kuching. There you’ll have the chance to savour the most expensive edible fish in Malaysia: the Empurau. This freshwaters inhabitant apparently owes its great taste to its peculiar diet, made of the remains of a wild fruit called buah kabon that it feeds upon while scavenging the river’s bottom. Also referred to as Wang bu liao, The Unforgettable (!), this rare delicacy is sold for the immodest amount of $500/kg. Surely an experience that you’ll never forget.
Walk on air in Langkawi
An experience that’s not for the faint of heart. Suspended at 600m above sea level, Langkawi Sky Bridge is a construction that gives a completely new meaning to the expression “walking on air”. Accessible via the Langkawi Cable Car and then through an inclined elevator called the SkyGlide, this 125-metres long bridge will let your gaze cover almost all the surface of the island and the nearby atolls, all while walking the distance between two hilltops at Gunung Mat Chinchang. And if you’re brave enough, you may also look down one of the many glass tiles that punctuate the bridge, feeling as if you were flying above the jungle.
Johor Bahru’s wild nights
Even if surrounded by natural beauty, Malaysian people surely know how to party. Johor Bahru has recently become a hot spot for frenzy nightlife, thanks to its ever-warm climate and to its fun options’ variety. Danga Bay’s theme park is a good start for cocktails and games, while the night market in Pasar Malam makes the perfect choice for a late night snack or shopping spree. Karaoke is pretty big around here, and you can test your vocal chords at T.A.M. Disc Laser Karaoke Lounge. Or maybe are you into some serious clubbing? The Zon Regency Hotel Club has always the right vibe.
Volunteer at Juara Turtle Project
On the island of Tioman resides one of the most important turtle research and conservation centre in Malaysia. Volunteers for the Juara Turtle Project are well accepted all year round, and especially in turtle season, from mid-March to October. Expect an unconventional holiday made of nestling patrols, hatchlings releasing and many, many walks on the seaside.
Treat yourself to a luxury stay on the private island of Pangkor Laut
The Pangkor Laut Resort may be the paradigm for an exotic, luxury stay. Villas equipped with the most contemporary comforts are encrusted into the wild jungle, with verandas to watch over your green and blue dominion. The Sea Villas stand high above the water on graceful pillars, surrounded by the vastness of the Ocean. Morning yoga, jungle trekking and fishing trips are a plus.
Cameron Highlands’ tea plantations
Tidy green hills that deeply contrast with the powerful mess of the jungle. Cameron Highlands is a vast portion of Pahang island that has been converted to a massive tea plantation. Book a tour with Eco Cameron to discover its hidden secrets and taste the local hot specialities, topped by a visit to the local fauna museum.
A pilgrimage to the sacred Batu Caves
A place whose spirituality is only matched by its magnificence. The limestone Batu Caves are said to be around 400 million years old, and they have been regarded as an important Hindu shrine since the second half of the XIX centuries. The natural beauty of their rock formations is glorified by the human constructions that adorn them. You won’t help but be struck by the majesty of the 272 steps to reach the Temple Cave and by the grandeur of the 42.7-metre high, gold statue of Lord Murugan standing right before the entrance.
Crazy shopping in Kuala Lumpur
Kuala Lumpur has recently imposed itself on the global attention as a new hub of the modern world. With its skyline dominated by the Petronas Towers, this megalopolis is a frenzy confluence of contemporaneity and evergreen traditions. Having a round of shopping here means going from the traditional street markets of Petaling Street and Chow Kit, full of typical Malay garments such as sarong, baju kurung, and songkok, to the luxury malls that punctuate the trendiest districts. Some notable examples: the Suria KLCC, right on the base of the Petronas Towers, The Garden and its high-brands-only policy, and the Berjaya Times Square, complete with an IMAX theatre and a Spa centre.