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12 Top Things to Do in Malaysia

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Malaysia, a captivating Southeast Asian gem, beckons travelers with an array of experiences that seamlessly blend diverse cultures, breathtaking natural landscapes, and culinary delights. From bustling cities to pristine beaches and lush rainforests, this vibrant country offers a tapestry of adventures for every kind of traveler. Here, we present a curated list of the 12 top things to do in Malaysia, ensuring a remarkable journey filled with memorable moments.

1. Discover the Iconic Petronas Twin Towers in Kuala Lumpur

The Petronas Twin Towers, completed in 1998, represent Malaysia’s modernity and growth, soaring to a remarkable height of 451.9 meters, making them the world’s tallest twin towers. Designed by Argentine architect Cesar Pelli, they draw inspiration from Islamic geometric patterns. These twin marvels boast 88 floors each and are linked by a two-story sky bridge at levels 41 and 42.

A visit to the Petronas Twin Towers is a must for anyone in Kuala Lumpur. You can marvel at their stunning architecture from below or on the sky bridge, which provides an awe-inspiring cityscape view. Additionally, you can snap photos with this iconic landmark, explore the 86th-floor observation deck for panoramic vistas, and explore amenities like a shopping mall, art gallery, concert hall, and science museum within the towers.

Good to know:

  • The Petronas Twin Towersopen daily between 9 am and 9 pm (closed on Mondays and closed for Friday prayer between 1 pm and 2.30 pm).
  • The ticket price is RM85 for adults, RM35 for children, and RM65 for senior citizens13.
  • Purchase tickets for the sky bridge and 86th-floor observation deck either online or at the concourse level, but act quickly as they sell out fast, making advance booking or early arrival recommended.
Kuala Lumpur Petronas Twin Towers
Petronas Twin Towers

2. Exploring the Mystical Beauty of Batu Caves

The Batu Caves, situated approximately 13 kilometers north of Kuala Lumpur, hold a special place in the hearts of Malaysian Hindus. Comprising three primary caves and several smaller ones, these limestone formations boast a history dating back over 400 million years.

The focal point of the Batu Caves is the Temple Cave, an ornate cavern reached by climbing 272 steps, guarded by a towering 42.7-meter-tall golden statue of Lord Murugan, the Hindu god of war and victory. Inside, it captivates with Hindu shrines, statues, and paintings depicting mythology and culture, all illuminated by natural light and vibrant decor for a truly mystical experience. Below, the Dark Cave, a natural reserve teeming with wildlife like bats, spiders, snakes, and insects, offers guided tours explaining its ecology and history, while adventure tours involve thrilling journeys through narrow passages in a dark and humid environment, so be ready to get dirty and wet.

Good to know:

  • The caves are open daily from 6 am to 9 pm, with free entry to the Temple Cave, while the Dark Cave tour has a varying fee based on the chosen type.
  • Be cautious of the wild monkeys at the Batu Caves; they may snatch your belongings or act aggressively if provoked, so maintain distance and avoid feeding or touching them.
  • Special occasions like Thaipusam and Deepavali attract numerous devotees for rituals and ceremonies, making them ideal times to visit.
Malaysia Batu Caves
Batu Caves

3. Enjoy a Relaxing Retreat in the Cameron Highlands

If you’re seeking a cool and picturesque retreat from Malaysia’s warmth, consider the Cameron Highlands. Situated approximately 200 kilometers north of Kuala Lumpur, this hill station boasts an average elevation of 1,500 meters above sea level, offering year-round pleasant weather ideal for cultivating tea, strawberries, and more. The region is also a melting pot of diverse cultures, with Malays, Chinese, Indians, and indigenous Orang Asli communities contributing to its rich tapestry.

Some top things to do in Cameron Highlands include:

  • Explore the Cameron Highlands’ famous tea plantations, including BOH Tea Plantation, Cameron Valley Tea House, and Bharat Tea Plantation, to learn about tea production amidst scenic views.
  • Enjoy strawberry picking at farms like Big Red Strawberry Farm, Kok Lim Strawberry Farm, and Raju’s Hill Strawberry Farm, with various strawberry-based delights available.
  • Adventure seekers can trek through lush forests, waterfalls, rivers, and mossy gardens on trails like Trail No. 1 (Gunung Brinchang), Trail No. 4 (Parit Waterfall), Trail No. 6 (Robinson Waterfall), and Trail No. 10 (Mossy Forest). Guided tours offer insights into the region’s history, culture, colonial past, indigenous Orang Asli lifestyles, and local legends.

Good to know:

  • Plan ahead to avoid weekend and holiday crowds in the Cameron Highlands, and check the weather forecast as frequent rain can impact hiking trails and road conditions.
  • Choose your accommodation thoughtfully; Tanah Rata is the most popular and convenient town with numerous amenities, while Brinchang offers a quieter, scenic option closer to tea plantations and the night market. For a more luxurious stay, consider countryside hotels like The Lakehouse or Cameron Highlands Resort.

4. Savor the Best of Penang’s Food Culture

Penang stands out as a culinary haven in Malaysia, offering an array of flavors from diverse cultural backgrounds. Whether you crave spicy, sour, sweet, or savory dishes, Penang promises to delight your taste buds. Here are some handy pointers to embark on a delectable gastronomic journey through Penang:

  • Start with street food delights like Penang char kway teow, Penang rojak, assam laksa, and cendol, found in hawker centers like Gurney Drive, Chulia Street, or New Lane.
  • Explore unique fusion cuisines like Baba Nyonya and Jawi Peranakan, featuring dishes like nasi ulam, otak-otak, ayam masak merah, and mee goreng mamak, available at restaurants like Jawi House Cafe Gallery, Kebaya Dining Room, or Perut Rumah.
  • For insights into Penang’s food culture, visit the Wonderfood Museum, showcasing lifelike replicas of local dishes.
  • Finally, savor sweet treats such as apom balik, tau sar piah, and muah chee, and stay refreshed with fresh fruit juices like nutmeg, calamansi, and coconut water, found at spots like Teochew Chendul Cafe, Him Heang Biscuit Shop, or Joez Coconut.
Malaysia Nyonya Food
Malaysia Nyonya Food

5. Experience the Thrill and Beauty of Langkawi SkyCab and SkyBridge

Langkawi SkyCab and SkyBridge are top attractions on Langkawi Island, offering thrilling adventures and stunning views. The SkyCab is a gondola lift that whisks you from Oriental Village to Gunung Machinchang’s summit in about 15 minutes, spanning approximately 2.2 km and making it Malaysia’s highest cable car ride and the world’s longest free-span mono-cable car.

At the summit’s Top Station, the Langkawi SkyBridge, a curved suspension bridge hanging 780 meters above ground, awaits with two triangular platforms offering sweeping vistas of the island, sea, and even Southern Thailand. Some sections of the bridge have glass flooring for an added thrill, and the design allows for a slight sway in the wind.

Nearby museums and galleries like the Time Tunnel Museum, Mah Meri Art Gallery, and Jim Thompson Tea Room provide insights into Langkawi’s history and culture. At Oriental Village, you can also participate in local traditions and crafts such as batik painting, wood carving, and pottery making.

Mylaysia Langkawi Sky Bridge
Langkawi Sky Bridge

6. Visit Sipadan Island: A Diver’s Paradise with Turtles and More

Sipadan Island is a unique diving destination in the Celebes Sea, surrounded by deep waters and wall reefs. It formed over thousands of years as living corals grew on an extinct volcanic cone. Divers flock to Sipadan for the chance to encounter green and hawksbill turtles, observing their graceful swimming, sandy-bottom resting, and sponge feeding, with lucky divers even witnessing egg-laying on the beach. The island also hides a turtle tomb, an underwater limestone cave housing skeletal remains of lost turtles.

Beyond turtles, Sipadan offers diverse marine life, including sharks, rays, barracuda, trevally, parrotfish, and groupers. With 12 distinct dive sites, each with unique features, highlights include Barracuda Point, known for its famous barracuda tornado and shark sightings; South Point, where deep waters host scalloped hammerhead sharks and whale sharks; and Drop Off, near the jetty, with its colorful corals, sponges, and opportunities for macro photography and turtle, frogfish, and nudibranch sightings.

7. Enjoy Time in Malacca: A Cultural Treasure Trove of Malaysia

Malacca, a state in Malaysia, holds a fascinating history dating back to the 15th century when it thrived as a bustling port and the center of the Malacca Sultanate. The city’s architecture, cuisine, and culture bear the influence of Portuguese, Dutch, and British colonization. Notably, Malacca is renowned for its unique Baba-Nyonya or Peranakan community, which blends Chinese and Malay traditions.

To immerse yourself in Malacca’s vibrant culture, here are some must-visit attractions:

Cheng Hoon Teng Chinese Temple: Malaysia’s oldest functioning temple, built in 1646 by Chinese immigrants practicing Confucianism, Taoism, and Buddhism, boasts intricate carvings, paintings, lanterns, and ancestral tablets.

Jonker Street: Chinatown’s bustling heart offers shops, cafes, restaurants, and a lively night market on Fridays and Saturdays, featuring souvenirs, antiques, handicrafts, live music, and cultural showcases.

Christ Church Melaka: Constructed by the Dutch in 1753, this red church is Malaysia’s oldest Protestant church, featuring an elegant interior with wooden pews, stained glass windows, and a copper Bible replica, along with a historical museum.

Melaka Sultanate Palace: A 15th-century Sultan’s palace replica, offering insights into the Malacca Sultanate’s history and culture through exhibits, dioramas, and models, including royal throne and treasure rooms.

Baba & Nyonya Heritage Museum: Housed in a traditional Peranakan house, this museum displays the Baba-Nyonya community’s lifestyle, customs, furniture, clothing, jewelry, porcelain, and more, providing insights into their cuisine, language, religion, and art.

Malaysia Malacca Christ Church Melaka
Christ Church Melaka

8. Eat at Jalan Alor: A Street Food Paradise in Kuala Lumpur

If you’re in search of a spot to satisfy your taste buds and soak in the local vibes of Kuala Lumpur, look no further than Jalan Alor. Jalan Alor stands out as a renowned street food market, serving up a diverse array of dishes representing various cuisines like Malay, Chinese, Indian, Thai, and more. It’s a treasure trove of affordable delights, offering everything from zesty curries, grilled seafood, fried noodles, dim sum, satay, rojak, and much more.

As you explore the bustling street, you’ll encounter a sensory feast of sights and smells, with chefs preparing dishes right before your eyes. After indulging in signature dishes like BBQ chicken wings and oyster omelette, quench your thirst with fresh fruit juices or the famous teh tarik. As night falls, Jalan Alor comes alive with a vibrant nightlife scene, featuring live music and cultural performances. To delve deeper into its culture, nearby attractions like Bukit Bintang and Changkat Bukit Bintang offer shopping, entertainment, and colonial heritage experiences.

9. Explore Taman Negara National Park - the Oldest Tropical Rainforest in the World

Taman Negara National Park, a natural gem spanning three states in Peninsular Malaysia—Pahang, Kelantan, and Terengganu—is one of the world’s oldest tropical rainforests, over 130 million years old. Covering 4,343 square kilometers, it hosts a rich variety of plant and animal life. A trekking adventure in Taman Negara is an unforgettable experience.

Numerous trails cater to various fitness levels, available time, and interests. Opt for a casual stroll on the boardwalk circuits, or take up the challenge of a strenuous hike to Mount Tahan’s summit, Peninsular Malaysia’s highest peak at 2,187 meters. The journey offers picturesque views of the river, jungle, and wildlife. The world’s longest canopy walkway, elevated at 40 meters, lets you walk amidst the treetops. The Gua Telinga cave system is another attraction, where you can observe limestone formations and bats hanging from the cave ceiling.

Good to know:

  • When trekking in Taman Negara, prepare by obtaining a park entry permit and photography license from the park headquarters in Kuala Tahan.
  • Hiring a local guide is recommended for deep jungle or Mount Tahan excursions.
  • Ensure you have appropriate accommodations near Kuala Tahan and pack sufficient water, food, clothing, and equipment to adapt to the unpredictable weather conditions of rain, heat, and humidity.
Malaysia Taman Negara National Park
Malaysia Taman Negara National Park

10. Discover Kota Bharu - the Royal City and Cultural Hub of Kelantan

Kota Bharu, the capital of Kelantan in northern Peninsular Malaysia, is a city steeped in history and culture. Established in 1844 as the Kelantan Sultanate’s administrative hub, it witnessed significant events like World War II invasions and the birth of the Malayan Communist Party. The city’s heritage is showcased through museums, cultural centers, palaces, and bustling markets, including the female-dominated Pasar Siti Khadijah. Visitors can explore Istana Jahar’s intricate wood carvings, immerse themselves in Kelantanese arts at the Kota Bharu Cultural Centre, and marvel at Southeast Asia’s longest reclining Buddha statue at Wat Photivihan. Additionally, the city is renowned for its batik and songket production, with numerous workshops and shops offering these traditional fabrics. Kota Bharu’s captivating blend of history, culture, and artistry makes it a compelling destination for exploration and discovery.

11. Meet the Orangutans in Sepilok

Orangutans, highly intelligent yet endangered primates native to Borneo and Sumatra’s rainforests, are known for their social, emotional, and cognitive abilities, but they face grave threats like habitat loss, poaching, and human-wildlife conflicts, with only about 100,000 left in the wild. To support their conservation and witness these remarkable animals, visit the Sepilok Orangutan Rehabilitation Centre in Sabah, Malaysia, founded in 1964 as the first official rescue and rehabilitation facility for orphaned orangutans. Located within the expansive Kabili-Sepilok Forest Reserve, covering 4,294 hectares (10,610 acres) of lush rainforest, the center offers care, training, and shelter with the aim of eventually reintroducing orangutans to their natural habitat, where around 60 to 80 of them now live freely.

Good to know:

  • Operating hours: from 9:00 am to 4:00 pm, except on Fridays when it temporarily closes at 11:00 am for prayers.
  • To catch a glimpse of the orangutans in action, the ideal moments are during their feeding sessions scheduled for 10:00 am and 3:00 pm daily.
  • Additionally, you have the opportunity to venture along the reserve’s nature trails, providing an excellent opportunity to discover more of the rainforest’s diverse and vibrant ecosystem.
Borneo Orangutans Islands

12. Enjoy Relaxing Time in Kuching

Kuching, the capital city of Sarawak in Malaysian Borneo, is a charming and lively destination perfect for a relaxing vacation. To make the most of your visit, start by exploring the city’s feline-themed attractions, including the iconic Cat Statue and the Cat Museum, which houses an extensive collection of cat-related items. Delve into Kuching’s rich historical and cultural heritage by visiting landmarks like the Old Courthouse, Fort Margherita, Sarawak Museum, Textile Museum Sarawak, and the city’s Chinese temples. Don’t miss a leisurely stroll along the picturesque Kuching Waterfront for breathtaking views of the Sarawak River and the city skyline.

Nature enthusiasts will find Kuching surrounded by lush greenery and exotic wildlife. Explore nearby national parks and nature reserves such as Bako National Park, Kubah National Park, Semenggoh Wildlife Centre, and Satang Island, or embark on a river cruise or kayaking tour to witness mangroves, dolphins, crocodiles, and fireflies. Lastly, savor the diverse local cuisine, including laksa, kolo mee, sarawak layer cake, and tuak, while also experiencing the vibrant nightlife at Kuching’s bars, pubs, clubs, and karaoke lounges.

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