So it’s going to be a few months until I start writing about my travel experiences on the road. In the meantime however, I thought I’d write about a travel destination I have some experience in – I’m throwing in my two cents on why YOU should visit my homeland of Malaysia.
Top 10 Reasons to Visit Malaysia
1. The weather is hot all year round
There is no spring, summer, autumn or winter. Every day is a sunny day. The temperature stays pretty much constant all year round, that is to say, hot! The rain, when it does come (more so in the monsoon season during November to March) is refreshing and cooling, so it is actually a welcomed occurrence.
2. You get to experience three cultures (and more) in one country
You may have noticed the “Truly Asia” tag in the title of this post. This was coined by the tourism ministry of Malaysia to highlight the multiculturalism of the country (there’s even a song to go with it! See the bottom of the post). Visit Malaysia and you will find yourself immersed in not only Malay culture, but also those of the Chinese, Indian and a number of other ethnic minority groups, particularly in East Malaysia (on Borneo island). It’s a three in one offer! You will also see how British (and to a lesser extent, Portuguese / Dutch) colonialism has played its part in Malaysia’s history.
3. Easy for English-speaking tourists to get by
Malaysia is a well-worn travel path. Whilst not everyone in Malaysia speaks perfect English, most are able to understand and communicate enough English to help tourists get by. If that doesn’t work, Malay (the national language) is a pretty easy language to pick up and use. Written Malay uses the same letters as the written English language and pronunciation is straightforward (mostly said the same way it’s spelled). Colloquial Malay also borrows a lot of English words so it’s quite easy to use context to figure out what the locals are saying a lot of the time.
Check out: the Malay alphabet
4. Sipadan: one of the top diving spots in the world
Sipadan is an island that lies south of Semporna, a town in Sabah which lies in East Malaysia (on Borneo Island). Its location in waters of huge marine biodiversity makes it an amazing spot to go diving. In particular, it is well known for the large numbers of green and hawksbill turtles, as well as schooling barracuda and big eye trevally.
It is especially heartening to know that the Malaysian government seems committed to protecting this site, which had meant that the numbers of dives by all visitors are capped daily (divers need a license to dive), there is no night diving allowed and no dive resorts are permitted on the island.
Check out: CNN writeup on Sipadan complete with amazing photos
5. Taman Negara: the world’s oldest tropical rainforest
Encompassing three states in Malaysia, Taman Negara (literally translated into English as “National Park”) covers a total area of 4,343 km². Main activities here include trekking, canopy walking (longest of its type in the world), swimming, night walks, fishing, cave exploration and visiting the Orang Asli (Batek and Semokberi) people in their villages. One for the outdoor and wildlife enthusiasts for sure.
6. Petronas Twin Towers: world’s tallest twin towers
It was the tallest building in the world, from 1998 to 2004, after which it was overtaken by the Taipei 101. So Malaysians found a new title for it – the world’s tallest twin towers. Its place in history as a true icon of Kuala Lumpur was sealed when it made its breakthrough Hollywood appearance in Entrapment, with Sean Connery and Catherine Zeta-Jones. The main attractions are the tour of the skybridge and the observation deck, both of which you will require tickets for.
7. Mulu Caves: world’s largest cave chambers
The Mulu Caves are located in the Gunung Mulu National Park in East Malaysia. The Sarawak Chamber that is found within the Mulu Cave system is the world’s largest cave chamber in the world (apparently so large that you can fit around 40 Boeing 747 planes without their wings overlapping). Other sights to behold are the limestone karst formations both below and above ground, as well as the daily bat exodus.
8. Gorgeous islands and beaches
There are a number of tropical islands to choose from in Malaysia, depending on the type of vibe you’re after. Visit the most well-known Malaysian island, Pulau Langkawi, for a luxurious beach holiday. Pulau Perhentian is one for the backpackers, with a more chilled out and less made up experience. Then there’s Penang (for food), Pangkor (for accessibility and hanging with the locals), Sipadan (for diving), Tioman (for wildlife)…and the list goes on.
9. Great mix of modern and traditional life
What I love about Malaysia is that you can pretty much make whatever holiday it is that you’re after. Modern mixes well with the traditional. From modern city life (bars, clubs and more shopping malls in a square mile than you would ever need) to cultural attractions (Sarawak Cultural Village, Batu Caves, mosques), relaxing beach and island holidays (see above) to heart pumping outdoor adventures (climbing Mount Kinabalu, exploring the Kinabatangan River and trekking through Taman Negara, to name a few).
10. The food!
And then there’s the food, an adventure in itself. Local and low-key is the way to go – hawker and street food is readily available, whilst being cheap and delicious. Malaysian food is a reflection of the mix of the 3 main ethnic groups, which means there is a huge range of food dishes and drinks to try. And then there are the tropical fruits – rambutans, mangosteens, cikus, mangoes, coconuts and of course the king of them all, the durian. What’s not to love? Visitors I bring to Malaysia are often shocked at how often Malaysians eat. I ask why they are so surprised when everything tastes so good! 😉
There’s a new government campaign out encouraging tourists to Visit Malaysia in 2014. I saw go for it! If you have any comments or questions, I’d love to hear from you!