Malaysia Made Easy

By | Category: Travel destinations, Travel tips & opinions

An extensive travel guide of what to do and what to see for your next visit to Malaysia!

With AirAsia X offering a recession busting £99 fare from London to Kuala Lumpur, it’s time to make Malaysia your ticket to ride…

Why go

First up there’s the weather. Malaysia is blue skied, sunbathing hot – perfect for pasty, sun starved Brits. Next up there’s Malaysia’s incredible physical assets; from the modern metropolis that is the capital, KL, to historic cities like Penang, sun drenched beaches, idyllic islands, ancient temples, verdant national parks, steamy jungles and magnificent rainforests – it’s all here. Then there’s the first class food… junk the diet and prime your stomach for one hell of a feast as all kinds of cuisine is available from local Malay and Nonya dishes in the hawker centres to haute cuisine in the high end hotels. Throw into the mix a diverse cultural heritage – the region is home to a fascinating mix of Malay, Chinese and Indian people – and few places can match what Malaysia has to offer.

What more could you ask for from a holiday destination? Bargain basement prices? Well since you ask, there’s that too. Not only is travelling to Malaysia now blissfully affordable, but once there you’ll find that fine dining, luxury hotels and exciting adventure comes at a fraction of the cost of similar services in the UK. Yet arguably it’s the Malaysians themselves that are the country’s own best advert; gregarious locals have a way of reaching out to you and it’s this that makes the place so special.

By now, the likelihood is that you’ll have booked your flight (with return flights costing on average £150 it’s a no brainer) and will be wondering exactly where to go and what to do. Fret not; we’ve done the legwork for you. Start off in the chaotic capital, Kuala Lumpur, where the ancient melds with the modern, before pushing onto Penang. The ‘Pearl of the Orient’ has been beguiling visitors since the early 19th century owing to its domed mosques, temples, bazaars and other pre World War Two buildings. When you’ve had your fill of culture, catch a boat to the beautiful beaches of Langkawi – the perfect place to chill out and do nothing. Follow our itinerary below and you can suss out the best of the west in a week.

Kuala Lumpur

Must see and do

A trip to the Twin Towers – the architectural feat that has captured worldwide attention – should be on every itinerary. Towering 451.9m into the skyline, the 88 story towers blends western modernism with Islamic features and was the world’s tallest freestanding twin structures until Taipei 101 took the title in 2004. Chinatown is a lively place to stroll overflowing with food sellers and souvenir shops. When you’ve had enough of urban activity, relax in the lovely Lake Gardens – the highlight of which is the Bird Park.

Best bites

KL is home to a cornucopia of great eateries, but if it’s authenticity you’re after, head for a hawker centre – a ubiquitous part of the food landscape. Tasty treats to try include nasi lemak (a classic Malaysian dish consisting of coconut milk, cooked rice, a clear soup, hard boiled egg, cucumber slices, a plethora of peanuts, fried anchovies and curry).

Top shops

If there’s something KL residents love more than food, it’s shopping. The Malaysian capital is truly a shopaholic’s paradise offering everything from colourful night markets (try Jala Petaling) to colossal centres that more than give Westfield a run for its money. If your wallet is well stocked, seek out Suria KLCC or Starhill Gallery. A better bet for those who don’t boast the budget of a footballer’s wife, are BB and Sungei Wang Plaza; these two could keep you contented for hours.

Penang

Must see and do

Steeped in history and heritage, Penang’s capital – Georgetown – is the island’s main draw. Usual must see sights include the grand colonial buildings found around Fort Cornwallis, and the historic Eastern and Oriental Hotel; Noel Coward, Rudyard Kipling and Somerset Maugham were all regular guests. Of course no visit to Georgetown is complete without riding a rickshaw around Penang’s historical heart: Chinatown. There’s plenty of interest in this area (Penang is the only one of Malaysia’s 13 states where the majority of the population are Chinese) at any time of day, from well preserved Chinese temples to colourful markets, copious tea and coffee shops and lively street parades. Beyond the capital, you can always relax and recharge on the beach at Batu Ferringhi or get back to nature at Penang National Park, the newest – and at just 2300ha – smallest park in Malaysia.

Best bites

Whatever you do, arrive in Penang with a large appetite as the food scene here is legendary. Lebuh Cintra, which cuts through Chinatown, is choc full of foodstalls. Pile your plate high with street nosh like Laksa asam (a fish soup that has a sour tang), and then sit and feast with friendly locals who dispense smiles as though they were going out of fashion.

Top shops

The night market in Batu Ferringhi gets our vote. Temptation abounds and it’s impossible to wander around without returning to your hotel room laden down with the latest DVDs and copies of brand name bags et al. There are also a few galleries showcasing crafts such as wood carving, weaving and batik making.

Langkawi

Must see and do

Legendary Langkawi is the lynch pin of Malaysia’s tourism, and for good reason. Sure, it isn’t the place for schlepping around historical buildings, museums and galleries, but if you want to laze on sand the colour of icing sugar and swim in azure waters, Langkawi won’t disappoint. While it’s the beaches that unite most visitors, the island isn’t all about sun and sand. Hop on a cable car for a spectacular ride upto the top of the imposing Gunung Machinchang or hike through the rainforest at Telaga Tujuh. Over at Oriental Village, you’ll find plenty of props and costumes from the 1999 film Anna and the King starring Jodie Foster – several scenes were shot here.

Best bites

Champor Champor opposite the Malibest Resort serves up innovative dishes like banana and coconut crusted calamari alongside creamy curries. The setting is great too – wafts of incense fill the air of the twinkly garden grotto. Other eateries to indulge at are the Padi Cuisine &Café – a photogenic restaurant that looks out onto the rice fields – and the Red Tomato Garden café which serves up hearty yet healthy breakfasts.

Top shops

Lankawi is heavily promoted as a duty free destination so many Malaysians and foreigners visit solely to stock up on booze. You’ll also find stalls selling beach dresses, jewellery and artefacts made out of coconut shells, but the selection (and quality) isn’t a patch on Penang.

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