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Top Destinations for 2015: Malaysia

30th April 2015
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Malaysia: a haven for everyone from scuba-divers, jungle explorers, rock-climbers and all-round adventure junkies to those who want to spend their days wandering through local markets, soaking up thousands of years of history in temples, and relaxing on isolated white-sand beaches.

The country, which includes part of orang-utan spotting heartland Borneo, is home to three of Asia’s oldest civilisations (Chinese, Indian and Malay), is over-run with UNESCO World Heritage sites, boasts 500 million-year-old tropical islands, and even has the world’s longest canopy walkway – if your head for heights can handle it.

Split across two landmasses that are separated by the mystery-shrouded South China Sea, Malaysia is sandwiched between the many islands of neighbouring Indonesia – a location that puts it right in the tropical heart of South East Asia. 

If you think Malaysia sounds like a paradise, you’re probably right – and with 2015 being the Malaysian Year of Festivals, we thought it’d be a good time to include it as one of our Top Destinations. Come and join us to find out why...

Where to go

Kuala Lumpa

It’s almost certain that you’ll fly into Malaysia’s capital city, and the bright lights of KL will serve as an exciting introduction to the country. Visit the Viewing Deck of the Petronas Twin Towers (the world’s highest twin structure) for a panoramic view of the city, before crossing the skybridge – similarly, the highest two-storey bridge on the planet. Later, immerse yourself in local culture in Chinatown and Little India. Make sure you check out the Art Deco Central Market for a world of Malaysian food, art and local souvenirs.

Sabah/Sarawak

Across the South China Sea from KL, Malaysia’s eastern landmass (which it shares with Indonesia, taking the northern coast) is home to the states of Sabah (in the north) and Sarawak (in the south). Both boast national parks, treetop canopies and scuba-diving opportunities galore. The island as a whole is one that you might have heard of - Borneo, anyone?

Islands

There are almost 900 islands in Malaysia, as well as over 500 offshore “geographical features” – including rocks, ridges and sandbanks – which can make choosing where to visit a mammoth task. For rough guidance, though, we’d recommend heading to the largest and most tourist-friendly, especially if you’re on your first visit to Malaysia. Borneo (which is shared with Brunei and Indonesia), is the third largest island in the world, whilst Penang and Langkawi are also firm favourites with those sampling their first taste of Malaysia.

What to do

Embrace the Year of Festivals

2015 is Malaysia Year of Festivals, an umbrella that spans everything from religion to food to kite-flying. Festivals that have jumped out at us are Magic of the Night 2015 (May, Putrajaya), Festival Tari Malaysia (Malaysian Dance Festival, June, KL), Sunset Music Fest (June, Sabah), Rainforest Music Festival (June, Sarawak) and George Town Festival (a celebration of art, music, theatre, dance and film, August, Penang).

Visit multimillion year old national parks

It’s difficult to get your head around how old Malaysia’s rainforests really are – so it’s probably best not to try. Instead, let yourself be overawed by the breathtaking sites of 130 million-year-old Taman Negara National Park at Pahang, 250 km north east of KL, which is home to a 45m canopy walkway that is the longest in the world, as well as numerous opportunities for mountain climbing, canoeing and trekking. Once you’re exhausted from the day’s adventures, curl up for the night in an observation deck as the National Park’s inhabitants obliviously carry on their business around you. Jungle exploration at its very best.

It’s not all about Taman Negara, though – you’ll also find a canopy skywalk at Mulu National Park in Sarawak, but this time it’ll guide you through the UNESCO-listed largest cave chamber on the planet – which boasts its own nature trails and is big enough to store 40 Beoing 747s.

Embrace the far-reaching history

The history of Malaysia manifests itself in both the ancient temples and the even older surrounding landscape. For a taste of the former, climb the 272 steps in the Temple Cave in Selangor, just outside of KL. You’ll be greeted at the entrance to the caves by an imposing 140-foot statue of the Tamil god of war Lord Muruga, who, Hindu devotees can be laying offerings to during the festival of Thaipusam.

For geographical history, meanwhile, Langkawi island, in the Malacca Strait, boasts 99 tropical islands that are swathed in an eye-watering 500 million years of history. 

Diving in the world’s best waters

One of the best diving sites in the world is Sipadan Island, in Sabah. If you dare, brave one of the most terrifying under-the-sea spots that you can imagine – where knee-high shallows immediately giver way to a 600-foot drop.

Also in Sabah is Tunku Abdul Rahman Marine Park (named after the country’s first Prime Minister), Malaysia’s second national park, where you can snorkel, dive, swim, jet-ski and parasail in clear turquoise waters.

From here, you can start your island-hopping adventure...

Hop across 900 Malaysian islands

Clearly, there’s a lot to choose from here – and whilst the bigger islands of Borneo and Penang will serve as a good introduction to the country, you can really start to explore if you head to the smaller enclaves. Tioman Island, in Pahang, for example,. Is one of the world’s best beach destinations, and is framed by mountains and volcanoes. Trek through jungles, stop off in local villages, rock-climb and dive in the shallows. Paradise. On . Earth.

See our full list of top destinations for 2015 here.




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