30 September 2013

What to do in Malaysia

For the tourist, getting information is so much easier in this web-age of ours. In fact, there's probably too much information out there!

Still, it's better having some idea on where to go than just arriving in a foreign country clueless.

I'm not a very adventurous traveler, I like safety and hygiene, am quite scared of illness. So what ever I recommend should be good for most everyone, perhaps a little dull!

I'm a Malaysian, and here's my introductory list of things for you to do in my wonderful country, Malaysia. Also next year, 2014, is Visit Malaysia Year.

Kuala Lumpur

The capital of any country is always the first and major gateway you walk through. Arriving at our international airport, KLIA, you will immediately feel the tropical heat and might be greeted by our routine afternoon showers. Welcome to Malaysia!

Highlights here include the Islamic Arts Museum, the National Mosque, the shopping  streets of Little India and Chinatown, the historic architecture around Independence Square and shopping in the city’s malls in the KL Golden Triangle where you will find Berjaya Times Square (with a theme park inside), Pavillion, Sungai Wang Plaza (bargain paradise) and Suria KLCC (visit the famed Petronas Twin Towers at the same time).


You would have heard that Malaysia is a food paradise, so don't worry about not finding something to eat - take your pick from cheap and flavourful hawker/ street food, air conditioned restaurants or fine dining in hotels. And the type of cuisine? We've got everything!

Other unique things you could do (which I haven't!) include having a lovely seafood dinner then watching the fireflies as you are taken for a gentle boat ride on the river in Kuala Selangor. Or visit our famous Batu Caves, a revered Hindu shrine set in limestone caverns and challenge yourself to climb up its 272 steps. You could also take a canopy walk in the Forest Research Institute of Malaysia.

 Exercise your legs climbing up the Batu Caves steps

Light show by fireflies

Malaysia's 5-star hotels are excellent and value for money for tourists from countries with currencies stronger than the Malaysian Ringgit. Take your pick from international names such as Shangri-La, Hyatt, Park Royal, Westin, Mandarin Oriental and the InterContinental, among others.

Our Hills

I love our hill stations. They offer a cooling respite from our constant summer conditions, and the kids can get to wear some light jackets just for the heck of it!

If you've had enough of the heat, try Cameron Highlands. You will find charming colonial styled bungalows, and strawberry and vegetable farms here. And Malaysia's famous Boh Tea Plantations. There are waterfalls and short trekking trails for you to stretch your muscles and enjoy the fresh air.

A smaller hill station would be Fraser's Hill - charming, cool and relaxing.

Or for a bit of gambling, Genting Highlands (close to KL) might interest you. Nature-wise, Genting is very sterile.

Our sand and sea

The Pearl of the Orient, is our famous and historical Penang island. With abundant choice of  delicious food, great hotels, temples and fabulous sandy beaches, there is little need to say more of the attractions of Penang.

Other islands beckoning those who love beach holidays are Langkawi, Pangkor, Redang, Perhentian and Tioman. You could do a great spot of snorkeling and diving at Redang and Perhentian. 


Our rainforest

National Geographic and nature lovers from the west make a fuss over our rain forest and lament its destruction for development and agriculture.

So perhaps you would enjoy a trip to our national park, Taman Negara.

If you are short on time, and traveling to Taman Negara in Pahang is a problem, you could visit the Bukit Nanas Forest Reserve, located right in the heart of KL. In fact, it's at the foot of the Kuala Lumpur Tower, the tallest telecommunication tower in South East Asia.


Our caves

For the adventurous nature explorers, Malaysia's caves may be an interesting destination. However, please do not expect our caves to be as well protected, preserved or maintained as cave systems abroad. I very much enjoyed my trip to the Margaret River region of Western Australia where there were some interesting cave systems.

I believe Malaysia could do more for its caves, to preserve them as nature's gift to Malaysians as well as being able to promote them with pride to tourists. Right now, there are no properly trained cave guides, lighting is inadequate, safety questionable and the general attitude towards our caves, lackadaisical. Unless under direct state protection or gazetted within a reserve, many of our caves are not protected.

Nonetheless, do explore and enjoy our caves if that's your cup of tea. Niah Cave in Sarawak, is part of the Niah National Park.

Our elephants

I haven't been to the Kuala Gandah Elephant Sanctuary but friends who have been say it's a rare treat to get up close to our elephants. Visitor reviews all seem to attest to the fantastic time people had at the sanctuary.

Our mountain

Mount Kinabalu, standing at 4095 meters, is Malaysia's highest peak, and protected within Kinabalu National Park, a world heritage site.

I don't think I will ever scale the heights of this majestic mountain. I am content to look at its beautiful pictures.

My city, Ipoh

My home city now, of 4 years. An easy 2-hour drive northwards of Kuala Lumpur on the North-South Expressway from my birth city of Petaling Jaya in Selangor.

I have come to appreciate the pace and quality of life in this smaller city. All the basic infrastructure, facilities, services and entertainment you would expect to make your life comfortable are available.

Minus the endless traffic snarls of KL and PJ. The skies are blue and clear most days. The air is noticeably fresher. The people friendlier, with a little more time for a smile and some small talk. Distances are shorter, and parking more easily found. And the food! What can I say? Even Malaysians make day trips to Ipoh just for its food.

People call Ipoh the retirement city. Perhaps because of all these qualities. But they don't know the quality of life here is excellent. Housing is much more affordable. For the price of a condo in KL, you could buy a semi-detached house here with land enough for your green fingers. And there are no tolls to pay!!

Indeed, Ipoh should market itself as a retirement city . Your money goes further here. And Ipoh is conveniently located between KL and Penang, a 2hr drive either direction. Isn't that great? I think it is. There is an up and coming retirement village, styled after the well-planned retirement villages of Australia, that will be located in Meru, Ipoh.

But what is there to see and do in Ipoh? Granted, it is a smaller city, slower and much less cosmopolitan. Therein lies its charm, with pre-war architecture standing side by side with newer buildings. I was glad to see Ipoh mentioned in Asia Rooms.


Ipoh is surrounded by lime stone hills. The natural beauty of the hill-scape parallels that of the mountains I saw in Guilin, China. And within Ipoh's limestone caves, Chinese temples and shrines are found.
amous Chinese cave temples like Perak Tong, Sam Poh Tong and Kek Lok Tong. Ipoh is also one of Malaysia’s famous food havens - See more at: http://www.asiarooms.com/en/community/blog/5-lesser-known-cities-in-southeast-asia/#comment-1065378271

A cave popular with splunkers is Gua Tempurung, the largest cave in Peninsular Malaysia, about 3 km long with an underground river running through it.

Ipoh is blessed with natural hot springs. If you have the budget for it, you could indulge yourself at the Banjaran. Or, you could do the same without breaking your bank account at the  Lost World of Tambun.


Ipoh is famous for its lovely pomelo, a member of the citrus family and native to South East Asia. You could visit a pomelo farm while in Ipoh and buy the produce directly from the farmer.


  1. I miss Char Kuey Teow so much!!

    Went back few months ago, and tried some nice foods at hawker center behind Fatimah.
    Didn't have time to go those restaurants you recommended :p but father in law took us to Rasa Lain for crab rice. Have you tried before?

    1. Hi Lau! Nice to hear from you. Oh, you must have gone to Woolie hawker center. You should spend more time here on your next trip back to Ipoh!

      Rasa Lain? It's in Bercham right? I think I tried their famous clay pot toong fun but they ran out of crabs that day :)