I’ll admit Malaysia is not a place that has been top of mind for me when it comes to travel because of how little I know about it. But last week I got to visit Malaysia virtually with #MalaysiaAwaitsYou and the idea of this trip immediately moved to the top of my travel wish list (here’s an inspiring video).
Malaysia is a fairly small country located in the heart of Southeast Asia, split in two by a body of water (Riay Archipelago to be precise), hugged by Indonesia, Singapore, and Thailand. The geographical location of the country creates a spectacular natural environment and fosters a wide variety of biodiversity while its proximity, or rather centrality in Southeast Asia, makes Malaysia a very culturally diverse country. But that’s just a quick summary, so let’s dive in!
Note: If you already know you’d like to visit scroll to the bottom for some official “Book now, travel later” tours.
All images are courtesy of the Malaysia Tourism Board.
This post is not sponsored, I just got very excited 🙂
This blog post however does use affiliate links denoted by ( * ) .
8 reasons to visit, in no particular order
Crystal blue beaches
Imagine 2858 miles of clear blue beach divided between two coastlines and smaller islands. One of the big water destinations is the Sky Mirror Malaysia, an uncharted beach only accessible in low tide, you will feel (and look) like you’re walking on water. A place I’m particularly excited about visiting is Blue Tears Tusan Beach in Miri Sarawak – a glowing ocean beach with luminous, glow in the dark waters.
Food, food & more food
This a food paradise where you can eat a different dish every day for a year and not eat the same thing twice. I’m talking 365 days of different meals inspired by the breadth of Southeast Asia. Some of the most famous dishes are nasi lemak (coconut rice with a range of sides, breakfast dish), roti canai (Indian-inspired flatbread), char kuey teow (fried rice noodles), satay, and asam laksa (spicy noodle soup), which rated as 7th best dish in the world (out of 50) by CNN in 2019. Kuala Lumpur (Penang) is also home to one of the world’s best street food markets.
Nature & wild life
Malaysia is located on top of the world’s Coral Triangle (according to WWF this is home to “nearly 600 different species of reef-building corals”) which makes the Malaysian waters one of the most bio-diverse marine eco-systems in the world. Malaysian rain forests, on the other hand, are over 113 million years old! You can hike, jungle track, explore waterfalls, see some of the largest flowers in the world (rafflesia), and spot rare wildlife, like the orangoutangs, proboscis monkeys, the smallest of the Asian elephants (Pigmy), and even Bornean sun bears. The country is also home to 4 UNESCO heritage sites: Georgetown and Melaka, Kinabalu National Park, Mulu National Park, and Lenggong Valley in Perak.
Adventures, on land & water
Remember the Coral Triangle? You can scuba dive over it (more info on Padi), snorkel with the schools of fish, or stroll the seafloor in a big glass helmet. There is a wide range of adventure activities suitable to any fitness and adrenalin level from white water rafting, to coral flying from Gaya Island to Sapi Island (250m zipline), and strolling over the rainforest (The Habitat Penang Hill). You can even climb the highest peak in South Asia, Mount Kinabalu (between the Himalayas and New Guinea), or conquer the Pinnacles of Mulu Sarawak.
Health & wellness, but in paradise
Malasia subscribes to the Asian philosophy of wellness, from the traditions of Malay, Chinese, and Indian practices, focusing on complete rejuvenation. Some of the top health resorts are Pangkor Laut Resort*, Ritz Carlton Langkawi*, and spiritual forest retreat, Kechara Forest Retreat (KFR), located in the deep forest of Pahang (founded on Buddhist teachings).
Luxury, leisurely rest
The geographic location is very well suited for luxury tourism so naturally, there are plenty of water bungalow-style resorts. These properties are located right on the water, with each suite being a separate bungalow, overlooking stunning views with direct access to the turquoise waters, and quite a few of them are eco-resorts. Some of the recommended properties are Sipadan-Kapalai Beach resort, Sipadan Water Village Resort, Mabul Water Bungalows, and Lexis Hibiscus Port Dickson* (over 600 individual pools!). A long list can be found here.
Malaysia is mostly composed of three major ethnic groups: Malay, Chinese, and Indians, but the influxes from all Southeast Asian neighbors are also visible in the country through food, architecture, cultural celebrations, and religious beliefs. Because of this cultural diversity, there are a lot of festivals and nearly all of them are public holidays. Here’s a good list of the festivals.
Sustainability & conservation
Malaysia is one of the world’s leaders in sustainability and conservation. The country followed the globally accepted 17 sustainable development goals, each of which are outlined and reported on frequently. From the tourism perspective, you can participate as a volunteer, visit wildlife rehabilitation centers, or support local communities through homestays.
Planning to travel
Malaysia is hoping to welcome tourists back in late 3rd and 4th quarter of 2021 and have worked with various tourism agencies on creating official tours that allow people to book now and travel later, here is the complete list:
Ker and Downey: Malaysia Luxury Travel | Contact: 1.800.423.4236
Yampu Tours: Buy One Get One 50% off on BRIEF MALAYSIA TOUR (KUALA LUMPUR, KUCHING, BATANG AI for 9 days from $3,020 and the second one from $1,050) | Contact: 1.888.926.7801
Sayang Holidays: Buy One Get One 50% off on SIMPLY MALAYSIA (PENANG & KUALA LUMPUR: 8 days 6 nights from $859 and the second one from $430) | Contact: 1.888.472.9264
Globotours: Buy One Get One 50% off on CITY, HERITAGE & WILDLIFE (Kuala Lumpur, Cameron Highlands & Penang) | Contact: 1.626.839.8608
Access Asia Tours: MALAYSIA CULINARY TOUR (Kuala Lumpur, Cameron Highlands, Ipoh, and Penang) | Office: 1-303-593-2361 | Direct line: 1-303-960-5935
The country basics:
Getting here: by plane (no direct flights from Canada) or by a scenic train from a neighboring country. You can also drive from Singapore, which sounds like a lovely road trip.
Weather: There are two seasons, wet and dry, with an average temperature of 77° – 95° F
Language: Official language is Bahasa Melayu but English is spoken widely
Documents: Canadian and American passport holders do not need a visa to visit but your passport does need to be valid for 6 months minimum.
Currency: Ringgit, which currently costs roughly 0.30 Canadian Dollar