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Malaysia

Malaysia

Great Destination:

4.5

Value for Money:

4

Total Stars:

8.5

Personality Types that Like it Best

Greatest appeal to Venturers and Mid-Venturers, and some Centric-Venturers; lesser interest from Centric types of personalities

Did You Know … ?

  • The 1959 movie, “South Pacific,” was shot on Malaysia’s Tioman Island.
  • Malaysia’s first railway, built in 1869, was made of wood — and was soon destroyed by ants.
  • The country’s paper money is really made of plastic.
  • The rafflesia, the world’s largest flower, can be found in Malaysia.
  • The Malaysian flag borrows elements of the American flag, most notably the red and white stripes.

Land of contrasts

Tourists come to Malaysia to climb a mountain (Mount Kinabalu), to dive into a world of coral reefs on an extensive coastline, to view orangutans and other wildlife, and to sightsee in a land where attractions range from traditional wooden Malay homes or the longhouses in the rain forests to Kuala Lumpur’s Petronas Towers, which were, for a few years, the world’s tallest buildings. In addition, the country’s new capital city, the ultra-modern Putrajaya, is a feast for the eyes. (Kuala Lumpur remains the official capital while Putrajaya has become the administrative capital.)

Attractions also include a variety of mosques, churches and temples because, although Malaysia is officially an Islamic nation, only about 60% of its people adhere to the state religion.

The diversity reflects an equally diverse ethnic mix: Malays comprise 50% to 60% of the population, with citizens of Chinese and Indian descent accounting for significant minorities. Several indigenous groups account for another 10% — and provide still more variety for touristic experiences.

Geographically, Malaysia is a land of contrasts as well. Eleven provinces sit on the Malaysian Peninsula in Southeast Asia. Two remaining provinces are located on the island of Borneo and, together, comprise East Malaysia. Highlands running down the center of the peninsula taper off to the shoreline and coastal islands. The two East Malaysian states, Sabah and Sarawak, are home to mountains — including Mount Kinabalu, rain forests and most of the country’s indigenous ethnic groups.

Malaysia holds the greatest appeal for the more venturesome travelers. This diverse nation provides visitors the chance to interact with peoples with a wide range of lifestyles and belief systems, the kind of experience venturous savor. In addition, the varied terrain and extensive shoreline in the warm climes of Southeast Asia provide active visitors with many choices for outdoor activities. For divers, it is important to be aware the sea becomes murky during the east coast’s November-to-March monsoon season.

As for safety, violence against tourists is uncommon, but incidences of kidnapping and piracy against foreigners — perpetrated by criminals and terrorist groups — are a concern for anyone visiting the eastern islands and coastal areas of Sabah.

Things to do for Venturers

  • Travel up Sarawak’s Skrang River, and overnight in a longhouse in order to learn more about the customs of the Dayak Ibans. While at the longhouse, taste the local rice wine, called tuak, and see a demonstration of traditional dances and music.
  • Participate in a homestay program in Sabah, Sarawak or mainland Malaysia.
  • Plan a diver’s vacation at one, or maybe two, of Malaysia’s several highly rated dive sites. Coral reefs are a main attraction, but wreck sites can be found, as well. Sipadan Island in Sabah is considered one of the world’s best diving destinations.
  • Witness the Petronas Malaysian F1 Grand Prix race.
  • Climb Mount Kinabalu. The climb begins in the early morning, in pitch darkness.
  • Sail along Malaysia’s east or west coast, taking advantage of services at numerous mainland or island marinas and yacht clubs.

Things to do for Centrics

  • Bearing in mind this is difficult to predict, time your visit just right and see the rafflesia, the world’s largest flower, found in Malaysian forests.
  • Visit a pewter factory and buy goblets or other goods to take home.
  • See orangutans at the Sepilok Orang Utan Sanctuary in Sabah. Or see the amusing critters at the Matang Wildlife Centre outside of Kuching in Sarawak’s Kubah National Park.
  • Hear a traditional orchestra, either the gamelan or the nobat. The gamelan produces its melodies using gong percussion and stringed instruments whereas the nobat produces more solemn music with wind instruments.
  • Ride elephants at the Kuala Gandah Elephant Orphanage Sanctuary in Pahang province. Enhance the experience by helping take elephants to the river and giving them a bath. The animals are rescued wild Asian elephants.
  • Go bird-watching at Kuala Gula Bird Sanctuary, or look for feathered inhabitants of one or more of Malaysia’s other reserves. More than 600 bird species can be seen on mainland Malaysia and about 580 species in East Malaysia.

Things to do for Authentics

  • Take off your shoes and walk through a traditional wooden Malaysian home that sits on stilts several feet above street level.
  • See a staged folklore program which shows off Malaysian dances and costumes. Take your camera.
  • Buy gifts made from batik; also buy pieces of batik fabric to make custom clothes to suit your tastes.
  • Spend some beach time on Penang, west of mainland Malaysia, then see the sights including the Kapitan Keling Mosque and the Chinese temple, Kuan Yin Temple.
  • Play golf at the Genting Highlands hill station on peninsular Malaysia. The station also has the country’s only casino and a lake for boating.
  • Book a spa experience. Given Malaysia’s multicultural nature, the treatments may include Chinese, Indian or Javanese practices.

Additional Resources

For more information, consult Tourism Malaysia at www.tourismmalaysiausa.com