As its hugely successful promotional drive boasts, Malaysia is indeed “truly Asia.” A rich blend of exotic peoples, historical sites, modern skylines, wild terrains and postcard-perfect beaches, Malaysia’s variety of attractions offers something to just about every traveler. If relaxation, adrenaline, culture or even medical attention happens to be your slice of durian, Malaysia is waiting for you.
Malaysia boasts a stunning number of impressive cultural sites worth visiting, including five UNESCO World Heritage Sites. From the historic buildings of Georgetown on Penang and the Chinese, Indian, Portuguese, Dutch, and British legacies in Melaka (Malacca) to the tea plantations of the Cameron Highlands and the charming colonial architecture hidden beneath Kuala Lumpur’s sky-scraping towers, the majority of Malaysia’s popular cultural sites are located on the Malay peninsula (West Malaysia). Cultural stops on Malaysia’s east side include Sarawak’s lively Kuching, the Cat City and the Rejang river, along which you can sail to get a glimpse of Bornean longhouses. To experience Malaysia’s culture come alive, plan your visit for one its colorful festivals, such as the Ramadan-ending Hari Raya Puasa, mid-summer’s Fishing Festival of San Pedro or autumn’s Chinese Mooncake Festival. Of course, whether your visit is built around consuming Malaysia’s cultural nuggets, sampling the delicious variety of spicy local noodle, rice and Baba-Nonya dishes is a must.
Leaving the beach resorts behind, Malaysia’s wild jungles, volcanic peaks and fabulous national parks make this country an adventure destination to get anyone’s blood pumping. Opportunities for hiking, jungle trekking, rock-climbing and wildlife expeditions abound. Try tracking elephants in Taman Negara, chasing orang-utans near Sabah and Sarawak on Borneo or searching out Malaysia’s very own legendary Bigfoot in Endau-Rompin National Park. Check out the world-class dive spots in Tun Sakaran Marine Park or go off the beaten track to attempt the Headhunter’s Trail, explore the world’s largest cave system and trek through the mysterious jungles and bizarre Pinnacles of Sarawak. If that’s not enough to excite you, take note that the highest peak in Southeast Asia lies within the borders of East Malaysia. The stunning views from Mt. Kinabalu’s summit make this two- to three-day trek worth the early-morning climb.
Malaysia has become a prime destination for medical tourists seeking safe and affordable medical attention. Medical tourists in Malaysia can avail themselves of English-speaking, internationally-trained doctors and modern facilities operating under internationally-recognized quality standards, stringently enforced by the country’s Ministry of Health. And all of this for a fraction of the cost for the same services in Western countries like the United States and United Kingdom. Many hospitals and health care centers offer accommodation for the patient and a travel partner. As for post-operation, Malaysia’s sparkling beaches aren’t such a shabby place to recuperate.
Just as many of the world’s most attractive beaches lie within Southeast Asia, a large proportion of Southeast Asia’s most stunning stretches of seaside sand lie within Malaysia. Bungalows, hotels and luxury resorts are especially plentiful along the coastlines of the Malay peninsula in such hotspots as the pristine Tioman Island, tourist-freindly Palau Langkawi and Pangkor Laut, where Pantai Teluk Belanga (Emerald Bay) regularly appears in lists of the world’s top ten beaches.
Malaysia’s agricultural diversity has lent itself well to growing numbers of tourists seeking to cultivate an understanding of Malaysia’s variety of soil-bred commodities. Many travel agencies offer tours to oil palm estates, rubber plantations, fish farms and fruit orchards where visitors can taste various exotic crops. These include rambutan, jackfruit, pineapple, mangosteen, mango and the “king of all fruits,” the durian. Visit the tea estates of the Cameron Highlands, the spice farms of northern peninsular Malaysia or the pepper farms of Sarawak to get a feel for the agrarian base of this booming nation.