Malaysia: the land of “multi” everything. A multi-ethnic, multi-cultural, multi-lingual, multi-you-name-it southeast Asian country consisting of two regions split up by hundreds of miles of the South China Sea. From the hugely diverse and delightful culinary scene to the exotic biodiversity and wild landscapes to the modern, urban high-rises, Malaysia is the lesser-known jewel of Asia.
Despite Malaysia’s wonderfully complex cultural heritage and unparalleled natural beauty, you’d be hard-pressed to find this nation at the top of most travel checklists and we can’t figure out why. If you revel in adventure and the exotic, take a look at these five unique experiences you can have in Malaysia.
Climb 252 steps up to Batu Caves
If you seek a jaw-dropping experience (and are in decent cardio health), the Batu Caves are a wondrous sight. Two hundred and seventy-two steps up, you’ll explore a labyrinth of limestone caves and shrines dedicated to Lord Murugan, a prominent Hindu deity. If the spiritual aspect doesn’t capture your fancy, the sheer size of these massive caves makes the climb worth it. For the more adventurous, rock climbing and cave exploration are also options.
Pro tip: Watch out for the hundreds of curious macaques that line the steps of the caves. They’re anything but shy and have even been known to do a bit of thieving!
Eat in Jalan Alor (Kuala Lumpur)
From the freshly grilled satay to the fragrant frog porridge, your palette will have a field day in Jalan Alor, a neighborhood famous for its open-air street market. Browse stall after stall for authentic Malay, Chinese and Thai cuisines. Savor the gritty atmosphere and the sensory overload provided by sounds of whizzing scooters, sizzling oil and boisterous crowds. Don’t forget to try the taro!
Pro tip: Be careful if you have food allergies. Most of these vendors are preparing everything on one food cart.
Navigate the longest canopy walk in Taman Negara
Taman Negara National Park features 130 million years of constantly evolving ecology. Grab your headlamp and set out on a night trek with seasoned naturalists. Drift along the Tembeling River and admire the ancient landscape—you might even spot some water buffalo cooling off on the banks. Of all the unbelievable experiences one can have here, the canopy walkway is perhaps the biggest highlight. At 45 meters up and holding the record as the longest one of its kind in the world, it provides a brilliant view of the surrounding rainforest. Be sure to keep your camera at the ready for some epic shots!
Pro tip: While doing the canopy walk, water bottles or hydration packs are a great idea. The sticky heat definitely calls for some extra H2O.
Buy local crafts in Central Market (Kuala Lumpur)
We know how it is: you announce you’re going on vacation, and friends and family can’t wait to receive their souvenirs. Central Market in Kuala Lumpur is an intriguing place near the city center to do just that.From colorful Indian fashion and traditional Malaysian games to handcrafted coconut shell jewelry, it’s more of a cultural education than a shopping trip. When you start getting tired, take a break at the Cute Fish Spa for some fish-nibbling therapy to rejuvenate your travel-ridden feet.
Pro tip: Many vendors are open to friendly bartering. Don’t be afraid to give it a try!
Island visit off peninsular Malaysia
If pristine waters and quaint beachside towns are your cup of tea, you’ll like the Malaysian islands. Generally quieter than their Thai counterparts, you can usually get lucky and find a little slice of beach to yourself. Langkawi is our favorite island gem—it’s a great beach destination for those less interested in nightlife and more interested in nature and introspection. Birdwatchers will love looking out for the White-bellied Fish Eagle and the Brahminy Kite Eagle in Langkawi, as both species can be seen swooping for prey off-shore.
Pro tip: Invest in a good dry bag. Spending most of your days on a beach puts things like your phone and wallet at risk of damage.
Do you want to visit Malaysia? Tell us why in the comments!