Malaysian Persuasion: Ten things to see and do in ‘Truly Asia’

Malaysian Persuasion - Ten things to see and do in ‘Truly Asia’

By Richard Jones

Once central to the spice trade route, Malaysia is now a beautifully complex holiday destination, a land where ancient rainforests sit side by side with space-age skyscrapers and centuries-old colonial buildings.

Whether you’re looking for exciting adventures and activities, fascinating history and architecture, delicious food and drink, or just beachside relaxation, here are 10 unmissable things to see and do on a trip to the place that is nicknamed ‘Truly Asia’.

Malaysian Persuasion - Ten things to see and do in ‘Truly Asia’

Kuala Lumpur

Although the capital has grown at an unbelievable pace, it has managed to retain its character. A tour of Kuala Lumpur’s main sites should include the Sultan Abdul Samad Building, the National Monument and the National Museum, while the Istana Negara, or King’s Palace is located on a hilltop just outside the city centre. On Jalan Melayu you can learn about Malay traditions, while Chinatown (Petaling Street) and Little India (Brickfields) are usually crowded with locals as well as tourists.

Petronas Towers

One of the most recognisable sights in the world and a true icon of Malaysia, the 88-storey supertall skyscrapers are the tallest twin towers on the planet. The main attraction in the buildings is the sky walk over the double-decked SkyBridge on 41st and 42nd floors joining them together. From here, visitors can admire the views that stretch across Kuala Lumpur and KLCC Park, and can also stand above the clouds on the Observation Deck on the 86th floor.


Cameron Highlands

The hill station located in Pahang state was discovered in the 19th century by Sir William Cameron. Many visitors flock to the area for its tea and coffee plantations tours and fruit picking, with the elevation providing a cool respite from Malaysia’s muggy lowlands. Some of the world’s best black tea is produced in the highlands, and the traditional English cream teas in a bronze-hued cup accompanied by juicy local strawberries, are a delight.

Thaipusam Festival

By far the most spectacular celebration in Malaysia is the Hindu festival Thaipusam, which happens every year in the Hindu month of Thai (January/February) when the constellation of Pusam is in its ascendancy. A million devotees flock to the Batu Caves to honour the God Murugan (or Lord Subramaniam) and the festival has become famous for its shocking Kavadi Attam dance, as devotees subject themselves to seemingly masochistic acts.


Batu Caves

These yawning chambers are home entrancing temples, each with dioramas showing mythical scenes. When you first arrive, you’ll be entranced by the imperious gilded statue of Hindu god Lord Murugan. The complex of limestone caverns in Gombak, Selangor, draws in tourists, pilgrims and locals, all clamouring to experience this natural wonder and spiritual spectacle. A side-quest across a short bridge takes you to the quieter Ramayana Cave.

Perhentian Islands

The pristine islands are one of Asia’s best honeymoon destinations, where gin-clear waters lap golden sand. And as well as dozing off in a sun lounger, snorkelers can swim among the coral reefs, or wriggle into a wetsuit and dive with green sea turtles, barracuda and yellow boxfish. More experienced divers can join excursions down to the MV Union Star, a sunken freighter known as the ‘Sugar Wreck’ due to the cargo it transported before it met its rusty end.



Penang, another island off the coast of Malaysia, has Georgetown as its capital, named after British king. A UNESCO World Heritage Site, it is focused on conservation and preservation and visitors can experience this at one of the many famous hotels, such as the E&O. Penang is also famous for its National Park and Tropical Spice Garden that showcases the best of the region’s local flora and fauna such as torch ginger.

Food Cookery Courses and Market Visits

If you’re heading to Malaysia, you’ll need a good appetite, as eating is a national pastime. With all four corners of Asia converging, gastronomically speaking, its cooks and chefs offer the best of each region, whether it be Malay, Chinese, Indian and Thai, at every eatery from hawker stalls to high-end cafes. Malaysia’s national dish is Nasi Lemak – fragrant rice cooked in coconut milk and pandan leaf. It is usually eaten for breakfast but is tasty at any time of the day.


Langkawi Island

If you fancy getting out of the city, make a beeline for Langkawi Island in the Andaman Sea. Popular with both backpackers and honeymooners alike, it has something to suit all budgets, including duty-free status so visitors can stock up on souvenirs cheaply. The Danna Langkawi is a luxury hotel on the island’s west coast blending colonial styling with contemporary chic, while Pelangi Beach Resort & Spa is a timeless island sanctuary based on the concept of Malay ‘Kampung’ or village.

Mount Kinabalu

The highest mountain in Borneo and Malaysia, and the third-highest peak of an island on Earth, Mount Kinabalu is located in the Ranau district of Sabah. The thigh-burning 5.4-mile ascent is well worth it, as you are rewarded with views of rugged rockfaces, high-alpine grasslands and carpets of ferns, rhododendrons and bamboo. March to August is the best time for climbing Kinabalu, and at Panalaban (10,735ft) you can bed down in a hostel for the night.

Malaysia Airlines, the national carrier of Malaysia and a member of the oneworld Alliance, flies twice daily from London Heathrow on board a state-of-the-art Airbus A350-900 to Kuala Lumpur from £744 return. Go to

For more information on holidays in Malaysia, see


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