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Rugged, Thrilling, Quirky & Exotic Places To Visit in Malaysia

Rugged, Thrilling, Quirky & Exotic Places To Visit in Malaysia

access_time March 1, 2018 chat_bubble_outline 0 comments 38929

Malaysia has a total landmass of 3,29,847 square kilometers. Kuala Lumpur, with the world famous Petronas Towers, swanky malls and gourmet restaurants, makes up for only 243 of those square kilometers. So what’s out there in the rest of Malaysia? Sangeetha Sampath finds out top off beat places to visit in Malaysia.

places to visit in Malaysia-The sky bridge at Langkawi

The sky bridge at Langkawi

Think Malaysia, and world-class sky scrapers, glittering malls and irresistible shopping come to mind. But just beneath the glitz, sparkle and shopping sales, lies another side of Malaysia—wild, quirky, filled with rugged mountains, tropical jungles and ‘dare-you-to-eat-this’ food.

Be sure to pack your adventurous side! Malaysia packs in together all Wonders of Asia.

Watch what we’re talking about in this video:

Places To Visit In Malaysia

Rugged Malaysia: Kota Kinabalu

On The Map

KK or Api Api, as it’s locally known, is the thriving capital of the Malaysian state of Sabah, in the island of Borneo. During World War II, KK was razed to the ground by the Allies to slow Japanese invaders from advancing. Today it is invaded by travelers and adventure enthusiasts who are attracted by its luscious islands, tropical rainforests and national park.

places to visit in Malaysia-Mount Kota Kinabalu in Malaysia

Mount Kota Kinabalu in Malaysia, is the tallest peak in Southeast Asia

Things To Do In Kota Kinabalu, Malaysia

#1 Trek The Mountain

Once you’ve checked in to your hotel room, change into your trekking shoes and head out to Kinabalu National Park. Towering over the park is the 13,400-foot Mount Kinabalu, Malaysia’s tallest peak, a mecca for climbers and hikers. Be warned that the trek is not for the faint-hearted.

places to visit in Malaysia-Trek up Mount Kinabalu

Trek up Mount Kinabalu

#2 Swim The Sea

If trekking is not your thing, change into scuba gear and head for the coast instead. Tropical Malaysia is home to a vibrant and colourful marine life. There are plenty of dive shops and schools that can teach you everything from diving basics to certificate courses where you can earn your diving license.

places to visit in Malaysia - Scuba dive in Malaysia with marine animals

Scuba dive in Malaysia with marine animals

#3 Walk The Wetlands

Take things a little slow with a lovely boardwalk through thick, emerald-green mangroves at Kota Kinabalu Wetlands Centre, one of the best places to visit in Malaysia. The mangroves teem with wildlife and birds and by the end of the day, you’ll know your Cinnamon Bitterns from Yellow-bellied Prinias.

places to visit in Malaysia - Cinnamon Bittern; Phil Kwong

Cinnamon Bittern; Phil Kwong,


Get soaked by the Kiansom waterfall, spend a day at Tunku Abdul Rahman Park and shop till you drop at Handicrafts Market, one of the fun places to visit in Malaysia. You’ll be lucky if you can see the rare, giant parasitic Rafflesia flower, also known as “carrion flower” because it smells like dead meat.

places to visit in Malaysia - witness Rafflesia, the biggest flower in the world

Rafflesia is the biggest flower in the world

Explore The Wild Side Of Malaysia Through This Video

Thrilling Malaysia: Taman Negara

On The Map

Taman Negara is a national park spread over 4343 square kilometers across three different states. Within its borders is one of the oldest rainforests in the world, plenty of rare tropical wildlife and a roaring river.

Things To Do In Taman Negara, Malaysia

#1 Trek The Jungle

No visit to the tropics is complete without a trek in the jungle. Thick vegetation, incredible insects, the sound of wildlife over the roaring river—a jungle trek through Taman Negara gives you a glimpse of what it would be like if the Jungle Book came to life.

 places to visit in Malaysia - Wild Tropical Pitcher Plant

Wild Tropical Pitcher Plant

#2 Visit The Locals

Taman Negara is home to the Orang Asli people. Translated from Malay, it means the ‘original people’. Their settlements are dotted all across the park and you can pick up a life skill or two from them—like shooting a blow gun. Just the thing you need if you get hungry in the jungle!

places to visit in Malaysia- Taman Negara rain forest, malaysia

An Orang Asili man in a village in Taman Negara rain forest, malaysia

#3 Walk Among The Trees

Taman Negara also features the longest suspension bridge in Malaysia. Set at tree-height, the bridge gives you a rare glimpse into the rich bird-life of the park. Walk among the trees and you’ll know what it must have felt like in ‘Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon’.

places to visit in Malaysia-Canopy walk through the jungles of Taman Negara

Canopy walk through the jungles of Taman Negara


Visit pet tuskers at Kuala Gandah Elephant Sanctuary,  one of the best places to visit in Malaysia for experiencing wildlife, where elephants are caught, trans-located and trained for public use, try your hand at fishing and speed down the rapids. If you’re lucky, you may spot the elusive and rare tapir, an animal that has the face of an anteater with a short, elephant-like snout, the feet of a pig and is black and white in colour.

places to visit in Malaysia-Kuala Gandah Elephant Conservation Centre

A staff member of Kuala Gandah Elephant Conservation Centre climbs an elephant during an elephant show

Quirky Malaysia: Kuching

On The Map

Kuching is the capital of the east Malaysian state of Sarawak. It’s reputed to be one of the most beautiful and cleanest cities in Malaysia.

Things To Do In Kuching, Malaysia

#1 Prowl The Streets

Kuching, meaning ‘cat’ in Malay, has a laidback, feline grace to it—picturesque buildings, a gentle river, and the steady, unhurried pace of life, gives the city a small-town feel. The best way to soak it in is by discovering it on foot. On the way, drop in at The Cat Museum for a feline fix.

places to visit in Malaysia - Kuching

Kuching, also known as Cat City, is the capital of Sarawak in Borneo. One of the famous landmarks around the main town is the Cat Statue located opposite the Riverside Majestic Hotel on Jalan Tunku Abdul Rahman Riverside Majestic Hotel

#2 Go To The Park

Bako National Park is small, but densely packed with incredible flora and fauna.  It is also Sarawak’s oldest national park, one of the best places to visit in Malaysia for natural beauty. Bako is home to 7 kinds of ecosystems ranging from beaches to grasslands to swamp forests. But the most amazing sight is bound to be the strange, colourful sandstone rocks carved out by millennia of wind and wave erosion. Shaped like arches and sea stacks, they have coloured patterns formed by iron deposits.

places to visit in Malaysia- Bako National Park, Borneo, Sarawak

Uninhabited beach paradise in Bako National Park, Borneo, Sarawak, Malaysia

#3 Cruise The River

Kuching has a beautiful waterfront that epitomises the old-worldly charm of the city. Stroll along the waterfront or take a kayak down the river. Tip: do it at sunset. The setting sun paints the water gold and red.

places to visit in Malaysia- Kuching River

The sun sets on Kuching River


Make a date with the Sarawak Museum, spend an afternoon dolphin watching and try your hand at caving.

places to visit in Malaysia- Sarawak Museum

The historic Sarawak Museum

Exotic Malaysia: Penang

On The Map

Situated on the north-west coast of Malaysia, Penang, which means ‘Island of the areca nut palm’ is often referred to as the Pearl of the Orient. It is one of Malaysia’s most multi-cultural cities with people of almost all communities and faiths, calling it home.

Things To Do In Penang, Malaysia

#1 Relax By The Beach

Once you are done trekking, kayaking and touring the jungles, head to Penang’s beaches to recover. The coast is dotted with silver sand beaches and turquoise blue waters. After a few hours of horizontal non-activity on the beach chairs, you will have recovered enough to explore the many water-based activities.

places to visit in Malaysia- Penang island, Malaysia.

A pier over the beach in Penang island, Malaysia.

#2 Flutter Around The Butterfly Farm

The Butterfly Farm at Penang is the tropical world’s first live museum, one of the amazing places to visit in Malaysia. It has over 7000 varieties of butterflies and 300 tropical plants. It’s a great place to spend an afternoon and is a delightful learning experience for kids and adults alike.

places to visit in Malaysia-Butterfly Farm in Penang

Butterfly Farm in Penang

#3 Eat Your Way Through Malaysia

Of course, no trip to Malaysia is complete without street-style and hawker-style food. Arm yourself with an empty stomach and head to Gurney Drive. Situated on the sea-side, you’ll find every type of restaurant, from sit-down places to stand-and-eat style carts. And while you’re at it, do try everything—from cuttlefish to cockles to 100 year old eggs. It’ll make for a great travel memory!

places to visit in Malaysia-Malay street food chicken rice

Malay street food chicken rice


Inhale the aromas at the Botanical and Spice gardens, visit old-style fishing villages and go scuba diving to see the coral reefs.

Planning a trip to Penang? Watch this video to know more

About Malaysia

Malaysia is just a short hop away by flight from India, and is in fact just 2.5 hours ahead of India. It is home to people of different ethnicities and faiths, including Malays, Chinese and Indians. You’d be surprised to learn that Tamil is one of the main languages in Malaysia along with Bahasa Melayu and English. No wonder then that Malaysia is called ‘Truly Asia’.

Expect warm, tropical weather. Pack light clothes that breathe, a sturdy pair of shoes for all the walking you’ll be doing, and headgear to protect against the tropical sun, these are some of the best places to visit in Malaysia.

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About author


Sangeetha Sampath has three recurring dreams: One: To visit every state in India. Two: To fill her passport with stamps. And three: That instead of 30 days annual leave, her generous company has given her 1 year (paid!) leave. But then she wakes up and realises she has to go work as the Creative Director of an advertising agency in Bangalore. Long days indeed.

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