During my travels throughout South East Asia I had previously used Malaysia, or more specifically Kuala Lumpur, for a stopover or transit point. However during a visit in 2016 I was to discover a South East Asian country that has a thriving cosmopolitan capital, a blend of cultures, a rich history of British rule, densely forested regions and magical tropical islands. My favourite 3 places in Malaysia, although a tough decision, were Kuala Lumpur, Langkawi and Penang – all very different but all equally as enticing.
I discovered that getting to Malaysia was as easy as navigating my way to Traveloka Malaysia booking website where I got the best MAS promotions and deals. You can also use this booking site to look for the best deals on accommodation for your holiday to Malaysia. Having the convenience of booking both my flights and accommodation in the one place was a bonus.
Kuala Lumpur, or more commonly known as just KL, is the capital of Malaysia. It’s a thriving modern city with a skyline dominated by skyscrapers and the 451 metre tall Petronas Twin Towers. Petronas is a pair of glass-and-steel-clad skyscrapers with Islamic motifs and are the most familiar sight in KL. The towers are a huge tourist attraction and offer a public skybridge and observation deck. My tip is to take in the wonderful views of KL by night from the observation deck.
The city is also home to British colonial-era landmarks such as the Kuala Lumpur Railway Station and the Sultan Abdul Samad Building. See these landmarks and more on a Malaysia Heritage Walk that will introduce you to KL’s oldest hotspots such as Pasar Seni and Chinatown. If you would like to learn more about the history and heritage of Malaysia visit the National Museum, National History Museum, Dataran Merdeka or the Islamic Arts Museum Malaysia.
Langkawi, a magical land of legends, contains 99 islands on the north-western shore of Malaysia, situated where the Indian Ocean narrows down into the Straits of Malacca. There are myths dating back to 500 AD of legends of celestial beings, demons, warriors, giants, beautiful maidens and gallant heroes, which are so much part of the island’s identity.
Clad with jungles in the interior, Langkawi Island is fringed by lovely beaches scattered along its coast. The island is still very much a rural landscape with villages and paddy fields. But it is also an extremely popular retreat for visitors.
One of the first sights we saw on arrival was the 39 foot tall eagle statue at Kuah Jetty. The significance is that the island is named after the eagle: “lang” is Malay for eagle, while “kawi” is Sanskrit for marble. You will see many of these graceful birds hovering around the skies of the island.
The two main beaches, Pantai Cenang and Pantai Kok, are on the island’s western coast, with Pantai Cenang being the most popular as the venue for hotels and restaurants. Dotted along the northern coast are the most luxurious resorts.
Langkawi is sanctuary to some of the most ancient rainforest in the world that are teeming with the exotic flora and fauna. During our drive into the mountains we saw many Macaque monkeys along the roadside, so we stopped to photograph them.
One of the best ways to get a bird’s eye view of the beauty of this island paradise is getting on the cable car to Langkawi’s second highest peak at Oriental Village. Rising up to 2,000 feet you reach the top of Mt Mat Cincang, where you can see from Thailand in the north to Indonesia in the south-west.
A visit to Laman Padi (Rice Museum) is worthwhile as it offers the most comprehensive exhibits of artefacts, charts, photographs and actual rice planting tools used in paddy fields. Amongst the many great attractions on Langkawi is a cruise on the Kilim River, which is a Marine Park with a delicate ecosystem of tidal mangroves, lagoons and isolated islands. Or visit Underwater World, Asia’s premium marine and freshwater aquarium, where you can walk beneath a shark tank and venture to both Sub-Antarctic and tropical rainforest environments.
This is why Langkawi is number 2 on my list of favourite places in Malaysia. I would certainly put this island paradise on your “must-see” list!
The largest and most populated state in Malaysia, Penang is located on the north-west coast of Peninsula Malaysia by the Strait of Malacca. The capital is George Town that was once a British outpost. The island was successfully developed under British rule and became a naval base for the British to protect its interest in the Far East spice trade from the Dutch and French. As it was formerly an important trading hub, the city is known for its British colonial buildings, Chinese shophouses and mosques.
We set off on foot with a map in hand and explored some of the sights of George Town and the Old City, which features Malaysia’s best preserved colonial buildings.
We came across this interesting clock tower, called the The Queen Victoria Memorial Clock Tower, which is a testament to Penang’s royal connections.
Fort Cornwallis is one of Penang’s most well known landmarks. Within its ten-foot-high walls (which are laid out in the shape of a star), you can see a 17th century chapel, some prison cells, ammunition storage area, and some old bronze cannons.
Built in 1801 by Penang’s first Indian Muslim settlers (East India Company troops), the Indo-Moorish Kapitan Keling Mosque is another Penang landmark.
Sri Mariamman Temple is a Hindu temple in Georgetown’s compact Little India district: built in 1833, the temple is dedicated to the Hindu god, Lord Subramaniam.
Chinese Kongsi (or clan houses) are a must see in Penang. Many were built in the 19th or early 20th Century and are heritage sites in George Town.
George Town’s Chinatown was a burst of vivid colours in preparation for the Chinese New Year celebrations. Six Clan Jetties form part of the Penang Heritage Trail. Billed as one of the last bastions of old Chinese settlements on the island, this waterfront society is home to houses on stilts of various Chinese clans.
As for the rest of the Old City there is evidence everywhere that this place was a British colony from the style of the architecture of the old colonial buildings.
Penang was a colourful spectacle with Chinese lanterns adorning the streets and there was a perfect harmony of varying cultures and history. You could easily spend more time here delving into the rich history.
Fly direct to Kuala Lumpur from Sydney, Melbourne, Adelaide or Perth with Malaysia Airlines and around 8 and 1/2 hours later you’re here. Naturally the distance from Perth is shorter. From KL there are connecting flights to both Langkawi and Penang.
The next time you are looking for a South East Asia holiday consider Malaysia as an alternative tropical island escape. You will not be disappointed!
This post is part of the Lovin’ Life Linky with a Lovin’ Life Team of the “ageing positively” kind who are as keen as I am to promote the Lovin’ Life mindset. The Lovin’ Life Team includes:
Kathy was a 50 something year old when she started up this blog 4 years ago, but has since turned over another decade and is now 60. She is married with two adult children and lives on the Gold Coast in Queensland. She enjoys living life to the fullest and loves to keep fit and active by maintaining a healthy diet and exercising regularly. Some of her interests include reading, movies, travelling, cooking and blogging! Kathy works part-time as a freelance writer but her real passion is travelling and photographing brilliant destinations both within Australia and overseas and writing about it.