Written by Oryx
If variety is the spice of life, then Malaysia is bursting with vitality, offering rainforest adventures, fish-filled reefs, holiday islands, historic towns, and cultural diversity. Here are five of its highlights.
The rugged, jungle-covered hillsides of Langkawi in northwest Malaysia provide sweeping views over the turquoise Andaman Sea all the way to Thailand. Though the destination has fine resorts, development is low-key, leaving much of the island to lush waterfall-studded rainforest and offshore marine parks noted for their coral, shoals of tropical fish, and karst outcrops.
Gunung Mulu National Park
The extensive cave network, spectacular karst landscape, and dense equatorial rainforest of this national park in northern Sarawak in Borneo have made it a World Heritage Site. Wildlife includes macaques and gibbons, monitor lizards, mouse deer, squirrels, and spectacular hornbills. The intrepid can hike the Headhunter’s Trail, which involves travel upriver, jungle trekking, and an overnight stay in a longhouse, or explore vast caves, including the world’s largest natural chamber and largest cave passage.
Melaka (Malacca) is Malaysia’s most historic town, founded as one of the country’s earliest sultanates but taken over by the Portuguese in 1511. You can see the ruins of their massive fort and church, as well as the elegant pink town hall and bright-red church of the Dutch who followed. Many surviving townhouses date from the British era, which started in 1811. This trading city has also been influenced by Chinese, Indian, and Indonesian culture, providing a rich cultural mix and some of Malaysia’s best food.
Those who want to escape the heat and humidity of lowland Malaysia can head to the hills, and there’s no better retreat than this highland station established by the British, with its pretty colonial-style hotels and afternoon teas. With elevations over 1,300m (and reaching 1,829m), the air is cool and the scenery is splendid, encompassing forested hills, serried rows of tea bushes, waterfalls, and distant blue peaks.
Orangutans are the prime reason many visit the wild and rugged state of Sabah on the island of Borneo. Certainly Sepilok Orangutan Rehabilitation Centre outside Sandakan is a must-see for the antics of the adorable but endangered orangutans, and to learn about their conservation. But Sabah is also a destination for soft-adventure sports, from white-water rafting on the Padas River to snorkelling on coral reefs or sailing the islands offshore from the state capital, Kota Kinabalu.
Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
Distance: 5,894 km
Flight Time: 7 hours, 40 minutes
Frequency: 3 flights a day