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Why Malaysia is a wonderful vacation destination

Updated on February 22, 2013

Introduction to Wonderful Malaysia

Malaysia is an amazingly beautiful tropical destination in Southeast Asia. There are many highlights ready to be explored. Hotels and resorts are very affordable, and food is often plain cheap. But you get quality, it's all about quality in Malaysia. There is enough to do and see to keep you occupied for at least a few weeks. Travelers often spend about 3 weeks in the country, and have usually only seen 1% of all attractions and sights.

Beautiful jungles of Malaysia
Beautiful jungles of Malaysia

Introduction

Why Malaysia is one of the best holiday destinations around

Malaysia is a premier tourist destination. Yearly hundred thousands of people go there to enjoy all the great cities, islands and attractions. Malaysia was founded in 1957 and has developed very fast from then on. In recent years the Malaysian government invested much energy into turning Malaysia into the great tourism destination it is now. All the positive PR campaigns paid off, because every year more and more tourist arrive in the country. No matter where your interests lie, Malaysia will make it possible. From beautiful islands, to thick jungles, from rafting to hiking, from diving to shopping; all in one visit.

Tropical beach at Langkawi Island

Tropical beach at Langkawi Island
Tropical beach at Langkawi Island
Elephant in Sabah, Borneo
Elephant in Sabah, Borneo

Country information

Malaysia is located in the south east of the Asian continent, therefore this region is often referred to as ‘Southeast Asia’. The country consists of two parts: peninsular Malaysia, located between Thailand and Singapore, and the provinces Sabah and Sarawak, located on the island Borneo. Malaysia is located just above the equator and Borneo just beneath it. The large island Borneo is shared with Indonesia (they call this island Kalimantan) and Brunei.

Malaysia has a King (Abdul Halim Mu'adzam Shah) and a parliament with a Prime Minister (Mohd Najib Abdul Razak) as head of the government. The government of Malaysia is settled in Putrajaya, located close to Kuala Lumpur; the main capital of Malaysia. Islam is the official religion. The national language is Bahasa Malayu. Approximately 28 million people live in Malaysia, with three major populations; Malay, Chinese and Indian (and a small percentage of minority groups). Malaysia has 13 states, and 3 federal territories.

Sunrise on Sabah, Borneo

Sunrise on Sabah, Borneo
Sunrise on Sabah, Borneo
Kuala Lumpur, capital of Malaysia
Kuala Lumpur, capital of Malaysia

Great cities

Of course there are many cities that are worth a visit. A couple of them really stand out due to the many attractions within the city (or in close vicinity). Below some of the most popular cities of Malaysia:

Kuala Lumpur:

The capital of Malaysia has evolved to a very popular metropolis. Here you can find many shopping malls, restaurants and especially many cultural highlights. A trip to Malaysia usually consists of a visit to vibrant KL, since almost all international airlines fly to KLIA (Kuala Lumpur International Airport).

Georgetown:

The – Chinese flavored – city of Georgetown is de capital city of the popular island of Penang. On the island the majority of the inhabitants are of Chinese origin. Therefore Georgetown has that authentic Chinese look & feel. Some people will not like the city very much, main complaints are the hectic traffic situations, the smell and the littered streets. However, if you manage to look past that, the city has very much to offer. Besides; Penang is worldwide renowned for its great food, so no matter how dirty the city is, you’ll probably have a great time.

Petronas Towers in Kuala Lumpur

Petronas Towers in Kuala Lumpur
Petronas Towers in Kuala Lumpur
Pantai Cenang at Langkawi Island
Pantai Cenang at Langkawi Island

Beautiful islands

Malaysia is especially renowned for the many great islands. Almost every island has its own specialty, some you visit for the great flora and fauna, others for relaxing or diving purposes. Below some of the most popular (and accessible) islands of Malaysia:

Penang:

As already mentioned above (Capital city of Georgetown) the island of Penang can have two very opposing affects on tourists; you’ll either love it or hate it. If you come to love it, you will probably try to visit the island at every chance you have. If you hate it; you’ll hate it so much you will probably tell anyone you know about how disgusting the island was. The main points for loving the island is the authentic Chinese culture, the great food, the huge shopping malls and the many attractions on the island. The main reason why some people don’t like the island very much are the – sometimes somewhat polluted – not-so-great beaches, the hectic traffic situations, the arrogant taxi drivers, the very busy tourist spots. I can say after many visits that I grew fond of the island, despite some pretty negative sides of it. The island is very accessible, a one-way airline ticket usually costs around 20USD.

Langkawi:

Some call this one of the most beautiful islands of the world, and I agree wholeheartedly. I will start with the only negative aspect of the island; diving or snorkeling is pretty much impossible. However, this is not a real problem because there are many other island in Malaysia where you can dive or snorkel. Besides, the island has so many positive aspects, that it still is one of the best islands I’ve ever visited. The island has beautiful beaches, great jungles, great authentic Malay villages, many great attractions, some shopping malls, a couple of awesome waterfalls, great food at the hawkers and the best part; many affordable resorts. Should you pay a visit to Malaysia, make sure to check out Langkawi. It’s very accessible and a plane ticket from Kuala Lumpur will not cost more then 20USD.

Pangkor:

Pangkor is still a somewhat hidden gem in western Malaysia. Most tourists head over to Penang or Langkawi, and ‘forget’ to check out beautiful Pangkor. Pangkor is best described as the tiny version of Langkawi. The downside is that accommodation on the island is not as affordable as on Langkawi island, and there’s no easy way to get there. There are no (low cost carriers) airlines that fly to the island. The only way to get there is by taxi, bus or rented car (from Kuala Lumpur = 4 hr drive).

Redang:

Redang is perhaps one of the most exclusive islands on peninsular Malaysia. Accommodation is still pretty affordable (when looking at the quality). The island is easy accessible, just take an Air Asia flight from Kuala Lumpur to Kuala Terengganu (max 20USD) and from there you can take a taxi followed by a boat ride to the island. The island itself is located within a marine park. It’s especially great for diving enthusiasts, there are many diving spots located around the island.

Perhentian:

Perhentian lies close to Redang on the eastern side of peninsular Malaysia. The way to reach the island is comparable with how to reach Redang. The island is very popular with so called backpackers, people who usually travel light weighted and usually stay at cheap accommodation. Perhentian is a perfect destination for them, especially on Perhentian Kecil (the small island) you can find many cheap resorts (10/15USD per night). The bigger island – Perhentian Besar – is the more tranquil island of the two. Here you can find very nice accommodation (again extremely affordable compared to many other tropical islands in the world). Perhentian is the perfect spot for diving and snorkeling.

Stunning views from up Mount Kinabalu
Stunning views from up Mount Kinabalu

Exciting attractions

As mentioned before; Malaysia is one of the most versatile countries I have ever visited when looking at the many different attractions the country offers for tourists. Below a list with the highlights:

Taman Negara (Peninsular Malaysia):

One of the oldest primary rainforests in the world. A trip to Taman Negara is very fun. It is a great way to explore the thick jungles of Malaysia. It’s situated relatively close to Kuala Lumpur.

Kinabatangan River Cruise (Sabah):

Great river cruise in Sabah (Borneo). When you’re lucky you can spot Oran Utangs, Pygmy Elephants, Crocodiles and many other animal species.

Mount Kinabalu Summit hike (Sabah):

Mount Kinabalu is the biggest mountain in Malaysia. You can climb to the summit at 4092 meters. The views from the top are awesome, but make sure you reach the top in time. I’ve heard stories of people that just missed sunrise by 30 minutes, and felt like the whole trip was made in vain. The climb itself can be pretty strenuous for some people. I personally thought it was very difficult, though I am pretty sportive. Should you decide to climb to the summit, make sure you leave before 9.00 in the morning. That way you will arrive at the lodge in time so your body can acclimatize enough for phase two of the trip; the last 600 meters to the summit (you should leave the lodge at 1.00pm in order to reach the summit before sunrise).

Cameron Highlands (Peninsular Malaysia):

The Cameron Highlands are renowned for tea export. Here you’ll find many miles of tea plantations. The Cameron Highlands are a great way to avoid the hot climate for a couple of days. The temperatures are very nice compared to the hot and humid temperatures in the big city of Kuala Lumpur. The Cameron Highlands are great for nice hikes.

Jungles of Taman Negara

Jungles of Taman Negara
Jungles of Taman Negara
Me, the author
Me, the author

About the author

I am Ilya Houben. I operate two big independent travel websites about Malaysia. With these websites I am promoting tourism and travel in Malaysia.

After numerous visits to Malaysia my wife and I fell in love with the country. Since I am from the Netherlands, I build my first website about Malaysia in 2002 in the Dutch language; Veelzijdig Maleisie. This site evolved into one of the most popular Dutch travel websites about Malaysia.

In 2007 I started working on Wonderful Malaysia, an English travel guide on Malaysia. After the launch the site contained well over 400 pages with useful information for travelers. This site too grew very popular in only a short time. Now it is slowly becoming the most popular independent travel guide on Malaysia.

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