Some of the best experiences in Malaysia right now.
Winning tip: Hot springs, Sabah
Kundasang is a beautiful mountain town in Sabah. I stayed at the Kinabalu Pine Resort, which has a great view of the 4,000-metre Mount Kinabalu. A lovely excursion is to Poring Hot Spring, an hour’s drive away in Ranau. It has many shaded bathtubs but my favorites were the pools with different depths, starting from half a meter with the deepest being about seven meters. The Poring Canopy Walkway, Sabah’s highest, is just next to the hot spring.
Bar with a view, Kuala Lumpur
Take the elevator to the 34th floor of the nondescript Menara KH office block, and you’ll enter the Heli Lounge Bar. This is somewhere you would find on a strip in a British holiday resort, playing loud pop music to a global crowd of twentysomethings. But, take the three flights of stairs up from the main bar, and emerge into the outdoors – to a tranquil terrace on a disused helipad – giving the best view in Kuala Lumpur. Sitting across from the Petronas Towers, and KL Tower, watch the sun go down over a few affordable (by UK standards) drinks and watch the city light up with the night, with the roar of the streets below.
Island paradise of Tioman
After arriving on the stunning lush, green island of Tioman we hopped in a jeep from the main village, Tekek, on the west coast, over hills, to the more off-the-beaten-track village of Juara on the east of the island. We stayed in a hut, on the beach, a short walk from the village center. The two beaches are deserted and idyllic; the locals welcoming; there is a short stroll to a waterfall where you pull yourself across a river on a raft and, if you’re lucky enough, you may even see some turtles.
Orangutan sanctuary, Sarawak
When in Sarawak, visiting the orangutan sanctuary in the Semenggoh nature reserve is a must. It’s an hour’s bus ride away from Kuching, the bus stops right outside. The orangutan is semi-wild and there’s no guarantee they’ll come out. However, at feeding time there’s a good chance some may venture along with some fresh fruit. We were lucky enough to see these fascinating creatures up close in their natural environment, an incredible experience.
Spanish-style hotel on the coast, Cherating
After hiring a car in Kuala Lumpur, I drove to the east coast (three hours on the E8). Driving past fields, mountains and down sandy roads to find hidden, empty beaches, we came across Casa Titik. The Spanish-style villa seemed somewhat out of place along this rugged coast, but the whitewashed walls and sandy roofs looked stunning against the lush green background of the countryside. The family-run villa has two pools, a hot tub, horse stables and a path leading down to a white sand beach; it’s homely but luxurious.
Take a Penang ferry trip
A fine way of appreciating Penang’s island setting is from the water. The George Town-Butterworth ferry crisscrosses Penang harbor from early morning till midnight, and the 20-minute trip provides a great opportunity to experience a slice of local life, as well as the views of the city and island. Make sure you go to the far end of the deck when you board to get the best view. I recommend late afternoon when the sun begins to drop behind the island. It’s only about 20p per adult, too.
Scuba diving at Pulau Langkawi
Malaysia isn’t as famous for scuba diving as its south-east Asian neighbors but goes to the white sand, mangrove-fringed shores of Pulau Langkawi and there is a small but burgeoning diving scene. It’s a great way to see another side to this 104-island archipelago: we saw seahorses, coral, and clownfish. The shallow waters make it suitable for beginners (it was my first dive) and the warm climate makes year-round diving possible. Even getting caught in a fishing net and having to be cut free didn’t dampen my spirits! Ex-banker turned scuba instructor Dee and his partner Warda run a great place, Langkawi Scuba.
Hope you enjoy your stay in Malaysia!
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