Best Things To Do in Malaysia – Malaysia is a country that has so much to offer the world, and being named as the ultimate Gastronomical Destination of South-East Asia just proves that it has many, many things up its sleeve. However, being surrounded by global big names such as the wild-party island of Bali, the diverse expat-magnet Singapore, and the famous Pattaya Beaches means that it just has to work a little harder to prove itself.
Whilst we just cannot list all the great things that made Malaysia part of Lonely Planet’s Best Countries to Travel in 2014 and Penang as one of the best cities to visit in 2016, we’ve included some of the best of the best (of the best) activites that just shows how great of a country it is, and why you shouldn’t delay your trip any further. Without further ado, please read on!
Best Things to do in Malaysia #1 – Visit Langkawi Island
Adrenalin junkies, we can guarantee that hopping on a jet-ski to explore the smaller islands of Langkawi is one of the best activities you’ll ever experience. The adrenalin rush is unreal, the beauty of the islands in the sea is unbelievable, and the 4-hours will go by so quick, you’ll be reaching for your wallet to book in another session before you know it.
Langkawi is known as a peaceful, relaxing island to most people. Locals especially see it as a weekend getaway resort island to unwind and relax on the beach, eating delicious street food and generally just living at a slower pace than the mainland. However, what most people don’t disclose is that one of the most popular activities to do on the island is actually renting a jet-ski with Mega Water Sports, who are jet-ski travel and tour specialists who have been operating their business for years, and whipping it out into the ocean with not a fear in the world.
Whether you’re a novice or a seasoned expert, they’ve got packages to suit everybody. The jet-skis are ridiculously easy to navigate once you’ve gone through your short lesson at the beginning, and the feeling of manoeuvring these beasts through the waters directly out into the horizon is something else. After a few minutes, with the beach disappeared and forgotten behind you, emerald green and turquoise waters all around you, and the looming stunning islands and majestic rock formations in front of you, you’ll wish you had done it sooner. The entire experience is unforgettable, so if you’re the type to love the water, and trying something new, different, and fun, this is the activity for you!
To find out more about this, read it in our Langkawi article here!
Best Things to do in Malaysia #2 – Climb Mount Kinabalu
In terms of hiking mountain feats, the majority of the public are usually only aware of places like Mount Everest, Earth’s highest mountain above sea level, or Mount Fuji, Japan’s highest mountain peak and the world’s most picturesque mountain. Both are climbable, and it seems that all of those who do so, make it known loud and proud what an accomplishment it was.
Mount Kinabalu is is Malaysia’s impressive contribution to this list. Standing at 4,085m above sea level, hiking it is a wild, two-day expedition that requires planning months in advance due to the mountain’s restriction on number of hikers per day and the immense popularity it has gained over the past years.
Whilst it’s not in the main areas normally visited in Malaysia, this hike is worth the trek to Sabah alone, due to its sheer inexplicable beauty at sunrise when you reach the peak on the second day. It’s so stunning it’s hard to put into words how to describe it. You will feel as small as an ant, you will see as far as hundreds of kilometres away, and instead of the usual forage of trees and grass, the top is a monumental artwork of rock formations that are highlighted perfectly by the steady sunrise as it shines over the white rocks.
For those of you who really enjoy pushing themselves in nature to get to these ridiculously striking places, climbing Mount Kinabalu is something you need to add to your list. We’ve detailed all you need to know about Mount Kinabalu in our article about Sabah Malaysia here! Read more about what Sabah has to offer.
Activity #3 – Sample Some of the World’s Best Foods at the Penang Street Markets
At some point in your life, you would have tried laksa, satay chicken skewers, nasi goreng, mi goreng (no, not the instant packet versions, although to be honest they’re probably the most popular things on this list), penang curry, hokkien noodles, roti canai, rojak … this list could go on forever, but we just want to point out one thing – they all originated from Malaysia.
Malaysia hosts many cities that are considered ultimate food destinations for anyone and everyone traveling there, and the Gastronomic Capital of Asia is none other than Penang, the Pearl of the Orient, located on the northwest cost of Peninsular Malaysia. Over time, the food culture in Penang has grown to be somewhat legendary. The street food markets, or hawker markets, have developed to immensely overtime they’ve drawn crowds from all over the globe to sample their traditional offerings, and yet, when you arrive and take it all in, there is not one ounce of modernisation there: street carts that look as though they’re way past their use-by date, open-air restaurants with seatings of plastic stools and foldout tables, and slightly murky windows displaying the chefs working their magic in the back – it’s real, it’s raw, and it’s what you’re foodie dreams are made of.
Some of the most popular street foods that you can try in Penang include char kway teow (flat rice noodles stir fried with seafood, eggs, beansprouts, fish cake and hilli paste), assam laksa, hokkien mee (prawn-based, spicy broth noodle dish), rojak (cool cucumber slivers, bean sprouts, tofu squares, turnip, hardboiled eggs, and crispy prawn crackers), and cendol (a cold dessert of coconut milk, pandan-flavoured green jelly and brown sugar over ice). Some of the more popular hawker markets are Gurney Drive Hawker Centre, Chulia Street Night Stalls, and Red Garden Food Paradise.
If you want to find out more about the food culture in Penang, we’ve got an entire article dedicated to George Town here!
Best Things to do in Malaysia #4 – Experience a Unique Culture in Malacca
Located in the southwestern region of Malaysia, the most famous thing to come out of Malacca would be the Malacca Straits, but what most people don’t know is that Malacca (aka Malaka), which is easily reachable via Kuala Lumpur either by car or by bus, is a wonderful way to explore the Baba-Nyonya or Peranakan culture prominent in Malaysia’s mixed raced society. An amalgamation of distinct customs, traditions, food and lifestyle, it’s also home to rich Malaysian history, earning it the title of the unofficial historic capital of Malaysia.
There’s such a diverse blend of activities to do here that whether it be a day trip or a trip over a few nights, Malacca is definitely worth popping onto the itinerary. Below we’ve outlined some incredible things that you shouldn’t miss when you’re there!
The street which defines the Chinatown in Malacca, is renowned for its numerous clothing, crafts, and food stalls. You can spend the day exploring the multiple historic sites located nearby the streets, but night time is when the magic happens. Every Friday and Saturday, the streets are blocked and the area is turned into a colossal night market. You can spend hours perusing the stalls for cheap keepsakes, unique fashion items, and sampling delicious traditional Malaysia foods.
Address: 75200 Malacca, Malaysia
Hours: Friday & Saturday – from 5:00pm
Butterfly & Reptile Sanctuary
A great activity for all travellers, especially groups with younger kids, this sanctuary is a key tourist attracting in Ayer Keroh, about 15km from Malacca town. It hosts a wide collection of creatures from stunningly beautiful butterflies to reptiles such as snakes and lizards, to crocodiles, koi fish, and even gorgeous golden leopards. You can spend a whole day here admiring the creatures and learning a little bit of something at each of their five animal sections: the Koi River Valley, the Butterly Garden, the Reptile Aviary, the Wild Photo Lane, and Nature’s Art Centre.
Access: From Malacca Town, follow the signs to the Lebuhraya Toll or Ayer Keroh. When you reach the Zoo Melaka along the Lebuh Ayer Keroh, follow the brown road signs for Taman Rama-rama.
Hours: 8:30am – 5:30pm
Cost: Adult – RM22 (5$), Child – RM16 (3$)
Melaka Sultanate Palace
For the history buffs, visiting the Melaka Sultanate Palace means that you’ll be visiting a replica of Sultan Mansur Shah’s 15th-century palace. The intricacies of this palace can be felt and seen through the obvious use of traditional construction techniques and materials when it was built in 1985. The impressive seven-tiered palace was the most impressive palace ever constructed in the world in 1459, however, it was destroyed the year after the sultan ascended the throne when it was struck by lightning.
Hours: 9:00am – 5:00pm (closed on Mondays)
Cost: RM10 (2$)
Best Things to do in Malaysia #5 – Visit the Iconic Petronas Twin Towers in Kuala Lumpur
Seen by many as a popular image printed on many tourist souvenirs, the Petronas Towers actually held the title of the tallest towers in the world from 1998 – 2004, and now they are considered a landmark of Kuala Lumpur. They’re both 451.9m in height, and are a whooping 88 floors high!
The iconic twin towers of Kuala Lumpur not only serve as a great photographic opportunity from the outside, but if you’re a fashion fanatic, be prepared to spend hours (literally) perusing through all the high-end, casual, chic, boutique, and chain fashion stores that take up majority of the real estate of Suria KLCC, the upmarket retail centre at the feet of the Petronas towers.
Whilst this may not fit in with your itinerary, to really appreciate the full extend of the beauty of the towers, it is recommended that you view it once during the day, and once again at night. The ambience changes vastly. At the front of the towers there is often water and light shows that almost always attract an enthusiastic crowd.
For those who want that sweeping panoramic view (and to be honest, who doesn’t, given the height and reach of these towers?), you can purchase tickets to head up to the 86th floor to visit the Skybridge (which connects the towers) and the Observation Deck. During the day, the city honestly just stretches for miles, and from this high up in the sky, you will get the opportunity to appreciate the architectural beauties throughout KL. At night, the glittering city before you is a sight to behold. There are a limited number of tickets a day, so you need to reserve in advance if you’re super keen.
Hours: Tuesday – Sunday: 9:00am – 9:00pm (Closed on Mondays, Closed from 1:00pm – 2:30pm on Fridays for maintenance)
Cost: Adult – RM80 (20$), Child – RM33 (7$) (Purchase/reserve your tickets on the ‘Concourse Level’)
Activity #6 – Take a Cooking Class with the Original Masterchefs
When people think of souvenirs, it’s pretty much always the same thing: magnets, shot glasses, a superimposed picture with a landmark in the background, maybe a t-shirt that screams ‘NYC’ on it, etc. However, what if you could take something home that’s intangible, that won’t break, and that will be continually useful to you for a very long time? Yes, we are actually suggesting that you learn how to cook a traditional Malaysian dish!
With Penang being known as the Gastronomic Capital of Malaysia and Malaysian food in general getting all the rapt that it deserves with social media catching up to the countries previously unknown goodies, a whole new level of tourism has taken Malaysia by storm, this time in form of cooking classes!
If you’ve never lifted a finger in the kitchen before, don’t worry, they’ve prepared for people like you! From complete novices to restaurant chefs and everyone in between, these cooking classes have catered for them all. Whilst most are as good as any, the trick is to go for the home-cooking style classes, for example, the Penang Home-cooking School, run by Pearly Kee. Her style is effortlessly traditional, held at her own home with quality ingredients and her undivided attention so you’ll never get the feeling of being a ‘student’.
After you’ve spent a few hours whipping away like a Masterchef, head inside and sample your dishes with your group and Pearly, and know that you’ve taken away something greater than most people do when they’ traverse Malaysia.
Address: 85 Taman Berjaya, Pulau Tikus
Cost: From RM220 (54$) – RM250 (61$) per person
Best Things to do in Malaysia #7 – Sunbake in Langkawi
One of the best things about visiting south-east Asian countries is the fact that almost all year-round, the glittering turquoise beaches will present a magnificent sight to behold the moment you lay your eyes on them, and will continue to do so every day you make your way out to lay on the white-sand beaches with a beer in hand, after having fed on a delicious buffet breakfast, ready for another session of sunbaking, frolicking in the waters, and tropical fruits.
Langkawi, a popular island just off the west coast of Malaysia, is the ultimate destination to do all of the above, and more. You can scuba-dive, jetski, parasail, hop on a banana boat, and everything in between. Adventurous water sports not your forte? That’s not a problem at all. Many resorts on this island actually offer private beach access directly from their hotels – you’ll be asking yourself if this is a dream everyday. Wake up to the sound of the ocean waves, look out from your balcony to the vast sea, dip your deep in the soft, white sands at Tanjung Rhu and spend the entire day just appreciating the hot, all-year-round summer sun. At night, Langkawi leaves the party scene behind on the main island – instead, head to one of its few beach clubs to grab a few beers or cocktails and nibbles, and watch the sunrise over the beaches as time slows down for you.
You’ll never want to leave.
Want to find out more about Langkawi? We’ve got an entire article dedicated to the island, read more here!
Best Things to do in Malaysia #8 – Visit the Idyllic Islands of Perhentian
The Perhentian Islands are a small cluster of untouched, stunning coral-fringed islands off the coast of north-eastern Malaysia, situated quite close to the Thai border. There are two main islands, Pulau Perhentian Besar and Pulau Perhentian Kecil. For groups of friends and backpackers who want to party it up, Kecil provides cheaper accommodation and attracts the slightly rowdier crowd. Families and those who are after a quiet getaway usually book accommodation on Besar which, whilst it is a little more expensive, offers a respite from the party scene.
One of the most popular activities that people do in the Perhentian Islands is take advantage of the crystal clear waters and abundant marine life to go snorkelling and scuba diving. The visibility around the islands, especially during the summer months, is outstanding! You will be able to see creatures such as reef sharks and turtles and other interesting marine animals as well as colourful corals that are all shades of the rainbow. Scuba and diving rental gear are abundant across the many rental stores on the island, so you won’t have to worry about pre-organising that beforehand.
The beaches are renowned far and wide across Malaysia as being the most peaceful and relaxing, with soft waves, white sand, and ample space for you and the next person who have your own space even on a busy beach.
If you’re having a big, long party after a big, long day out in the sun, Long Beach is the place to be. Alcohol is infinitely more expensive than on the mainland, so plan ahead and bring a bottle of something from the mainland.
Access: To access the islands, you will need to catch a ferry from Kuala Besut Jetty. You can catch a bus to the jetty (bus system is very efficient in Malaysia), or fly to Kota Kharu or Kuala Terrenganu and catch a taxi to the jetty.
Cost: Round-trip: 70 MYR (17$)
Activity #9 – Trekking through the Jungle
If you’re the type who’s always wanted to trek the safari, Malaysia is your best bet! The affordability, the mysterious beauty of the rainforests and the ease of planning a self hike – Malaysia offers it all, and then some.
Some of the jungle treks can be reached from Kuala Lumpur City, whilst others are more remote and will require some traveling. We’ve completed a list below of some of the best and most accessible for your convenience:
Templer’s Park, Selangor (within KL)
Also known as Tamar Rimba Templer, this jungle is just a 20km ride from the centre of Kuala Lumpur. The trekking trail here is a relatively easy hike, and ends at a gorgeous waterfall to cool down during the hot day. When you’re hiking to the the waterfall, be prepared to cross some freshwater streams. The views of the towering trees and the lush vegetation will make you re-think heading back to the city!
Address: 48200 Rawang, Selangor, Malaysia
Access: Starting point of trail
Taman Nagara Malaysia, Kuala Tahan (Northern Malaysia)
This national park host some of the oldest rainforest spaces in the entire world, and some of their trails are the most interesting in Malaysia. A popular one is the Teresek Hill trail, which takes under 90-minutes to complete as a return-trip. Along the trailhead, you’ll pass the best bird watching area where you might be able to spot the Rumped Shama. The peak of the trail offers a majestic view of the Tahan Mountain and the vast luscious rainforest canopy.
Access: Starting point of trail
Endau Rompin National Park, Johor (Southern Malaysia)
This national park is the second oldest national park in Peninsular Malaysia, and also boasts one of the world’s oldest rainforests. It also hosts 240 million year-old volcanic rocks. The most unique part of this national park, however, is that it’s home to the endangered Sumatran Rhino – it’s believed that there are less than 300 of them left in the world.
Endau Rompin National Park is usually explored as part of a tour package that lasts over a few days with a certified tour guide (to really make the most of the park), however, you can also do some self-exploration, as there are just so many activities to do and so much area to cover that you can’t possibly complete it in one lifetime. Think waterfall hiking, kayaking through lakes, rubber tube rafting, and night safari.
There are 3 entrances to the park, but it’s the most easily accessible from the Selai entrance from Bekok Town. The headquarters of the park offering chalets and dorms as accommodation options, and even allow you to rent a tent to camp in designated areas. This park well and truly has it all.
Our suggested trek would be the Takah Tinggi trek to the waterfall, which is absolutely exquisite. From Bekok Town, head to the Selai entrance (it’s probably best to self drive in a 4WD). Book accommodation at the chalets at Lubok Tapah (or grab tent), and from there, hike to the waterfall.
Access: from Bekok, Johor, Malaysia
Best Things to do in Malaysia #10 – Party it up with some global DJs in Kuala Lumpur
The capital of Malaysia, Kuala Lumpur, is pretty much a party destination for many visitors around Asia-Pacific. It’s affordable to get to, the city is condensed with multiple party scenes, and transport is supremely convenient across all parts of town. What’s there not to love?
For anyone heading to Malaysia to Party, you would have definitely come across Zouk KL before. Hailed as the ultimate destination in KL for its massive dance floors, various dance rooms with different DJ and music styles, themed music nights throughout the week, and regular appearances by globally renowned DJs just as Above and Beyond and Tiesto, you don’t want to miss a night out at this club. You’ll more likely be jumping up and down on the dance floor with expats and foreigners than locals, but everyone’s there for the love of dancing and music, so the language is universal.
Hours: Wednesday – Sunday: 9:00pm – Late
Cost: from RM18 (4$) – RM50 (12$) (depending on night and event)
Club Kyo Mandarin Oriental
For those who want to go wild with drinks, Club Kyo at Mandarin Oriental Kuala Lumpur is one of the most popular clubs for everyone, both locals and foreigners. Its music ranges from house to techno to disco to hip-hop, catering to audiences of all styles and interests. The interior is an amalgamation of stunning art pieces, lounges encircling rooms, and wall-length alcohol display units. The best thing about this club is that from 11:00pm to 1:00am, you can enjoy 2 housepours for the price of 1 in its ren lounge.
Address: Basement 2 & 3, Mandarin Oriental Hotel Kuala Lumpur City Centre, 50088, Kuala Lumpur
Hour : Wednesday – Sunday : 11:00pm – late
Website : http://clubkyo.com/
Cost : [Include 1 drink) Before 1:00AM RM50, After 1:00AM RM60
Under9 Kuala Lumpur
Under9 Kuala Lumpur is a rather hidden underground house and techno club in Kuala Lumpur which is the perfect destination for those who enjoy loud music and crazy dancing but want to stay away from the crazy crowds. It’s rare that you come across this club ambience and atmosphere, and it just works at Under9. A small club that only hosts around 130 people at it’s maximum limit, local DJS work the crowd spinning trance, techno and house on Fridays and Saturday nights.
Hours: Friday – Saturday: 10:00pm – Late
Cost: RM15 (4$)
There is so much to see, and so little time to do it. Unless you want to pack your bags and spend a few months (or years) traversing through the entry country of Malaysia, you can’t possibly fit all the activities that make Malaysia great into one trip, which means you’ll probably just have to continue coming back!