Malaysia is one of those countries travellers seem to look over, tending to prefer Thailand, Indonesia and Vietnam. Many will make a stopover in Kuala Lumpur, but you don’t see many people actually travel with the destination of Malaysia in mind.
But Malaysia has so much to offer! From a stunning capital city, lush jungles, beautiful islands, delicious food and a variety of adventurous activities – it seriously has everything you need for an unforgettable trip.
Here is our list of our top 10 things to do in Malaysia which we hope will convince you to add this country to your next South East Asia adventure!
10. Explore the City of Kuala Lumpur
Kuala Lumpur is the capital city of Malaysia, and most probably the city you flew into on your way to Malaysia. It is well worth it to spend a couple of days in the city before heading off to see the rest of the country. It is hands down one of the most clean, pristine and beautiful capital cities we have visited in Asia.
While you are there you can not miss the Petronas Towers – one of the world’s most iconic sites. When we arrived in the city we didn’t realise it was Earth Hour so the towers were not lit up! When we checked into our hotel room (which was located directly across from the towers) we were able to experience the lights being turned back on which was an amazing sight to see!
We also recommend you check out the famous Sky Bar. Located high up on the 33rd floor of Traders is the famous Sky Bar. Here you can sip on a cocktail, listen to a DJ and enjoy amazing views of the Petrona Twin Towers from your very own cabana booth! They also have really good food here so we suggest coming at sunset to grab some dinner & enjoy the cool atmosphere.
Where we Stayed: Traders Hotel Kuala Lumpur
9. Trek through Caves in Merapoh
We highly recommend spending some time in Merapoh to go and explore some caves. Merapoh has over 400 caves, with only 85 that have been properly explored. We literally walked through rivers into darkness and emerge at the end into pristine jungle on the other side.
How to get to Merapoh: It’s about 244km from Kuala Lumpur, you can get there by train, bus or self drive. We recommend catching the bus from TBS in KL to Merapoh Village which takes about 4 hours.
Merapoh Cave Tours: There are a number of tour companies in Merapoh to go with, but we recommend Merapoh Adventures
8. Eat a Traditional Malay Meal
Malaysians are super friendly people. During our three weeks travelling through Malaysia we were invited twice by locals to come and enjoy a home cooked meal with them, and they were both our favourite meals we had during our time in Malaysia.
As with many cultures, the Malay people have a certain dining etiquette that you should become familiar with before your visit:
1. Traditional Malay homes prefer being seated on the floor while having meals.
2. It is nice to bring a small gift for your host or hostess or a souvenir from your home country.
3. As a sign of respect, guests are seated on the left-hand side of the elder most member of the family.
4. Wait for the host to signal when you can start eating. To start eating without being asked to shows disrespect and could also mean you are in a hurry to leave.
5. Use of the left hand is strictly avoided, for both serving and eating food. The left hand is used for washroom purposes and shouldn’t be seen handling food on the dining table.
6. Allow the elders to take the serving first.
7. Each grain of rice is sacred and must not be wasted. This means you should scoop enough rice that you know you will be able to finish.
7. See the Street Art in Penang
Penang is an island off the west coast of Malaysia and is famous for its incredible street art and delicious food. Listed as a UNESCO World Cultural Heritage Site in 2008, this is a spot you do not want to miss on your trip to Malaysia.
Quirky and interactive street art can be found scattered throughout Georgetown and is a photographers dream. You will instantly become inspired to snap street scenes and cityscapes the moment you arrive.
How to get to Penang: There are a bunch of flights from KL to Penang, taking about 55 minutes to get there, but the cheaper option would be a train from KL taking you around 6 hours to get there.
6. Go Hiking through Bako National Park
Located in Kuching, Bako National Park is a stunning area filled with rainforest, wildlife, waterfalls and secluded beaches. To get there you need to take a boat from Bako Village. The national park is full of 16 colour coded jungle trails offering an arrange of walking and hiking options.
Something we loved about this national park is that visitors to Bako are almost guaranteed to see wildlife. Long-tailed macaque monkeys and silver leaf monkeys are roaming the trees, wild boar are often found rummaging around the park entrance, squirrels and monitor lizards are abundant and there is a great chance of seeing the rare and unusual proboscis monkeys on trails such as Telok Paku and Telok Delima, particularly if you go late afternoon!
5. Visit Batu Caves
Only 20 minutes outside of KL is the incredible Batu Caves. It is a massive cave temple that can not be missed during a visit to Kuala Lumpur. With wild monkeys running up its rock faced walls and birds flying in and out of the cave, it’s a sight you will never forget.
You will have to walk 272 steps to get to the cave and there is no fee to enter. Just ensure you bring something to cover your shoulders and knees as it is a holy sight.
How to get there: Batu Caves is only 13km outside of KL City and is super easy to get to via train. Trains leave KL Sentral every half an hour and cost just 4 MYR return ($1.25 US)
4. Volunteer with Orangutans
In Taiping on Orangutan Island you can spend some time volunteering with these endangered animals. This sanctuary serves as a home to orangutans who have been rescued from illegal possession and/or trade until they are ready to be released back into the wild. Lend a hand here can ultimately save these wonderful and extremely intelligent animals.
Something we loved about this place was the fact that the orangutans are not the ones in the enclosures – we are! The paths through the island are surrounded by a cage to keep the workers and volunteers safe, and allows for the rest of the island to be free for the orangutans to roam, climb trees and even create nests to reproduce.
We spent a week volunteering here by helping out the workers with feeding, cleaning and observing these amazing animals.
Want to volunteer with Orangutans? We went with GoEco’s Orangutan Sanctuary Project
3. Stay at a Resort in Kota Kinabalu
Kota Kinabalu is the perfect tropical getaway with beautiful beaches, postcard islands and the very popular Mount Kinabalu at your doorstep. Stop to take a break here and you might just fall under the spell of this beautiful and lively capital situated on the northwest coast of Borneo. If you are wanting to escape city life and unwind for a short weekend break or a lengthy beach holiday than this is the perfect spot!
We spent some time vacationing at Shangri-La Rasa Ria Resort and had such a relaxing, yet adventurous time! We went parasailing, hiked to a look out and had breakfast with Mount Kinabalu in the background, enjoyed massages and ate a lot of incredible food.
Where we Stayed: Shangri-La Rasa Ria Resort
2. Camp in the Malaysian Jungle
During our time in Merapoh we spent one night camping in the jungle. We slept under a natural tent, just like the ones the Batek tribe use in the area. We were actually in Merapoh volunteering and helping with the conservation efforts for the endangered Malayan tiger found in the area, and this jungle camping was apart of this experience.
We had to collect leaves and sticks to help build and support our tent, and cooked dinner inside bamboo over the fire – it was one of those nights we will never forget!
Want to experience this? We recommend spending some time volunteering at GoEco’s Jungle Treking and Sea Turtle Conservation
1. Dive with Turtles in the Perhentian Islands
The Perhentian Islands is a place we like to refer to as the Maldives of Malaysia. Lying close to the coast of Thailand, these islands can be visited by ferry and water taxi. Here you will find pristine beaches and amazing scuba diving.
While we were here we actually volunteered with sea turtles which was an incredible experience. We were involved in essential photo identification research, as well as guarding turtle nesting beaches at night. The project is currently developing a population consensus of sea turtles on the islands (males, females and juveniles).
How to get here:
By Plane – Fly with Malaysia Airline, Air Asia or Fireflyz from Kuala Lumpur to either Kuala Terengganu or Kota Bharu (45 minutes). After arrive at the airport, take either a bus or taxi to Kuala Besut jetty. The journey will be take about 1½ hours from Kuala Terengganu airport / 1hours from Kota Bharu airport.
By Bus – Board a night coach which depart from Kuala Lumpur (8 hours), and arrive at Kuala Terengganu Bus Terminal around 6.00am the next morning. Once you arrive the bus company will assist you to arrange your transfer to Kuala Besut Jetty. *This is what we did.
Interested in volunteering with sea turtles? We volunteer at GoEco’s Sea Turtle Conservation project
Have we missed something? We would love for you to share things you recommend people do during their visit to Malaysia in the comment below
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