Malaysia is a country split in two by the South China Sea. While Borneo offers a wild jungle adventure with native tribes and hairy orang-utans, the peninsula is a cultural mash-up of Malay, Chinese and Indian flavours – culturally and gastronomically speaking. It boasts vibrant modern cities, traditional merchant ports and remote villages in pristine rainforest landscapes. Its mix of peoples and influences have created a diverse and welcoming society.
Malaysia is one of the wealthiest countries in Southeast Asia and offers a diversity in culture and landscapes that is both inspiring and breath-taking. From the glittering skyscrapers of its hyper-modern cities to the primary rainforests of its unspoiled interior, Malaysia encapsulates this part of Asia in all its variety.
Malaysia was a fixture on the old spice route, so has one of the best assortments of cuisines in the world. Get set for an exceptional variety of gourmet treats: start with Chinese-Malay ‘Nonya’ fare, before moving onto banana leaf curries, Chinese noodles and spicy Malay cuisine and even impressive Western food.
Kuala Lumpur is completely bewitching in its chaotic amalgamation of urbane sky-rises and glossy shopping malls, which stand just a coconut throw from bustling street markets and romantic colonial architecture. You might want to take an empty suitcase with you as the shopping is excellent, with blissfully air-conditioned malls offering fantastic selections of clothes, shoes, electronics, jewellery and local treasures. The night markets are absolute bedlam, but in the very best way, with the friendly Malays willing to barter with you over their wares.
The cooler climes and tranquil tea plantations of the Cameron Highlands offers a great escape from the heat of the cities and time to reflect. Situated in the centre of the peninsula, the Cameron Highlands provide a rural setting with a series of hill stations at high altitudes and form the centre of Malaysia’s tea industry, where the verdantly green lush sweeping tea plantations and strawberry fields and the temperature lowers to a crisp 18 degrees. Prepare for high tea and scones on your terrace overlooking rolling pastures.
For many, it is the coast that is the major draw, with superb beaches on the mainland as well as a scattering of tranquil islands, poised between virgin jungle and clear coral-filled waters. There are beaches that will make your mouth water and, further afield, tropical islands that define the meaning of paradise.
Try Tioman Island for a stay at the eco-luxe Jam Mala resort, where you can dip your toes into the azure waters and indulge in a little snorkelling in between pamper sessions. Alternatively you could try the white sand beaches and crystal seas of Langkawi; often thought of as a honeymooners’ heaven, cocooned in a picture-perfect bay wondering whether to join a rainforest walk, where you may see a variety of wildlife, such as monkey, hornbill and flying fox, before succumbing to massage in the spa.
Borneo, offer the ideal base for exploration of indigenous cultures, limestone formations, jungles, forests and an array of wildlife. Sarawak is home to amazing limestone caves, headhunter trails and the razor sharp Pinnacles. Sabah is covered in impenetrable tropical rainforest where the rafflesia – the world’s largest flowering plant, thrives together with an eclectic mix of other unusual plants. However, it is the wildlife for which Sabah is best known and we will wander trails through the forest reserves and visit the Orangutan Rehabilitation Centre.
Opportunities for adventure abound, from trekking the steamy jungle of mighty Mount Kinabalu to watching turtles hatch on a secluded beach. Ninety minutes from the mountain lie the lively markets of Sabah’s capital, Kota Kinabalu…but the lure of the ocean is strong and we know just the place to unwind on the tropical beaches and small islands that are scattered around.