If you are looking for a winter getaway, consider Malaysia, the land of eternal summer and one of the most developed nations in Southeast Asia. It is a country of clean modern cities filled with delightful architecture from the past. Malaysia is home to a green tropical countryside, sparkling beaches, the tallest peak in the region - Mount Kinabalu, and, most importantly, warm, friendly and welcoming people. Malaysia boasts a high literacy level – education through high school is free and 90 percent of students in higher education receive scholarships. English is widely used in business and commerce, and it is also the language of instruction of science and mathematics in schools.
The majority of the population is Malay. The second-largest segment is Chinese and the third comprises of descendants from India. Malaysia has complete religious tolerance. Hindu, Buddhists, Muslims, and Christians all worship without fear and cemeteries are shared, with each religion having its own section.
Kuala Lumpur, the capital of Malaysia, commonly known as KL, is an exciting combination of a cosmopolitan metropolis, lush tropical gardens, Victorian colonial architecture, and an exotic Chinatown. Founded some 150 years ago at the Y-shaped confluence of two rivers, the Klang and Gombak, the name Kuala Lumpur means the "muddy river mouth" in Malay. The modern Kuala Lumpur, however, has very little to do with the name. This bustling city masterfully retains the traditional features of its multicultural past with the ever-changing 21st-century skyline, which has transformed beyond recognition in the past decade. It is this unique blend of traditional Malay culture, British colonial architecture, Chinese and Indian heritage, and contemporary traditions that make KL such an exciting place to visit.
The wealth of Moorish and colonial-style architecture is offset by an array of modern architectural wonders. The city's skyline is dominated by two of the world's tallest buildings, the dramatic steel-and-glass Petronas Twin Towers, connected by a bridge at the 41st floor. It also boasts the world's fourth-tallest communications tower with a breathtaking view of the sprawling city from the observation deck located at 905 feet. For nature lovers, there is the KL Bird Park, home to some 3,000 avian specimens, and the Hibiscus and the Orchid Gardens.
Centered on Petaling Street, Chinatown offers varied shopping opportunities, ranging from herbal medicines to clothes. Transformed into a buzzing open-air bazaar in the evening, the central market is an excellent place to shop for jewelry, antiques, and wood carvings. Shoppers would also appreciate the chance to explore the largest shopping and leisure complex in Malaysia offering more than 1,000 retail outlets.
Because KL is quite spread out, we would recommend taking an orientation sightseeing tour to get an overall impression of the city's major highlights. An excursion to a pewter factory (Royal Selengor pewter renowned for its excellent quality), batik and rubber shops would offer a valuable insight into the local lore.
One of the popular attractions is the Batu Caves, only eight miles north of the city center. Located in a giant outcrop of limestone cliffs, it is a Hindu shrine and the main pilgrimage center in Malaysia. Kuala Lumpur's central location lends itself to trips to other Malaysian destinations such as Malacca and Penang. With its mix of Dutch, Portuguese, British and Malay influences, Malacca is Malaysia's most historic city. It showcases a remarkable Dutch colonial downtown, the oldest surviving Dutch buildings in the East, and a vibrant Chinatown, the ancient trading section of Malacca. The latter is home to the opulently decorated Cheng Hong Teng Temple, the oldest Chinese temple in Malaysia, and Jonkers Street, renowned for its antique shops.
Penang, the northern gateway to Malaysia and the country's oldest British settlement, is connected to the mainland by the 8-mile-long Penang Bridge, the longest bridge in Southeast Asia. Famous for its beaches, Penang is also considered a cultural and architectural gem with unique Chinese, Malay, Indian and European influences. The Georgetown section of Penang (named after George III, Prince of Wales) showcases the largest collection of pre-war houses in all of southeast Asia. It is home to Kek Lok Si Temple, one of the most vast and stunning Buddhist temple complexes in southeast Asia, and the remarkable Cheong Fatt Tze Chinese Mansion, a winner of UNESCO's Conservation Award.
Malaysia can be explored by land as a stand-alone destination or in conjunction with other countries of Southeast Asia such as Singapore, Thailand, Cambodia, Myanmar and Vietnam. It could also be an enjoyable part of a Southeast Asia cruise. Contact us to receive information about available travel options to Malaysia and southeast Asia.
Photos courtesy of: Malaysia Tourism Board and Four Seasons Malaysia