Malaysia is an often overlooked country between the tourist hotspots of Thailand and Indonesia. With the phenomenal growth of AirAsia though, many people are making a stop there to find it’s a great place to avoid the touts and hassle of its neighbors. From Borneo, to the peninsula, to the beautiful islands, Malaysia has a lot to offer those seeking a Southeast Asian vacation with better infrastructure, mature tourists and the comforts of home. While it is a well developed country, it has biodiversity that few countries can match, but makes seeing Orangutans, all kinds of monkeys, lizards and flora easy. If you are in the region, visiting Malaysia is a good choice.
DON’T MISS: Borneo (Sarawak and Sabah). Borneo is home to some of the most diverse wildlife anywhere on the planet, but is quickly being deforested. There is little time left to see some great animals such as the orangutan before they go extinct.
MUST SEE: Sarawak, Georgetown and Malacca.
MUST TASTE: Roti canai (pronounced “roti chennai”), a delicious crispy breakfast bread served with curry.
TRIP PLANNING: Go to Malaysian Borneo, it is much more accessible on a short trip than Indonesian Borneo (Kalimantan). Peninsular Malaysia doesn’t have much to offer, but the islands of Penang and Langkawi offer great seaside getaways.
GETTING AROUND: Buses are among the nicest we’ve seen anywhere in the world and distances aren’t very far. To maximize time though, pick up some ridiculously cheap AirAsia tickets to cover long distances especially in Borneo.
OUR COST PER DAY (2 ppl): $46.84
COST OF A BEER: $2-6
KEY MONEY-SAVING TIP: AirAsia is one of the world’s best and cheapest airlines, headquartered in Malaysia. This makes many of the most popular destinations including Borneo, Malacca, and Penang accessible by short flights.
YOU NEED TO KNOW: Accommodations in Malaysia run the gamet of quality, even for the same price. If you are looking for budget accommodations (a double for under $20/night ), don’t book ahead unless there is a holiday. Budget hotels tend to be clustered, allowing you to walk around and see different options. For the same price you could find either offer pristine, new rooms, or bug-infested mattresses on the floor.
IF WE KNEW WHAT WE KNOW NOW: We would have spent more time in Sarawak versus Sabah, getting to major sights (longhouses, orangutans and proboscis monkeys) is easy from Kuching.
HELPFUL LINKS TO LEARN MORE: Travelfish, Wikitravel. Please send us any sites you found useful and we’ll add them!
WE WERE THERE FOR: 4 weeks
OUR HIGHLIGHT: Orangutans in the Sem
WHERE WE WENT: Sabah, Sarawak, Kuala Lumpur, Malacca, Penang
WE REGRET MISSING: The Cameron Highlands, it was the wrong season to hike through them.
- Malaysia in 5, 10, 15 days: must-sees on a quick trip to Malaysia
- Orangutans: It’s not to late to see them in the wild!
Malaysia consists of thirteen states and three federal territories and has a total landmass of 127,350 square miles separated by the South China Sea into two similarly sized regions, Peninsular Malaysia and Malaysian Borneo. We visited both, enjoying the comforts of the peninsula and the amazing wildlife and parks of Borneo. Malaysia surprised us with it's history, beautiful hiking as well as friendly people.
Kuala Lumpur is the capital and the largest city in Malaysia by population. It is the fastest growing metropolitan region in the country, in terms of population and economy. From Chinatown to downtown, KL has a lot to offer and a wide range of options from world class malls to small street stalls. The huge Petronas Twin Towers dominate the skyline and provide a beautiful glow at night. We enjoyed this urbanized city after our stint in Borneo hiking through the jungle.
Sabah offers an array of activities, wildlife and culture. It's capital, Kota Kinabalu, has all the trappings of a large city with easy access to Kinabalu National Park and the many islands off the coast of Borneo. We enjoyed exploring the rainforest in Sabah as well as taking in some local flavor at the markets.
Penang is a state in Malaysia and the name of its constituent island, located on the northwest coast of Peninsular Malaysia by the Strait of Malacca. It's seaside location and walkable streets and alleys make for a great break from the hustle and bustle of Kuala Lumpur. The vibrant Little India district provides a delicious place to grab food and the painted shop houses make for wonderful wandering. We enjoyed visiting the huge Kek Lok Si Temple as well as strolling through the many intertwining lanes of Penang.
Melaka is the third smallest Malaysian state, after Perlis and Melaka is located in the southern region of the Malay Peninsula, on the Straits of Malacca. This historical city centre has been listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 7 July 2008. It is a relatively quiet city with lots of history and plenty to see on foot. The river running through the city makes for great vistas and the people are very laid back, making it a great place to just relax.