Malaysia is more than just beautiful beaches and delicious food. Chris from Aussie on the Road delves deeper and turns up a few more unusual options for a Malaysian holiday.
Pristine beaches, delicious food, bustling cities, orang-utans, and a wonderful fusion of cultures. These may stick out as the big draws for anybody visiting Malaysia, but I’ve never been somebody who is satisfied with seeing the same old sights and following in the tourist trail.
When I travel, I’m looking for unique experiences and Malaysia is certainly a country with no shortage of those. And while I can certainly foresee myself spending plenty of time on the white sand beaches and in the beating heart of Kuala Lumpur or Georgetown, the five different things to do in Mayalsia I detail below will be at the very top of my itinerary.
Take a firefly tour on the Selangor River
This one may still be a bit touristy for some, but I’m utterly enchanted by fireflies (or lightning bugs as they’re sometimes known). Couple that with my love of river cruises, and this one had my attention as soon as I laid eyes upon it.
There are no shortage of companies and resorts offering tourists a chance to cruise soundlessly along the river as a dazzling display of lights dances in the trees, but the better tours also include a bit of authentic Malay cuisine and an invigorating jungle walk to boot. It’s not the authentic experience some might crave, but there’s something to be said for soaking in nature’s simple beauty on a full belly of delicious Malaysian food.
Brave the Batu Caves
If you’re around my age, the exploits of Indiana Jones were probably a big part of your childhood. If you’re on the younger side, maybe Captain Jack Sparrow comes to mind when you think of mysterious jungle temples and high adventure.
Regardless of the protagonist you relate it to, you’ll feel like you’re in some kind of mythic dungeon of doom while exploring one of the largest Hindu temples outside of India. Soaring, vine clad cliffs surround you while monkeys play beside the 272 steps that take you to the temple proper. For those who want a bit more of a workout – over 160 climbing routes dot the caves and hills nearby.
The Batu Caves give a fantastic mix of adventure and culture. They’re far from a well kept secret when it comes to Malaysia, but they’re one of the more unique experiences you’ll find.
Climb the world’s highest via ferrata
This one is hardly a secret either. When a little book made by the lads at Guinness mentions you as the highest via ferrata (a mountain route equipped with ladders and cables to aid climbing) – the adrenaline junkies and climbing enthusiasts take notice.
All of these ladders and bridges by no means make climbing Mount Kinabalu something that just anybody can do, but they do open up Malaysia’s highest mountain to those who are willing to sweat a little (okay, a lot) to take in some truly spectacular views.
And while climbing the world’s highest via ferrata probably isn’t on many bucket lists, I daresay climbing a mountain is going to afford you better pictures and longer lasting memories than an extra day sipping cocktails on the beach.
Survive the Snake Temple
The Batu Caves too tame for you? How does a temple full of venemous snakes rendered passive by the cloying sweet smell of incense sound to you?
Anybody who subscribes to the ‘if you’ve seen one temple, you’ve seen them all’ adage hasn’t set foot inside this temple in Penang. Sometimes known as the Temple of the Azure Cloud, the shrine is obviously most famed for the many poisonous snakes that can be seen… well, everywhere.
Despite being quite dangerous and not having been de-fanged, the temple still boasts that nobody has ever been bitten. Whether it’s the incense or the spiritual importance of the shrine is up for you to decide.
Get colonial on a Malaysian safari tour
Maybe it’s just me, but the British colonial era is one that fascinates me. While these days Malaysia is obviously a well developed country, there are still areas where you can get a sense for how it must have felt to be a settler in the early days.
Dusty highland roads weave their way through stands of trees and past rural villages before disappearing into dense jungle… it’s the stuff adventure is made of!
There are countless tour companies offering to give visitors to Malaysia an ‘authentic experience’. While I doubt the early settlers had ice cold beers and gourmet BBQ to keep them company when they prepared to bed down in the oppressive still of the jungle – you can’t fault somebody for wanting a few western comforts when they’re out in the heart of the jungle.
I’m really just scratching the surface here. I would never advocate overlooking the tried and tested tourist spots; they’re popular for a reason, after all. But there’s more to a country than the polished veneer that tourist traps display. Step back and you’ll find no shortage of adventures to be had in Malaysia.
This article was originally written for and posted on Travel Wire Asia. You can find the original here.
What are your off-the-beaten-track recommendations in Malaysia?