Malaysia welcomes almost 25 million tourists annually, and for good reason – this colourful, multi-cultural and multi-religious nation is a multi-faceted gem that lures as much with its quiet graces and natural attractions as its wild, crazy ones. Whatever your idea of a fantastic holiday may be, rest assured, it shall be delivered as the country celebrates Visit Malaysia Year 2014.
Words: Efi Eqbal
KINABALU PARK & MOUNT KINABALU, SABAH
Kinabalu Park is Malaysia’s first UNESCO World Heritage Site designated in the ear 2000. A two-hour drive from Kota Kinabalu, the park spans 754 square metres, and is dominated by the majestic Mount Kinabalu. Kinabalu Park was gazetted as a protected area in 1964 due to its rich biodiversity with flora that can be found in places like the Himalayas, China, Australia, the Malay Peninsula, as well as pan-tropical regions. Mount Kinabalu, one of the highest mountains in Southeast Asia, stands at a proud 4,095.2 metres high, and is the real attraction here. Conquering this mountain is no easy feat. The path up the mountain can be pretty rough at certain parts and hiring professional guides is advisable. There is a resting lodge at about 3,300 metres up the mountain and another lodge at Laban Rata where you take a rest before heading up to the summit in the wee hours of the morning to reach the peak at sunrise. www.sabahtourism.com
SIPADAN ISLAND, SABAH
Sipadan Island has made the list of numerous international dive publications as one of the best diving spots in the world. Describing this paradise, renowned diver Jacques-Yves Cousteau said “I have seen other places like Sipadan 45 years ago. Now we have found again an untouched piece of art.” The tiny island where no commercial development is allowed remains a virginal wonder for marine discovery. Located in the Sulawesi Sea, north of the equator, the waters off Sipadan teem with over 3,000 species of fish and hundreds of coral species. It has been classified as one of the world’s richest ecosystems. Greenback and hawksbill turtles dwell in these waters and the chance of glimpsing these marine creatures on a dive is really good. Of Sipadan’s 12 dive sites, some of the most popular are Turtle Cavern, Barracuda Point, South Point and Hanging Gardens. www.sabahtourism.com
ROYAL BELUM STATE PARK, PERAK
This vast forest complex in Perak, Peninsula Malaysia is believed to have been in existence for over 130 million years; that’s longer than the Amazon! It stretches up north along the Malaysia-Thailand border, and covers an area called Temenggor in the south of Perak. The 175 square kilometre Royal Belum State Park is entirely contained within the forest complex. In the heart of this forest reserve is a 152 square kilometre manmade lake called Tasik Temenggor dotted with little islands. The lake, part of the development of the Temenggor Dam, was created to generate electric power. Pulau Banding, which sits in this lake, is of particular interest to many visitors as it feels like a tropical paradise. This ancient forest is home to thousands of plant and animal species that are endemic to this area. Various scientific studies over the years indicate that this virgin forest, which remains one of the largest untouched forest reserves in Peninsula Malaysia, holds great potential for more biological treasures to be uncovered. visitperak.com.my
CULTURAL & RELIGIOUS ATTRACTIONS
SARAWAK CULTURAL VILLAGE, KUCHING, SARAWAK
Located at the foothills of Mount Santubong, this living museum – just a 35-kilometre drive north of Kuching – allows visitor to explore the traditional dwellings of the Orang Ulu, Bidayuh, Iban, Melanau, Penan, Chinese and Malay communities. Visitors get to learn native dances and games, enjoy traditional music and sample local delicacies. Souvenirs of local handicraft, textiles, bric-a-brac and more are available at the various houses. www.scv.com.my
The month of Ramadan, the fasting period for Muslims leading up to the Hari Raya Aidilfitri (Eid ul-Fitr) celebration sees food bazaars sprouting up in almost every neighbourhood across the country. The bazaars feature food stalls offering extensive arrays of sweet and savoury delicacies catering to Muslims who break their fast at sundown. One of the biggest bazaars in the country is the Ramadan Bazaar at the Malaysian federal administrative capital, Putrajaya. Ramadan falls on the ninth month of the Islamic calendar each year. www.tourism.gov.my
THAIPUSAM, BATU CAVES, SELANGOR
It’s a celebration of faith and gratitude, signifying Lord Murugan’s victory over the demon Soorapadman’s tyranny. It is held in Thai (the Tamil month between January 15 and February 15) and on Pusam (the day of the brightest star during this period). On the eve of Thaipusam, devotees join a procession that begins at the Sri Mahamariamman Temple in Kuala Lumpur, where a silver Indian chariot carrying the idol of Lord Murugan makes its journey to Batu Caves, 15 kilometres away. This procession consists of followers who carry milk (a symbol of purity and virtue) and kavadi bearers who take a vow of ‘sacrifi ce at every step’ by attaching hooks and thin spears to their back, cheeks and mouth. The fi nal sacrifi cial act of faith is for devotees to resolutely shoulder their offerings up 272 steps to the Batu Caves temple. www.tourism.gov.my
The mall culture of Southeast Asia thrives in Malaysia with a plethora of high end shopping centres, neighbourhood malls and markets catering to retail loving and bargain-hunting locals and visitors. attractionsinmalaysia.com
THE GOLDEN TRIANGLE, KL CITY CENTRE
• Suria KLCC • Pavilion Kuala Lumpur • Starhill Gallery • Lot 10 • BB Plaza • Sungei Wang • Berjaya Times Square • Fahrenheit 88
BEST OF BARGAINS
• Petaling Street (Chinatown) • Little India (Brickfi elds) • Jalan Tuanku Abdul Rahman (Kuala Lumpur)
ARTS & CRAFTS
• Central Market (Jalan Hang Kasturi) • KL Craft Complex (Jalan Conlay)
• Kenanga Wholesale City (KL city centre) • Plaza GM (KL city centre & Klang) • Nilai 3 (Nilai, Negeri Sembilan)
• MidValley Megamall (near Bangsar, KL) • Tropicana City Mall (Damansara, Petaling Jaya) • Paradigm Mall (Kelana Jaya, Selangor) • One Utama (Bandar Utama, Petaling Jaya) • The Curve (Bandar Utama, Petaling Jaya) • Sunway Pyramid (Sunway, Petaling Jaya) • Empire (Subang Jaya, Selangor)
MALLS IN PENANG
• Gurney Plaza & Gurney Paragon (Gurney Drive) • Queensbay Mall (Bayan Lepas) • Sunway Carnival Mall (Seberang Jaya) • Prangin Mall & First Avenue (Georgetown)
MALLS IN JOHOR BAHRU
• Johor Premium Outlet (Indahpura) – high end labels at warehouse prices • Aeon Tebrau Shopping Centre (Jalan Desa Tebrau) • Plaza Pelangi (Jalan Kuning) • Fun Zon (Stulang Laut) • Danga City Mall (Jalan Tun Abdul Razak)
MALLS IN KOTA KINABALU, SABAH
• 1Borneo Leisure & Lifestyle Hypermall (Jalan Sulaman) • Karamunsing Shopping Centre (Jalan Nenas) • Megalong Mall Penampang (Jalan Taipakkung Donggongon) • Centrepoint Sabah (Jalan Centre Point)
MALLS IN KUCHING, SARAWAK
• Tun Jugah Mall (Jalan Tunku Abdul Rahman) • Riverside Shopping Centre (Jalan Tunku Abdul Rahman) • The Spring Shopping Mall (Persiaran Spring).
PANGKOR LAUT ISLAND, PERAK
Pangkor Laut is a little island located southwest of Pangkor Island off the west coast of Malaysia. The only resort here, the Pangkor Laut Resort, is renowned as one of the best honeymoon destinations and has played host to international stars like Joan Collins and Luciano Pavarotti. There’s even a suite dedicated to the tenor called the Pavarotti suite. Much thought has been put into the planning of the resort. It utilises the natural landscape to fit in its beautifully-developed villas and chalets without disrupting the terrain. If you prefer nature, book an extravagant villa set amidst lush greenery, but if you love the sand and sea, opt for a chalet built on stilts along the coastline. The most romantic spots on this quiet and secluded island are the Emerald Bay and Royal Bay areas, where the sunrise and sunset make for a breathtakingly perfect backdrop to a romantic getaway. This is where you get to rest, relax, rekindle your romance and soak up the wonder of each other while soaking up some tropical island sun. www.pangkorlautresort.com
AWANMULAN, JELEBU, NEGERI SEMBILAN
Wake up to the misty hills in the quiet and cosy forest of Jelebu amidst lush forest scenery and cool, fresh air. Set 1,000 feet above sea level, Awanmulan offers various room types for couples and groups within the quaint village of Kampung Jelebu. It is intentionally made basic so as to get you back in tune with nature. You can also hike up to the small cascading waters of Air Terjun Jeram Toi for a fun picnic. This really is a place for you to spend time together away from the hassles and stresses of modern life. www.awanmulan.com
CAMERON HIGHLANDS, PAHANG
A hill station the size of Singapore, Cameron Highlands is located within the Titiwangsa Mountain range that spans various states in Malaysia. The average temperature here is around 25° Celsius all year round, with uncharacteristic recorded lows of about 5° Celsius in November and December. The most delightful experience to be had in such nippy weather is a cosy afternoon tea overlooking Cameron Highlands’ prized tea plantations. This cool getaway offers numerous accommodations to suit every budget, and promises a picturesque escape that will leave you very much in love. www.cameronhighlands.com
SITES OF HISTORIC IMPORTANCE & LEGENDS
LANGKAWI ISLAND, KEDAH
Known as the Jewel of Kedah, Langkawi is an archipelago of 104 islands in the Andaman Sea. Its folklore and legends have been handed down from generation to generation for centuries. www.tourismlangkawi.com
This legend revolves around a woman, Mahsuri, who was falsely accused of adultery and put to death 200 years ago. She bled white blood as a sign of her innocence, and at death, cursed the people of Langkawi for seven generations. True to her curse, Langkawi only began to flourish seven generations after her death. Mahsuri’s tomb lies in Kampung Mawat in central Langkawi.
Kuah means gravy in Malay. Legend has it that the town was created when two fighting giants – Mat Cincang and Mat Raya – spilt a pot of gravy during a scuffle. Where the pot was broken is Belanga Pecah and where a cauldron of hot water spilt is know as Air Panas.
TASIK DAYANG BUNTING
It is believed that women who find it hard to conceive will benefit from bathing in or drinking the waters of the lake, which is said to promote fertilty.
TELAGA TUJUH WATERFALLS
A beautiful spot with clear water cascading into seven pools, this is said to be the bathing place of seven faeries.
Also known as ‘the field of burning rice’, this is a historical site where villagers set fire to their paddies to prevent them from falling into the hands of Siamese invaders in 1821.
The history of Melaka is replete with legendary tales and folklore amidst the realities of war and battles over its port by the Portuguese, Dutch and British. These are some of the many historic and legendary attractions of Melaka. melakatourism.gov.my
The legend of this island revolves around a kind-hearted princess who fell in love with a fisherman from Sumatra. Soon, the fisherman had to travel to Sumatra, but promised to return to marry the princess. Unfortunately, his boat capsized in a raging storm and he died. Pregnant, the princess awaited his return. Devastated not to have heard from her lover, she threw herself into the sea. Her body is said to have become the island of Pulau Besar, which is shaped like a pregnant lady.
According to legend, Gunung Ledang was said to be the home of mythical beings and a beautiful princess. When the Sultan of Melaka heard this, he sent his warrior, Hang Tuah to present a royal proposal to the princess. But, she had no desire to marry him; to indirectly reject the proposal, the princess set seven impossible tasks to be fulfilled.
HANG TUAH’S TOMB
Hang Tuah, who lived in15th century and served during the reign of Sultan Mansur Shah, was said to be the most illustrious warrior and hero in Malay history. However, there remains a debate among scholars as to who was the true hero – Hang Tuah for his blind obedience to the sultan or Hang Jebat for rebelling against the sultan and avenging Hang Tuah’s unjust execution. Hang Tuah’s tomb is located in Kampung Tanjung Keling, Melaka.
Among Negeri Sembilan’s many attractions are its places of cultural and historical value. www.nstourism.com.my
ASTANA RAJA MELEWAR
Astana Raja Melewar offers a glimpse into the unique matrilineal traditions and customary laws or adat perpatih of the state’s Minangkabau clan. The Minangkabau people who migrated to Malaya from Sumatra. Traditional Minangkabau architecture features a roof shaped like bull horns with an outward arch tip on either side.
BUGIS FORT IN KOTA LUKUT
Bugis Fort was built by the Bugis clan in the 1800s when Bugis-Malay chieftains battled with Chinese secret society immigrants over tin mines. This fort remains one of the best-preserved Bugis forts in the country. It is said that the spirits of Malay warriors protect the grounds.
FUN & ENTERTAINMENT
There are many great nightclubs, pubs and lounges scattered across the capital city of Kuala Lumpur and in other states too. There are specific areas or neighbourhoods within these cities that offer some of the best partying spots in the country.
KUALA LUMPUR & PETALING JAYA
• Changkat Bukit Bintang & Bukit Bintang • KLCC area • Jalan Ampang • Publika (Solaris Dutamas, Mont Kiara, KL) • Jalan Telawi area (Bangsar, KL) • Sunway Pyramid (Petaling Jaya, Selangor)
• Upper Penang Road, Georgetown • QEII, Georgetown • Gurney Drive • Batu Feringghi
• Plaza Sentosa (JB city centre) • Fun Zon (Stulang Laut) • Jalan Ibrahim Sultan (just outside of Fun Zon).
BAKO NATIONAL PARK, SARAWAK
Discover plant species native to Borneo in Sarawak’s oldest national park located alongside panoramic rocky shorelines. www.sarawaktourism.com
MULU NATIONAL PARK & MULU CAVES, SARAWAK
Explore the world’s largest cave chamber at this UNESCO World Heritage Site filled with a vast array of natural wonders and millions of bats. www.mulupark.com
REDANG ISLAND, TERENGGANU
Go wreck-diving to experience Redang’s amazing marine life or stay on land and enjoy its pristine beaches. www.redangisland.com
TUNKU ABDUL RAHMAN MARINE PARK, KOTA KINABALU, SABAH
Named after Malaysia’s first Prime Minister, this marine park that comprises five islands – Gaya, Sapi, Manukan, Sulug and Mamutik – hosts some of the most exotic marine life in this part of world. www.sabahparks.org.my
VISIT MALAYSIA YEAR 2014 DIARY
Block these dates to experience cool, one-of-a-kind events.
ROYAL LANGKAWI INTERNATIONAL REGATTA
(Langkawi, Kedah) Jan 13 – 18
WORLD KITE FESTIVAL
(Pasir Gudang, Johor) Feb 10 – 16
FORMULA 1 PETRONAS MALAYSIA GRAND PRIX
(Sepang,Selangor) Mar 28 – 30
PORT DICKSON 4X4 INTERNATIONAL SAND CHALLENGE
(Port Dickson, Negeri Sembilan) Mar 8 – 9
2ND FAI ASIAN PARAGLIDING ACCURACY CHAMPIONSHIP
(Ranau, Sabah) Mar 12 – 19
FUTURE MUSIC FESTIVAL ASIA
(Mines Resort City, Selangor) Mar 13 – 15
ROYAL BELUM WORLD DRUMS FESTIVAL
(Ipoh, Perak) Apr 5 -16
PENANG WORLD MUSIC FESTIVAL
(Penang) Apr 12 – 13
LABUAN WATER FESTIVAL
(Labuan, Sabah) Apr 25 – 27
BORNEO JAZZ FESTIVAL
(Miri, Sarawak) May 9 – 11
(Penampang, Sabah) May 30 – 31
THE VOICE OF NATURE ‘BIRD & BUSH RICKET FESTIVAL’
(Langkawi, Kedah) June 6 – 7
RAINFOREST WORLD MUSIC FESTIVAL
(Kuching, Sarawak) June 20 – 22
KL ARTS & CULTURAL FESTIVAL
(Kuala Lumpur) July – Sept 2014
GEORGE TOWN FESTIVAL
(Penang) Aug 1 – 31
FABULOUS FOOD 1MALAYSIA
(Nationwide) Oct – Dec 2014
MALAYSIA INTERNATIONAL PERFORMING ARTS FESTIVAL
(Kuala Lumpur) Nov 22 – 26
For more info, visit www.vmy2014.com
GELANGGANG SENI, KOTA BHARU, KELANTAN
See traditional arts and games like gasing uri (top-spinning), silat (Malay martial arts), wayang kulit (shadow-puppetry), rebana playing (drumming), kite-making and more here. www.tourism.gov.my
HERITAGE TRAIL, PENANG
Experience the Peranakan, Indian chariot Muslim and Eurasian heritage in Penang as you take a walking tour in Georgetown. The Georgetown Heritage Celebration by UNESCO is held between June 7 and July 7, 2014. www.tourismpenang.net.my
SAN PEDRO FESTIVAL, PERKAMPUNGAN PORTUGIS, UJONG PASIR, MELAKA
Join the 3,000-strong Portuguese Eurasian community of Melaka as they celebrate the San Pedro Festival from June 23 till 29, 2014. This Catholic community traces its Portuguese lineage to the arrival of the Portuguese in 1511. The San Pedro Festival commemorates the Feast of Saint Peter, patron saint of fishermen. At the heart of this weeklong festival is a special blessing of vibrantly-decorated fishing boats. go2travelmalaysia.com
MONSOPIAD CULTURAL VILLAGE, KAMPUNG KUAI, KOTA KINABALU, SABAH
Discover the story of the brave Kadazan warrior and headhunter Monsopiad and learn about the culture of the Kadazan people of East Malaysia. The cultural village features traditional houses, a museum and granary. Visitors can look forward to sampling local rice wine, buying handicrafts and joining in the bamboo and Sumazau dances. www.sabahtourism.com
LANGKAWI ISLAND, KEDAH
You can choose from over 50 romantic accommodations for every budget, whether you’d like a tranquil hideaway far from town or a fun beach holiday along the happening Pantai Cenang strip. www.tourismlangkawi.com
PERHENTIAN ISLAND, TERENGGANU
Snorkel, dive and enjoy beach activities during the day and save the romance for balmy evenings on this beautiful island off the north-eastern coast of Peninsula Malaysia. www.perhentian.com.my
FIREFLIES IN KAMPUNG KUANTAN, KUALA SELANGOR, SELANGOR
Just an hour’s drive away from Kuala Lumpur is the quiet village of Kampung Kuantan where thousands of flickering firflies live along the Selangor River. Take a romantic boat ride in the evening to see this natural wonder. www.tourismselangor.my
BUKIT PUTERI FORT, TERENGGANU
A short hike up Bukit Puteri will reveal a small fort built in the early 19th century by the Sultan of Terengganu as defence against strikes by his cousin who aimed to overthrow him. www.terengganutourism.com
PINANG PERANAKAN MANSION, PENANG
This museum showcases the history, crafts and cuisine of Penang’s Peranakan community. www.pinangperanakanmansion.com.my
GUA KELAM, PERLIS
This is a unique limestone cave with a 370-metre long suspension bridge built as a shortcut by the British during wartime. It is famous for cave walks. perlis.attractionsinmalaysia.com
CHINI LAKE, PAHANG
From the murky depths of this beautiful lake come fantastic legends that speak of sorcery, dragons and even a lost, sunken city. www.pahangtourism.org.my
According to legend, the daughters of the King of Heaven – Puteri Santubong and Puteri Sejinjang – were both made guardians of the Santubong people. Disasters and strife befell the people when both princesses fell in love with the same prince, and began fighting over him neglecting their duties. www.sarawaktourism.com
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