The 16 Best Things To Do In Malaysia

by | Oct 7, 2019 | 0 comments

Malaysia is an amazing country of great diversity, super friendly people, and incredible natural beauty. We’ve lived here a long time and have had the chance to experience the country first as visitors and later, as locals.  What we have found is that no matter where you go, there are plenty of cool things to do in Malaysia.

We often get asked, “Is Malaysia worth visiting?” Our list of 16 things to do in Malaysia will help show you that it is indeed worth visiting.  Best of all, we have listed things to do that are easily accessible and easy to arrange.

Have a read, find some inspiration, and make sure to leave us a comment or share with your friends. If you want help planning a trip to Malaysia, you can also reach out to us through the contact form.

Contents

1. Visit the Petronas Twin Towers

The Petronas Twin Towers are arguably the most well known attraction in Malaysia. They stand at a stunning 451.9 meters tall and were formerly the tallest buildings in the world from 1998 to 2004. The towers are stunning and beautiful from the outside, particularly when lit up at night.

If you want to see the view from the towers, you can purchase tickets from the ticketing counter which is located on the concourse level of the towers. The tickets will get you to the skybridge that connects the two buildings and then up to the observation deck on the 86th floor.  Note, the ticket availability is limited and they are sold on a first come first serve basis, so if you want guarantee a spot to go up, make sure you get there early.

In addition to seeing the towers, there is a massive shopping mall, a beautiful park, an aquarium, and a host of other things to check out in the Petronas Towers area.

The Petronas Towers are easy to get to by using Kuala Lumpur’s train system. The particular stop you want to head for is the KLCC stop, which drops you in the shopping mall at the base of the towers.

2. See Orangutans in the Wild

Day Hikes in Sabah Borneo

One of the most exciting things to do in Malaysia is to see an orangutan in the wild. Did you know part of Malaysia sits on the island of Borneo? Now you do. And guess what? Borneo has lots of orangutans and the Malaysian state of Sabah has some great places to see them in the wild.

If you want an amazing Malaysian wildlife adventure, then make your way over to Borneo. You will have a good chance to see an orangutan in the wild by heading to Danum Valley or Deramakot Forest Reserve.

There are a host of other sites to see orangutans in the wild in Malaysian Borneo, including the Kinabatangan River, Tabin Wildlife Reserve, and Maliau Basin, to name a few.

Note: Don’t have time to see Orangutans in the wild or you missed out when you went looking? Never fear, you can visit these amazing creatures at the Sepilok Orangutan Rehabilitation Center, which is located near Sandakan.

3. Tour the Street Art in Georgetown

Day Hikes in Sabah Borneo

One of the famous Georgetown street art installations.

Georgetown has a bustling street art scene. It seems like every corner you turn reveals another work of art.  In fact, you could spend several days wandering the town and probably not see all of the street art.  There are some quite popular installations as well as relatively unknown works scattered all over the city.

If you want to see the most works of art then we recommend picking up a street art map from the Penang Tourist Information Center.

In addition to the awesome art, this historic city is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and is known as Malaysia’s food capital. Check out number 9 on our list for details about the amazing food.

4. Visit a Duty Free Island – Langkawi

The entire island of Langkawi is a duty free zone. Yes, you heard that right. This means you can get some pretty cool stuff for cheap cheap cheap. If you like to imbibe with some fine wines or you are a scotch lover, the prices in Langkawi are the cheapest we have seen anywhere in the world.

There are plenty of things to do in Langkawi in addition to the duty free shopping. The island has wonderful beaches, great scuba diving, 5 star resorts, and plenty of watersports to keep you more than entertained. Further, you can take a gondola to the top of the limestone mountains and take in a delightful panoramic view of this scenic island.

Day Hikes in Sabah Borneo

Aerial view of a boat safari in Langkawi. Photo courtesy of: Dev’s Adventure Tours

5.  Explore Melaka

Visiting Melaka (also spelled Malacca) should definitely be on your list of things to do in Malaysia. Wandering the streets of the old city center is almost like taking a step back in time.  The history of Melaka is really something of wonder as it has long served as a trading center and was controlled at various times by the Portugese, Dutch, and English.  Additionally, there are rich influences from the Chinese as well as Indians.

A lot of the old architecture has been preserved in Melaka.  It is especially cool to see all of the old churches and temples scattered throughout the old town.  A great way to experience the city is by booking into a boutique hotel in the old town.  You can also visit Melaka as a day trip from Kuala Lumpur, with several tour companies offering trips.

In addition to the wonderful architecture, Melaka has a great food scene.  The best way to sample the delicious dishes is by hitting up the Jonker Street Night Market.  The night market really hits off on the weekend, so keep that in mind if you are planning a trip to Melaka.

 

Day Hikes in Sabah Borneo

Historic compound in old town Melaka

6. Visit Mulu National Park

We head back to Borneo for number 6 on our list of things to do in Malaysia. Mulu National Park is home to some of the world’s largest caves and some unique scenery you won’t find anywhere else on earth.

Mulu is the place to visit if you want to see the rainforest in all of it’s glory. There are a number of adventurous activities at Mulu including:

  • Exploring the caves.
  • Watching millions of bats exit the caves in the evening.
  • Hiking through the rainforest to the Mulu Pinnacles.
  • Following the traditional Headhunters Trail on a multi-day hike through the rainforest.
  • Hiking to the highest point in Mulu National Park, Mt. Mulu.

By the way, don’t think you need to skimp on comfort while you visit Mulu because Marriott hotels offers a 5-star resort just outside of the park.

One of the amazing caves in Mulu National Park.  Photo courtesy of Sarawak Tourism Board.

7) Scuba Dive in one of the World’s Top Locations: Sipidan Reef

Day Hikes in Sabah Borneo

A diver in the Sipidan Area. 

Photo by: Jonathan Sanchez; Courtesy of: Seaventures Dive Rig 

If you’re a diver, then Malaysia should be high on your list. Malaysian Borneo sports one of the world’s top scuba diving spots in Sipidan Reef. This unbelievable marine park boasts an array of stunning sea creatures ranging from tiny extravagant frog fish to giant manta rays.

There are a lot of dive resorts in Sipidan which range from the luxurious down to budget hostels. If you want to visit Sipidan Reef, make sure you book well in advance because only a limited number of divers are allowed to visit the reef each day.  That being said, there are numerous dive spots surrounding Sipidan reef that are equally stunning, so even if you can’t go to the reef there is plenty of amazing diving.

8. Climb Mount Kinabalu: The Tallest Mountain in Borneo

Climbing Mount Kinabalu is an absolute must if you are visiting Borneo. The mountain stands at a whopping 4095 meters (13,455 feet) tall and it is still growing. Mount Kinabalu and the amazing national park surrounding it have the distinction of being Malaysia’s first UNESCO World Heritage Site.

The view from the top of this mountain is simply unreal. When you climb Mount Kinabalu, you will summit early in the morning to see the sunrise. On a clear day you can see all the way to the ocean and beyond.

Just about every tour company in Sabah sells climbing packages (including us). Typically, you can opt for a 2 or 3 day package. Make sure you book well in advance because there are only a limited number of people allowed to climb each day.

Day Hikes in Sabah Borneo

9. Go on a Food Tour in Penang

We mentioned the street art of Georgetown above, but that is only one of the many things to do in Penang. No visit to Penang would be complete without trying all the amazing food there.

Penang is widely considered to be Malaysia’s food capital. In fact, even locals from all over Malaysia travel to Penang to enjoy the great food.

Penang’s famous dishes include:

  • Char koay teow – Fried wide rice noodles. Usually made with seafood.
  • Penang Laksa – Noodles in a spicy and slightly sour coconut based soup.
  • Nasi Kandar – Rice drenched in curry and served with a variety of side dishes.
  • Cendol – This is a sweet dessert dish. It is made from coconut milk sweetened with palm sugar and contains a green jelly made from rice flour.

You can book a tour through popular sites like TripAdvisor or guide yourself through the streets and alleyways to find the best spots. Either way, you are sure to find your taste buds satisfied and your belly full.

Day Hikes in Sabah Borneo

10. Visit Batu Caves

Day Hikes in Sabah Borneo

Batu Caves entrance.  Photo by: Taylor Simpson

The Batu Caves are located just outside of Kuala Lumpur. Visiting the caves makes for a great day trip from the city. These limestone caves are the site of a famous Hindu Temple and they are reached by climbing 272 brightly painted steps.

Next to the steps leading up to the caves stands a 42.7 meter (140 ft) tall statue of the Hindu deity Murugan. This towering statue has been painted with 300 liters of gold paint and is a sight in itself.

If you want to see something out of this world, then the best time to visit the caves during the Tamil Thaipusam festival. The festival, which happens between January and February brings thousands of people to the caves for prayers, processions, and of course, food.

Attending Thaipusam as a tourist isn’t a problem. The devotees coming there to pray are more than happy to share their customs with you. However, as always, be respectful.

In addition to visiting the Hindu shrines in the caves, there are several other things to do at Batu Caves including:

  • Rock climbing
  • Taking a tour of Dark Cave. There are both an educational tour and an adventure tour. The entrance to this cave is located halfway up the stairs.

Getting to Batu Caves is quite easy. You can take the train from downtown Kuala Lumpur. The entire journey takes about 20-30 minutes and the train tickets are cheap.

11. Play sports with the locals

Malaysians love sports. In the evening when the heat of the day begins to cool down, you will see Malaysians hitting the streets or heading down to the football field to get some exercise before the sun sets.

It’s no secret that Malaysians are very friendly and if you show up to where people are playing sports, you will certainly be asked to join in. You will have no problem enjoying yourself and getting a bit of a workout when you join in.

Malaysian’s favorite sports are:

  • football (soccer)
  • badminton
  • futsal
  • takraw
  • volleyball

Check out some of these high flying takraw moves.

Joining in activities with the locals is undoubtedly a great way to experience the real side of Malaysia. It is quite likely you will be invited to join for dinner afterwards or even invited to someone’s house to meet the family. This is the type of experience you simply can’t pay for.

12. Experience the nightlife in Kuala Lumpur

There are plenty of things to do in Malaysia at night. Even more, Kuala Lumpur is a great place to find plenty to do. We’ve listed a few of our favorites for you.

Stuff yourself at Jalan Alor Night Market and then hit the Bars in Bukit Bintang

The Jalan Alor Night Market is a great place to simply sit down and enjoy some delicious Malaysian cuisine. When the sun goes down, they line the streets with tables and chairs and Jalan Alor becomes a bustling hub of deliciousness.

There are a host of delicious options for eating at the Jalan Alor Night Market including:

  • Seafood
  • Curry noodles
  • Hainanese chicken rice
  • Barbecue chicken wings (a Malaysian favorite)
  • Satay (another Malaysian favorite)
  • Coconut ice cream
  • Durian (if you can stand the smell, it’s worth trying)

Above are only a few of the delicious dishes you can try at Jalan Alor.

Once you are stuffed, head up Changkat Bukit Bintang and find a bar that fits your style. There are loads of bars and clubs along this street catering to a host of styles and themes. If craft beers are your style, head a bit further to Taps Beer Bar. This is one of our favorite places to go when we are looking for an IPA or a nice stout.

Have a Drink With a View

There are several high rise bars in Kuala Lumpur where you can go and enjoy a drink while having a bird’s eye view. Our favorite is SkyBar at the Traders Hotel due to its great view of the Petronas Towers.

The view from SkyBar is amazing and you can’t go wrong stopping in for a drink. Some things to note about SkyBar: The tables at the bar are first come first serve with the exception of the tables facing the Petronas Towers. Those tables must be reserved and require a minimum amount of money to be spent. Unless you’re with a group, we say forego the table and cozy up to the bar. Who knows who you will meet. Finally, make sure you dress well (smart casual) when you head here or they might not let you in. You don’t need a suit and tie or an evening gown, but perhaps throw on a collared shirt and pants and closed toed shoes.

Check out the video below giving you an idea of the awesome view from SkyBar

Shop for cheap goods at the Petaling Street Night Market in Chinatown

The Petaling Street Night Market is a great place to find all sorts of cheap and quirky goods, so if shopping is your thing, then this night market is the place. At the Petaling Street Night Market, you can practice your haggling skills while you search for knock-off designer brands, selfie-sticks, cheap electronics, and much more.

If you’re on a budget, there are a lot of cheap accommodations in Chinatown as well.

13. Try Some Strange Foods

Malaysia is a land of culinary delights as well as culinary surprises. That being said, if you’re going to visit a place, you might as well go all out. If you are a brave soul, we recommend you venture to try some of Malaysia’s strange dishes.

Here are just a few of the weird foods you can try in Malaysia:

  • Frog on a stick:

    Yep, it’s exactly what it sounds like. Some people say it tastes like chicken. You can find the frog on a stick at the Jalan Alor Night Market mentioned above.

  • Durian:

    This is surely a weird food for anyone who has never been to Asia.  Durian has a pungent odor and the fleshy fruit has a very strong taste.  That’s not all, the outside is covered with spikes.  People either love it or hate it.  We love it, but we know some people who gag at even the slightest whiff of durian.

  • Butod:

    This large grub lives in the sago palm tree. It’s been a traditional food in the diet of many indigenous people of Borneo for a very long time. Butod is typically consumed raw or fried. You can try Butod at D’Place Kinabalu Restaurant in Kota Kinabalu, Malaysian Borneo.

  • Sup Torpedo (bull penis soup):

    This dish is supposed to help men enhance their “bedroom performance”. Sup Torpedo was famously tried by Gordon Ramsay (video below) on a visit to Kuala Lumpur. If you are seeking to renew your manhood or are braver than us, give it a try. You can find Sup Torpedo at Restoran Sup Al-Deen in Kuala Lumpur.

  • Ulat Kayu Bakau (mangrove wood worm):

    We’re gonna end this list on this one because it’s getting too crazy. These worm like creatures are actually a mollusc. Whatever they are, based on their appearance, I don’t think I would try them. But, if you are very daring you can try Ulat Kayau Bakau in Sarawak in Malaysian Borneo…go ahead, google it.

14) Visit a 130 Million Year Old Jungle in Taman Negara

Taman Negara is one of the world’s oldest rainforests.  This incredible jungle is one of the last places in Malaysia where the Malayan Tiger is known to reside.  Despite this, sightings are rare, so there is no need to be in fear of your safety.

Within the forest, all sorts of adventures await.  Further, it is easy to get to Taman Negara and easy to arrange adventures within the park because there are a host of providers that offer a range of activities.

Adventures in Taman Negara include:

  • Trekking
  • Rapid shooting (riding down the river rapids in small traditional boats)
  • Visiting indigenous Orang Asli villages
  • Canopy walkway
  • Night walks
  • River Safaris

Accommodation ranges from basic to luxury, so Taman Negara is a great jungle visit, no matter what your budget or travel style.

Day Hikes in Sabah Borneo

Canopy walkway in Taman Negara.

15. Hike to a waterfall in Sabah’s Lost World, Maliau Basin

Maliau basin is an incredible virgin rainforest reserve located in the heart of the Malaysian Borneo state of Sabah. The area doesn’t see a lot of tourists, but, in our opinion, it is one of the most beautiful places in Malaysia.

The highlight of Maliau Basin is Maliau falls, which is a huge multi-tiered waterfall that can only be reached on foot. It’s not just the waterfall that’s amazing, rather, when combined with the hike through lush virgin jungle to get there, it is an unforgettable experience.

16. See the World’s Largest Flower, the Borneo Rafflesia

When you think of a big flower, what sort of size comes to mind? How about a flower that is 1 meter (3 feet) across? That is how big the Rafflesias in Borneo can grow. These flowers are also known as the “Corpse Flower” due to the fact that they emit a putrid smell when they are in full bloom.

Your best bet to see one of these flowers is in Sabah in Malaysian Borneo. The village of Poring on the border of Kinabalu National Park has several locations where you can pay a small entrance fee and have a look at one.

Finding a rafflesia in bloom in the wild is tough because they have no other part of the plant that grows above ground. To see one you would either have to know where it is from a previous bloom or just happen to stumble upon one.

That does it for our list of things to do in Malaysia.  If you enjoyed the read, share it with your friends or drop us a comment.  Additionally, if you know some great places in Malaysia, drop us a line and if we love it, we’ll add it to our list.

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