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8 Best Things to do in Malaysia


Malaysia is truly Asia

You're certainly in for a treat when you visit amazing Malaysia. This country in Southeast Asia has so much to offer, you'll have a hard time deciding on what to focus on. Longer stays in Malaysia are recommended, as you'll need time in both Eastern and Western Malaysia to dig deep into the rainforest on a Kinabatangang river cruise, enjoy the local cuisine (lemon tea bing and char kway teow from local corner shops = highly recommended), meet the 'man of the forest', which is what orangutan means in Malay, dive with whale sharks and greenback turtles, and last but not least, sit back and enjoy the sunset overlooking the South China Sea with a fresh cool coconut in your hand!

We had a hard time deciding on the eight best activities in Malaysia, but here's the ultimate list of adventures in both Western (the part of Malaysia where Kuala Lumpur is) and Eastern (Borneo) Malaysia. Get ready to explore Malaysia!

Go wild in Sabah

The state of Sabah on Malaysian Borneo is one of the best places to come face-to-face with all sorts of primates and apes. It's where you'll find the famous Sepilok Rehabilitation Centre, home to a number of orphan orangutans. It's also where you can cruise the Kinabatangan River for a chance to spot animals in their natural habitat.
Experience the best of Sabah on this 8-day tour

1: Greet the orangutans, proboscis & crab-eating macaque in Borneo

20% of the animal species in the world live in Malaysia. Malaysia's monkeys and apes are adorable, and you shouldn’t miss out on paying them a visit in their habitats. If you fly to Sandakan on Borneo you can visit the Sepilok Rehabilitation Centre, where local animal-lovers take good care of orphan orangutans and help them back into nature. Usually around 60 to 80 orangutans live at the reserve.

Sepilok Rehabilitation Centre is open from 9am-4pm and feeding times of the orangutans is every day at 10am and 3pm. The Sepilok Rehabilitation Centre favours the animals above tourists, so don’t expect to pet the animals. The welfare of the primates is always put first! Probocis monkeys and crab-eating macaque do not stay at Sepilok but you'll be almost certain to see them elsewhere in Malaysia as there's quite a few of them in the wild.

The 8 best activities in Malaysia | Backpacking Malaysia | KILROY

Tick this trek off your bucket list

With up to 6,000 species of plants, 326 species of birds, and more than 100 mammalian species identified in the area surrounding Mt. Kinabalu, it's no surprise that this region of Borneo was awarded UNESCO World Heritage Site status. See what all the fuss is about with a challenging but highly rewarding trek to the mountain's summit.
Trek Mt. Kinabalu on this 5-day trip

2: Climb the highest mountain in Southeast Asia

Do you want to enjoy the view from the summit of Borneo? We can assure you that you'll see the most amazing sunrise on the top of Mount Kinabalu (4095m above sea level), and even if the climb to the summit requires a good amount of energy, it is even possible for people who do little sports. We know 'average-fit' people who've done it twice.

Halfway up the mountain you stop at a camp, have a meal, perhaps shower, and take a rest. At 2am the crew will wake you up and you will continue to the top, where you’ll arrive just in time for sunrise around 5am. You'll forget about your sore legs and being tired once you spot those gorgeous golden sunbeams climbing over the lush treetops.

The 8 best activities in Malaysia | Backpacking Malaysia | KILROY

3: Enjoy the bounty lifestyle on the Perhentian Islands

The Perhentian Islands are known for having some of THE most beautiful beaches in the entire world. These islands are made up of two main islands - Kecil ('small') and Besar ('large'). Kecil is the preferred choice for backpackers, whereas Besar offers higher standards of accommodation and a slightly calmer atmosphere and caters more to couples and newlyweds.

Both islands offer nice sandy beaches, coral reefs, and turquoise waters. You will find turtles, beautiful reef fish, clownfish (think, Finding Nemo), jellyfish and small sharks. The islands are covered in jungle and have no roads - only foot trails!

The 8 best activities in Malaysia | Backpacking Malaysia | KILROY

4: Enjoy the big city of Kuala Lumpur

If you travel to Malaysia you will most likely have a stop in Malaysia's capital, Kuala Lumpur. And if you like big city breaks, Kuala Lumpur is definitely worth a visit. Kuala Lumpur is buzzing and you'll feel it. Make sure to visit the iconic Petronas Towers and sample the city's many food markets where you can enjoy Malay, Indonesia and Chinese cuisine. 

The 8 best activities in Malaysia | Backpacking Malaysia | KILROY

5: Explore the Taman Negara National Park

The rainforest in Taman Negara National Park is one of the oldest in the world, and experts claim that it’s more than 130 million years old. If you dream of digging deep into a rainforest then Taman Negara is one of the best places in Southeast Asia for that.

The fauna and flora are amazing, the enormous trees are breathtaking, and only few sunbeams reach through the trees. The park has great foot trails, and trekking in Taman Negara is an unforgettable experience.

The 8 best activities in Malaysia | Backpacking Malaysia | KILROY

6: Enjoy a freshly-made cup of tea in the Cameron Highlands

The Cameron Highlands is a vast area of rolling green hills, forests and beautiful tea plantations located in the state of Pahang. Boh is the most famous tea from this area (founded in 1929), and apart from enjoying a few cuppas, you can also enjoy the scenic routes, waterfalls and mountain peaks. 

The 8 best activities in Malaysia | Backpacking Malaysia | KILROY

7: Taste the local cuisine

Just thinking about the food in Malaysia makes us wanna jump on the next plane. Seriously, the corner shops that you think look cheap and bad are usually the out of this world. A good hint is to see where the locals hang out and go there. Don't go to a place where there's just two people. That means it's no good. The Malays go out for lunch and dinner almost every day, so they know where the good spots are.

The dish Char kway teow is a big hit and so is laksa, chicken satay, and nasi goreng. For drinks, Milo (the local chocolate drink), lemon tea bing, and 100PLUS is a hit. You can get a good meal for 8-15RM (around £2) if you go local.

In Kota Kinabalu there is an amazing corner shop close to the Sunday market in Gaya Street, where the chef prepares a load of homemade noodles each morning. But by 10.30am the noodles are usually gone, so you need to be there early to make sure you get your morning noodles! Be aware, you may be stared at, as you'll most likely be the only kwai lo in there. 

The 8 best activities in Malaysia | Backpacking Malaysia | KILROY

8: Go diving in Sipadan (probably the best diving in the world)

If you know a bit about diving, you have definitely heard about Sipadan. No matter if you already have your diving certification, wish to get a certificate or just want to explore diving, Sipadan is an absolutely amazing place to go. In Sipadan, you have it all. Sipadan is approximately 1hr from the mainland (you fly to Tawau on Borneo), and diving is the best between April and December.

The 8 best activities in Malaysia | Backpacking Malaysia | KILROY

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