Rich in history, culture and agricultural development, the northern region is made up of the states of Perlis, Kedah, Penang and Perak. Attractions here include idyllic islands, beaches, heritage buildings, rainforest, historical and archaeological sites, hill resorts, excellent choice of inexpensive and delicious food, and varied shopping.
Popularly known as the ‘Rice Bowl’ of the nation because of its extensive rice production, Kedah is home to the Bujang Valley, the site of an ancient Hindu-Buddhist civilisation and Gunung Jerai, Kedahs highest peak that served as navigational point centuries ago. Alor Setar, the capital, has a number of tourist attractions including the Zahir Mosque, the Royal Museum, and the childhood house of Malaysia’s Prime Minister, YAB Dato’ Seri Dr Mahathir Mohamad and the Balai Besar. At Pedu Lake are resorts, nature-based activities and water sports. The legendary island of Langkawi is renowned for its crystal-clear waters and excellent resorts. Among its attractions arc Dataran Lang (Eagle Square), Galeria Perdana which displays state gifts presented to the Prime Minister, Pulau Payar Marine Park, Langkawi Book Village, Masher Mausoleum; Padang Matsirat or Field of Burnt Rice and duty-free shopping.
The picturesque island of Penang attracts with the rich cultural heritage of the many communities of people from east and west who have made their home here. Places of interest include numerous heritage buildings such as Cheong Fatt T/e Mansion, Khoo Kongsi and Burmah Square; Tropical Fruit Farm, Kek Lok Si Buddhist Temple, the largest in Southeast Asia; Sri Mariamman Hindu Temple, Penang Hill accessible by funicular; the Botanical Gardens and Fort Cornwallis where Francis Light, the founder of Penang, first stepped ashore. Penangs excellent food especially the hawker fare is famous.
A large state, Perak offers a diversity of attractions including the royal town of Kuala Kangsar where the wooden Royal Museum was built without any nails; the historical town ofTaiping with 31 ‘firsts’ and its beautiful Lake Gardens; the capital city of Ipoh with beautiful period architecture, the kilometre long Tempurung limestone cave; Teluk Intans leaning clock tower: and Pangkor Island with its internationally acclaimed Pangkor Laut Resort.
Historically part of the Kedah Sultanate, Perlis is famed for its serene natural beauty. Rice fields stretch for miles across the plains, broken here and there by limestone outcrops. Tourist attractions include the golden-domed state mosque in Kangar, the state capital; the 370m long Gua Gelam limestone cave containing an underground river and a tin mine; the largest Snake Farm with teaching and research facility in the region and the fishing village of Kuala Perlis. At the 100m high limestone outcrop of Gunung Medan, visitors can get a panoramic view of rice fields, green hills, sugarcane plantations and the Langkawi archipelago.
Kuala Lumpur Federal Territory, Selangor State and Negeri Sembilan State constitute the Central Region, the country’s powerhouse of economic growth. Within this region also lie Putrajaya, the new seat of the federal government, KLIA (KL international Airport), Sepang International Circuit for Fl and other motorsports events, the Multimedia Super Corridor and Port Klang, the country’s busiest port.
Dubbed the Garden City of Lights, Malaysia’s capital Kuala Lumpur is often associated with the Petronas Twin Towers, the world’s tallest structures; Kuala Lumpur Tower, the world’s fourth tallest telecommunications tower; KL Sentral Station, the country’s communications hub and city air terminal; international hotels; fabulous shopping; a wide variety of international cuisine and a vibrant night life. Other attractions include numerous British colonial era heritage buildings well-preserved and still in use such as the Sultan Abdul Samad Building; the Islamic Arts Museum, Orchid and Hibiscus Gardens, the National Sports. Complex at Bukit Jalil, the National Theatre (Istana Budaya) and Chinatown (Petaling Street). The major shopping centres of Suria KLCC, Mid Valley Megamall, Star Hill, Lot 10 and Sungai Wang Plaza offer a wide variety of products including branded goods, and Bintang Walk and Bangsar are fashionable centres for night dining and entertainment. Parts of Kuala Lumpur are now served by Light Rail Transit (LRT) and commuter railway, making it easy to travel around the city.
There are varied attractions in Selangor including Shah Alam Royal Town; the blue-domed Shah Alam Mosque; the Sunway Lagoon and the Mines Wonderland theme parks; Batu Caves, with 272 steps up the steep hillside to reach the cave: and the Forestry Research Institute (FRIM) Museum. Near the coastal town of Kuala Selangor are Melawati Hill, the site of the 200-year old Fort Altingsburg that was built by the Dutch; Kampung Kuantan, site of one of the worlds largest firefly colonies and the Kuala Selangor Nature Park, an internationally-known migratory bird sanctuary. On Carey Island is the Mah Meri indigenous community, whose self-taught wood carvers are famous for their wood sculptures.
The Minangkabau culture, which came with the Sumatrans centuries ago, is still prevalent in the state, as can be seen in the buffalo horn-shape in the traditional headgear as well as the roofs of some buildings. In the capital of Seremban, places of interest include the Sri Menanti Royal Musuem, a wooden structure built without nails or screws and the picturesque Lake Gardens. The Ulu Bendol Recreational Park at the foot ot Angsi Hill offers eco-tourism activities, while Port Dickson while the Blue Lagoon are popular for beach and water pursuits. Tanjung Tuan (Cape Rachado) with its lighthouse is famous as a sanctuary for migratory birds, and on a clear day, one can see Sumatra across the Straits of Malacca.
The two states of the Southern Region – Malacca and Johor – offer a variety of attractions, ranging from history and heritage to culture, food and shopping. The small state of Malacca is steeped in history, while Johor has vast tracts of land under agricultural use and a national park. With its long eastern coastline facing the South China Sea, Johor also has beautiful beaches and exotic coral islands.
Founded by Parameswara, the historic city of Malacca is a living museum, with both ruins and intact buildings from bygone eras right in the heart of the city. The famous ruins of A Famosa (Porta De Santiago), the Portuguese Square and the Portuguese Eurasians have their origin in 1511, when the Portuguese defeated the Malacca Sultanate. The red thick-walled Stadhuys, believed to be the oldest Dutch building in the East, and the salmon red Christ Church stem from the Dutch period which began in 1641. The lifestyle of the early rich Chinese who arrived from the mid-15th century is well displayed in the Baba and Nyonya Heritage Musuem. And In the old mosques dotted around can be seen Sumatran and Javanese influence.
Antique buyers love Malacca, which also offers other attractions such as the History Musuem, Kampung Hulu Mosque (1728), Cheng HoonTeng Temple (1646), St Peters Church (1710) and the Malacca River Cruise. At Air Keroh are the Mini Malaysia Park and Butterfly Farm. For beach lovers, Pantai Kundor is a white sandy beach, and the islands of Besar and Upeh offer clean waters for swimming.
In the state capital of Johor Bahru, known as the southern gateway to Peninsular Malaysia, are attractions such as the beautiful Istana Besar (Grand Palace); the Royal Abu Bakar Living Royal Museum; and the ornate 100-year old Sultan Abu Bakar Mosque with its sweeping view of the Straits of Johor; City Square; and the Orchid Valley. Visitors often flock to Johor Bahru for its food and varied shopping in the malls and the duty-free outlet.
Johor is home to the famous Endau Rompin Park, an ancient rainforest rich in flora and fauna. Beautiful beaches can be found in Desaru, Teluk Ramunia, Tanjung Balau, and near the fishing town of Mersing, and at the Kota Tinggi Waterfalls is a pool deep enough for swimming. The coral islands, lying in a protected marine park, attract keen scuba divers, snorkellers and nature lovers. Island hopping is fun among the islands, some of which are still untouched. Accommodation on the islands of Sibu, Rawa, Besar, Tengah and Tinggi range from resort to basic chalets.Near the border with Malacca lies the picturesque river town of Muar, known for beautiful sunsets and fresh seafood, and the legendary Gunung Ledang (Mt. Ophir), a centre for nature-based activities.
EAST COAST REGION
Facing the South China Sea, the East Coast states of Pahang, Terengganu and Kelantan are well-known for fine beaches, beautiful coral islands and excellent scuba diving and snorkelling spots. Life here moves at a leisurely pace in the region renowned for Malay handicrafts such as wood carving, batik, silverware and songket weaving.
With two thirds of the state covered in rainforest, Pahang is a haven for adventure and eco-holidays. Part of Taman Negara (the National Park) where Taman Negara Resort is located, the Kenong Rimba Park and part of the Endau Rompin Park lie within the state. Tasik Bera, the largest freshwater swamp in Peninsular Malaysia, is a wetland sanctuary while Tasik Cini, believed to be the site of a sunken Khmer city, is covered with an expanse of water lilies from July to January.
Pahang is also home to four hill resorts – Cameron Highlands, Frasers Hill, Bukit Tinggi Resort and Genting Highlands, dubbed Tity of Entertainment with its casino, theme parks, hotels, concerts and golf course. At the famous Cherating Beach, a popular tourist spot, are several international-class hotels. Visitors to Kuantan, the state capital, can enjoy Teluk Chempadak beach and explore tourist attractions in and around the town. Off the southern coast of Pahang is Tioman Island, an excellent snorkelling and scuba diving site.
Along the coast of Terengganu is a string of fishing villages, where colourful handmade batik can often be found drying in the shade of coconut trees, and a variety of resorts. Terengganu is perhaps most famous for its beautiful coral islands of Redang and Perhentian, situated in protected marine parks, and Kapas. In the clear turquoise waters around these islands, swimming, snorkelling and scuba diving are highly enjoyable.
In and around Kuala Terengganu, the state capital, are several tourist attractions including the State Museum Complex with 10 galleries, four traditional palaces, a botanical garden and a herbal garden; and the Tengku Tengah Zaharah Mosque, on the water’s edge by the Terengganu River, often called the ‘ Floating Mosque’. Inland, the Kenyir Lake, Asia’s largest man-made lake offers good fishing and nature-based activities.
Fascinating attractions in and around Kota Bharu, the capital of Kelantan, include the bustling and colourful Central Market, where the traders are predominantly women and the Cultural Zone, in which can be found many of the towns museums. There are beaches close by and a boat cruise up the Kelantan River is an interesting way to see rustic life. From the interior town of Gua Musang, visitors can go river rafting and shooting the rapids on the Nenggiri River, and freshwater fishing. Kelantan is also noted for its large drums (rebana ubi) and traditional games of giant kite (wau) flying and top spinning.
SABAH, SARAWAK & LABUAN
With large areas under rainforest and several national parks, both the states ot’Sabah and Sarawak on the island of Borneo present spectacular flora and fauna, including Rafflesia, the world’s largest flower, and are popular eco-tourism destinations. A visit to Sabah and Sarawak is also to experience the colourful culture and traditions of numerous indigenous ethnic groups. The island of Labuan, close to the Borneo coast, is Malaysias international off-shore financial centre.
Washed by the South China Sea, the Sulu Sea and the Celebes Sea, Sabah has a long indented coastline and excellent dive sites, such as those around the islands of Mabul, Sipadan and Layang Layang. Attracting climbers is Mount Kinabalu, the highest mountain in Southeast Asia and the focal point of Kinabalu Park, a World Heritage Site, which encompasses the Poring Hot Springs. Sabah has five other national parks including the Tunku Abdul Rahman marine park, and is home to three main indigenous groups namely, Kadaxan-Dusun, Murut and Bajau.
Places of interest in the state capital of Kota Kinabalu include the State Museum, Sabah Foundation Building, the waterfront Central Market, Sutera Harbour Resort which has a marina and Tanjung Aru Beach. Beyond, Borneo’s only rail service winds along the Padas River, a challenging rafting site, affording a spectacular view of the Padas Gorge. Other attractions are Sepilok Orang Utan Sanctuary, Danum Valley Conservation Area, Semporna marine tourism centre, Gomantong Gavcs where the swiftlets’ ‘ bird nest’ delicacy is harvested and Kota Beluds colourful Sunday market or tamu.
The land for adventure holidays, Sarawak has 10 national parks, among which are Gunung Mulu National Park, a World Heritage Site that contains one of the worlds largest cave systems, and the Niah National Park where homo sapiens remains dating more than 40,000 years, the oldest in Southeast Asia, were found in the Great Cave. The Skrang River safari which includes a stay in an Iban longhouse community dwelling, seeing exitic animals in the park and a visit to an Orang Utan Rehabilitation Centre make memorable experiences.
In the state capital of Kuching, dubbed Cat City, attractions include the Sarawak Museum, Kuching Waterfront, Fort Margherita, the Cat Museum and shopping for ethnic crafts along the Main Bazaar. At the Sarawak Cultural Centre, visitors can see the dwellings and artifacts of the various ethnic groups such as Iban, Bidayuh, Melanau and Orang Ulu.
Besides its main attractions of tax-free status and duty-free shopping, Labuan is one of the regions top sites for wreck diving. There are four well-known wrecks that can be easily visited, two of them dating back to WW II, and others that require expert guidance to visit. Other attractions include a war cemetery for Allied soldiers who lost their lives defending Labuan during WW II, beaches, and golfing and yachting facilities, mine;
The largest Snake Farm with teaching and research facility in the region and the fishing village of Kuala Perlis. At the 100m high limestone outcrop of Gunung Medan, visitors can get a panoramic view of rice fields, green hills, sugarcane plantations and the Langkawi archipelago.