Talking about hot traveling destinations for 2016, I should begin by wishing you all, dear readers,a Happy New Year!
And I will continue with a short travel guide for Malaysia, the pearl of the South East Asia.
I first heard about Malaysia in James Clavell’s novel Changi, and since then I wished upon a star that some day I will be able to visit these magnificent places.
So, what’s up with Malaysia? Well, to begin with, this tiny peninsular country is an interesting mix of old and new, a melange of high tech infrastructure and prices you’ll only find in developing nations.
I mean, life is very cheap in Malaysia and that’s awesome news for any budget conscious trekker.
Let’s begin with a few factoids, shall we?
Malaysia is a Constitutional Monarchy where English is lingua franca and it is bordered by Thailand, Singapore, Indonesia and Brunei; also, it has a land surface of 328,550 square kilometers and a population of almost thirty million.
The natural assets are abundant here, ranging from beautiful and friendly people to rain-forests, reefs, mountains, along with man-made architectural wonders: modern sky scrapers, next to old minarets and timeless sampans.
I can vouch to the accuracy of the country’s slogan: Malaysia, truly Asia and, if I may put it like that, I would describe Malaysia as an affordable Singapore, if you know what I’m talking about.
This place is also a huge cultural melting pot and an example to us all, where various people and religions manage somehow to live in peace and harmony together.
You’ll encounter visiting Malaysia gold domed mosques next to Chinese joss houses of prayer, and Hindu temples near towering-modern day sky scrapers.
As a former British colony, Malaysia also showcases polo fields, hill stations and high tea.
The best thing about visiting Malaysia is that you’ll get two countries for the price of one.
What to see, what to do
Kuala Lumpur is the turbo-charged capital , a fabulous city which looks more like in a science fiction movie. This place somehow managed to “grow” in the jungle, like a crystal garden of some sort, surrounded by virgin rain forests.
The visual impact of Kuala Lumpur is breath taking, as you can admire state of the art-towering sky scrapers amongst pockets of virgin jungles, multi-story shopping malls and sophisticated monorail tracks, blending with the surrounding and unspoiled natural scenery.
One of my favorite activities in Kuala Lumpur is sampling the local cuisine, if nothing else. If you’re a gourmet, you’ll definitely enjoy the spicy Malaysian foods, which uses extensively curry and seafood, together with Indian rice pancakes and Chinese noodles.
Remember that Chinese cuisine is particularly good in Malaysia, I was flabbergasted on my part.
If you want to get away from the big-bad city, you’ll not be disappointed. Malaysia is home for endless jungles, filled with exotic/rare species of flora and fauna, along with beautiful coral reefs where you can admire turtles, tropical fish and even sharks.
There are countless tourist resorts everywhere, high end ones but not high priced, where you can enjoy various activities, ranging from water sports like surfing and boating to diving and snorkeling in the crystal clear waters.
Malaysia also harbors impeccably preserved wildlife reserves and well-kept and groomed national parks, where you can sneak a peak at one of the rarest and mightiest primates in the world: the orang-utan, which translated means literally forest man.
And, oh boy, then comes the islands! There are tons of islands boasting with tropical resorts. Let me enumerate just Tioman and Langkawi, located on the Perhentian Islands, places that have an almost legendary status between aficionados, due to their swaying palms and the scuba diving opportunities on their pristine coral reefs.
I must tell you that Malaysia’s aboard safaris and diving sites are probably the best in the world.
Along with being a cultural melting pot, Malaysia can be described also as a cooking pot, which blends culinary influences from India, Europe and China, cooking unique things based on all sorts of exotic spices, like ginger, chili, lemongrass, peanuts, coconut milk and lime leaves.
Specialties include Nasi lemak (the national dish,a sort of steamed rice with coconut milk which comes with sambal, anchovies, eggs and peanuts), Char Kway Teow (fried rice noodles served with fish or meat, absolutely delicious), Nasi Goreng (again fried rice Malay Style), Roti canai (fried bread with curry sauce) and Rendang daging (beef with coconut and lemon grass).
As per regional drinks, I must mention Tiger and Anchor as the best locally brewed beers, Singapore gin sling and sugar cane juice.
To arrive in and visit Malaysia you’ll require a valid passport and a return ticket, but no Visa.