Falling off the southern coast of Thailand and swallowing a large potion of the South China Sea, Malaysia is the only one of the Asian tigers to have turned towards sustainable tourism.
Malaysian society boasts Muslim, Christian, Hindu and Buddhist peoples of mixed backgrounds intermingling harmoniously, allowing aspects of Chinese, Indian and Islamic culture to form a melting pot of diversity.
Nowhere is this more predominant than in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia’s economic powerhouse and futuristic-looking capital. Public transport operates on monorail and giant skyscrapers shadow the inner city complexes and shopping malls that gridlock the streets. Each slick monochrome building stands as a symbol of Malaysia’s success, emerging out of the 1997 Asian economic crisis unscathed.
The Asian tiger that used its exports to boost a thriving economy attracted first world levels of investment and infrastructure which saw the construction of the Petronas Towers, symbols of international influence and prosperity.
Environmentally, Malaysia has rich tropical jungles, white beaches along its coastal peninsula, lagoons adorned with oil palm plantations and clear winding rivers carving deep gullies through its mountainous regions.
The Cameron Highlands situated inland, a close distance from Kuala Lumpur, provide breathtaking views of the surrounding mountains and tea plantations, the home of Malaysia’s B’oh Tea. The Highland mountains are covered in thick rainforest, which are not tropical; the climate is more temperate and often colder due to the high altitude and thick mist that drifts through the valley.
Hotel’s and inn’s are located haphazardly around some of the Highlands populated towns, yet some are closer to the wilderness, nearly all offer guided tours and excursions to the surrounding forests.
Coming from the highlands to the main coastal cities of Penang and Kota Baru one is offered a different experience altogether, the culture of low lying towns are culturally very different, life is based less around agriculture as a slow urbanization takes places across Malaysia’s more remote regions.
Penang, a large coastal city with a long colonialist history, having endured, Chinese, Japanese, Dutch and British rule, now houses some of the more beautiful Chinese temples and Buddhist Pagoda’s. Originally serving as a bi-passage between China and India, Penang is rich in diversity and culture, a must see go-between the Cameron Highlands and Kota Baru.
The coasts surrounding Kota Baru and the cluster of tropical islands known as ‘Perhentian’s’ are an exquisite retreat from the hustle of the city, situated close to the mainland, a short boat ride across the South China Sea. Arriving on Perhentian Besar leaves only the hardened cynic apprehensive of the Islands natural beauty. Hotels are under tight restrictions not to build towards the center of the island, leaving the jungle undisturbed and full of wildlife.
Scuba diving excursions are available from diving centers located in most of the hotels, a selection of about 20 different sites accessible by boat are available in the vicinity of the islands, offering the chance to see a vast range of marine wildlife.
During the summer, Turtles make their way back to the beaches around the Perhentian Islands to lay their eggs, now protected under Malaysian law. This spectacle is available to see most mornings and can be arranged from any hotel on the Islands.
Malaysia is a wide culmination of influences, cultural experiences and natural offerings, from the Cameron Highlands to the Perhentian Islands. The surroundings are a stunning mixture of natural splendor complimented with religious monuments that make spirituality seem to hang in the air and post-modern infrastructure and economic superiority.