Discover Malaysia: Kuala Lumpur & Langkawi

Malaysia has something of a split personality, with the South China Sea separating the wild jungles of Borneo from the multicultural peninsula, with its melting pot of Malay, Chinese, and Indian heritage.  Both regions offer once-in-a-lifetime experiences, from the state-of-the-art skyscrapers of Kuala Lumpur to the languorous beaches of Langkawi, all waiting to be discovered in a hire car from Nova.


Places to See in Kuala Lumpur

The rural and the urban intermingle in Kuala Lumpur (or KL to its friends), where monkeys cavort around high-rise buildings and the odd snake slithers across a six-lane highway.  Easy to navigate, the Malay capital’s ordered structure is an heirloom from its colonial past, which blends seamlessly with Malay, Chinese, Tamil, and Arab cultures to create a sophisticated city buzz that coexists happily with an ancient Asian culture of lively restaurants and bustling markets.

Malaysia National Museum
Get a tantalising glimpse of Malay culture with a trip to the Malaysia National Museum.   Its facade is flanked by two massive, stunning murals, one of which depicts Malaysian history from the Melaka Sultanate, and the other illustrates Malay craft and culture.  The Cultural Gallery exhibits typical costumes of various  races of Malaysia; The Faces of Malaysia Gallery showcases Malaysia’s different ethnic groups; The Weapons, Music and Ceramic Gallery charts the development of weapons from 35,000 to 2,500 years ago and exhibits musical instruments from different cultures.

Petronas Twin Towers
A perfect example of KL’s high-tech aspirations is the 88-story Petronas Twin Towers, a stainless steel structure that offers dizzying views of the city from the mid-level Skybridge and a bewildering array of choices in the food courts of its Suria KLCC Mall.  A quiet park with a merry-go-round, mosque, and jogging trails rings the towers.  The building also houses the underappreciated but acoustically exceptional Dewan Filharmonik Petronas, home to the Malaysian Philharmonic Orchestra.

Petronas Twin Towers


KL Bird Park
Kids love Kuala Lumpur.  The delightfully serene Lake Gardens (a legacy of the British) is full of family-friendly attractions, the best of which is the KL Bird Park., also known as “The World’s Largest Free-Flight Walk-in Aviary.”  Surrounded by 21 acres of lush valley terrain, you can chase peacocks and hornbills, let parrots and owls alight on your shoulders, feed parakeets, watch ostriches laying eggs, and see storks and flamingos take flight in natural surroundings.

Forest Research Institute
If you like the outdoors, you will love the Forest Research Institute of Malaysia (FRIM), a 1,528-hectare rainforest teeming with exotic wildlife and vegetation 16 km from the city of Kuala Lumpur.  A 200m canopy walkway suspended 30m above the forest floor offers spectacular views of the city and the emerald forests that surround it.  You can camp here if you wish, stroll along the shaded paths, or take a picnic to the waterfalls.  The best time to visit is before lunch, as strong winds in the afternoons mean the walkway is closed after 2.30 PM.

Places to See in Langkawi

Officially Langkawi, the Jewel of Kedah, this archipelago lies 30 km off the northwest coast of mainland Malaysia, but the most significant island is Pulau Langkawi.  With its powdery sand, turquoise waters, and swaying palms, Langkawi is a holiday-maker’s fantasy, and its duty-free status means items like alcohol are much cheaper here than in the rest of Malaysia.

Paradise Beaches
The real jewels in Langkawi’s crown are its wonderful beaches.  Pantai Cenang, a 2km stretch of ocean heaven, and Pantai Tengah, to the south of it, are the most popular beaches on Langkawi.  The golden sands are lined with fashionable restaurants and bars, but you can bring a picnic and relax and enjoy it all for nothing.  Other beaches include Pantai Kok, just 12 km north of Cenang, which overlooks an enchanting bay flanked by thickly wooded mountains. Tanjung Rhu and Datai Bay are at the more exclusive end of the Langkawi beach spectrum.

Malaysia Beaches

Telaga Tujuh Waterfall
This spectacular cascade translates as ‘Seven Wells’, referring to a series of seven natural pools fed by seven separate waterfalls around Mat Cincang Mountain. Locals believe the area is populated by magical spirits, but even if you don’t believe in the presence of supernatural residents, you’re bound to  be charmed by the enchanting surroundings. If you fancy stretching your legs, take the 638 steps to the top, but be warned that the climb can be rather tiring.  The effort is worth it, though, particularly when you meet the local macaque monkeys and winged hornbills.