Malaysia drips in a culture and atmosphere unique to itself. It has beautiful scenery, white sandy beaches and friendly faces. A ‘cocktail’ of faiths, mainly Muslims, Buddhists and Hindus – Malaysia is culturally diverse but everyone seems to live in harmony! I flew with Qatar Airways, and it was a pleasant and comfortable journey arriving in Penang in the afternoon. That evening we took a stroll through the bustling night markets to a local steakhouse for dinner. Markets here open at 6pm and close at midnight. Stalls were laden with ‘designer’ watches and sunglasses, souvenirs and brightly coloured batiks all ridiculously cheap, but still bartered over even further!
The following day we set off on an island-tour. One of the day’s highlights was sampling the local fruits and Chinese remedies. We visited a local Buddhist temple with snakes in every corner for the fearless to touch and hold! The island of Penang has deserted, unspoilt beaches, contrasting its busy towns with an assortment of shops, tailors, and restaurants.
In the sweaty heat, we visited a batik factory, where we were shown the making of the colourful fabrics. The work was manual and involved using hot wax and irons. Unbearable in that humidity!
Penang struck me as incredibly dynamic yet peaceful. There are plenty of activities for travellers of all ages and interests. Most hotels offer a ‘kids-club’ facility, where parents can relax, enjoy water-sports or spa treatments knowing their children are safe and enjoying themselves elsewhere.
Just an hour away is Kuala Lumpur. Its Malaysia’s other extreme – poles apart from the island retreat of Penang, a hectic and lively city life. On arrival, we set off on a city tour. There are so many attractions in the city, the free-trade villages, butterfly parks, mosques, churches and monuments, and it’s safe to explore the city using the famous monorail and underground system, which was clean, efficient and cheap.
From Kuala Lumpur it’s a short flight to Kota Kinabalu – and then you’re in a jungle of natural rainforests amidst wildlife and fauna that you have only read about before. Here is an adventure to meet our orange, furry and human like relatives, the orangutan at Sepilok Sanctuary. Most people will spend a couple of nights here, walking in the jungle, canoeing the river and tiptoeing to see the turtles that lay their eggs on the beaches year after year. It’s a fascinating and exciting touch of Nature that you’ll never forget!
That was my short and brief encounter with Malaysia and I know there is so much more to discover – I can’t wait to return and do it all more slowly!