Amazing Malaysia, The Perfect Destination For Exploration & Entertainment.
A melting pot of religions, cultures and communities, Malaysia’s rich heritage, cosmopolitan and contemporary nightlife, stunning national parks and the world’s oldest tropical rainforest make it the perfect destination for those looking for exploration and entertainment writes Jon Fraser.
Arriving in Kuala Lumpur after a comfortable 13-hour flight from London’s Heathrow with British Airways you’re immediately hit= by the vibrancy and chaos of the city. Cars and scooters intertwine on the city streets as traffic police in traditional uniform attempt to conduct the dance. Neon signs,blink, billboards rotate and what look like the ruins of Victorian architecture snuggle up against structures of steel and glass that announce that this is a city of history and of progression.
Kuala Lumpur – or KL as you’ll see on every baseball cap and bumper sticker- is Malaysia’s capital and its largest city. Named after the point where two rivers join together, Kuala Lumpur means muddy confluence, the city originated as a trading and provision point for Chinese tin miners who would work further up river. In the late 1700’s Malaysia was colonized by the British and the winding alley ways of wooden shacks that made up the town were replaced with brick buildings and wide walkways in the style of the Empire much of which, as in other parts of Malaysia particularly Penang, is in evidence today despite the country being under Japanese control during the second world war.
Must visit remnants of the city’s past include Merdeka Square home to the stunning neo Nughal and Moorish Revival designed Sultan Abdul Samad Building where Malaya declared itself independent from colonial forces in 1957, becoming Malaysia. Shoppers will delight at the Central Market, remodelled in Art Deco style but home to shopping in Kuala Lumpur since 1888 and packed with over 300 shops that celebrate Malaysian arts and crafts. The nearby Petaling Market in the city’s China Town is and a counterfeiter’s delight. A must see as is the imposing Petronas Twin Towers with connecting Sky Bridge, one of the world’s top 20 tallest skyscrapers. Available to visit, make sure you book ahead for some unforgettable views.
At night Kuala Lumpur offers a mix of western style tourist pubs, swanky rooftop hotel cocktail bars and restaurants and nightclubs where the DJ keeps the decks spinning until the early hours of the morning. By far our favourite aspect of afterhours Kuala Lumpur are the huge array of Speakeasy or Hidden Bars around the city. Opium Den styled destinations await behind fake shop frontages and hidden doorways – tip a top hat to the right and a door will open, press a panel on the left and anenigmatic entrance will be revealedwhere some seriously goodcocktails await– perfect!
WE STAYED AT…Centrally located and excellent value, the Hotel Istana offered us a huge room with an amazing view of the city and an excellent breakfast to start us on our day. Much more than just a stopover hotel, Sama Sama is conveniently located at the airport and offers guests multiple restaurants and lounges, a fabulous outdoor pool to relax in and well equipped gym.
Leaving Kuala Lumpur behind us we set off by boat along the Tembeling river to Tamar Negara national park, the world’s oldest Rainforest and Jungle. The magical journey passing Water Buffalo, Kingfishers, Macaque monkeys and Hornbills, takes around two hours and is incredibly comfortable sat two abreast in a low-slung river boat with tin top to keep off the sun and let the breeze in. Cruising through the rainforest is an incredibly emotional experience, sometimes overwhelming as you realise the epic scale of what surrounds you.
We were lucky enough to be staying in the heart of the jungle in the only rainforest resort in Malaysia – the Muriata resort. Made up around 100 wood and bamboo air-conditioned huts high up above the waterside along with restaurant, reception building, spa, shop and activity building the accommodation is functional but supremely well located for the sights and sounds of jungle life. Walk out of your hut, past the Macaque monkeys laying on your lawn and the rainforest paths both in the black of night – this is one place where there really is no such thing as light pollution- and in the midday sun. The jungle at night sings with unknown life and although, thanks to an earlier rainstorm, much of its residents kept well out of our way, we still got to meet speckled huntsman spiders, giant stick insects and centipedes as well as the odd snake or five. Daylight allows for a closer study of the exotic flora and fauna of the region as well as a walk across the treetop canopies – an amazing adrenalin fuelled treat and another great way to experience and enjoy this amazing location.
If you’re hankering for some more time on the river then why not take an open boat to Lata Berkoh for a spot of river swimming? Call in on Malaysia’s tallest tree on the way and switch the engines off for a relaxed drift back to camp listening to the jungle life around you. Keep your eyes peeled as Tigers, elephants, deer and macaques all still live within the jungle. Two nights at the Mutiara Tamar Negara resort including some meals and guided activities cost from around £148 per person.