by Mark Heng
Kuala Lumpur: Known informally by both Malaysians and Singaporeans as KL, this is Malaysia's largest city and its political and financial capital. Travellers are drawn to this fascinating metropolis for its great shopping, and even better food. The best views of the city are from the KL Tower, which is the world's second tallest telecommunications tower. This anchors the “Golden Triangle”, home to most of the city's hotels, offices, and malls. Berjaya Times Square and Pavilion in Bukit Bintang, KL's Orchard Road, are a great start to a session of retail therapy. To delve into culture and history, check out the colonial architecture with Moorish influences in the original city centre at Merdeka Square. Alternatively, head to Chinatown and Little India for a more ethnic experience. Escape into the sanctuary of the Lake Gardens and the aviaries of its showpiece, the Bird Park.
Petronas Twin Towers: This is the icon of modern Malaysia; the pride of the nation. Until recently the tallest buildings in the world, they remain the tallest twin buildings in the world. The Skybridge on the 41st floor offers panoramic views of the city and beyond. The base of the towers hold the Suria KLCC megamall, an underwater aquarium, the Galeri Petronas galley, the Dewan Filharmonik Petronas concert hall, and the Petrosains science centre. The spacious KLCC Park is popular with families, featuring a wonderful playground, paddling pools and synchronised fountains.
Malacca: This historic port and sleepy town retains much of its old-world charm, and is a World Heritage site. Once the wealthy seat of a great empire, there remains stark evidence of Malacca's status as a centre of trade, with cultural influences from Arabs, Indians, Chinese, Siamese and Indonesians who came here to trade, and subsequently settled, centuries ago. There are also vivid remnants, especially in terms of architecture, of previous Portuguese, Dutch, and British colonial rule. Some of the nation's finest museums, heritage attractions and most captivating cuisines are located here. Check out the Baba Nyonya Heritage Museum and the Malacca Sultanate Palace Museum, and historical sites such as Fort A Formosa and Christ Church.
Penang: A keen contender for the title of Malaysia's most popular destination, this charming island was once the seat of British power in the region. The Pearl of the Orient continues to delight visitors - old shophouses on narrow streets, the smell of incense from places of worship, and the taste of famous dishes in this food paradise, make for a true feast for the senses. Beyond the main centre and World Heritage Site of Georgetown, notable sights include the colonial funicular station on Penang Hill and Kek Lok Si Temple, the largest Buddhist Shrine in the country.
Pahang's Highlands: The hill resorts of Pahang have been the retreat of choice for many since colonial times. Genting Highlands is the site of Malaysia's only legal casino, but also features theme parks and a range of dining, retail and entertainment options. Cameron Highlands is Malaysia's most extensive hill station, and is famous for its tea plantations, and vistas of rolling green hills, waterfalls and gardens. Set in a lush valley, Fraser's Hill takes visitors back to colonial times, where hiking, birdwatching and gold are popular recreational activities.
Malaysian Borneo: Largely covered in impenetrable jungle, the states of Sabah and Sarawak are sometimes overlooked by both locals and tourists. Nonetheless, the experience of trekking through the national parks and witnessing the lives of indigenous headhunters tribes in the traditional long-houses of this region are worth the journey across the South China Sea. Food here differs considerably from that of Peninsular Malaysia, and hence Singapore, including dishes such as midin (jungle fern), umai (a raw fish salad), and manok pansoh (chicken stuffed in bamboo).