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Highsnobiety Travel June, 15 2013

Highsnobiety Travels: 20 Things to See and Do In Malaysia

As some of you will recall from our Instagram coverage, Highsnobiety Editor Pete Williams spent two weeks in Malaysia back in March as part of a project called Travel With Us. Organized by Marcus Troy and The BHD, the project partners with various tourism boards around the world to organize press trips to their respective countries, and this round we were invited to join in.

Comprised of a thorough 15-day itinerary, we experienced a whirlwind trip of nearly everything Malaysia has to offer from food and wildlife, to architecture and culture, and even the F1 Grand Prix at Sepang International Circuit.

Below you will find our recap of 20 things to see and do in Malaysia.

1. Kuala Gandah Elephant Sanctuary, Pahang

Northeast of Kuala Lumpur sits the Kuala Gandah Elephant Sanctuary, a conservation center that works with the local elephant population to help keep them around. It was cool to see these beautiful creatures in their natural habitat. While here, stop by the restaurant and try the Nasi Goreng – a delicious fried rice dish served with fried egg on top.

2. Orang-utan Island, Bukit Merah

If you liked the elephants, the Bukit Merah Lake area will blow you away. Take the boat across to Orang-utan island where you’ll see these amazing primates from inside a cage. Except here, they’re in the wild and you’re in the cage!

3. Lake Town Ecopark, Bukit Merah

Back on the other side of Bukit Merah is the Lake Town Ecopark. This compact zoo houses a variety on animals, with which you can get very intimate and interactive. Amongst birds, lizards, fish, and an assortment of mammals, the spider monkeys were by far our favorite. They ate from our hands and climbed all over us. Insane.

Tip: In the Bukit Merah region, Garden Seafood is an excellent choice for dinner.

4. Lost World of Tambun Theme Park, Ipoh

An amusement park, hotel and spa snuggled beneath some of the most breathtaking scenery I’ve ever witnessed. The park offers rides, zip-lining and again, animals including racoons, tigers and more. They also have some activities that highlight the areas past as a tin mining mecca.

5. Royal Belum Rainforest Resort, Pulau Banding

Traveling north through the Malaysian rainforest on our way to Khota Bharu, we arrive at Royal Belum for an amazing lunch. Traditional Malaysian dishes of all kinds, while in an open-air restaurant looking out over a lake. Definitely worth stopping through if you are traveling this route.

Tip: If continuing on to Ipoh, stay at Kinta Riverfront Hotel and eat at Lou Wong – they serve one of the best chicken dishes in the world.

6. The town of Rantau Panjang (on the Thailand border)

Stop by the Thai border town of Rantau Panjang to get a real feel for the daily life of the local. Beautiful in its simplicity and many excellent photo ops – the locals were definitely not camera shy.

Tip: After visiting here, stay at Pasir Belanda outside Khota Baru, an amazing bed and breakfast operated by a Dutch family.

7.  Siti Khatijah Market, Khota Baru

Exploring the Siti Khatijah Market is an absolute must. The market features an overwhelming array of foods, fabrics, and goods made and sold by local vendors inside a very intimate yet sprawling complex. The colors and smells are just incredible and you will not likely to find better food prices anywhere.

Tip: The restaurants of Ala Yummy and Hiang Kang are both good choices for lunch or dinner in the Khota Baru area.

8. Try Fresh Coconut Water

Though by no means something unique to the area, palm oil happens to be one of Malaysia’s prime exports, so palm trees (and coconuts) are in abundance here. We grabbed on while stopping by the Reclining Buddha at Wat Pothivihan in the Kota Bharu area – also something worth seeing.

9. The Floating Art of Langkasuka

After the Thai border town, another excellent place to get a feel for the local rural lifestyle is the small fishing village of Langkasuka. Relaxed and content, the inhabitants spend most of their days fixing up and painting their handmade boats. The colorful, intricate artwork is a thing of beauty.

10. The Local Artisans of Kelantan

In the Kelantan region, approximately 140km southwest of Kota Bharu we visited a variety of local artisans involved in the production of various goods including silver, kites and songket fabrics. These people are extremely skilled at what they do and it was amazing to see their hands at work. You can also buy direct for great prices on quality goods.

11. Try Durian

The durian is regarded by many in Southeast Asia as the “king of fruits.” Notable for its spiky appearance and strong odor, it is the type of food you will either love or hate. The hate contingent is strong on this one as well – several hotels we stayed at actually banned the fruit from their rooms! Taste-wise, durian is something akin to almonds, while the creamy and custard-like texture is truly unique.

12. The Crystal Mosque,  Kuala Terengganu

Malaysia is a primarily Muslim country, so there are mosques on every corner, but the king of them all is the Crystal Mosque in Kuala Terengganu. Though the outer is made of steel and glass, inside there is indeed a scaled down mosque made entirely of crystal that serves as the central chandelier. Absolutely a must-see.

13. Noor Arfa Batik, Kuala Terengganu

Batik prints have come into popularity in recent seasons in our fashion world, but have been a mainstay of Southeast Asian clothing for decades. Noor Arfa was one of the pioneers in the batik industry in Malaysia and is a multimillion dollar business today. At their factory you can see them hand-making prints and can also shop their factory store for great deals.

Tip: While on in this area, stop by a local street vendor to try the Keropok Lekor, a fish-based snack somewhat along the lines of beef jerky.

14. Redang Island Resort

If you’re looking for a beach vacation, Redang Island is the place to go. Clear blue waters, white sand beaches and palm trees galore, this is as picturesque as it gets. Travel the area by boat to the neighboring islands for excellent snorkeling amongst an abundance of aquatic life. A true paradise, accessible by boat from Kuala Terengganu.

15. Malacca City

From Redang we hopped on Beyjara Airlines and flew back to the big city of Kuala Lumpur, from which we traveled to the heritage city of Malacca. Spend a day touring the sites including the historic Dutch buildings, the Portuguese-built Church of St. Paul and A Famosa Fortress, and finish it off by cruising up the Sangai river (where you may spot monitor lizards!).

Tip: Try the Cendol dessert at Nyonya Suan made from shaved ice, coconut milk and green starched noodles.

16. The City of Putrajaya

The new capital city of Malaysia, Putrajaya is an architectural playground. Pictured above is a reproduction of Paris’s Pont Alexandre III, set against some modern skyscrapers, and the mosque-like Parliament buildings. This is definitely an area worth exploring, with several other equally impressive bridges, mosques, and a buildings.

Tip: We recommend eating at the nearby Banana Leaf Indian restaurant.

17. Lot 10 Hutong, Kuala Lumpur

As far as “street food” goes, this is one of the must-eat places in the big city of Kuala Lumpur. Located in the basement level of a shopping center, Hutong houses a selection of Asian favorites with a focus on the local Malaysian Chinese delights. Dishes such as Hokkien noodles, duck rice and dim sum are some of our top picks.

Tip: Also sure to seek out the Malay-Indian specialties Teh Tarik and Roti Canai while in Kuala Lumpur.

18. Royal Selangor, Kuala Lumpur

As mentioned, Malaysia has a history of tin mining, and from tin comes pewter. Royal Selangor is Malaysian-based, and one of the world’s top pewter brands. Visiting the factory, you can witness artisans making the goods on site. Here you can also attend the School of Hard Knocks to learn how to make your own pewter goods, as well as being able to shop for gifts at their boutique.

Tip: Speaking of shopping, be sure to hit up the local Stussy store in the Pudu area, where you will also find tons of luxury shops.

19. Petronas Towers, Kuala Lumpur

In the big city of Kuala Lumpur, one of the best things to do is take the elevator up to the 88th floor of the Petronas Twin Towers and look out over the city. At over 1400 ft high, this is one of the tallest buildings in the world (it was in fact the tallest until 2004, and remains the tallest twin building) and the city below looks stunning.

Tip: Hotel Istana is a great place to stay in Kuala Lumpur.

20. F1 Malaysian Grand Prix

If you’re in Malaysia at the right time of year, attending the Grand Prix is an excellent activity. Set against rolling hills, the track is lined with palm trees and draws a very diverse crowd from all around the world. An excellent way to end the trip.

For more imagery, be sure to check out http://malaysia2013.travelwithus.co/ to see the full feed of Instagram photos that everyone in attendance created while on the road.

Tip: If you plan on following along our path, make sure you have luggage that’s easy to carry. On our trip, RIMOWA was kind enough to provide the entire crew with Salsa bags, which made things run much smoother.

Photography: Pete Williams/Highsnobiety.com

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  1. Photography: Pete Williams/Highsnobiety.com

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