I have seen quite a number of posting in Thorn Tree Forum - Lonely Planet; They are coming to Malaysia but have not idea where to go, what to do and etc.. Since today, The Independent UK wrote an article about Malaysia, I decided to publish it in my blog. It is a summary of where & what to do in Malaysia. I find it is sufficient for a starter to know about Malaysia.


The Complete Guide To: Malaysia in style
Leave the backpack behind, and live the high life in this fascinating, diverse and stunning part of South-east Asia, from chic Kuala Lumpur to exotic Langkawi. By Rowena Forbes
Published: 07 April 2007
MALAYSIA: TRULY ASIA?
That's what the tourist-office slogan says, and while this relatively small South-east Asian nation cannot encompass everything that the continent has to offer, it makes an impressive attempt: from Kuala Lumpur's towering skyscrapers, to rustic rainforest kampongs (villages); and from plush colonial retreats to backpacker beach huts.
With a history of Western colonialism and immigration that stretches back centuries, the country has absorbed many global influences within a multicultural diversity that reveals itself in every aspect of life: architecture, traditions, festivals and cuisine. This year, Malaysia celebrates 50 years of independence. Official celebrations take place on 31 August, "Merdeka" (Independence) Day, when every state hosts its own events, including parades, exhibitions, dances, concerts and firework displays, culminating in a grand parade attended by the King and Queen in Putrajaya.
To mark the half-century in style, the country is promoting 50 major events and festivals taking place throughout the year. These include the Kuala Lumpur City Festival, which reaches a climax this weekend - intended to coincide with the Malaysian Grand Prix - and the World Lion Dance Display in Genting Highlands from 3 to 5 August.
WHERE SHOULD I START?
Penang, the so-called "Pearl of the Orient" on the north-west coast. Established as the first Far Eastern British trading post in 1786, Penang is suffused with history. The capital city of George Town has a distinct Chinese flavour, with its ancient trades, winding narrow streets and traditional hawker stalls. Colonial traces remain, however, most notably in the grand architecture on and around Lebuh Pantai, the main street.
The Eastern & Oriental Hotel on Lebuh Farquhar is a well- restored 19th-century establishment. Opulent furnishings add to the grandeur of this colonial building, and a swimming pool with a sea view provides a tranquil focal point. Five-star facilities include a 24-hour butler service. De-luxe suites are available from RM950 per night (£140), including breakfast. The E&O Suite is the jewel in the crown - at RM12,050 (£1,772), it includes three bedrooms, a study, lounge, "his and hers" bathrooms and a dining room (00 604 222 2000;
http://www.e-o-hotel.com/).
Penang's beaches are, sadly, not as pristine as they once were, and the main stretch is crowded with locals touting water sports. However, some resorts still provide scenic spots for sun-worshippers, such as the Parkroyal Penang, home to the St Gregory Spa and three good restaurants (00 604 881 1133;
http://www.penang.parkroyalhotels.com/). Rooms with sea views start at RM360 (£53), including breakfast, while the Francis Suite, with sundeck and private garden, is RM1,560 (£230). Key island attractions include superb views and cool breezes on Penang Hill; ornate temples; strolls around Penang Bird Park; and the bustling night market, which is great for souvenirs.
A BETTER BEACH?
Take a short trip to Langkawi, Malaysia's northernmost island, from which the Thai coastline is visible. Besides more appealing sand and sea, Langkawi has a beautiful tropical environment. A great way to explore the rainforest is in the company of professional conservationist and naturalist such as Irshad Mobarak, who leads informative and entertaining nature walks that reveal some of the secrets of the jungle, as well as boat tours along the Kilim river, spotting wildlife within lush mangrove swamps and amid spectacular limestone outcrops.
Irshad is based at the Datai Resort (00 604 959 2500;
http://www.ghmhotels.com/), where Jodie Foster stayed while filming Anna and the King. Edged by secluded beaches, the resort offers rooms, suites and villas set within the rainforest. Rooms from RM1,445 (£213), excluding breakfast, with the exclusive Datai Suite at RM8,000 (£1,178).
After enjoying the beauty of nature, you can enhance your own natural beauty with some serious pampering at the Alun-Alun Spa (00 604 966 9366;
http://www.langkawi-spa.com/). A one-hour traditional Malaysian massage starts at RM120 (£18).
At the Four Seasons Resort, a mixture of indigenous and contemporary architecture, superb service and a postcard-perfect location on the beach of Tanjung Rhu make for a memorable stay (00 604 950 8888;
www.fourseasons.com/langkawi). Rates start at RM1,730 (£255) for a double room, running to RM17,500 (£2,579) for the two-bedroom Royal Villa, with its private pool and spa room at a secluded end of the beach.
For attentive service and tranquillity, try the Bon Ton Restaurant and Resort at Pantai Cenang (00 604 955 1688;
http://www.bontonresort.com.my/). Traditional houses on stilts have been turned into air-conditioned villas around a central pool. Villas from RM490 (£72) per night, including breakfast; the largest, for up to six people, is RM850 (£125). Fusion cuisine is served in the open-air restaurant.
CAPITAL STYLE?
Much more so than a decade or two ago. Kuala Lumpur's skyscraper skyline is dominated by the Petronas Twin Towers (once, but no longer, the tallest building in the world), but there are plenty of chic hotels at street level. Why not follow in royal footsteps at the Carcosa Seri Negara Hotel above the Lake Gardens, where the Queen and Prince Philip were the first guests in 1989 (00 603 2282 1888;
http://www.carcosa.com.my/). Thirteen suites are decorated in colonial style, with traditional artefacts. All guests have a personal butler, who will collect them from the airport in a limo. Prices start at RM1,100 (£162) per night room only, running to RM3,500 (£516) for the deluxe option that, presumably, Her Majesty enjoyed. If you're feeling homesick, afternoon tea is served on the veranda to non-residents from 3-6pm, for RM60 (£9).
Contemporary hotel options include the Mandarin Oriental, adjacent to the Petronas Towers (00 603 2380 8888;
www.mandarinoriental.com/kualalumpur); and the nearby Traders Hotel (00 603 2332 9888; www.shangri-la.com/kualalumpur/traders/en). Traders offers sharp, modern design and a rooftop spa and pool, while the Mandarin Oriental epitomises elegant opulence. Rooms at the Mandarin start at RM845 (£125); or, if you've got cash to flash, the Presidential Suite is RM21,000 (£3,000). A three-day, two-night stay in a deluxe park-view room at Traders is currently available from RM720 (£106), until next weekend at least.
CHIC SHOPPING?
Yes, with prices to please Western wallets in more than 30 malls. Head to Bukit Bintang, where the Sungei Wang Plaza, Starhill Gallery, Lot 10 and Berjaya Times Square are all in close proximity; or browse the six floors of luxury retail outlets in Suria KLCC, in the Petronas Towers. The trendy suburb of Bangsar also has two malls, and individual boutiques dotted among the caf├ęs and restaurants.
I NEED A DRINK
For a vibrant bar scene, head to Bukit Bintang, Jalan Sultan Ismail, Asian Heritage Row and Jalan Ampang in town, where the best-known club is Zouk (00 603 2171 1997;
http://www.zoukclub.com.my/). For a real taste of the high life, visit the sophisticated Luna bar on top of the Menara Pan Global building on Jalan Punchak. You can sip cocktails in the stunning open-air bar (00 603 2332 7777), which boasts a swimming pool and great views of the city skyline.
SOME ISLAND LIFE?
Sail off the east coast of the peninsula to the rugged volcanic island of Tioman, as featured in the movie South Pacific. There you'll find the Berjaya Tioman Beach Golf and Spa Resort, and a diving centre where you can explore the beauties of the marine park in - and at - greater depth (00 609 419 1000;
http://www.berjayahotels-resorts.com/). Resort rooms start at RM272 (£40), including breakfast.
There's also a resort on Redang Island, which is popular with Malaysian tourists. The timber-framed Berjaya Redang Beach Resort (00 609 630 8866;
http://www.berjayahotels-resorts.com/) includes a diving centre and the Ayura Spa, where you can try the Tropical Fruits Wrap for RM160 (£24). Rooms from RM300 (£44), including breakfast.
A WALK ON THE WILD SIDE?
Vast areas of the island of Borneo are occupied by the Malaysian states of Sarawak and Sabah, and the latter is the perfect place to explore the mysteries of a primeval jungle ecosystem. In the port town of Sandakan, tour operators organise trips heading out from the waters of the Sulu Sea into the Kinabatangan river. Here, lush green mangrove trees tiptoe out from muddy banks into what looks like Willy Wonka's swirling chocolate river; leafy creepers dangle down into the water; and lofty palm fronds reach up to the sky. The rainforest is home to a multitude of wildlife, including proboscis monkeys, unique to Sabah, with their distinctive nose and bulging stomach; grey long-tailed macaques; black-and-white hornbills; darting kingfishers; monitor lizards; estuarine crocodiles; and - if you're very lucky - Borneo's native pygmy elephant.
And you don't need to live primitively to enjoy this menagerie. Against the backdrop of the rainforest, the Sabah Hotel Sandakan offers comfortable facilities, including a swimming pool fed by a landscaped waterfall (00 608 921 3299;
http://www.sabahhotel.com.my/). Rooms satart at RM312 (£46), including breakfast, with the Presidential Suite available for RM1,916 (£282).
Special Interest (SI) Tours runs three-day, two-night guided boat trips into the Lower Kinabatangan River Sanctuary, including overnight stays in comfortable wooden lodges within the rainforest. This package, priced at RM1,085 (£160) per person, includes transport, accommodation, all meals, a trip to Sepilok Orang Utan Rehabilitation Centre (see below), and a visit to the Puh Jih Syh Chinese Buddhist Temple above Sandakan (00 608 967 3502;
http://www.sitoursborneo.com/).
TRIBAL TENDENCIES?
Malaysia's largest state, Sarawak, is populated with over 20 different ethnic groups. These include the Melanaus, considered to be the original settlers of this part of Borneo. They inhabit traditional longhouses along the rivers, where virtually entire villages live under one roof. Gawai Dayak is a good time to visit, between 25 May and 2 June, when Dayak communities celebrate Hari Gawai to mark the end of the harvest. In Sarawak's capital, Kuching, the Hilton Kuching offers style and good value, with spacious waterfront rooms from RM165 (£24) (00 608 224 8200;
http://www.hilton.com/).
DINING OUT IN STYLE?
Characterised by spicy, flavourful dishes and creamy, coconut-infused curries, Malaysian specialities include satay (grilled chicken in a spicy, peanut-packed sauce); roti canai (thick, pancake-style bread with curry sauce); and nasi lemak (coconut rice served with chilli sauce and fried anchovies). Some of the finest Indian, Chinese, Thai and other Asian cuisines are also widely available.
Penang is Malaysia's food heaven, with the tastiest offerings to be found at the food stalls. Sample local specialities such as char kway teow (fried flat noodles with prawns and bean sprouts) and assam laksa (a sour fish-based soup) on Gurney Drive. Alternatively, enjoy beautiful sea views and tasty cuisine at the upmarket Ocean Green Seafood Restaurant on Jalan Sultan Ahmad Shah, where fresh seafood, including lobster thermidor, is served (00 604 226 2681).
Back in KL, don't miss a sunset dinner in the revolving Seri Angkasa restaurant at the top of the KL Menara Tower (00 603 2020 5444;
http://www.menarakl.com.my/). Survey the magnificent city skyline as it drifts past the large windows, while enjoying a multicultural buffet for RM100 (£15) per head (excluding the rather pricey drinks).
HOW DO I GET THERE?
The only carrier with flights from the UK is Malaysia Airlines (0870 607 9090;
http://www.malaysiaairlines.com/), which has two flights a day from Heathrow to Kuala Lumpur, with connections across the country. Often, domestic flights are available for a nominal cost on top of the UK to Malaysia fare, which ranges from around £550 return to £900 return; at some times of the year - between now and June, for example - you can get a flight from the UK to Australia plus a free side-trip within Malaysia for under £700.
WHERE CAN I FIND OUT MORE?
Tourism Malaysia, Malaysia House, 57 Trafalgar Square, London WC2 (020-7930 7932;
http://www.malaysiatrulyasia.co.uk/).
BREAKFAST WITH THE ORANG-UTANS
The so-called "wild men of Borneo" are one of four groups of primates classified as great apes. Strong and agile, these quiet creatures' lifestyle is predominantly solitary, except for the first six to seven years of their lives, which they spend learning the skills for jungle survival from their mothers.
It is a rare treat to see these gentle (and endangered) giants in the wild. However, at the Sepilok Orang Utan Sanctuary in Sabah, you can get up close and personal with orang-utans that have been rescued from captivity, or are being relocated from deforested areas, and are undergoing an intensive rehabilitation process to help to reintroduce them to the wild. These intelligent creatures will respond to the names given to them by their keepers, and can understand more Malay than the average tourist.
A daily feeding ritual takes place at 10am, when a number of the primates emerge to feast on bananas and milk supplied by the centre's keepers to a platform in the middle of the rainforest. A nearby viewing platform allows camera-laden tourists to snap away, capturing the lazily elegant movements of the russet-haired apes as they swing along the ropes to have their breakfast.
SI Tours organises a half-day tour to Sepilok from nearby Sandakan for RM118 (£17) per person, including the RM30 (£4.50) entrance fee to the sanctuary (00 608 967 3502;
http://www.sitoursborneo.com/). A further RM10 (£1.50) is charged per camera.


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