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What Is Malaysia Known for & Famous For

Malaysia is a fascinating country located in the heart of Southeast Asia, which boasts incredible food, nature, and culture that all visitors can enjoy. It’s a relatively small country, but despite its size, it has a lot to offer and deserves a place on your travel bucket list.

Malaysia is known for and famous for its diverse landscapes, rich culinary tradition, and exciting experiences. The country boasts incredible nature, sprawling markets, fascinating cities, tropical paradises, and more.

If you’re wondering what Malaysia is like and want to know more about this popular backpacking destination, this article is for you! I’ll describe some of the most exciting facets of Malaysia so you can start dreaming about your next trip.

Orangutan

Malaysia is home to one of the most critically endangered animals in the world: the orangutan. Unfortunately, these primates now only live in two places on the planet: Borneo in East Malaysia and Sumatra in Indonesia.

The Borean orangutan has gray skin with orange fur and is the second-largest ape in the animal kingdom. They’ve become critically endangered due to deforestation and hunting. A few rehabilitation centers in Borneo care for orphaned orangutans until they can return to the jungle.

Here are some places where orangutans can be spotted:

  • Danum Valley Conservation Area
  • Sepilok Orangutan Rehabilitation Center
  • Lok Kawi Wildlife Park

Kuala Lumpur

Kuala Lumpur is the capital of Malaysia. It is located in west-central Peninsular Malaysia and is considered the country’s cultural and commercial center. The architecture in this city is particularly fascinating, as it is a mixture of modern and traditional, and it’s entirely possible to see an elegant and ancient mosque next to a concrete skyscraper.

The city features a buzzing transportation system, with most rail lines and major roads leading to Kuala Lumpur. The city is also home to the Kuala Lumpur International Airport and a light-rail public transit system.

Petronas Twin Towers

Malaysia, specifically Kuala Lumpur, is home to the Petronas Twin Towers, the tallest twin structures in the world. The design of the interiors is meant to resemble Malaysia’s traditional and local weaving patterns, and the design of the tower floor plates is based on Islamic geometric forms.

The towers were built as part of Tun Mahathir Mohamad’s goal for Malaysia to be a global player, so he teamed up with architect Cesar Pelli to create the international icon. Visitors to the Petronas Twin Towers can enjoy the world’s highest two-story bridge and breathtaking views of Kuala Lumpur.

Menara Kuala Lumpur

Kuala Lumpur features many architectural wonders, including Menara Kuala Lumpur, which, at 1,381 feet (421 meters), is the fifth tallest telecommunications tower in the world and the seventh-tallest freestanding tower.

At this tower, you can visit the XD Motion Theater, a 4D theater with visual simulations and effects, so it feels more like an amusement park ride than anything screen-related. You can also enjoy the Blue Coral Aquarium, which houses all sorts of sea creatures from all over the world. Finally, no visit to the Menara Kuala Lumpur is complete without checking out the observation deck, where you get an impressive view of the entire city.

Central Market

When you’re in Kuala Lumpur, you can’t miss a visit to the Central Market, located next to the Klang River. The Market is an official Heritage Site according to the Malaysian Heritage Society.

The Market is organized in a stall concept with over 350 kiosks. Visitors can buy souvenirs, antiques, collectives, and more. If shopping makes you hungry, you can stop by one of the many eateries and dine on Pie Tee or Ais Kacang with ice cream. Yum!

Kek Lok Si Temple

Kek Lok Si Temple is one of the most impressive temple complexes in the world, and it’s the largest Buddhist temple in Malaysia. The temple consists of many large prayer halls, pavilions, intricate statues of Buddha, woodwork, and lanterns.

The surrounding area of the temple is just as impressive as the inside. The gardens feature a wide array of beautiful flowers, a fish pond, and a statue of Kuan Yin.

Penang Hill

Penang Hill is one of the unmissable attractions in Penang. This area of connecting peaks was once the residence of the Governor of Penang in 1789 and today features a variety of activities and sights to enjoy. Here are some of the best things to do at Penang Hill:

  • Langgur Canopy Walk in Habitat Penang Hill
  • Flight of the Colugo Zipline
  • Visit the old colonial bungalows
  • Sri Aruloli Thirumurugan
  • Bellevue Ginger Garden and Aviary
  • Crag Hotel
  • Drink coffee at Kopi Hutan

National Mosque of Malaysia

The National Mosque of Malaysia is in Kuala Lumpur and has a capacity of 15,000 people and 13 acres (5.3 hectares) of gardens. The mosque was built to memorialize Malaysia’s independence from the British government in 1957. The Chief Ministers of the eleven states in the newly independent Federation of Malaya voted to name the mosque after Prime Minister Tunku Abdul Rahman, but he refused the honor and named it Masjid Negara instead.

The mosque features architecture influenced by the traditional Islamic art in the Grand Mosque in Mecca, so those who may not have the opportunity to journey to Mecca in their lifetime can still experience the incredible artwork.

Langkawi Sky Bridge

The Langkawi Sky Bridge is a 125-meter (77.7 miles)  curved bridge on Langkawi Island, where visitors are rewarded with a spectacular view of the surrounding landscape. The bridge connects two mountain peaks, which made for structural challenges during its construction.

Since its construction in 2005, the Sky Bridge has become a major tourist attraction and represents the best of Malaysian engineering. It can hold 800 people at one time and withstand winds up to 300 kilometers (186.4 miles).

Penang

Penang is one of the most popular tourist attractions in Malaysia. It’s an island province on Malaysia’s northwestern coast that’s only eight miles (12.9 km) wide and sixteen miles (25.7 km) long, but there’s plenty to do in this area.

One of the main reasons tourists flock to Penang is to fill their bellies. It’s known to be a food paradise due to the many cultures residing on the island, including Chinese communities, Indian Tamils, Malays, and the British. Penang also offers plenty of food tours and cooking classes to keep you full and happy.

George Town

George Town is the capital of Penang and a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and it is the perfect city for people who love historic towns with plenty of food options and things to do. Visitors can explore the 12,000 old Chinese shophouses, churches, mosques, government offices, and monuments and admire the incredible street art created for a government-commissioned exhibition, “Sculpture at Work.”

For those who want to venture outside the city, Penang National Park is an excellent place to enjoy nature and soak up the sun on mostly-empty beaches. You’ll also have a chance to see monitor lizards and monkeys here.

Mount Kinabalu

Mount Kinabalu is in Kinabalu National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site and the highest mountain in Malaysia. Climbing to the summit of this mountain is an extremely popular activity, as it is one of the most accessible mountains in the world. Over 20,000 people climb the mountain every year.

You can climb this mountain any time of the year, but the dry season in March and April gives you the best chance to get a clear view at the top. Monsoon season, which is in November and December, is the worst time.

Legoland

The first Legoland theme park is in Johor Bahru, Malaysia, and Malaysia’s first international theme park. The park features giant Lego figures, 40 rides, and various shows that will thrill visitors of all ages.

The park has eight zones: 

  • The Beginning
  • Technic
  • Kingdom
  • Imagination
  • Land of Adventure
  • City
  • Miniland
  • Ninjago World

There’s also a water park on the premises with more than twenty water slides.

Food

Malaysia is a foodie’s paradise. There are many different cultures in the country, which means there are many different cuisines. The main influences are Chinese, Indian, and Malay. Here are some of the best dishes Malaysia has to offer:

  • Mee goreng mamak
  • Nasi kerabu
  • Roti john
  • Laksa
  • Sambal udang
  • Otak-otak

Malaysia features many food stalls and food trucks that visitors should try. With meals typically costing under two American dollars, you’ll be able to try various dishes without breaking the bank.

Tropical Paradise

Malaysia is known for being the ultimate tropical paradise in Southeast Asia, with its clear blue skies and seas and the various tropical animals and species of birds. The most popular tropical getaway location is Langkawi’s beautiful island.

Langkawi is an excellent destination if you’re looking for white-sanded beaches and turquoise waters, wildlife, and waterfalls. If you’re stressed and craving a tropical getaway, this destination should be on your radar.

Festivals

Malaysia organizes festivals all year long, and the country has more public holidays than any other country in the world. The following table outlines some of the most popular festivals anyone would be lucky to experience:

Name of FestivalWhen it’s CelebratedLocationPurpose
Thaipusam January or FebruaryBatu Caves, Kuala LumpurCommemorates the victory of good over evil
Chinese New YearJanuary or FebruaryKuala LumpurCelebrates the previous year and prepares for the year to come
Malaysia Water FestivalAprilLangkawi, SabahCelebrates water with activities such as kayak sprinting, building sandcastles, and fishing
Kaamatan Harvest FestivalMay 31Sabah Celebrates bountiful prosperity

Batu Caves

The Batu Caves are a series of caves in the limestone hills in Gombak, Malaysia. These caves are home to some of the largest Hindu shrines in the world, but before the shrines were built, indigenous locals and Chinese settlers occupied the caves.

The Hindu festival Thaipusam is celebrated at the Batu Caves, and every year, pilgrims visit the caves for the festival. Visitors to the caves should be careful around the mischievous monkeys that live in them; they’re known to steal from and bite tourists.

Resorts World Genting

Resorts World Genting is Malaysia’s premier resort destination, with approximately 10,500 rooms over seven different hotels. Resorts World Genting features many different leisure and entertainment facilities, including theme parks, dining and retail outlets, and international shows featuring stars from all over the world.

Resorts World Genting also owns two seaside properties: Resorts World Kijal and Resorts World Langkawi.

Taman Burung Kuala Lumpur

Taman Burung Bird Park is a world-renowned eco-tourism site only ten minutes from the city center of Kuala Lumpur. Visitors to the park can see more than 3,000 birds amongst 20.9 acres (8.5 hectares) of valley terrain.

There are four zones in the park. The first two zones are free-flight zones; zone three is Hornbill Park, and zone four features mini aviaries.

The free-flight concept distinguishes this bird park from other parks and allows the birds to breed naturally. This is the best way to ensure the species’ survival for years to come.

Thean Hou Temple

This temple is yet another jewel of Kuala Lumpur, one of the largest and oldest Buddhist temples in Southeast Asia. It features an impressive statue of Thean Hou and images of Buddha in the hall. Furthermore, Wei Tuo and Guan Di statues incorporate elements of Buddhism, Taoism, and Confucianism.

The temple also has a Chinese medicinal herb garden with a tortoise pond and a wishing well, which is perfect for kids. Around the garden, you’ll find animal statues representing the Chinese zodiac.

Taman Negara

Taman Negara is one of the most tropical destinations in Malaysia and home to the oldest known primary rainforest in the world. It’s the perfect National Park for rainforest lovers and those who enjoy outdoor activities because visitors can trek under the rainforest canopy, go fishing, camp, observe wildlife, visit the aborigine village, or walk on the world’s longest canopy walkway.

There are more than 15,000 plant species, 650 bird species, and 250 freshwater species in this park, so visitors will be able to observe a remarkable biodiversity.

Gunung Mulu National Park

Gunung Mulu National Park is on the island of Borneo and contains seventeen vegetation zones. The park’s highlight is Gunung Mulu, a sandstone pinnacle that towers over the park at 7,795 feet high. The elaborate cave system reveals geological history dating back 1.5 million years.

The National Park also acts as a natural habitat for various plant and animal species, including many endemics and threatened species. Many scientists venture to this amazing place to study the deeply-incised canyons, rivers, mountains, limestone pinnacles, and caves.

Multiculturalism

Malaysia has a multicultural society comprising three major ethnic groups: Malays, Chinese, and Indians. Each of these groups has different religious practices and affiliated political parties.

They also have different cultural practices, which results in diverse languages, cuisine, and art. There has been a long negotiation process amongst the various groups to maintain national integration and peace while allowing each of them to keep their identities.

Royal Families

One of the most distinct Malaysian characteristics is the country’s monarchy system. Instead of having just one royal family, there are nine, and they use an electoral system to select a new king every five years.

Of the thirteen states in Malaysia, only nine have royal families. The heads of these families are called Sultans. The following Sultan is elected among the nine royal households instead of following a bloodline. This system has been in place since 1957.

Langkawi

Langkawi is an archipelago that consists of over one hundred islands and is located in the northwestern Malaysian coast. The majority of the islands are uninhabited, but the biggest one, which is known as Langkawi Island, is famous for its incredible geography, beaches, and duty-free shopping.

In addition to the gorgeous beaches, visitors can enjoy spectacular waterfalls, including the Telaga Tujuh Waterfall, Durian Perangin Waterfall, and Temurun Waterfall. They can also choose to climb either Gunung Mat Cincang Mountain or Gunung Raya Mountain, where they’ll be treated to fantastic island views. Finally, the parks and wildlife zones on this island are unmatched.

Genting Highlands

The Genting Highlands is only forty-five minutes from Kuala Lumpur, and well worth the excursion. There’s no shortage of things to do in this popular vacation spot, so here are some of my recommendations:

  • Outdoor Theme Park
  • Cloud 9 Nightclub
  • Chin Swee Caves Temple
  • Penang Food Village
  • Kuala Gandah Elephant Conservation Center
  • Casino de Genting

Genting Highlands offers exciting activities for the entire family, so it’s a great place to go on a family vacation.

Cameron Highlands

Like the Genting Highlands, the Cameron Highlands is a scenic hill station in Pahang. It was named after British colonialist Sir Wiliam Cameron and was created to allow residents of the lowlands to enjoy the cooler climate and take a break from the sweltering heat. Here are some of the best things to do there:

  • Boh Tea Plantation
  • Mrs. Robertson’s Rose Garden
  • Orang Asli Villages
  • Ee Feng Gu Honey Bee Farm
  • Go on a jungle trek

Jimmy Choo

One of the most famous designers in the world, Jimmy Choo Yeang Keat, is Malaysian. He is the co-founder of the luxury brand Jimmy Choo, known for luxury stiletto shoes, handbags, leather goods, and other accessories.

He was born in Penang, Malaysia, to a family of shoemakers. His father taught him how to make shoes, and after college, Choo worked for a couple of design companies before beginning his own business.

Many celebrities have sported Jimmy Choo shoes on and off the red carpet, including Princess Diana, the Duchess of Cambridge, Madonna, and Jennifer Aniston.

Bukit Bintang

If tourists need a change of pace after visiting all the incredible mosques and temples in Kuala Lumpur, they can explore Bukit Bintang, the shopping and entertainment district of the city. This area is home to landmark shopping centers, cafes, markets, bars, street food stalls, and other eateries.

Butik Bintang features hundreds of stores, trendy shops, towering buildings, and humble stalls. There’s something for everyone and any budget. One of the trendiest locations is Tong Shin Road, where the glitzy upmarket mall, Starhill Gallery, is located.

Batik

Batik is an art form in Malaysia, in which cloth is decorated with wax. Essentially, batik is a crafted fabric that goes through a process of repeated waxing, dyeing, and boiling to create leaf and flower motifs.

Batik is also known for its intricate geometrical designs, spirals, and butterflies. The colors are light and vibrant, and the designs reflect Malaysian principles and history. The Malaysian government now endorses batik as the national dress.

In addition to clothing, the fabric is commonly used for pillowcases, table runners, scarves, and tapestries.

Rubber

Malaysia is the sixth largest producer of rubber and contributes 46% of total rubber production in the world, and rubber is Malaysia’s main export. The country produces more rubber gloves than any other country, which grew in demand during Covid-19.

Rubber is manufactured primarily by local smallholders. There are also multinationals, plantations, and joint ventures with the United States, Japan, and European countries.

Palm Oil

Malaysia is well known for its palm oil production, as it accounts for nearly 30% of the world’s palm oil supply and is the second-largest producer after Indonesia. There’s even a government agency responsible for promoting the palm oil sector: the Malaysian Palm Oil Board.

Palm oil production has been a large part of Malaysia’s economy since the early 1960s. The industry employs approximately 491,000 workers, and palm oil is the fourth largest export of Malaysia.

Malaysian Grand Prix

The Malaysian Grand Prix was part of the Formula One World Championship, but its last rynwas in 2017. This thrilling race took place at the Sepang International Circuit for eighteen years, but F1 determined that Malaysia was not a key growth area for the market, so they made 2017 the final year for the race in Malaysia and moved to the Middle East.

The Malaysian Grand Prix was Formula One’s first Asian race other than Japan. In its relatively short run, the event had several notable moments, including Kimi Raikkonen’s win in 2003 and the monsoon in 2009.

Melaka City

Another famous tourist destination in Malaysia is Melaka, or Malacca, City, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The city is easily accessible from Kuala Lumpur by bus or taxi, and it’s a popular weekend getaway for residents of the capital.

There are many things to do and see in the city, including St. Paul’s Church, Jonker Street, Bukit China, Cheng Hoon Teng Temple, and St. Francis Xavier’s Church.

Every night, Jonker Street is transformed into an incredible market, where you can buy anything you can imagine and eat well and cheaply. If you visit, you can’t miss out on the Kajang cakes.

Friendly Locals

Malaysia is one of the best places to visit for many reasons, but one of the most important is how friendly the locals are. Malaysians are naturally friendly people, so it’s easy for tourists and expats to make friends with locals. In 2019, Kuala Lumpur was voted by Big Seven Travel as the second friendliest city in the world, second only to Vancouver, Canada.

Malaysia emphasizes harmonious living, which is probably why it’s one of the world’s most friendly and tolerant countries.

Beaches

Malaysia’s biggest claim to fame is probably its seemingly endless array of incredible beaches. The country has nine hundred islands and over 3,000 miles of coastline, so there are many locations to choose from.

Whether you’re a fan of water sports, observing marine life, or just want to sip cocktails and soak up the sun, you’re guaranteed to find your dream beach in Malaysia.

Conclusion

It’s clear why Malaysia is such a popular destination for backpackers making their way through Southeast Asia. For a small country, there’s a lot to do, see, and experience in Malaysia, from the incredible beaches to the metropolitan cities and everything in between. If Malaysia wasn’t already on your radar, hopefully, it is now!

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