Malaysia is riding high on making it into Lonely Planet’s hot list for 2014, and has declared next year to be “Visit Malaysia” year.
Last night, I joined a room full of Brisbane travel agents to learn more about what Malaysia has to offer. I’ve been there twice before, but was astonished when I realised that it was nearly 10 years since my last visit (if you don’t count a night in an airport hotel last year). Definitely time to get back there…my memories of my two previous visits are good ones, and as I discovered last night there’s a lot more to see and more ground to cover.
My first visit to Malaysia was in 1998, when Malaysia hosted the Australian Society of Travel Writers annual conference in the capital, Kuala Lumpur. Afterwards, I joined a group that travelled south to Malacca.
I didn’t get back there until 2004, when I was part of a press trip hosted by the then-brand-new Hilton Kuala Lumpur. After a few days in the city, we headed to Sarawak, on the island of Borneo. Borneo! The very name just made me feel intrepid. It was a wonderful experience, exploring the streets of Kuching, zipping up the river in a motorised long-boat to spend time in a traditional Iban longhouse, and watching orangutans feed at the Semonggoh Wildlife Rehabilitation Centre.
For while it is the Proboscis monkey that is Tourism Malaysia’s mascot, let’s face it: it’s the orangutans that everyone wants to see!
So what are the top 10 reasons to visit Malaysia? From the top:
1. Location – just check out the map; Malaysia is ideally placed as a stop-over point to anyone heading from Australia to Europe, the Middle East, or anywhere in Asia.
2. It’s only a seven-hour (ish) flight from my part of the world (Brisbane/Gold Coast airports) to Singapore and then less than an hour to Kuala Lumpur.
3. Value for money. You get 3 Malaysian ringgit for AU$1 – and everything’s cheap (a can of Coke costs 50 cents, for example).
4. Shopping. Whether your taste runs to fancy shopping malls, bazaars or markets, it’s there.
5. Safety. It’s a peaceful, friendly country, where you can drink the tap water (in KL, at least). The roads and hospitals are good, and most people speak fluent English.
6. Islands. They’re everywhere, from the better known like Langkawai to Redang and Gaya Island and the big one – Borneo.
7. Wildlife. Tourism Malaysia calls it “the Amazon of Asia”. Elephants, rhinos, tigers, orangutans and the Proboscis monkeys. You might not see them all, but they’re there!
8. Diving. There are 19 different diving locations, and hundreds of dive sites.
9. International resorts. You don’t have to go far to find five-star luxury, and even some over-water bunglows.
10. International sports events. Think yachting, surfing…actually I couldn’t keep up with the whole list. And of course, the Formula 1 Grand Prix.
So there you have it. Malaysia in 2014. Sounds like a plan to me.