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Must see locations, events and places to travel and enjoy in Malaysia.
Must see locations, events and places to travel and enjoy in Malaysia.
It’s feeding time at the Semenggoh Wildlife Centre, but today’s diners seem to be late for their lunch reservation. Bunches of bananas, coconuts and jackfruit are piled on the feeding platform, ripening slowly in the steamy forest air, but so far the only animals showing interest are a few squirrels and songbirds in the nearby trees.
The quiet doesn’t last long. Soon the sound of snapping saplings crackles from the undergrowth, and a face pokes from the treeline: two chocolate eyes, a pair of puffed-out cheeks and a wrinkled muzzle, framed by a mantle of cinnamon fur. “Here comes Ritchie,” explains John Wen, who’s been working as a wildlife assistant at the Semenggoh reserve for nine years. “He’s the big man of the orangutan family here. Usually we just call him the King.”.
He watches as Ritchie lumbers out from the forest, balancing on balled fists at the end of two bushy arms. “He has a bad temper, so the rest of the family usually lets him eat first. We’ve all learned it’s not a good idea to get in between the King and his lunch!” John laughs, as Ritchie scoops up an armful of fruit and disappears back into the forest murk. As soon as he leaves, the other family members swing down to claim their lunch, cartwheeling lazily through the trees to gather heaps of fruit in their rangy limbs. Of all Borneo’s wild inhabitants, none have the totemic status of the orangutan. Asia’s only endemic great ape, the orangutan (whose name derives from the Malay words for ‘man of the forest’) lives wild only on Sumatra and Borneo.
Orangutans are descended from the same hominid ancestor as all the world’s other great apes – gorillas, bonobos, chimpanzees and human beings – and have been a resident of Borneo’s rainforests for several million years. But their natural habitat is under threat due to deforestation and palm-oil plantations, which makes wildlife sanctuaries such as Semenggoh, along with sister reserves at Sepilok and Matang, all the more vital.
Surrounded by 740 hectares of protected rainforest, Semenggoh is the largest wildlife reserve in Sarawak. It’s home to a permanent population of 20-something orangutans, many rescued from captivity, which roam the jungle and return to the reserve at meal times. “Some animals are social, and stay close to the reserve,” explains John. “But others we may see only once a month – especially during fruiting season, when they can find most of the food they need in the forest. They’re all different. That’s what makes them fascinating to work with.”
A mother orangutan emerges from the brush and splits open a coconut, tipping the stream of milk into her mouth while her baby tugs at her mane. “We still know little about how they think and communicate,” he adds, as mother and baby do somersaults. “They’re like us in so many ways, but they’re still wild creatures. Our work here is about making sure they can stay that way.”
Mangala Resort & Spa (Mangala) is located within a serene plantation in Malaysia’s East Coast cultural heartland, Pahang. Boasting a total of 31 villas, this resort located in Gambang has been rejuvenated from barren mining lands to a natural expanse of green and tranquil garden of palm and fruit trees. This beautiful natural scene is further accentuated with a lake and extensive tropical landscaping.
Mangala offers an eco-leisure experience with no compromise on luxury with each villa being equipped with stylish and contemporary facilities to create a perfect retreat within natural surroundings. There are ranges of relaxing villas that offer spacious and serene natural wood-decking, enhanced by tropical landscaping and also offer privacy and combine tranquillity with luxurious flair.
The range of villas includes Jala Villas, that overlooks a peaceful lake; Vana Villas, which offers a private pool situated on gently sloping land with spectacular lake views and palm forest as a backdrop; Sara Cottages, which are luxurious cottages that overlook wetlands and offer a picturesque view of the beautiful natural sights and sounds, perfect for nature lovers who enjoy observing wetland birds, fish and plants.
Mangala Resort & Spa is an unparalleled leisure resort that has been designed around the needs of travellers who seek the finest hospitality services and experience. Being a boutique resort, they offer personalised and professional services with a unique range of activities and facilities such as gym, infinity pool, wading pool, and others. Mangala Spa is designed as a tranquil retreat with comprehensive and enticing wellness programmes. These include a range of on-site activities and excursions such as cycling, canoeing and archery in addition to the services of an on-site naturalist and recreation consultancy team who can tailor personalised activities based upon individual needs and requirements.
Mangala Resort & Spa is a special place with so much positive energy. At Mangala, every breath is pure refreshment and revival with an emphasis on the purity of spirit and the state of being happy and healthy. It is no wonder that the name Mangala bears the meaning auspicious well-being in Sanskrit.
Does the idea of staying in a non-green hotel give you pause? With the new Olive Tree Hotel in Penang, you won’t have to worry about your hotel stay causing harm to the environment. Nestled along the industrial and corporate corridors of Penang, the Olive Tree Hotel is a Green Building Index (GBI) compliant hotel, and with its choice of 228 rooms and 24 suites, guests can expect functional spaces designed for the convenience of business and leisure traveller alike.
The Olive Tree Hotel is located just 10 minutes from the Penang International Airport and 20 minutes from its city centre. With a short scenic drive, guests will be able to access shopping centres and popular tourist spots like Queensbay Mall, Sunshine Square Shopping Complex, the Bukit Jambul Country Club, and the Penang Aquarium. The hotel even offers a scheduled shuttle service to the airport, Queensbay Mall, and nearby free trade zones.
Each room in Olive Tree is equipped with a 40-inch LED HD Television, and Chirotech mattress and microfibre pillows to ensure maximum comfort. The rooms are also equipped with high-speed internet access and an in-room safe deposit box. Avid readers of news and magazines may also obtain complimentary access to Press Reader, a smart-phone application available at Olive Tree Hotel which offers up to 5,000 newspapers and magazines.
For those who wish to host their events here, the hotel’s grand ballroom with its mezzanine gallery can comfortably accommodate up to 600 people, and is equipped with state of the art audio visual equipment. The well equipped conference and seminar facilities are flexible enough to be configured to suit a variety of needs and agendas. Olive free Hotel is located next to SPICE, near airports and both bridges.
Literature critics, art enthusiasts and audiophiles will have to mark their calendars for the months of November and December as the stunning and remarkable “10 Days 3 Festivals” in Penang returns this year. The objective of having all these festivals back to back is to draw in visitors from all over and to ensure a fruitful stay and an enjoyable holistic arts festival in Penang. Read on more to find out about each individual event and what will be the highlights at each festival.
George Town Literary Festival (above)
25 – 27 November
The George Town Literary Festival (GTLF), one of the most beloved and respected literary festivals in the region, returns for the sixth year in celebration of poetry, prose and spoken word from 25 to 27 November.
Helmed by Festival Director, Bernice Chauly, the three-day festival will see panel discussions, readings, spoken word performances, dance and film screenings around the festivals theme; “Hiraeth”, a Welsh word which means “the longing for a homeland that is no longer there”. The theme captures a universal unrest and longing for a better world in a reality that sees mass displacement of people, gross violations of human rights and growing chasm caused by the proliferation of crippling neoliberalism and regressive ideologies.
The festival’s stellar line-up of world literary giants and respected social commentators include Stefan Hertmans (Belgium), Adriaan van Dis (Netherlands), Olga Martynova (Germany), AC Grayling and James Scudamore (UK), Ayu Utami (Indonesia), Tishani Doshi and Mahesh Dattani (India).
This year’s keynote address will be delivered by leading Malaysian feminist activist and writer Zainah Anwar, with headlining Malaysian writers including National Laureate of Malaysia Muhammad Haji Salleh, Tash Aw, Faisal Tehrani, Dina Zaman and Karim Raslan.
GTLF 2016 is free and open to public, with the exception of the writing workshops.
Warm waters, white sandy beaches, buzzing cities, rare wildlife and tasty cuisine. Stretching from the mainland Peninsula to Malaysian Borneo, it’s a natural playground for you to indulge your passions, whether they are cultural, natural, spiritual or playful – or a combination of all four.
Capital Kuala Lumpur, your first stop, might be electric with modem life – centred around the glass bullets that are the Petronas Towers – but traditional Malay life can still be found among Kampung Baru’s wooden houses and street stalls. Sample some local favourites, like the fragrant rice dish nasi lemak.
Outside the capital, Penang Island’s UNESCO World Heritage site of George Town is full of architectural ghosts from its historic past. Meanwhile Melaka’s history as a Chinese, Portuguese and Arabian trading port is still felt in a melting pot of culture and cuisine.
Another highlight is to stay with the indigenous Sabah and Sarawak people.
Travellers can organise a visit with a host family in a kampong (traditional village) or a homestay at a tribal longhouse.
Of course, Malaysia’s 800-plus islands offer beach-dwellers and water-babies endless opportunity. The Terengganu islands alone have miles of postcard-perfect white-sand beaches for you to squidge between your toes.
Those keen to get in – and under – the water will soon discover why divers rate Malaysia so highly. The island of Sipadan is a word-class spot for turtles, sharks and vertigo-inducing coral walls, while Labuan Marine Park is the resting place of wrecks – and the marine life that now call them home.
For thrill seekers of all abilities, Malaysia offers an unforgettable experience. Your wanderlust can have you scaling 4,095m Mt Kinabalu, taking in the fauna and flora of Taman Negara National Park from its network of canopy walkways or exploring Deer Cave at Gunung Mulu National Park. For those who like more of an adrenaline buzz, Malaysia’s rivers – like the Kuala Kubu Bharu – offer a wide range of whitewater adventures.
A visit to the Lower Kinabatangan Wildlife Sanctuary in Sabah will put you in the natural habitat of the indigenous proboscis monkey. Just as endangered are the orangutans of Sepilok Orang Utan Rehabilitation Centre or the Malaysian tiger that have made the Royal Belum Rainforest their home.
Once you’ve finished hanging with the wildlife, then start getting back in touch with yourself. Malaysia’s endless number of tiny islands are the perfect setting for some serious relaxation, whether pampering yourself with local healing rituals on one of Langkawi’s 99 islands or taking in the scenery from a cruise-boat deck. Or you can enjoy a spot of retail therapy among the bustling boutiques of Melaka’s Jonker Walk or the heady atmosphere and street food of Penang Island’s night market.
Celebrate the rich cultural diversity of Penang at its annual George Town Festival this summer. Inaugurated in 2010 in honour of George Town’s designation as a UNESCO World Heritage, the festival transform the Penang town into a stage to showcase performances, installations and collaborations with local and international artists from around the globe.
Highlights of the month-long festival include the A+SEAN Showcase, an outdoor event that includes giant installations of mammoth machines in Strandbeests by Theo Jansen and a host of popular bands from Malaysia and around the region.
In this short video you will see how “The Strandbeests” work
The George Town Festival commissioned Pearl of the Eastern & Oriental is not to be missed as well. Singaporean writer/director Lim Yu-Beng presents the second part in a trilogy of odes to his father’s home of Penang with an enchanting tale of a young female butler at the prestigious The Eastern & Oriental Hotel.
Beyond modern art shows are also heritage showcases. Svara Bhumi (Songs of the Earth), one of the official opening acts this year, will feature laeding aboriginal bands from Australia, New Zealand and the region.
Get yourself involved with the festival by participating in talks, workshops and heritage walks too. Liar’s Walk takes a crafty spin on popular walking tours available in George Town. Then listen in on stories from co-founder of Burning Man Festival, Larry Harvey, and prolific Cambodian director, Rithy Panh at Stories, Humanity and What About the Arts.
George Town Festival runs from 29 July to 28 August this year. Some events are ticketed or may require prior reservation/registration.
AirAsia flies direct from Singapore and Kuala Lumpur to Penang daily (airasia.com). Taxis here are cheap. Fares from Penang International Airport to George Town start from US$10.
How better to experience the UNESCO World Heritage Site of George Town than with a stay at Penang’s most iconic hotel? The Eastern & Oriental Hotel has been in service through two World Wars and has been the accommodation of many distinguished guests. The E & O continues to charm with its British colonial style in its facade and its rooms (from US$167 per night for Studio Suite).
Kissed by the South China Sea and framed by white sands, the east coast of Peninsular Malaysia is visually enchanting. The same can be said of its incredibly colourful handicrafts, heritage, and cuisine. From kaleidoscopic kites and candy-colored cakes to tranquil islands and primordial jungles, it’s a magical microcosm of cultures.
The northeastern state of Kelantan is a modern-day melting pot of Chinese, Indian, Thai, and Malays. The Capital’s Siti Khadijah Market is a dizzying array of local produce, spices, and exotic fabrics. A cluster of tantalizing food stalls line the first floor. Get there early and fuel up with a traditional breakfast of nasi dagang – steamed coconut rice with tuna curry.
Next, head to the Handicraft Village and Craft Museum to browse hand-painted batiks, stunning silverwork, and rice-paper wau kites. Watch an embroidery demonstration, or take a batik-making class, and bring souvenirs back with you.
Just south of Kelantan, Terengganu’s tropical spell is impossible to resist. Hop the ferry to Redang, where you’ll find the perfect mix of picturesque beaches and world-class comforts. Or visit the tiny island of Pulau Kapas and settle into a rustic, ocean-front chalet. Whether you’d like to swing in a hammock or dive World War II shipwrecks, Terengganu is otherworldly.
Continue south and into Peninsular Malaysia’s largest state, Pahang. Here, Tioman Island offers every possible shade of paradise. Cascading waterfalls, stunning jungle paths, and laid-back fishing villages create unlimited curiosities.
And once again – there is the sea. Just like the white-sand beaches it kisses, it beckons you to dive into all the wonders of Malaysia and enjoy.
Malaysia is a destination of endless possibilities, rich in hospitality, culture, food, history and natural heritage. It’s the perfect idyll for couples and honeymooners, from its picture-perfect beaches and sumptuous cuisine to amazing adventure and outdoor activities, not to mention some of the friendliest locals in Southeast Asia. Throw in a favorable exchange rate which makes it one of the best value-for-money destinations in Southeast Asia, and no one does affordable luxury better – leaving lots of spare change for celebratory Champagne. The perfect place for Cupid to take aim, here are our top romantic resorts in Malaysia.
The Majestic – Kuala Lumpur
Malaysia’s largest and most cosmopolitan city, Kuala Lumpur offers up the bright lights and all the sophistication you’d expect. For a romantic getaway, take a break from the hustle and bustle by simply making your way to The Majestic. Regarded as one of the best colonial hotels in Southeast Asia, and the only heritage hotel in Kuala Lumpur, this iconic landmark offers couples a relaxing and luxurious oasis within the heart of the city’s busy downtown area.
Originally built in the 1930s, The Majestic has long been the venue of choice for glamorous social events and historical political meetings. Conveniently located in one of the city’s most intriguing and walkable neighborhoods, couples don’t have to go far to enjoy a romantic evening stroll. The hotel also stands opposite the grand 1910 railway station, and many of the city’s favorite tourist attractions are also close by, including the National Museum, National Mosque, Islamic Arts Museum, the Perdana Botanical Gardens (often referred to as Lake Gardens), and bird and butterfly parks. The Majestic also offers a “Leading Romance” experience, with highlights such as flowers and a bottle of Champagne in your suite on arrival, in-room butler service, and an indulgent two-hour “English Afternoon Tea” spa treatment at The Majestic Spa. It’s the ideal setting for a romantic rendezvous in every sense. majestickl.com
The Datai – Langkawi
Situated on the mystical island of Langkawi, The Datai is the perfect getaway for couples seeking refuge from their busy lives. Nestled in the heart of an ancient rainforest and overlooking one of the world’s best beaches (as rated by National Geographic), The Datai is a captivating resort that blends smoothly with its surroundings. A stay here is not only guaranteed to reignite romance and passion with your loved one, it’s also a great opportunity to reconnect with nature.
As soon as you enter the resort, you’ll immediately understand why The Datai has won more than 80 awards, including the World Luxury Hotel Award 2014 and 2015. Every room, suite and villa embraces the beauty of the lush rainforest and offers unbeatable views of the breathtaking Andaman Sea. Sleek guest rooms are sophisticated, with tropical wood floors, shantung-silk wall panels and sprawling marble baths.
Throw in some award-winning dining options, an indulgent spa and a variety of amenities for your pleasure, and it will be hard to leave! For adventurous couples, there are plenty of inviting activities on offer nearby. Participate in an interactive Thai culinary cooking class paired with complementary wine, take a ride on Southeast Asia’s steepest cable car, meander along one of Langkawi’s breathtaking nature walks or unwind on a sunset cruise with your loved one. The Datai Langkawi is the epitome of a romantic tropical retreat. thedatai.com/Langkawi
Cameron Highlands Resort – Pahang
Set amidst tea plantations at the highest point of Malaysia’s spectacular Titiwangsa mountain range, Cameron Highlands Resort embodies all the romance of Cameron Highlands’ grand colonial heritage. The boutique hideaway is surrounded by breathtaking scenery, lush greenery and Tudor-style cottages.
The resort features 56 beautifully appointed rooms and suites, and fronts Cameron Highlands’ 18-hole golf course. It also houses the third wellness centre of the award-winning Spa Village group, which offers exotic treatments focusing on the healing and restorative properties of tea. Endearingly known to some as the “little corner of England in Asia”, couples will enjoy all the character and charm of a region that has remained largely unchanged since colonial times, as well as its cool climate and fresh air.
With temperatures ranging between 15°C and 25°C, Cameron Highlands Resort is ideal to visit all year round. cameronhighlandsresort.com
No sun-and-fun island (though it does have palm-fringed, casuarina-shaded beaches on its northern coast), Penang has been a vibrant cultural crossroads since the first permanent Western settlement in the Far East was established here in 1786.
At the time, the port cities on the Straits of Malacca were strategic way stations on European traders’ lucrative routes from Madras to Canton. Today it’s one of the most colorful, multiethnic communities in Asia, with Muslim Malays, Indians of various religions, and Buddhist Chinese successfully coexisting. The island recognizes and shows off its heritage in a more authentic manner than does Singapore, for instance.
In the main city of Georgetown, a ride on a man-pedaled trishaw is a classic way to enjoy some of the best-preserved English colonial architecture in Southeast Asia. Colonial-era shops, temples, and clan houses make Penang’s Chinatown authentic.
Follow the English of yore and jump on the funicular for a joyride up 2,720 feet through dense jungle and bamboo groves to the top of Penang Hill, where you can escape the heat and enjoy a panoramic view of the island and its harbor.
And don’t leave the island without stepping into the recently refurbished E&O – the Eastern & Oriental Hotel. Sister hotel to Singapore’s Raffles and the Strand in Yangon, Myanmar, it was built in 1884 and stands today as a grand reminder of colonial days, when visitors like Noël Coward, Rudyard Kipling, and Somerset Maugham dallied over gin slings on the breezy veranda.
They say Luciano Pavarotti cried when he saw how beautiful God has made this island – and Pavarotti has seen his fair share.
Covered by a lush rain forest that’s home to crab-eating macaque and more than 100 species of exotic birds, the island has escaped commercialization because it was the private domain of the Sultan of Perak until his death just a few years ago. The Pangkor Laut Resort, the island’s only hotel, resembles a Malay village, with dozens of simple bungalows built on stilts over the sea; it’s one of Asia’s most luxurious and beautifully situated hotels.
As befits its five-star status, the resort offers a host of amenities and facilities, including sandy white beaches (with perfectly appropriate names like Emerald Bay) and handsome yachts and cruisers for visiting neighboring islands in the storied Straits of Malacca, Less peripatetic guests spend their entire vacation on their private balconies overlooking the water, completely disconnected from the world. Others prefer the hillside villas lost amid the ancient treetops.
The resort’s excellent restaurants serve everything from Chinese and Malaysian to East-meets-West cuisines in a number of handsome open-air pavilions or alfresco, under a canopy of a billion stars. Who wouldn’t cry from joy?