Off the Beaten Path Tips from the road...for independent and adventurous budget travellers

Off the Beaten Path: Malaysia

MALAYSIA | Tuesday, 3 May 2011 | Views [6265] | Comments [1]

Malaysia is a diverse country, both culturally and in its geographical offerings. From exploring islands getaways to trekking through ancient rainforests, Meg Koffel from Intrepid Travel shares her tips for getting off the beaten path in Malaysia.

Perhentian Islands

Located off the east coast of Malaysia, the Perhentian Islands are considered to be some of the most beautiful islands in the world. The Perhentian Islands is home to unspoilt reefs, colourful coral, crystal-clear water and pure white sand. Time can be spent snorkelling, swimming, trekking into the inland jungle, exploring the nearby islands or just lying in a hammock - bliss! For those with experience, there is also the option to scuba dive in this pristine area and spot the local sea turtles in their natural habitat.


Once the most important trading port of Malaysia, Melaka attracted Chinese, Indian, Dutch, Portuguese as well as British traders, all seeking wealth or an opportunity to control the Straits of Malacca, a vital trading route between the Indian and Pacific oceans. All these traders left their mark on the town, and although the effects of recent economic growth are apparent, the town still retains its old-world charm.

The old port town of Melaka is the place to wander the narrow streets to absorb the atmosphere of this historically important town.  The streets of Chinatown are lined with Peranakan (Straits Chinese) shop houses allowing some insight into how locals lived in days gone by. Make sure you tour this area in a trishaw and hear about the ancient spice trade that once existed. There are also temples, churches and mosques, museums and forts to visit which will be waiting for you to explore.

Today, Melaka's multicultural past is revealed in the distinctive cuisine, known as Nyonya. Nonya food is famous to the straits Chinese and is a colourful fusion of Chinese and Malay cuisine that people travel from afar to taste. Make sure you experience this unique fusion of food and try a traditional Nonya cooking class.

Cameron Highlands

The Cameron Highlands were a favourite getaway of the colonial British as a place of tranquillity and beauty and a place to escape the humidity of the jungles. Named after William Cameron, a British surveyor who was commissioned by the then colonial government to map out the area in 1885, the Cameron Highlands has an exceptional ecosystem. The highlands is home to tea plantations, vast forests, waterfalls and rolling green hills. The journey to the highlands is very scenic and the average temperature is around 10 degrees Celcius. Intrepid travel tip - visit the Boh Tea Plantation for some tea-tasting and take photos of the picturesque plantations!

Taman Negara National Park

The ancient rainforest of Taman Negara National Park, is considered to be the oldest rainforest in the world. Experience a canopy walk high in the trees to get a monkey's point of view of this magical place. Head upstream (1 hour) in longtail boats to brave the low level rapids and enjoy a refreshing swim surrounded by rainforest jungles.

Another option is to trek along purpose cleared paths through primary and secondary jungle to see the crystal-clear waters of the Tahan River. Along the way you might be lucky enough to spot some of Malaysia's extraordinary wildlife including many exotic birds. The walking isn't overly challenging, but a good level of fitness is required as the humidity can affect even the fittest trekker.  For the more adventurous you can continue to walk for 30 minutes past the cascades further upstream and then return back down the Tahan River in small dugout canoes.

Island hideaway

On Intrepid trips through Malaysia we stay at a small homestay run by our long term friends Aziz and Asiah, located on a picturesque lake just outside of Kuala Kangsar.  At our homestay, we can listen to the morning calls of gibbons, and take a walk through a traditional kampung (village) and rubber plantations. Our walk ends at a cascading waterfall where we take a refreshing swim before returning to the lake to try out your kayaking skills or, if you prefer, simply relax. The walk takes about few hours and is not difficult but you will get wet!

During the course of our stay, be prepared for a truly memorable cultural experience! We enjoy a traditional banquet of regional delicacies, eating with our hand, wearing sarongs and also get plenty of opportunities to delve further into Malay culture.

Related Articles:

A Taste of Malaysia - Nyonya Chicken Curry

Malaysia Travel 101

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Tags: cameron highlands, cuisine, islands, malaysia, national parks, perentian islands, rainforest, taman negara, travel, wildlife



Very nice article and beautiful photos. I am surprised you did not visit Penang, "the Pearl of the Orient".The island is a must for all visitors to Malaysia.

  Steve Dec 22, 2012 8:40 PM

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