There are scores of reasons to visit Malaysia – nearly 25 million tourists visit the country each year. Kuala Lumpur alone is the sixth most visited city in the world.
Most people speak English, so it’s easy to get around. Customer service is excellent and the exotic mix of cultures (Malay, Chinese and Indian) means you’ll have at least one unforgettable encounter each day if you mix with the locals in shops and cafes.
Here are five top reasons to visit this land of rainforests and shopping malls.
1) Shopping. Kuala Lumpur ranks fourth in a list of the world’s best shopping cities, according to a CNN Travel survey – and it’s the second top shopping destination in Asia, just behind Hong Kong. There are 66 shopping malls in Kuala Lumpur alone. My favorite find: unique iPhone cases that sell for $3 ($30 in the U.S.)
2) Nature. The country hosts some of the world’s best geoparks, among them the Langkawi Geopark, given a World Geopark status by UNESCO in 2007. Some highlights: dense mangrove forests, magnificent brown winged kingfishers, macaque monkeys and towering limestone cliffs and pinnacles.
2) Batu Caves. The second tallest statue of a Hindu deity in the world fronts this otherworldly structure that dates to 400 million years. The infamous festival of Thaipusam is held here each January or February.
3) The steepest cable car in the world. Suspended from cables, cabs swoop you from the base of Machincang Mountain to the peak. The steepest gradient is a heart-stopping 42 degrees.
5) Langkawi. Idyllic beach resorts, mangrove excursions, fishing, mountain climbing, sailing, diving and just poolside sitting are highlights. Pristine beaches dotted with tall coconut palms – backed by lush rainforests – make Langkawi one of my favorite Malaysian destinations.
Malaysia Airlines offers direct flights from LAX to Kuala Lumpur. Also, consider visiting Malaysia as part of a multi-country stop. Flights into Kuala Lumpur are fairly inexpensive from the nearby countries of Indonesia, Thailand and Singapore.
Getting into Kuala Lumpur from the international airport is easy with the high-speed rail, KLIA Ekspres. The trip to central Kuala Lumpur takes 28 minutes with trains leaving every 15 to 20 minutes. Tickets are about $12.
Kula Lumpur’s hop on and hop off buses are a great way to see the city. They run from 8:30 a.m. to 8:30 p.m. Cost: $12.50 for one day; $21 for two days.
Peruse Malaysia’s official tourism site for more information on the country.