Malaysia

Born and bred in Malaysia, may wan’s beau­ti­ful home coun­try fre­quently calls her back, not just for its beau­ti­ful beaches, wildlife and fam­ily at­trac­tions, but for its unique melt­ing pot of cul­tures.

Holiday with Kids - - Contents -

An in­sider’s guide to Malaysia’s beau­ti­ful beaches, wildlife, fam­ily at­trac­tions and unique melt­ing pot of cul­tures.

Where else in the world can you see so many dif­fer­ent cus­toms, tra­di­tions, lan­guages and food tastes rolled into one? It’s a place where all reli­gions and cul­tures are openly cel­e­brated and where, de­spite its mod­ern cities, his­toric towns, amaz­ing food and beau­ti­ful beaches, the warm, wel­com­ing peo­ple are the magic in­gre­di­ent in mak­ing Malaysia so ap­peal­ing for fam­i­lies to ex­plore.

Hus­tle and bus­tle

My home­town of Kuala Lumpur is a bustling city and, as the cap­i­tal of Malaysia, its sights and at­trac­tions are plen­ti­ful. There’s much for kids to see and do and with a sur­plus of mega shop­ping malls around town, mums and dads can lit­er­ally shop till they drop.

One of my favourite things to do with my chil­dren on a KL morn­ing is de­vour our pre­ferred break­fast of roti canai, a South In­dian flat­bread served with a mouth­wa­ter­ing dahl curry, paired to­gether with a rich aro­matic ice cof­fee. Bel­lies filled, we head out to ex­plore the Na­tional Mu­seum (Muz­ium Ne­gara) to im­merse our­selves in Malaysia’s rich cul­tural and his­tor­i­cal her­itage. We also love ex­plor­ing the night mar­kets of Pe­tal­ing Street, which houses hun­dreds of dif­fer­ent stalls rang­ing from trin­kets to de­li­cious side street food. Its chaotic, noisy, over-the-top at­mos­phere com­bined with all those de­li­cious aro­mas are what makes it so thrilling and ex­cit­ing. Not to men­tion the fact that I love a good bar­gain and it’s a great place to hone your hag­gling skills.

i-city Theme Park is an­other great spot after dark with its daz­zling City of Dig­i­tal Lights. We also rec­om­mend a visit dur­ing the day for the wa­ter park, snow park and fun 3D mu­seum. If you want to en­joy some fam­ily-friendly thrills while beat­ing the Malaysian heat and hu­mid­ity, Ber­jaya Times Square Theme Park is an in­door theme park with loads of things to en­ter­tain kids of all ages. Sun­way La­goon is an­other great spot for fam­i­lies with long loops for dar­ing kids, plus gen­tle slides and rides for lit­tle ones.

Of course, a trip to this daz­zling city wouldn’t be com­plete with­out a visit to the world-fa­mous Petronas Twin Tow­ers. Lo­cated in the heart of the city, the jaw­drop­ping tow­ers are truly a sight to be­hold.

Old meets new

Our fam­ily’s favourite spot in Malaysia has to be Pe­nang, just a one-hour flight, or a four-hour drive from the cap­i­tal. This city is like nowhere else in Asia, with its fas­ci­nat­ing mix of East­ern and Western in­flu­ences and gor­geous jux­ta­po­si­tion of moder­nity and colo­nial tra­di­tion.

Pe­nang holds a very spe­cial place in my heart. My par­ents would take my twin sis­ter and I on an an­nual road trip to Pe­nang to cel­e­brate the Chi­nese New Year with my pa­ter­nal grand­par­ents. My mother al­ways booked us into the fam­ily suite at the gor­geous East­ern & Ori­en­tal Ho­tel. Es­tab­lished in 1885 by the Sarkies Brothers, the lux­u­ri­ous sea-fronting, colo­nial-style ho­tel is ide­ally lo­cated within the UN­ESCO World Her­itage Site of Ge­orge Town; no doubt this is why it was so pop­u­lar with the rich, lit­er­ary and fa­mous back in the day. I bliss­fully re­mem­ber ex­plor­ing the ho­tel’s man­i­cured grounds with my sis­ter, in awe of the pretty, old-world ar­chi­tec­ture and his­tory of the ho­tel.

Speak­ing of his­tory, there are many his­tor­i­cal sites to ex­plore within the UN­ESCO her­itage area. My chil­dren and I par­tic­u­larly en­joy the beau­ti­fully pre­served Pi­nang Per­anakan Man­sion. A mu­seum ded­i­cated to Pe­nang’s Per­anakan her­itage, it is heav­ing with his­toric bric-a-brac, and is a riot of colour and de­tail.

One of the high­lights of lovely Ge­orge Town is its in­cred­i­ble, in­ter­ac­tive street art. It is no sur­prise that these mas­ter­pieces have be­come an In­sta­gram sen­sa­tion, so make

sure to leave plenty of time to snap your way around the city.

Ride one of the world’s steep­est fu­nic­u­lar trams up Pe­nang Hill for stun­ning views and beau­ti­ful flora and fauna. You’ll also find a bird park packed with ex­otic birds and gi­ant walk-in aviaries, plus an owl mu­seum and tem­ples to keep the kids busy.

Flit to En­topia, an­other pop­u­lar at­trac­tion that is the place for kids to bug out while learn­ing about the in­sect world. Kids will love shar­ing the park’s fra­grant flower gar­den with as many as 15,000 spec­tac­u­lar Malaysian but­ter­flies (rep­re­sent­ing up to 60 species) and a whole world of creepy crawlies.

If your lit­tle ones love wildlife and are ready for more ad­ven­tures, head to Pe­nang Na­tional Park and Mon­key Beach, a scenic play­ground with wa­ter sports, snack shacks and, of course, mon­keys. For even more mon­key busi­ness, head to Orang Utan Is­land, a wildlife con­ser­va­tion park that is home to more than 25 wild, free-rang­ing orang­utans.

A drive up to the fa­mous Kek Lok Si Tem­ple, said to be the largest Bud­dhist tem­ple in Malaysia, is an­other must-do for its com­mand­ing view of the sea as well as its strik­ing seven-storey pagoda and 10,000 alabaster and bronze stat­ues of Bud­dha.

Sabah sights

If your kids would pre­fer a walk on the wild side, Sabah, Malaysian Bor­neo, is lo­cated on the north­ern tip of the is­land of Bor­neo. It’s just the place for ad­ven­tur­ous fam­i­lies seek­ing amaz­ing wildlife en­coun­ters, pic­ture-per­fect beaches and in­trepid jun­gle treks.

In the cap­i­tal, Kota Kin­a­balu (or KK as it is known by lo­cals), pretty Bud­dhist tem­ples sit along­side ma­jes­tic mosques and mod­ern shop­ping cen­tres are sur­rounded by tra­di­tional pro­duce mar­kets.

While older, very fit kids might want to try con­quer­ing Mount Kin­a­balu in Kin­a­balu Na­tional Park, there is plenty for lit­tle ones to ex­plore around its base, in­clud­ing an in­sect mu­seum, na­ture walks along sus­pended walk­ways built above the for­est canopy and a gor­geous botan­i­cal gar­den. Those seek­ing ad­ven­tures un­der the wa­ter can take a shut­tle boat from KK to ex­plore the di­verse ma­rine life and pretty coral reefs around the is­lands of Tunku Ab­dul Rah­man Na­tional Park.

But, of course, Sabah’s big­gest draw­card is its pop­u­la­tion of orang­utans. The most fa­mous place to en­counter an orang­utan is at the Sepi­lok Orang­utan Re­ha­bil­i­ta­tion Cen­tre in East Sabah, where vis­i­tors can stroll be­tween view­ing plat­forms to ob­serve the great or­ange-hued apes do their thing.

Block party

It’s well worth mak­ing the side trip to Johor Bahru, just across the cause­way from Sin­ga­pore, for a visit to LE­GOLAND® Malaysia Re­sort, a fam­ily hol­i­day-wor­thy des­ti­na­tion in its own right.

With themed lands, stores and cafes, kids can en­joy more than 70 hands-on rides, slides, shows and cre­ative at­trac­tions as they ex­plore the in­cred­i­ble Lego-themed park brick by brick, bat­tling dragons and pi­rates along the way. En­joy even more brick-tas­tic ad­ven­tures at the LE­GOLAND Wa­ter Park where kids can surf the wave pool, float their way along the Build-a-raft lazy river, and en­joy thrills and spills on the epic wa­ter slides.

Make your brick-filled break even more mag­i­cal with a stay at the LE­GOLAND® Ho­tel. With its dragon-guarded en­trance, clever, in­ter­ac­tive fea­tures through­out and Lego-themed bed­rooms, this is one ho­tel that is sure to in­spire lit­tle imag­i­na­tions.

Is­land get­away

For a slower pace, take the 35-minute flight from Pe­nang to the is­land of Langkawi. With its warm turquoise wa­ters and lush jun­gles, it is con­sid­ered one of the most beau­ti­ful is­lands in Malaysia.

Wa­ter-lov­ing fam­i­lies can jump on a boat for an is­land-hop­ping ad­ven­ture around the sur­round­ing clus­ter of is­lands. Ex­plore the fa­mous bat caves, Gua Kelawar. Home to a large pop­u­la­tion of Malaysian fruit bats, your guide will give you a flash­light to ex­plore the cave. Hop on over to the Is­land of the Preg­nant Maiden. Leg­end has it that who­ever swam in the wa­ters of this is­land would be blessed with child. My ob­ses­sion with his­tory and lo­cal su­per­sti­tion has also lead me to Mah­suri’s Tomb and Mu­seum, a his­tor­i­cal and cul­tural com­plex, where tales of curses and myth mes­merised me and the Malay ladies play­ing folk mu­sic on tra­di­tional in­stru­ments left the kids equally en­chanted.

If your kids have a head for heights then take them to the Langkawi Sky­cab – sec­tions fea­ture the steep­est gra­di­ent of any ca­ble car on Earth – to Mt Mach­in­chang, 708 me­tres above sea level. For even more highs, the Langkawi Sky­bridge, ac­ces­si­ble from the top sta­tion of the ca­ble car, is one of the world’s long­est curved sus­pen­sion bridges and of­fers in­cred­i­ble panoramic views.

When you’re ready to head back down to Earth, Ori­en­tal Vil­lage is an out­door shop­ping mall in the foothills of Mt Mach­in­cang, where, you’ll find plenty of fam­ily fun in­clud­ing Seg­way tours, mo­tor cross trails and more.

After each busy day of ex­plor­ing, we’d head back to the tran­quil­lity of our re­sort to spend our af­ter­noons laz­ing around the in­fin­ity pool and soak­ing up the views of this gor­geous ar­chi­pel­ago.

Whichever di­rec­tion you choose to go in Malaysia, you’ll find breath­tak­ing land­scapes, ir­re­sistibly aro­matic food, and a bot­tom­less pit of ac­tiv­i­ties for kids. Just a few rea­sons why my love for Malaysia is equally end­less.

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05 Orang­utans in Sabah © Wayneim­age Im­ages 02–05 & 07 © Shutterstock.com 06 LE­GOLAND Ho­tel fun © Ash­ton Rodgers 07 Langkawi Sky Bridge © ra66. 06

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