Malaysia is a verdant land, home to ancient rainforests with endangered inhabitants such as orangutans and sun bears. It's also a richly diverse landscape: you can rub your toes in powdery white sand on tiny Rawa Island or seek relief from Malaysia's tropical climate in Cameron Highlands' lush tea plantations. Its people comprise a cultural mosaic of Malay, Chinese, Indian and indigenous tribes. Visitors eat well in roadside stalls on sticks of satay (grilled meat), stained yellow with turmeric, and Hokkien mee (fried noodles) fresh from a sizzling wok.
Kuala Lumpur, the capital, is a lively mix of glittering skyscrapers and colonial buildings. For a loftier view, walk the Skybridge that spans Petronas Towers. When night falls, join the locals as they throng bars and cafes in Bangsar. Malaysia's Islamic heritage is captured in the Blue Mosque, Selangor. Step into its threshold and bask in the blue light cast by stained windows. In Rantau Abang, Terengganu, leatherback turtles make an annual pilgrimage to lay their eggs in the darkness.
Eating and Drinking
The aromas -- and vendors -- compete for your attention at hawker centers across the country (especially Penang), where you can sample local favorites such as nasi lemak (coconut rice with fried fish). Known for Peranakan food, a marriage of Straits Chinese and Malay cooking, Melaka delivers intense flavors of star anise, cloves and nutmeg. Alcohol consumption is not permitted for Muslims, but visitors drink Tiger beer in humble kopitiams (coffee houses) or shiny new bars in Bangsar, Kuala Lumpur.
Wander the trails of Taman Negara, a rainforest whose roots can be traced back 130 million years. Under its leafy canopy, spy on long-tail macaques congregating by the river; a lucky few may see the endangered Malay tapir, roaming well-worn paths. The sea yields its secrets to divers and snorkelers at Sipadan Island, part of the state of Sabah. Rise early for a morning dive and you could be swimming with schools of swirling barracuda.
Off the coast of Perak (West Malaysia) lies Pangkor Laut, complete with sheltered bays and ancient, unspoiled rainforest. Dig deep and relax like royalty on this private island, home to an exclusive spa resort whose treatments draw on ancient Southeast Asian practices. In Kuala Lumpur, wind down with a deep-tissue massage at the Blind Master Massage Centre in the Brickfields district, where your patronage helps provide viable long-term employment for the blind.