Malaysia is "Truly Asia", bringing together the best of a continent and plenty more besides. As the crowds flock to Thailand, Bali and Singapore, right in the middle is a country with plenty of charm, easier on the budget, and ready with a warm "Selamat Datang".
Here's 15 reasons to plan your next trip to Malaysia:
Laugh in four languages at once
KL has the fastest-growing stand-up scene in Asia, possibly the world. Go figure. They have not one but two full-time, permanent comedy clubs: The Crackhouse in TTDI and Live House at TREC. Both have regular shows with visiting international acts and a vibrant local scene who crack jokes mainly in English but also Bahasa Malaysia, Chinese and Tamil. Even if you don’t know what every punchline means, it’s still bloody funny and an excellent night out.
Sky Dining with a view
Troika Sky Dining is a collection of four brilliant restaurants three-quarters of the way up a skyscraper directly opposite the twin towers. Fuego has you covered for meat, Strato is a great Italian, Cantaloupe’s your super high-end experience, Claret is the wine bar to start or end your night.
Party beside the world’s tallest twin towers
Sky Bar is a KL institution. Partly because it’s the views, partly it’s the huge swimming pool in the middle, and mainly because it’s just a brilliant bar. Get around it.
The best shave you’ll ever have
The Indian barbers of KL are phenomenal. Lie back in the old chair and get them to slide a cut-throat razor across your chin before applying the hot towels for the closest, most satisfying shave of your life.
Buy durian out of your car window and eat it
Better yet: don’t. It stinks and is revolting. But it’s a quintessential South East Asian delicacy and if your mates are willing to bet you money you won’t try it, get involved.
Banana Leaf in Brickfields
Malaysia is home to the best street food in the world. For peak Indian curries, dall, roti canai, briyani and idli, head to Brickfields, have a stroll around the spectacular streets to work up an appetite, then gorge on the various treats there.
Try all the coffees
Malaysian “kopitiam” culture is unique; quaint, traditional coffee shops where they serve mud-thick classic brews or teh Tarik in old school crockery. Meanwhile in surburban spots like Bangsar or Damansara, a new wave of modern coffee has emerged as a direct result of so much Malaysian exposure to Australia, especially Melbourne. You can get everything from French press to test tube coffees – and it’s pretty bloody good.
High-end Malaysian cuisine
It's not only cheap street food in Malaysia. High end local dining exists and it’s magnificent. Try Bijan in the centre of KL city or for something even more intimate, take a taxi 15 minutes out of the city into the jungle for starlit dinner at the stunning Tamarind Springs. Chin's in Penang is another beaut of a restaurant on the waterfront.
Afternoon Tea from Colonial England
There’s an awkward history between the UK and Malaysia, but also still a huge fondness for the traditional ways of the old country. Nowhere are these more evident than The Majestic Hotel where they serve a classic scone-sandwich-cake-tea experience that could be straight out of the 1920s.
If you like seafood, you’ll LOVE KL. There are loads of brilliant cafes and restaurants specializing in rich, delicious crabs. The best is Fatty Crabs, which has won the Time Out KL Best Seafood Restaurant award five years running.
Watch the EPL with 100 blokes on the street at 3am
They bloody LOVE the EPL in Malaysia. It’s off the charts. Every single game is watched avidly, with hawker stalls and street cafes regularly packed out even during late night games. Join the lads enjoying their roti and iced coffee at 3am as they go off for Liverpool or Man Utd (pretty much all Malaysians follow one or the other).
Frogs legs in Chinatown
Another entry under the “only for the brave”, once you’ve walked around Chinatown in KL or Penang for a while and haggled over counterfeit goods enough so you need a bite to eat, you could go to Hon Kee for some frog leg porridge. We said “could”.
Malaysia has some outstanding golf courses up in the mountains, by the beach, in the rainforest, and the heart of the city. The only problem is it gets too hot for a full round during the day, which is why lots of courses are offering night golf. Playing under floodlights as the odd monkey or monitor lizard dodges your ball is pretty cool. Check out TPC (formerly KLGCC), Seri Selangor, Monterez or Tropicana. And if all that’s too much, there’s even a golf simulator with in-built bar at City Golf.
Where else in the world can you get a massage from a blind Paralympian? In KL there’s a whole community of blind therapists, many in Brickfields, which will give you one of the best massages of your life.
Explore the paradise of Penang
The awesome old shophouses of Penang provide a unique backdrop to a very walkable city rich in great food, coffee and party spots. Plus, you’ve got beaches, temples, an island that was an old prison, rainforest, harbor, Chinese family jetties, funicular railway, and tons of great boutique hotels for a real change of pace.