I'd like to spend some time in Malaysia this year ( a few weeks) but I am not sure if I should be backpacking arond in the backwaters, shopping in the cities, relaxing on an island, or doing a food tour - any suggestions on how bed to enjoy this country? Thanks :)
Malaysia offers it all, Jake! Part of it depends on when you come. Malaysia faces two monsoon winds seasons, from late May to September, and from November to March. So it is best to try to come outside of those times if you want to do outdoors stuff. Also, there is the peninsula and Borneo; they are very different.
I'd suggest flying into Kuala Lumpur and getting your bearings, spend a couple or three nights in the city, explore it, eat the great food, see the best temples and mosques, maybe do your shopping for the rest of your trip, and from there more to some outdoor activity.
You could head to the Cameron Highlands for a few nights. It is very cool because of the altitude and very beautiful because of the tea plantations. There is also great trekking--lots of orchids--and it is nice because it isn't so hot. OR, you could head into the rain forest at Taman Negara and trek there. It will be steamy, but it is incredible. You can arrange treks there through a tour company, or go on your own. Or, you could do both!
From there, I'd make a overnight trip to Ipoh to check out the cave temples. Ipoh isn't really on the tourist map, but the cave temples are incredible and the town has excellent examples of Dravidian temples as well.
You could go to Pulau Pangkor for a few days at the beach. The snorkeling is decent, you can rent a motorbike to get around (it is a very small island) and do some sea kayaking. It is beautiful, popular with locals but not so much with foreign tourists, and it is easy to get to.
From there, I'd say make your way on up to Penang, the "Pearl of the Orient", walking the several heritage trials in the city, visit the botanical garden and climb Penang Hill. You can also go outside the city to see one of the nicest temples in the country, the The Kek Lok Si Temple.
If you still have time, you can head across the country to the east coast which is about 98% Malay Muslims. It is a different world, much more conservative and culturally Malay rather than Chinese-influenced. Kota Baru is one of my favorite places and well worth a few nights and you can even visit the east coast islands and do some scuba diving. almost 6 years ago