What do you look forward to the most when Raya season comes around? (Besides spending time with extended family and getting to taste the usual yummy Raya dishes, of course.)
For many, it’s also the perfect time to take a few extra days off and go away on a whirlwind trip. You don’t even have to go far, as Malaysia has plenty of options for a fabulous staycation.
But what if you’d rather avoid the post-Raya holidaying crowd?
We know that feeling, guys, so here are our picks for lesser-known destinations where you can have just as much fun without having to jostle past throngs of people:
Rather than Tasik Kenyir (Kenyir Lake), go to… Kuala Selangor
If you’re looking for a rustic feel similar to Tasik Kenyir, try Kuala Selangor.
During the day, spend the afternoon exploring the Kuala Selangor Nature Park’s mangrove forests, brimming with flora and fauna, and walk up Bukit Malawati (Malawati Hill) for the view – but be careful: at the top, you’ll encounter troops of hungry monkeys searching for snacks.
Once the sun has set, hop on a boat and take a cruise down Selangor River, where you’ll be able to witness the magic dance of thousands of fireflies. Craving for some good seafood? You’ll have your pick of seafood restaurants along the coastal stretch.
For those of you who have always dreamed of visiting Bolivia’s remarkable Salar de Uyuni salt flats, you should check out Malaysia’s very own version, a sandy atoll islet known as Sasaran Sky Mirror.
Rather than Langkawi, go to… Pulau Kapas (Kapas Island)
Langkawi is a favorite among vacationing families, so if you want to escape the crowd, why not head to the other side of Peninsular Malaysia to the country’s picturesque East Coast?
Set a mere six kilometers from the sleepy fishing village of Marang in Terengganu, Pulau Kapas will provide the peace and relaxation you’re looking for.
When you stroll down its beaches, you’ll discover why the island was named “kapas”: its soft, white sandy beaches feel like cotton between your toes.
The island’s small size makes it ideal to explore on foot, and there are jungles for those who like to hike.
As it’s part of a designated marine park, its clear blue waters are perfect for outdoor water activities like snorkeling, diving, and kayaking.
However, there are no ATMs located on the island, so be sure to bring a sufficient amount of cash.
Rather than Penang, go to… Kuching
Penang is Malaysians’ go-to spot for good food, but if your tastebuds are itching for something different, sample the amazing Sarawakian food you can find in the state’s vibrant capital of Kuching.
Must-try local dishes are kolo mee (yellow egg noodles tossed in a light sauce before it is served with slices of barbecued slices or minced meat), manok pansoh (an Iban dish where pieces of chicken are cooked in bamboo over an open fire), and of course, a flavorful bowl (or two) of Sarawak laksa!
If you’re a nature lover, get out of the city for a day trip and visit the natural wonders nearby. Go caving at the Fairy Caves in Bau, make friends with orangutan at the Semenggoh Nature Reserve’s orangutan rehabilitation center, and swim with turtles at Talang-Satang National Park, Sarawak’s first protected marine park.
For you shopaholics, there’s plenty to browse and pick out at Kuching’s modern shopping malls, and if you’re on the lookout for fresh local produce, head to the Sunday Market off Jalan Satok. And don’t forget to bring home some colorful kek lapis Sarawak (Sarawak layer cake).
Rather than Taman Negara, go to… Endau-Rompin National Park
Looking forward to a challenging trek in the jungle? Most people will think to head to Malaysia’s main national park, Taman Negara, but the country is home to other unspoiled rainforests, such as Endau-Rompin National Park, its second largest national park.
Located across the states of Pahang and Johor, this is the place for adventure seekers – the roads are so rugged that you’ll need a four-wheel drive to traverse the forest.
Some of Malaysia’s most impressive waterfalls can be found here, such as Buaya Sangkut, Upeh Guling, and Batu Hampar.
Not far from the park’s Headquarters is Peta Village, an Orang Asli settlement where you can learn about how the tribe lives off the land.
Prior to your visit, however, you will need to apply for an entry permit with park management, which depends on which entrance you’ll be taking – most visitors will take the Peta entrance near Mersing in Johor, which means you should apply for the permit from the Johor National Parks Corporation.
Thanks to the park’s proximity to the Perhentian, Redang, and Tioman islands, many visitors will also fit in a few days of island-hopping.
Rather than Cameron Highlands, go to… Kundasang
Cameron Highland may be famed for its sprawling tea plantations and farms, but Kundasang’s lush farmland is often referred to as the New Zealand of Sabah.
Found at the foothills of Mount Kinabalu, you’ll get a spectacular view of the country’s highest mountain peak, especially in the morning at sunrise.
It’s about a 3-hour drive away from Kota Kinabalu, where you can visit the Desa Dairy Farm – its bovine residents will certainly remind you of New Zealand’s iconic black-and-white dairy cows.
Similar to the thrills you’ll be able to find in New Zealand, you can also go tandem paragliding for an unforgettable sky-high vista of the mountains.
Rather than Melaka, go to… Taiping
Melaka is Malaysia’s treasure trove of heritage and culture, having been designated as a World Heritage City (along with George Town in Penang). However, you can also steep yourself in the history found in Taiping, Perak.
Known as the “City of Everlasting Peace”, it has indeed been pretty peaceful since the end of the tin mining boom in the 19th century.
Breathe in the fresh air at the tranquil Lake Gardens, and hike up Bukit Larut (Maxwell Hill), where you can find colonial remnants such as English-style gardens and bungalows.
Only a 20-minute drive away is Kuala Sepetang, or Port Weld, where you can find fresh seafood, see eagles and dolphins in the wild, and other eco-tourism attractions like the Matang Mangrove Forest Reserve.
Night owls will find something to do as well, as there are night-time river cruises to watch fireflies sparkle or you can join the night safari at Taiping Zoo, one of Malaysia’s oldest zoos.