For some of us, the upcoming Chinese New Year holiday this year is going to be a pretty long break. It doesn’t help that most of the shops will be closed during the celebrations, too. Luckily for Malaysians (or travellers who happen to be in Malaysia during this time), there are still many more activities and places worth exploring, such as food hunting trips with your high school buddies or driving along a scenic route to get away from the CNY crowd.
From charming small towns to taking a dip in refreshing waterfalls, use this guide to help you rejuvenate during the CNY break.
Small Town Charm
Okay, so you think joining the exodus back to their hometowns during the Chinese New Year is a bad idea. The good news is, there are so many small towns along the east and west coast of Peninsular Malaysia that are worth making a road trip to. We’d recommend you to revisit the charms of a small town, and you’ll be surprised by the many things you can do there.
Just an hour’s flight from Kuala Lumpur, Kuala Terengganu, or affectionately known as KT, has more than meets the eye. It is the home to the country’s best keropok lekor (deep fried fish sausage) and if you have plenty of time to kill, you can even watch how this favorite snack is made from start to finish at any one of the keropok lekor roadside stalls. KT was once a major fishing port in the 19th century, and today, you can still see how a typical fishing village looks like at the Marang River Estuary. The idyllic scene of fishing boats, village homes and locals going about their day is so picturesque; it feels as though a watercolor painting has come to life.
You’ll find that the highlight of Kuala Terengganu is its mosques, famous for their architectural designs. Make your way to the Crystal Mosque, which is regarded as one of the world’s most beautiful mosques. The structure is made of glass and steel and shines like crystal from the reflections of the noonday sun. Another stunning-looking mosque is the Tengku Tengah Zaharah Mosque, which from afar gives an illusion that it is floating on the Kuala Ibai Lagoon, hence dubbed as the Floating Mosque. The mosque is surrounded by a lake and overlooks the the South China Sea. The best time to visit the mosque is during sunset, as its bright reflection on the waters against the backdrop of the evening sky makes the scenery even more enchanting.
Kuala Kubu Bharu
Kuala Kubu Bharu, or as the locals call it, ‘KKB’, is only about an hour’s drive up north from Kuala Lumpur. The sleepy town is steeped in history, and if you have some time to spare, KKB’s charming townspeople would be more than happy to share some colorful stories with you over cups of kopi-O and Kaya toast. If you’re looking to be closer to nature, KKB is the perfect place to be. Take an easy hike towards the Sungai Chilling Waterfall (we think it is aptly named) and reward yourself with a dip in its chilly waters.
Travelers usually bypass Alor Setar on their way to Pulau Langkawi in northern Malaysia, but why not make a pit stop in the state capital of Kedah? Alor Setar is home to the Zahir Mosque, one of the grandest and oldest mosques in Malaysia. Built in 1912, the mosque which boasts intricate Moorish design, is considered as one of the most beautiful mosques in the world.
Another fun fact about Alor Setar is that it is home to not one, but TWO Malaysian Prime Ministers. Have you ever wondered how the first Malaysian Prime Minister Tunku Abdul Rahman and current Prime Minister Tun Mahathir Mohamad grew up? Retrace the history of Malaysia’s independence by visiting the Rumah Merdeka, which was the political campaign headquarters for Tunku and his supporters. The museum also has a collection of Tunku’s personal belongings, including old photographs, furniture, cameras, walking sticks and golf sets. Meanwhile, Tun Mahathir’s birthplace, or Rumah Kelahiran Mahathir in Malay, provides a glimpse into his childhood days and journey to becoming the state’s first Malay doctor. The humble, single-room wooden house, with the roof attached made of nipah palm, was restored in 1992 and designated as a historic building.
If you’re into outdoor activities, we recommend a hike up the 218-meter high Mount Keriang, a 250-million-year-old limestone rock and – wait for it – resembles the shape of an elephant! Hike to the summit and enjoy the breathtaking views of paddy fields around it.
Be One With Nature
Did you know that one of the world’s oldest tropical rainforests is here in Malaysia, surpassing even the Amazon rainforest in South America? With such rich and diverse flora and fauna right in your backyard, take a break from the city and be one with nature. You can choose among several places within the vicinity of Kuala Lumpur, or make a day trip out of the city (or even spend a few tranquil days there to unplug and rest).
The National Park or Taman Negara in Pahang is estimated to be 130 million years old, tens of millions of years older than the Amazon! The tropical rainforest is home to some of the world’s rarest animals such as the Malayan tiger, Malayan gaur (seladang), Asian elephant, Malayan tapir and the Malayan peacock-pheasant.
Among the highlights include the magnificent, panoramic view from the world’s longest canopy walkway. For the adventurers, you may also set up your own tents and experience sleeping in the jungle at permitted areas as well as in Orang Asli villages.
Best known for its firefly watching, Kuala Selangor is gaining popularity among travelers due to its close proximity to Kuala Lumpur. For only about an hour’s drive northwest from Kuala Lumpur, you can spend a day out at the Kuala Selangor Nature Park for birdwatching and wildlife exploration. The forest is home to the Silvery Lutung monkey, an endangered primate species, as well as other wildlife like mudskippers, eagles, iguanas, king crabs and fiddler crabs. As dusk approaches, make your way to Kampung Kuantan Firefly Park and hop into a rower boat for a 20-minute ride to see the fireflies up close, twinkling like Christmas lights in the dark. We bet it’d be something to remember.
Drive 110 kilometers northwest from Kuala Lumpur to the Pahang state, and you’ll find a small village called Lanchang where the Kuala Gandah Elephant Conservation Centre is located. The elephant sanctuary, which is run by the Malaysian Department of Wildlife and National Parks, helps raise and protect orphaned elephants. Here, you can feed the elephants and assist in bathing baby elephants in the nearby river (we recommend that you get here early for a piece of the action!), making it the best place in Peninsular Malaysia to have close interaction with this mammal. After playing with the elephants, you may also check out other animals at the Deerland, which is just nearby. With more than 30 Indonesian deers, sun bears, snakes, monkeys and many more wildlife animals, the visit to the animal sanctuaries would definitely be a memorable trip for the little ones!
With Kuala Lumpur almost emptied out of for a few days, we wholeheartedly agree that this would be the perfect time for you to explore the city.
Discover more than 5,000 landbound and aquatic animal species in an exhibit that sprawls over 60,000 square feet at the Aquaria KLCC, located beneath the Kuala Lumpur Convention Centre and just a stone’s throw away from the Petronas Twin Towers. Make sure to walk through the 90-meter tunnel tanks on a travelator and marvel at the glorious sea creatures including large sea rays and sharks. Also be sure to catch the feeding sessions, when the divers feed the sharks and other marine animals.
A visit to the KL Tower is a must, whether you are a kid or an adult. Make funny faces with cheeky squirrel monkeys or let your kids cuddle rabbits at the KL Tower Mini Zoo. After spending some time with the animals, make your way to the observation deck where you can enjoy 360-degree views of the city at the height of 276 meters above ground. The panoramic view at dusk is also breathtaking, as you can marvel at the twinkling city lights and skyline.
You can check out what else you can do at the KL Tower here.
Explore KL with Hop-On Hop-Off Bus
If you only have time for an overview of KL within half a day, taking the Hop-On Hop-Off Bus would be perfect. The bus stops at 50 tourist attractions around the city, and you can alight at any stop if it strikes your fancy, and hop back on the next bus that comes along. Some of the stops include the Petronas Tower, KL Tower, National Palace, Petaling Street, Bukit Bintang, Central Market and many more. Pick a seat inside the air conditioned bus to beat the heat, or opt for the upper deck of the bus to get the breeze in your hair (and squeeze in a tan).
Now that we’ve covered some trips that you can make this long CNY holiday, whichever trip that you pick, we hope you’ll have a wonderful time!
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