Mahatma Gandhi once said, “A nation’s culture resides in the hearts and in the soul of its people.” Being a multicultural nation, Malaysia is home to a literal hodge-podge of traditions and ways of life, but how much of it do we know?
Travel to Malaysia’s top UNESCO heritage sites to learn what makes our beloved country such a melting pot of cultures and have a blast as you experience the old and new existing side-by-side. No matter your budget, we’ve got the perfect stays for your visit and top things to see and do:
$ – Suite 18 Boutique Hotel
Situated smack dab in the middle of Kuala Terengganu’s Chinatown, Suite 18 Boutique Hotel is conveniently located near most of the city’s well-known tourist attractions, such as the Kuala Terengganu Waterfront, Pasar Payang and Bukit Puteri.
Inspired by the industrial style, its clean and cozy rooms are fitted with the usual amenities, including a flat-screen TV, a rain shower and complimentary tea and coffee. But what we (and other guests) love most about the hotel is the warm and friendly service!
There’s a 7-Eleven right next door if you need to stock up on snacks and drinks, as well as several cafes within walking distance. Best of all, if you want to take the scenic route around town, the hotel has some bicycles you can rent! 🚲
Rates start from: RM45 / night
What To Do in Kuala Terengganu
Kampung Cina, or Chinatown, has only recently been nominated for UNESCO’s cultural heritage list, so that means you should plan your trip soon, before everyone else catches on! Its main street, Jalan Bandar, is lined with quaint old shophouses, and here you can find trendy cafes aplenty and vibrant alleyways covered in street art.
Marvel at the shiny domes and minarets of the Crystal Mosque, set on Wan Man Island. Made from steel, glass and crystal, this grand structure is illuminated by colorful lights once the sun goes down, turning it into a beautiful nightly spectacle. The mosque is part of the Islamic Heritage Park, which features replicas of other famous mosques such as the Taj Mahal, Masjid al-Haram and Al-Hambra Mosque.
Get an authentic taste of Kuala Terengganu at the famed Pasar Payang, an old-school wet and dry market. Visitors to the bustling central market will find a variety of traditional handicrafts such as batik, silk, songket and brassware, as well as fresh produce and local delicacies like keropok lekor.
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$$ – The Straits Hotel & Suites
If you want to stay near Jonker Street but avoid the noisy crowds, The Straits Hotel & Suites is your dream come true. The hotel is located in Melaka Raya, the city’s buzzing business district, where you’ll never be short of options for food or entertainment.
Its sleek and stylish rooms are so comfy, you’ll be reluctant to leave your room and looking forward to your return. After a day of sightseeing, you’ll be tempted to dive into the infinity swimming pool, which treats you to a 360-degree panoramic view of the city that’s best seen at night. There’s also a gym and sauna for those of you who wish to immediately work off the calories you consume from Melaka’s irresistible food.
Melaka City’s shopping malls, like Dataran Pahlawan and Mahkota Parade, are just a 5-minute walk away, so you can nip off for a quick shopping spree when the mood strikes. Favorite attractions such as St. Paul’s Hill, A’Famosa and Jonker Walk are a pleasant walk less than 20 minutes away.
Rates start from: RM161 / night
What To Do in Melaka City
Melaka is famous as one of the last bastions of Peranakan culture, and the best place to learn more about it is at the Baba & Nyonya Heritage Museum, which takes you through the well-preserved and opulent home of a wealthy Baba Nyonya family during its heydays in the late 19th-century and early 20th-century. From grand dining rooms to quaint bedrooms, the museum immerses you in the day-to-day traditions of a typical Peranakan family.
Another way to appreciate a culture is by tasting its fine cuisine, and Melaka is one of the best places to savor authentic Baba Nyonya dishes, so dig in! You should definitely try pongteh chicken, Nyonya laksa, cincalok omelette and steamed otak-otak. (We’re already drooling just thinking about it.) Check out our recommendations for the best Baba Nyonya restaurants in Melaka.
Melaka is home to many more unique cultures besides Peranakan, another one being the Kristang, a creole ethnic group of people of mixed Portuguese and Melakan descent. Visit the Portuguese Settlement in Ujong Pasir just outside the city center, where the Kristang culture is kept alive. Here, you can join in the community’s many annual festivals like Fiesta San Pedro and Intrudu Water Festival, enjoy some of the best ikan bakar in town at J & J Corner Portuguese Seafood, and learn about the Kristang community’s history at the Portuguese Settlement Heritage Museum.
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$$$ – Campbell House
Campbell House is a gorgeous 4-star boutique hotel that takes pride in Penang’s heritage, which you’ll see on display in every corner and detail. The hotel occupies a spacious corner lot on Lebuh Campbell in the heart of historic George Town, with the city’s well-loved attractions within walking distance.
Every room has been impeccably designed with its own look and feel, each one inspired by various elements of Malaysia’s history and culture, such as the Opium room, featuring a stunning original Chinese Opium bed inlaid with mother of pearl.
Rest and relax in the lap of luxury with the hotel’s top-notch service and amenities, including a rain shower, an in-room Nespresso machine, cozy cotton robes and 100% organic toiletries made with pure essential oils. Oh, and the breakfast? Sublime! If you’re looking for a place to chill and mingle, be sure to check out the inviting library with plush carpets and stained-glass windows and the charming rooftop terrace.
Rates start from: RM358 / night
What To Do in George Town
Take a stroll down Jalan Masjid Kapitan Keling, also known as ‘Harmony Street’, as it perfectly encapsulates Malaysia’s multicultural background living in harmony. The street features places of worship for various religions, including Masjid Kapitan Keling, Kuan Yin Temple, St. George’s Church and Sri Mahamariamman Temple. Nearby, there’s also the Khoo Kongsi, one of the oldest and most famous clan houses in Penang.
Along a stretch of Pengkalan Weld, you’ll find the Clan Jetties, one of the last remaining old Chinese settlements in Penang. Each jetty belongs to a specific clan, and seven different clans still reside at the Clan Jetties, including the Chew, Lim, Tan and Yeoh clans. As you walk down a narrow jetty surrounded by wooden homes, you can buy souvenirs, food and drinks from the families living there.
No trip to Penang is complete without trying the lip-smacking food, obviously – the nearest hawker hotspot is the Chulia Street Night Hawker Stalls, just 6-minutes away on foot from Campbell House. The hawker stalls take up whatever little space is left beside the busy Lebuh Chulia, and they’re quite territorial – be sure to order from the hawker whose table you’re occupying. The char kuey teow, wantan noodles and kuey teow th’ng are highly recommended, but unfortunately, these aren’t certified halal. No worries, though – we’ve got a special guide on where you can get your Muslim-friendly foodie fix in Penang.
Gain a renewed appreciation for Malaysia’s one-of-a-kind mix of cultures with a stay at these hotels – plan your trip on Traveloka!