Malaysia and Borneo
The gateway to Malaysia, Kuala Lumpur has evolved from a shanty town into one of the world's most exciting metropolises. Here ethnic Malays, Chinese, Indians and European expats bustle past skyscrapers and temples, each bringing their own cultural charms to the mix. Discover modern Malaysia whilst gaping at the Petronas Towers before nodding to the past at the colonial edifices of the original city core.
At the heart of KL’s colonial district, Merdeka Square is the place that independence (or merdeka) from colonial rule was declared in 1957. The square is surrounded by a number of landmark buildings – the Sultan Abdul Samad Building is of particularly note, its Mughal design by A.C Norman, whilst the former Natural History Museum, St Mary’s Cathedral and Kuala Lumpur Railway Station are also in the vicinity.
The Golden Triangle is the beating heart of modern KL, a district of high rise buildings and hedonistic pleasures. The Golden Triangle encompasses KLCC where you’ll find the shimmering Petronas Towers and a brand new city aquarium, as well as Bukit Bintang which is home to the city’s best malls, markets, hotels, restaurants and nightlife. Whilst you can ascend the Petronas Towers (there’s the skybridge on the 41st floor and the observation deck on the 86th), include them in your panorama of the city by heading to the viewing platform of the Menara KL Tower.
The area in which the city was originally founded by Chinese tin miners, southeast of the bustling Central Market, KL’s Chinatown is an atmospheric place to wander. A labyrinth of narrow streets lined with shophouses and temples, Chinatown’s main artery is Petaling Street, where you’ll find a great range of restaurants and food stalls as well as a lively market. On the edge of Chinatown you’ll also find Jamek Mosque, one of the city’s oldest, and Sri Mahamariamman Temple, KL’s oldest and most elaborate Hindu temples.
A huge lush space at the core of the city created by the British in 1888, the Lake Gardens offers a wide range of nature based activities. As well as manicured gardens through which to stroll there is a butterfly park, planetarium, orchid garden and bird park.
Housed in an Art Deco building, the Central Market is the place where you will find all of your arts and crafts needs. Packed with stalls selling all sorts of products from souvenirs to local handicrafts, it is the perfect place to browse before heading to the excellent food court to snack on local flavours. The market building also houses shops, restaurants and a museum.
A hidden gem of a museum, situated close to KL’s beautiful Modernist National Mosque, the Islamic Arts Museum showcases one of the greatest collections of Islamic decorative arts in the world. Wander through the permanent galleries to admire thousands of artefacts ranging from textiles and Korans to jewellery and pottery.
On the very edge of the city a limestone outcrop houses one of the holiest Hindu sites outside of India. A huge staircase of 272 steps leads up to several atmospheric and colourful caves, the largest of which, the Temple Cave, is full of ornate Hindu shrines. The Subramanian Swamy Temple is the most impressive of them all, with a wonderfully elaborate dome to admire. Watch out for the cheeky macaques as you make your way upwards!
Around two hours by road from KL, the old port city of Melaka was once the centre of some of the world’s most important trade routes. Starting out as a sultanate in the 15th century it wasn’t long before it succumbed to the Portuguese, then the Dutch, then the British – it isn’t difficult to imagine this city’s rich heritage. Packed with riverfront warehouse, colonial ruins, fascinating museums and some of Malaysia’s best food, Melaka is a more than worthy trip from KL or a stopover travelling to or from Singapore to KL.
The only hotel on a privately owned island that can lay claim to secluded bays, pristine beaches and heaps of natural beauty, the Pangkor Laut Resort oozes exclusivity just three miles off of Malaysia's west coast,. The hotel is designed to blend seamlessly with its rainforest surroundings and boast an award-winning spa. It is also considered one of the world's premier resorts.
Located in the heart of Kuala Lumpur, the Swiss Garden Hotel has been recently refurbished and offers travellers a refined experience with modern amenities. Indulge in tropical spa treatments at the Samsara Spa, take a dip in the swimming pool or relax on the sundeck.
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The world’s largest and most populous continent, Asia is a vibrant and rambunctious fusion of ethnicities, cultures and customs; an incomparably rich and turbulent history showcased by mindboggling feats of architecture and engineering; a geography that encompasses towering peaks, unfathomable gorges and paradisiacal beaches; and a biodiversity that is so abundant that you’ll be reaching for your wildlife guide.