MALAYSIA - ARTICLE
If you’ve done Bali and Thailand dozens of times and don’t feel like shopping and clubbing in Hong Kong then give Malaysia a thought. It truly is a stunning part of the world which offers the best of everything. Kuala Lumpur is a buzzing city full of life with designer shops as far as the eye can see, while a short flight will have you on a beautiful tropical island. Here’s five reasons why you should consider your next summer holiday in Malaysia.
THE TAARAS RESORT & SPA, REDANG ISLAND
There are a handful of islands to choose from dotted off the coast of Malaysia. If you’re traveling with children Langkawi is probably the best. It’s the most popular place for tourists with all the bells and whistles to keep the kids occupied. However, if you’re after a romantic getaway or just some time out Redang Island is the pick of the bunch. This tiny island sits 45km off the coast of Malaysia in the South China Sea. Most of the resorts are on the East side of the island near the public ferry station, while on the North side is The Taaras Resort - five star luxury at its best. The resort is completely private and has its own main beach with a secluded beach next door which is surrounded by jungle. The only way to get there is to swim, paddle, or scale the rocks to get around and it’s well worth the effort. There are two ways to get to the island; you can fly from Subang Airport which is close to the city, or you can fly to Kuala Terengganu from the International or domestic terminals and get a boat transfer out to the island. If you’re prone to sea sickness it’s probably best to fly as you’ll be picked up by a boat not much bigger than a station wagon and head straight out to sea for about forty minutes. We chose to do it as a bit of an adventure and it was fun, but there is swell which can get rather large. Once at the resort the activities are endless from diving, snorkeling, jungle walking, you can go out fishing and the chef will serve your catch up to you at night, the spa is to die for, there are two restaurants and a pool bar, there’s complementary yoga morning and night, you can feed the local squirrels, or just swim in the crystal clear water. You could easily spend a week here without even thinking about the time. The peak season is May to August, but you can avoid the crowds if you go in March or October. The rainy monsoon season is from November to February and it’s advised you avoid these times. We went at the end of the season in October and it was quiet and heavenly.
The secluded beach next to The Taaras Resort
Most flights from Sydney land at KL International airport in the evening and depending on the transfer to the island you’ll probably have to stay overnight. Be aware transfers go from either the domestic terminal which is about 20 minutes by cab from KLIA or Subang airport near the city. This being a perfect reason to jump on the bullet train into KL and spend a few days shopping before you head out to the islands to relax. The train is the best way to go and takes just 20 minutes. Traffic is a nightmare in KL and if you opt for a taxi or car it will take you at least an hour. You want to stay in the shopping and entertainment district of Bukit Bintang. If money is no object the JW Marriott is the place to be however, any hotel around there will do as you’ll be spending most of your time in the shops. There are ten shopping malls in the area including some of the biggest in the world. The possibilities are endless, you can shop for a bargain at H&M and Zara or dump $50,000 on a new watch. If you are going to make some big ticket buys like watches or handbags make sure you haggle. Everything in KL is duty free and given there are ten shopping malls next to each other all with the same or similar shops and products you are in the prime position for some real savings. The price on an item is about 30% more than they are willing to sell it for so make sure you ask what their best price is. Also note everything is currently GST free, but this is about to change with the Malaysian government bringing in a 6% charge from April 1, 2015 ... so get there now!!
Malaysia is one of the most multiracial and multicultural places on the planet made up of mostly Malays, Chinese, and Indians along with a number of other ethnicities. All blend in perfectly and add to the city’s vibrant atmosphere. The people are accepting, warm, kind and laid back which makes for a very relaxing and enjoyable holiday.
This Multiculturalism has made Malaysia a gastronomical paradise. The food is as diverse as its people and amazing no matter which end of the price range you want to dine. The five star restaurants will blow your mind just the same as the hawker food. One of the best meals we had was at a food hall in one of the shopping malls. It was just local food cooked to perfection by locals - amazing.
The scuba diving off the islands of Malaysia is world class. Redang Island is renowned for being one of the best spots. In the middle of the tiny island there is a hotel built just for divers. No pool, no ocean views, just a group of rooms for hardcore divers. The most amazing spot for diving is over on East Malaysia around Sabah, however there are some government warnings about traveling there due to piracy.
One final note: If you need to stay overnight when you are flying home due to transfers from the islands and you don’t want to do KL again stay at the Sama Sama Hotel inside the International Airport. It’s a stunning five star hotel and makes for a stress free stop over.
Places I would return to;
The Taaras Resort & Spa
The JW Marriott
Sama Sama Hotel KLIA