Malaysia is the crown jewel of Southeast Asia, a tropical paradise that houses some of the most stunning landscapes, which you must add to your bucket list. From natural bathtubs to treetop houses, there is so much more to discover about this magical country. If traveling is something you enjoy, here are the picks for the 5 most exotic places for your next getaway in Malaysia.
Pinnacles, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is a formation of 45 meters high limestone spires located in the Mulu National Park (Sarawak). Considered one of the toughest hikes in Malaysia, the trail is about 2.4 km in length but rises steeply at 1200 meters in altitude.
It is not for the faint-hearted, especially if you fear heights. This trail involves rock climbing over razor-sharp rocks, walking on treacherous bridges, and hauling yourself over twisted tree roots. To reach there and back, you need to go through an extreme 3-day-2-night trek.
Day 1, starts with a one-hour boat ride along Melinau River to Kuala Litut jetty. Then you will trek for 9 km to Camp 5, which is the Mulu base camp.
On Day 2, the first part of the hike will be to the mini pinnacles, which is the first checkpoint. The target is to reach it within an hour, otherwise, the guide will ask you to return, to proceed to the next checkpoint. In the second part of the adventure, expect to climb on all fours on vertically 45-degree angle rock surfaces, using ropes and precariously perched ladders. This journey takes approximately 3 hours to reach the destination. Apparently, only 30% of hikers make it to this point, as the majority usually turn around and give up. Once you reach the peak, just enjoy the breathtaking beauty that mother nature has to offer. Hiking down is more difficult as your legs start to turn jelly, taking another 4 hours to reach back to base camp before dark.
On Day 3, you can enjoy a cold refreshing dip at the crystal clear Melinau River at Camp 5 before returning back using the same route as Day 1.
Fancy living in a treetop house in the middle of the jungle? Terra Tree House is located 4km away from the crowds in Cameron Highlands. These treetop huts are constructed by the aborigines (also known as “Orang Asli”) with their own hands. It is designed with aboriginal architecture using bamboo, rattan, and palm leaves (for roofs).
These individual treehouses are perched on stilts, overlooking luscious green forests, allowing you to breathe in the view at its best. Getting there requires you to get on a 4 wheel drive off-road journey across narrow and bumpy roads, passing through farmlands. Upon reaching the entrance, there will be a 400-meter hike (with your luggage) through log piled trails, which may take about 20 minutes uphill to the treehouse. As it is located deep into the mountains, there is simply no access to cellphone networks.
There is limited electricity, as electricity is sourced from the generator, which turns on from 7 pm to 10 pm. It is simply a natural haven, with absolute quiet and peace for a restful mind. You will enjoy a good night’s sleep as the beds are made of 100% organic cotton quilts, including the bed sheets and quilt cover. Water supply is directly channeled from a clean mountain stream. As it is not easy to get outside food, meals are all vegetarian and prepared by the owner using biodynamic or organic ingredients sourced from the owner’s farm.
Activities can be arranged to visit the water source via a hike through the forest. You can also hike to a nearby waterfall to soak in the cold fresh mountain water! It is simply the perfect place for a break away from the outside world.
Gua Tempurung (“Gua” also known in English as Cave) is the oldest limestone cave in Peninsular Malaysia, attracting serious caving enthusiasts from around the world. It is one of the largest caves in peninsular Malaysia, featuring spectacular stalagmites and stalactites, huge domes, and amazing rock formations.
Made largely out of 5 domes, it resembles coconut shells (“Tempurung” also known in English as coconut shells). Hence the name, Gua Tempurung. On the darker side of the story, it used to shelter communist guerrillas as a hideout during the Malayan Emergency (1948 to 1960) and some of their graffiti is still visible on the walls.
You have the option to visit the Show Cave, admiring the cave from afar. Or you can get yourself an adventure with the ranger-guided tour. These tours will take you through pitch dark narrow passages, squeezing through holes and sliding over 5 to 9 meters large slippery rocks.
It is recommended to get rubber shoes from local stores (for around $1.50 US dollars) as they have good traction. You will reach an underground river, where you will expect to be submerged in cold water to waist level with the current flowing. At certain parts of the passages become narrower, chances are, you may need to army crawl through it. You will eventually get wet up to your neck.
After 2 hours of adventure, you will be led to the eastern side of the cave, where there is an opening in the middle of a lush, green forest. Rest for a quick bite and your return journey will take you back entirely through the underground river. For the young at heart, this experience is worth the perseverance and thrill!
Endau Rompin National Park is one of the oldest rainforests in the world. For nature lovers who want to disconnect from the outside world, the remoteness of this place is simply urging you to experience nature in its most pristine state. It is recommended to get a tour guide to facilitate the activities that you will be doing. Local guides can specially arrange visits with “Orang Jakun”, an indigenous group. You get to learn about their local cultures, how they make animal traps, and try out blowpipe shooting. Try their authentic delicacies prepared by the natives, sourced from local ingredients.
A highlight for thrill-seekers is water tubing along the Endau River. You get to navigate the waters on a rubber tube while trying to dodge river boulders with a paddle in hand. There are 3 majestic spots that you must not miss, Upeh Guling Waterfalls (a natural bathtub with a hole within a solid rock), Buaya Sangkut Waterfall (which has a shape of a crocodile in the rock formation), Tasik Air Biru (also known as the blue lagoon). You will need hours of trekking through the jungle to swim in these waters.
For trekking, it is recommended that you buy leech socks (from the village shop) as you will find hundreds of leeches on the forest floor! These leech socks, sprayed with DEET (insect repellent) are pretty effective as they seal off at the knee and physically prevent leeches from getting to you.
Photography hobbyists will find Endau Rompin forests a haven for macro photography. The forest is flourishing with flora and fauna, and stunning natural wonders waiting to be captured by your camera. Endau Rompin is home to some of Malaysia’s most endangered animals, such as the Malayan Tiger and Sumatran Rhinoceros. If you are lucky, you even can spot fresh track signs of elephants, and you might just be able to find them by following their tracks.
Mount Kinabalu, a UNESCO World Heritage site, is Malaysia’s highest mountain with a height of 4.095 km. To climb Mount Kinabalu, it is compulsory for you to get a permit, insurance, a guide, and accommodation booked (on the night of your climb) near the summit. Only a certain number of persons can be allowed on the mountain at any one time due to safety reasons.
As it is a sacred mountain, you will be briefed on the rules prior to your hike. There should be no shouting, screaming, or cursing at the top of the mountain. The locals believe in respecting the mountain spirits that lie within Mount Kinabalu.
The climb starts at Timpohon and you will begin your ascent to Laban Rata. This 6-hour journey involves huge steps and occasional flat patches while passing through mossy forests. As you climb, you will be amazed to see porters, carrying an average of 40kg of luggage, food, drinks, and even a gas tank. There are rest stops to rest along the way, as the degree of incline increases as you approach the top. You will arrive at a little guest house nestled in the Laban Rata, where you will spend the night, have your dinner while watching the sunset.
Bring altitude tablets with you, as some hikers experience altitude sickness due to thinner air at this point. At 2 am the next morning, dress up in warm clothes as it will be freezing cold. With your headlights on, you will continue your climb to the peak in the dark for another 2.7km. There are ropes tethered to the rock for you to pull yourself up. If you are early enough, you will be able to catch the sunrise at Low’s Peak, overlooking the cotton clouds below you.
The view when descending down is also quite impressive, despite facing punishing countless steps going down. Conquering Mount Kinabalu is certainly an adventure not to be missed, as it will be one of the best experiences of your life.