Unique and unusual experiences define Malaysia as the Land of Adventure and beyond. From untouched islands to jungle treks, there is a whole lot to explore just across the border. If you’re game for exciting trips that veer off the beaten path and are up to exploring the unknown without having to travel very far off, ShopBack has compiled a list of unforgettable experiences for everyone to enjoy in our neighbouring Malaysia. Choose your adventure below!
1. Join the Thaipusam Celebrations, Selangor
Thaipusam is an impressive festival in the Hindu calendar and very important for the Tamil community. Every year, more than a million people gather to watch the celebrations taking place at Batu Caves in Selangor. Tourists from all over the world flock to Batu Caves for the unique experience of watching a colourful dress holy event that pays tribute to the Hindu god of war, Lord Murugan.
The start of Thaipusam sees a procession through the streets of Kuala Lumpur where a chariot presents a statue of Lord Murugan. Then, devotees begin their barefoot long walk to Batu Caves carrying milk pots or kavadis as thanks for prayers answered and vows fulfilled.
A unique sight is the devotees varying kavadis as they are supported by hooks and steel spikes that puncture the skin and flesh on their backs, chest, cheeks, and tongue. This is a tremendous feat that seems almost not humanly possible. Devotees fast prior to Thaipusam, pray and follow a strict vegan diet to prepare themselves physically and spiritually.
Another sight to see is how the devotees climb the 272 steps to reach the top of the limestone caves where the caverns contain shrines that relate the story of the deities’ victory over demons. The steps are steep and uneven, posing a challenge to even the fittest athlete.
Climbing Batu Caves is recommended on non-festive days where there are no crowds to hamper your journey up the stairway to heaven. During the climb, you’ll be greeted by grand statutes such as the 42.7m tall Lord Murugan and 15m tall Hindu god Hanuman, happy monkeys scampering along the steps and natural surroundings.
Said to be 400 million years old, Batu Caves combines history, heritage and a good workout all in one unique experience.
- Address: Batu Caves, Gombak, 68100, Selangor
- When to visit: the festival dates vary from year to year as the Thaipusam festival is celebrated by the Tamil community on the full moon in the Tamil month of Thai (January/February).
2. Join the Chingay Parade, Johor Bahru
The Chingay Parade in Johor Bahru takes place on the 21st of the Lunar calendar every year. It’s a must-see celebration as the festival showcases colourful traditional performances, Chinese opera, lion and dragon dances, decorated floats, flags parade, stilt walkers and amazing acrobatics throughout the procession across Johor Bahru city centre.
To join the parade, simply identify which Chinese clan you originate from, either Teochew, Hainan, Hokkien, Hakka or Cantonese, and get the clan t-shirt before Chingay starts. Participants must wear the requisite t-shirt to join the procession and are advised to follow the route set out.
Among the unique experiences is the walk the deities who are carried on special sedan chairs by devotees. The sedan chairs are rocked high and low to appease the deities. Tourists and locals alike flock to the city to watch the celebrations which are graced by the Sultan of Johor. The Chingay Parade usually starts at sunset and ends past midnight. Spectators line the streets from mid-afternoon to reserve the best spots to watch the spectacular procession.
- Adress: Johor Bahru Old Chinese Temple, Jalan Trus邮政编码: 80000
- Opening times: Every day, 7 am –5 am
3. Go Island Hopping: Tioman, Rawa, Perhentian, Aur, and Tinggi
Malaysia boasts some of the world’s most beautiful islands. After you have ad your fair share of sunbathing, diving, snorkelling or just being a beach bum, it’s time to seek out more unique experiences island-wise.
Surrounding Johor, off the coast of Mersing are popular islands such as Pulau Tioman, Pulau Rawa, Pulau Perhentian, Pulau Aur, Pulau Tinggi and many more. Every island has a unique experience to share.
Pulau Tioman offers a most scenic waterfall at Mukut Village. For the brave hearted, a climb to the top of the waterfall will reveal spectacular sights of abundant greenery, sandy beaches and blue seas beyond. Mukut waterfalls are the perfect place to picnic while being serenaded by rainforest birds and lulling sounds of water.
Pulau Rawa offers one of the most beautiful, unspoiled beaches in Malaysia with crystal clear waters that can rival the beaches in Hawaii. Corals here are rich and colourful, and sea creatures can be seen to roam freely around the island.
The Perhentian islands offer lush tropical rainforests for jungle trekking and great spots for snorkelling. Love the wilderness? Then, these islands bring you closer to nature as trekkers can spot flora and fauna along the trail. Get ready to meet mousedeers, wild boars, spiders, monkeys, iguanas, monitor lizards, and insects.
How to reach: The majority of this islands can be reached by taking a ferry from Mersing. The exception are the Pulau Perhentian Kecil and Besar that can be reached by taking a boat from Kuala Besut in Terengannu.
4. Climb Mount Kinabalu, Sabah
Mount Kinabalu is the highest peak in Malaysia standing at 4,095m. It is regarded as the 20th most prominent mountain in the world and accorded UNESCO World Heritage status and it is worth a visit.
Reaching the peak requires a 2-day climb that starts in the morning on the first day to reach the midway point known as Laban Rata located at 3,772m. Here, climbers get warm lodgings, hot meals and a shower before the next climb that begins the next day as early as 2am to reach the summit by sunrise.
What makes Mount Kinabalu a unique experience are the trails to reach its summit. The first climb via the Timpohon trail is a series of steps that bring you on an amazing journey through nature’s beauty like you’ve never seen before. Imagine being surrounded by mountain mist, being nose-to-nose with pitcher plants, be amid natural terrains like in Lothlorien of Lord of the Rings. Mount Kinabalu offers all these and more.
Climbers can safely reach the summit via the Ranau trail or Kota Belud trail. With new precautions in place, only a limited number of climbing permits are issued each day and closure dates during inclement weather ensure the safety of all climbers.
- How to reach: Fly to Kota Kinabalu. From the airport take a shuttle bus to Padang Merdeka in KK. You can then take a mini-bus to Kinabalu National Park from Padang Merdeka.
5. Take a Rail Experience at the North Borneo Railway, Sabah
If you love old steam engines or your kids love to watch the Thomas the train series, then the North Borneo Railway experience will thrill them to bits. Located in Sabah, the North Borneo Railway is a joint venture between Sutera Harbour Resort and the Sabah State Railway Department.
It brings passengers on a journey through a bygone era on refurbished colonial-style carriages pulled by a steam engine. The 4-hour train journey passes through the heartlands of Sabah, coastal towns, tropical rainforests, and plantations.
The train runs return departures twice weekly, every Wednesday and Saturday. Bookings are necessary to ensure best seats. The fare includes a continental breakfast and colonial style tiffin lunch served in opulent interiors.
What makes the trip a unique experience is the stops made in several interesting towns. First stop is Kinarut town to visit the local Tien Shi Temple and local traditional shops. Next stop is Papar town to explore the wet market and local shops for gifts. The return journey sets off from Papar town to Tanjung Aru station.
- Address: North Borneo Railway, The Magellan Sutera Resort, Level 2, 1 Sutera Harbour Boulevard, Sutera Harbour, 88100, Kota Kinabalu, Sabah.
- Pricing: RM380.00Nett per adult /per child (Age above 4 years old ) (Inclusive 10% and 6% GST). Complimentary for children below 3 years old
6. Explore the Paranormal in Perak
When in search of spooky adventures, Malaysia can offer scarers a unique experience. The most popular is the Paranormal Night Tour at Kellie’s Castle located in Ipoh, Perak. This century-old old and unfinished castle is built with Scottish, Moorish and Indian architecture within an oil palm estate in the area. It is said that during its construction, several construction workers died mysteriously on site. The owner William Kellie Smith also passed away unexpectedly in 1926 before the completion of the castle.
Myths say that the spirits of the old owner William Kellie Smith and his family still roam the castle and its eerie architecture detailing the castle’s past will give you goosebumps. The incomplete construction of the castle with dark rooms, wine cellar and elevator shaft add to the spooky ambience.
The castle has underground tunnels and secret chambers not accessible to the public. The night tour aims to provide ghost hunters an opportunity to experience close encounters of the unusual kind. For the faint-hearted, day tours of the castle is sufficient to chill your senses.
- Address: Kellie’s Castle, 31000 Batu Gajah, Perak.
- How to reach: Drive to the Kinta Kellas Rubber Estate in Batu Rajah from Ipoh. The castle is only 14km away from the city.
- Opening Hours: 9 am – 6 pm
- Pricing: RM 5 (foreigner), RM 4 (adult), RM 3 (secondary school students), RM 2 (primary school students), FREE (child aged six and below)
7. Go Caving at Gua Tempurung, Gopeng
Popular among cave enthusiasts or spelunkers, this beautiful cave features a 3km unique experience through caverns, stalagmites, stalactites and rock formations believed to have existed since 10,000 years ago. Located in Gopeng, just 24km from Ipoh city, Gua Tempurung is one of Malaysia’s longest caves and attracts visitors from all over the world.
The limestone cave presents different levels of difficulty for cave trekkers as some chambers are so small that only one person can pass at a time, whilst other chambers offer awe-inspiring views of limestone formations. The trek takes you through a 1.6m river that can be waist deep and during heavy rains, trekkers are advised to stay on higher grounds.
The cave lights up with natural sunlight at certain chambers and the river ends to a sparkling brook to rest tired feet. Visitors are asked to bring extra clothes and shoes to change into at the end of the tour. Safety helmets and torch lights are available for rent.
- Address: Pusat Pelancongan Gua Tempurung, 31600, Gopeng, Perak
- How to reach: Drive to Gua Tempurung. The caves are located south of Gopeng and 25km south of Ipoh.
- Pricing: Prices of tours vary between MYR4 to MYR30.
- Opening Times: 9 am – 4 pm
8. Explore Taman Negara National Park, Pahang
For all jungle trekkers, Taman Negara National Park is the ideal place up close with nature in a vast tropical forest said to be 130 million years old. The starting entry point at Kuala Tahan brings trekkers through a canopy walkway, river and nature trails through the jungle.
The well-maintained park features a diverse range of flora and fauna from birdlife, insects, fish and jungle creatures to amazing flowers like the rafflesia whose scent will lead you to its location. Taman Negara offers camping sites, fishing trips, caving and observing wildlife in a natural environment.
The most unique experience would be visiting the Aborigine village and leaning about the orang ‘Sakai’. They are skilled in catching fish using the ‘bumbu’, hunting using blow pipes and harvesting wild jungle honey. Nature tours and camping packages are available.
- Address: Taman Negara, Kuala Tahan, 27000 Kuala Taman, Pahang
- How to reach: The main entry point to the park is Kuala Tahan. You can drive or take a bus from Kuala lumpur to Kuala Tahan. The trip is around 240 km long.
9. Save the Turtles in Cherating
The Turtle Conservation Society of Malaysia offers turtle discovery trips that educate visitors on saving turtles and capturing the best photos of them nesting on the beach. Located in Cherating, the society organizes trips that include a visit to the turtle hatchery to release sea turtle hatchlings, exploration of the sea turtle nesting beach and observe them nesting at night.
Food and beverages are provided during the trip plus plenty of photo opportunities. The breathtaking views of Monica Bay beach coupled with being a part of nature conservation project make this unique experience a truly exceptional one.
- Address: Cherating Turtle Sanctuary, Bukit Cherating, 26080, Balok, Pahang
- Pricing for the Turtle Discovery Trip: Adults RM220, Youths RM110, Children RM50, Toddlers Free
10. Fun with Fungi and Forest Hike in Bukit Pelindung
Image credit: Agus BambangMushroom spotting and discovering new species of the fungi are fast becoming a popular attraction among mycologists and locals alike in Malaysia. One of the most popular hilltops to discover a wide range of mushrooms is Bukit Pelindung located in Kuantan.
Usually a leisure and recreational spot for locals, the Bukit Pelindung Recreational Forest also features a nature trail that leads to Teluk Chempedak beach. Along with its nature paths are colourful mushrooms sprouting at every turn especially after the rains.
Unknown if they are poisonous, it is best to just capture shots of them and not touch the mushrooms They make a pretty addition to any nature photo album, and is certainly a unique experience for all to enjoy.
Address: Bukit Pelindung, Jalan Tengku Muhamad, 25250 Kuantan, Pahang
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