Malaysia and Singapore are two of the most alluring destinations in Asia.
While Malaysia is a land rich in contrasts and cultures, with landscapes ranging from ancient rainforests to gorgeous coastal resorts, Singapore offers a somewhat more futuristic experience. Within both lie proud landmarks and little-known gems that beg to be discovered, let us guide you on ten of our favourites.
Afternoon tea in the Cameron Highlands, Malaysia
There is something about the easy and soothing about the Cameron Highlands. Maybe it’s the fragrant highland air, the picturesque tea plantations or the charming Tudor-style architectural buildings, or maybe it’s the endless rows of strawberries and fragrant flowers just waiting to be picked. Situated in the north west, it is primarily agricultural and high-lying with mountains, rolling hills and green valleys with temperatures are lower than coastal regions. Recent road improvements have made this region far more accessible with visitors attracted to the stunning scenery perfect for hiking and jungle trekking. However, when in the highlands don’t forget to indulge in the more sedate pastime of taking afternoon tea; a celebrated tradition since British colonial times.
Dive the waters at Redang Island, Borneo
Situated within the Terengganu Marine Park, in the south China Sea, Redang Island is a favourite among divers for its pristine nature and rich marine environment. The beautiful island encircles white sand beaches with crystal-clear waters. Divers and snorkelers will be rewarded with a huge variety of coral and fish species including scorpion, barracuda and manta rays to name but a few which thrive in the 25 dive sites. Further exploration will expose two historic shipwrecks, a black coral garden and a mysterious submerged chamber. Big Mount is perfect for day diving with macro life forms as well as huge clownfish, sea cucumbers and parrotfish whilst by night, Mini Mount treats you to boulders carpeted in soft corals, tubastrea corals, sea squirts and sponges as well a plethora of foraging creatures.
Visit the Sepolik Orangutan Sanctuary
Sandakan, on the northeast coast of Borneo, is home to the largest orang-utan rehabilitation centre in the world – Sepolik. The sanctuary covers 43sqm and rehabilitates orphaned and injured orang-utans in preparation for their return to the wild; they also offer help to other animals including sun bears, gibbons, Sumatran rhinos and elephants. Guests are welcome daily from 09.00 to 16.00 and can stay all day if they wish; you will be able to witness feeding at 10.00 and 15.00, observe the outdoor nursery, take a jungle walk and watch video presentations. This is a heart-warming walk, just keep an eye on your camera as the orangutans are known to be mischievous!
Discover the ancient city of Malacca
Once one of the greatest trading ports in south-east Asia, Malacca has transformed over time into a peaceful city scattered with cultural hotspots and a historic centre that was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2008. The delightful mixture of Malay, Chinese, Indian, European and sundry influences can be seen all over the city. Wander the streets at your own pace or hop on a bike and glide past Chinese shop fronts interspersed with traditional Malay kampongs. At night, head to the vibrant Jonker Walk Night Market and savour tasty delicacies at one of the hawker stalls.
The sky’s the limit at Petronas Towers in Kuala Lumpur
Our guide would not be complete without a mention of the Petronas Towers. You can’t help but stand in awe at the sheer size of these buildings. Just to give you an idea of scale – the towers are around the same height as 100 double decker busses stacked on top of each other. If that doesn’t register, then the views from the Skybridge certainly will; connecting level 41 of the first tower and level 42 of the second, the bridge showcases superb views of Kuala Lumpur and far beyond. Demand for tickets for the 45-minute guided tour to the Skybridge along with the Observation Deck on floor 86 is high, so do book in advance online otherwise you’ll need to make a very early start!
Marvel at Marina Bay, Singapore – city fashion by the sea
Marina Bay is a symbol of Singapore’s transformation into a luxury travel destination. Once a quiet body of water at the entrance of the Singapore River, what stands in its place is a buzzing destination home to ultra-stylish hotels, skyscrapers, sprawling shopping malls, trendy bars and restaurants. The Marina Bay Sands resort is an attraction in itself. Billed as the most expensive hotel in the world, it packs three glittering tower blocks with a science museum, casino, luxury fashion boutiques and a skating rink, then tops it all off with the world’s tallest infinity pool.
Singapore for lovers of music and nature - Botanic Gardens
Singapore Botanic Gardens are a favourite amongst tourists and locals alike. A haven of lush greenery in the bustling city, the gardens have become Singapore’s first UNESCO World Heritage Site. Also home to the National Orchid Garden, there are over 60,000 plants as well as the Tembusu tree which is featured on Singapore’s $5 note and believed to be older than the 156-year old gardens. Enjoy a classic music concert amongst it all held by the Singapore Symphony Orchestra. If you’re travelling with children head for the Jacob Ballas Children’s garden with its interactive installations and fun activities. A great day out for all!
Ascend the sky in the Singapore Flyer
Built over a three-storey terminal building, the Singapore Flyer was the world’s tallest observation wheel until 2014 when it was surpassed by the High Roller in Las Vegas. But don’t let that take anything away from the Flyer, after all, it is the same height as 31 male giraffes stacked on top of one another. The rotation takes around 30 minutes and while on board you can see up to 45 kilometres away. Whether riding day or night, you are guaranteed breath-taking views; best to book in advance if you can – there is an online discount too.
Singapore Nightspots don’t get wilder than this!
The world’s first Night Safari is an absolute must. This safari park is home to more than 59 exhibits and 1,000 animals and comes alive at night with walking trails and trams trips to follow fascinating nocturnal species. The park is structured into eight geographical regions with exotic worldwide animals including wildebeest, gazelle, anteater, greater one-horned rhino and the Himalayan griffon vulture. There is a themed safari restaurant and a raft of exciting performances and shows on offer too.
Family fun at Universal Studios Singapore
Families and thrill-seekers will love this sprawling theme park, situated within Resorts World Sentosa on Sentosa Island, Singapore. At the park you will find seven movie-themed zones and a range of rides including the world’s tallest duelling roller coasters. Needn’t worry if you don’t have a head for heights, there is plenty here other than exhilarating rides. Experience Shrek the 4-D way, complete with air blasts, water spray and special effects that bring the film to life, whilst children of all ages will love the Sesame Street Stage Shows.