Make tracks for Malaysia

By on December 29, 2009

If you watch any English TV station in Tokyo, you’ve probably seen the colorful (and yes, annoyingly catchy) commercials for Malaysia. While the incessant jingle may be a bit much to handle, it turns out that this steamy Southeast Asian country is an excellent place for some kid-friendly equatorial exploration.

The logical place to start any trip is the modern capital of Kuala Lumpur. Known as KL to locals and visitors alike, this vibrant city combines all the pleasures of modern commercialism – including a shopping district to rival Fifth Avenue – with little cultural enclaves tucked in the midst of the urban bustle. KL’s varied population of Indian, Chinese, and ethnic Malays gives the city an attractively jumbled assortment of architecture and some of the best food the region can offer. Wander the restaurant stalls that line the city streets and sample everything from fresh samosas to stir-fry noodles. For fine dining with a ’twist’, take the family to the revolving restaurant atop the needle-like KL Tower and ooh and ah as the city spins slowly beneath your feet.

If you’re curious to meet KL’s animal inhabitants, make your way to the Lake Gardens on the western side of the city. Little ones will love exploring the KL Bird Park where the country’s vibrant feathered friends wander freely in a 21 acre zone; the nearby butterfly and deer parks are also good options. If the oppressive humidity causes tempers to flare, cool your feet – and your frustrations – in the fountain pools below the capital’s tallest buildings, the Petronas Twin Towers.

For a bit of history with a pirate flavor, head down the coast to the town of Melaka (Malacca). Young buccaneers will have fun treasure-hunting for their own souvenirs in the winding streets of this former pirate enclave. Keep a close eye on possible invaders from the ruins of the church of St Paul on Melaka’s highest hill or rest your legs with a ride on one of the brightly decorated trishaws. Don’t miss the nightly sound and light show that brings Melaka’s past to life. Just bring the bug spray to keep the mosquitoes at bay!

If the kids have come down with a case of jungle fever, there’s no better cure than a trip out to the Malaysian state of Borneo. In the lush provinces of Sabah and Sarawak, the whole family can get in on the adventure with easy treks through the rainforest or a visit to the region’s beloved orangutan sanctuary. Cruise down the rivers on a sampan boat or head out to the islands of Tunku Abdul Rahman National Park to find beaches perfect for sand castle-building and some of the best snorkeling in Southeast Asia.

So if you’re ready to brave the tropical weather, make the beautiful and varied country of Malaysia your next vacation destination. As the commercials claim, you won’t be disappointed by this “truly Asian” paradise.


Languages: Malay is the country’s official language, though Chinese, Tamil, and English are all widely spoken.

Access:  Direct flights on Vietnam Airlines and JAL make the trip between Narita and Hanoi in five hours.

Time difference: -1 hour

Currency: The ringgit

Climate: Hot year-round

Transport: KL is a great city for wandering around individual neighborhoods, but use one of the cheap and convenient taxis to travel between various parts of the city.

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