A group of visitors walk past the new giant statue of Hindu god Lord Muruga next to the 272-step Batu Caves temple outside Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.


This multiracial nation’s tourism tagline is “Malaysia Truly Asia,” and true to its slogan, it is home to a unique potpourri of Asian cultures — Malay, Chinese, Indian — along with indigenous groups on Borneo island.


Malaysia is one of the most pleasant, hassle-free countries to visit in Southeast Asia. Aside from its gleaming, 21st century glass towers, it boasts some of the most superb beaches, mountains and national parks in the region.

Malaysia is also launching its biggest ever tourism campaign in aneffort to lure 20 million visitors this year. More than 16 million tourists visited in 2005, the last year for which complete statistics were available. While the majority were from Asia, a growing number of Western travellers are making their way to this Southeast Asian tropical paradise. Of the 885,000 travellers from the West, 240,000 were from the United Kingdom, 265,000 from Australia and 150,000 from the United States.

pacik rin/associated press

Malaysian Muslims walk pass a shop selling Malaysia tradition kites at Central Market in downtown Kuala Lumpur. Malaysia is launching its biggest-ever tourism campaign in an effort to lure 20 million visitors here this year.

Any tourist itinerary would have to begin in the capital, Kuala Lumpur, where you will find the Petronas Twin Towers, which were once the world’s tallest buildings and now hold the title of second-tallest. Both 88-story towers soar 1,480 feet high and are connected by a sky bridge on the 41st floors.

Malaysian Muslims walk out from the Central Market decorated for the upcoming Chinese New Year in Kuala Lumpur.

Also worth visiting is the Central Market, a pre-war building that was the main wet market for the city and has now been transformed into an arts and cultural centre.

Batu Caves, a limestone temple located 9 miles north of the city, has a 328-foot-high ceiling and features ornate Hindu shrines, including a 141-foot-tall gold-painted statue of a Hindu deity. To reach the caves, visitors have to climb a steep flight of 272 steps.

In Sabah state on Borneo island — not to be confused with Indonesia’s Borneo — you’ll find the small mushroom-shaped Sipadan island, off the coast of Sabah, rated as one of the top five diving sites in the world. Sipadan is the only oceanic island in Malaysia, rising from a 2,300-foot abyss in the Celebes Sea.

You can also climb Mount Kinabalu, the tallest peak in Southeast Asia, visit the Sepilok Orang Utan Sanctuary, go white-water rafting and catch a glimpse of the bizarre Proboscis monkey, a pendulous-nosed, pot-bellied primate that makes a strange honking sound.

While you’re in Malaysia, consider a trip to Malacca. In its heyday, this southern state was a powerful Malay sultanate and a booming trading port.Facing the Straits of Malacca, this historical state is now a place of intriguing Chinese streets, antique shops, old temples and reminders of European colonial powers.

Another interesting destination is Penang, known as the “Pearl of the Orient.” This island off the northwest coast of Malaysia boasts of a rich Chinese cultural heritage, good food and beautiful beaches.

In Pahang, Endau-Rompin National Park boasts of tropical jungles that date back millions of years, making them older than those of the Congo or Amazon. Picturesque trails, giant limestone caves, fishing spots and river trips make it a haven for adventurers.