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Famed throughout Asia for its heady mix of eastern cultures, Penang Island is Malaysia’s prime melting pot. Roadside vendors serve some of the world’s best street food; its national parks offer white-sand beaches and wildlife; and UNESCO-listed George Town is full of colorful heritage houses.
The beaches are a huge draw, but there’s so much more to do in this Malaysian hotspot. Frolic with the delicate residents of a butterfly farm, then explore the fragrant landscape of tropical spice garden and fruit farms. The massive collection of dolls, games and models at the Toy Museum brings joy to kids and kids at heart. Save some energy for the Night Market, a lively scene of stalls where good-natured bargaining skills come in handy.
The cultural hub of Malaysia, Kuala Lumpur is visually defined by the iconic Petronas Twin Towers, which, at 88 stories high, are the tallest twin buildings in the world and a vision of modern architecture. On the flip side, the Sri Mahamariamman is the oldest Hindu temple in Malaysia, its façade a colorful totem pole of iconography. Shopping at the Central Market is a joyful experience that involves haggling, handicrafts, and happiness.
Nibble, slurp, and chow your way through Petaling Jaya, a suburb of Kuala Lumpur that offers up endless options for tourists hungry for a taste of local culture. The Wat Chetawan Thai Buddhist temple will offer you spiritual sustenance, while the thumping beats of hip nightlife spots will take you to a higher place.
Kuching is a fine choice for an enriching vacation that's as packed with learning as it is leisure. Its many museums and impressive planetarium will enthrall even the tiniest travelers, and a quick climb to the top of the Kuching Civic Center will reward you with jaw-dropping 360-degree views. Grab a snack from a stall on the bustling waterfront, and don't miss the absolutely massive Sunday market, which is an electric experience for shoppers, vendors, and observers.
Kota Kinabalu on the island of Borneo is the bustling gateway to acclaimed Kinabalu National Park. The park's high point is 13,400-foot Mount Kinabula, Malaysia's tallest peak, a mecca for climbers. Ninety miles away, thrilling jungle trekking and camping await in the Crocker Range National Park.