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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 British colonial city of Ipoh had humble beginnings, but has blossomed into a beautiful cityscape that marries old-world charm with modern amenities. This is a foodie's city, offering endless street stalls and restaurants all eager to serve up a sample of mouthwatering local fare. Walk it all off on a jaunt through breathtaking limestone caves that seem carved by the capable hands of a higher power.
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.
Johor Bahru is the second-largest city in Malaysia and, with the opening of two major amusement parks in 2012, it is poised to become a major tourist destination. TripAdvisor travellers also recommend visiting the Arulmigu Sri Rajakaliamman Glass Temple, a unique Hindu temple decorated with brilliant glass mosaics.
Bangkok is full of exquisitely decorated Buddhist temples—as you go from one to the next you’ll be continually blown away by the craftsmanship and elabourate details. But if you’d rather seek enlightenment in a gourmet meal, or dance the night away, you’ll also enjoy Bangkok—the restaurant and nightclub scenes here are among the best in the world.
Miri is a terrific base for exploring Borneo’s spectacular rainforests and alpine meadows. Here you’ll find four National Parks, each with its own distinct drawing power: Gunung Mulu is teeming with caves and limestone formations; Niah was the discovery site of prehistoric human remains; Lambir Hills features stunning waterfalls and wildlife; and Loagan Bunut is ideal for hiking and birdwatching.
Bali is a living postcard, an Indonesian paradise that feels like a fantasy. Soak up the sun on a stretch of fine white sand, or commune with the tropical creatures as you dive along coral ridges or the colorful wreck of a WWII war ship. On shore, the lush jungle shelters stone temples and mischievous monkeys. The “artistic capital” of Ubud is the perfect place to see a cultural dance performance, take a batik or silver-smithing workshop, or invigorate your mind and body in a yoga class.
Probably best known for its eponymous beer, Sapporo—the capital of Hokkaido, Japan’s northernmost island—has maintained the youthful and open atmosphere of the 1972 Olympic Winter Games, drawing international visitors for its annual Snow Festival and its world-famous ramen. Those seeking out the full diversity of Japanese cuisine will want to visit: a city with a ramen-inspired theme park is one that embraces and pampers foodies.