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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.
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.