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Forested hills, romantic white-sand beaches and crystal-clear waters greet visitors to tropical Palau Langkawi, the largest of the 99 islands in Langkawi archipelago. Known mysteriously as "Legendary Island" because of myths associated with its ancient geological formations, it drifts serenely alongside Malaysia in the azure Andaman Sea. Sample local cuisine at the night markets, hike to dramatic waterfalls or dive into an underwater marine park to take a guided glimpse at life beneath the sea.
Feel the pulse of Malaysia in Kuala Lumpur, its capital and largest city. The famous Petronas Twin Towers, the tallest building in the world, provides a bird's-eye view of the cosmopolitan metropolis and houses a multitude of shops and art galleries. For a look at the city's past, take in the 1910 Moorish-inspired Old Railway Station, the riverside Jamek Mosque and the Sultan Abdul Samad building with its 131-foot clock tower. Malay, Chinese and Indian influences ensure colorful dining experiences.
Tropical Sandakan is a paradise for animal lovers. Watch turtles lay eggs at Turtle Islands Park, keep a giggly distance at a crocodile farm or share an impish smile with some of the residents at Sepilok Orangutan Rehabilitation Centre. The houses on stilts in the fishing village of Buli Sim Sim are perfect for sightseeing and photographing.
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.
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.
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.
Johor Behru 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 travelers also recommend visiting the Arulmigu Sri Rajakaliamman Glass Temple, a unique Hindu temple decorated with brilliant glass mosaics.