The Southeast Asian region must be very fascinating for many people. It seems like every winter and spring in the northern or southern hemisphere I can see Caucasians (I could be biased and throwing a stereotype) roaming around all over the place – my home country included. In general, when I mention Malaysia (my home country) to other fellow travelers, these are the most common responses:
“A transit to Singapore”
“Layover before Bangkok”
“Do you still live on trees?” – this last one probably is rare in recent years.
I grew up in west Malaysia, where Kuala Lumpur (KL) is located. Kay El is the ground of the famous twin towers building, the tallest in the world before Taipei 101 and Burj’ Khalifa came about. It remains the most iconic “must see and visit” when you visit Malaysia. The Petronas Twin Towers stands out among all other sky scrappers within the vicinity of Klang Valley and it is most beautiful after sunset.
After two decades of residence in Kuala Lumpur, I’ve had the chance to venture out a little further to the east. Still in my country, but the journey is nothing less than 2 hours and 15 minutes by airplane. I fell in love with Kota Kinabalu, the capital city of the state that is home to the highest mountain in Southeast Asia. The city is also in the third largest island in the world – Borneo.
Borneo is famous among adventurers and travelers around the world since it still owns the oldest rainforest on the planet, in addition to Mount Kinabalu. Historically, Borneo used to be known as one piece of land (well, technically it is still in one piece) but since the 1960’s, three different countries – Malaysia, Indonesia and Brunei, have been governing this big island.
Personally, I feel that Borneo is an exciting place because it is very diversified in its nature, people and culture. Although the biggest chunk of the island is Indonesian, the north part of Borneo belongs to Malaysia (Sabah and Sarawak are Malaysian states). Thus, the total number of spoken languages in the country is no joke.
If you think that west Malaysia is so vibrant with the colourful combination of various cultures and religions (i.e. the major three cultures are Malay, Chinese and Indian; with more than a dozen ethnic and sub-ethnic), fly across the South China Sea to east Malaysia (Sabah or Sarawak) and I bet you will leave Malaysia with a never-ending story to tell.
Geographically, it is challenging to travel and explore Sabah and Sarawak – more than half of the land area is still home to the untouched rainforest; hundreds-and-thousands species of flora and fauna, great caves and river systems as well as the mountainous range.
Travelers from all around the world are usually spotted at the airport carrying huge backpacks – a clear sign that they are here to explore the toughest parts nature can offer. In the city where I used to live a few years ago, I got to know many mountain climbers, river rafter enthusiasts, sky and sea divers as well as trekkers. For those who prefer to engage with less risky activity, many opt for unique experience with the indigenous communities such as staying at long houses or joining them in any of the local festivities.
Different parts of Borneo offer a different kind of experience. Although Borneo is split into a territory of three different countries and it’s known to be geographically challenging, it is possible to travel across from one place to another – it might be painstakingly slow, but there are buses, ferries and planes connecting between cities among these three countries.
I started out with an introduction on Kuala Lumpur, the capital city of Malaysia before going across the sea to briefly describe Borneo, where two more states of Malaysia are located. It is impossible to share everything in one post but I can vouch that if you decide to make Malaysia a pit stop for your next travel, you will not regret it.
The year 2014 will be the official “Visit Malaysia Year” and I hope to see more travelers here. If I am not traveling, feel free to get in touch with me. I had fun writing this and I hope to be able to write more in the future. Or maybe, I will see you first where ever you are.
Check out a few videos about KL, Kota Kinabalu, Sabah & Brune: