Seberang Perai's main town is Butterworth, but most of the year there's not a huge amount to detain visitors here beside ambling around the town centre and checking out Penang Bird Park. The exception is during the George Town Festival in August, when the town comes alive for the weekend with its own Butterworth Fringe Festival (www.facebook.com/ButterworthFringeFestival).
The closest beach area to Kuala Lumpur, Port Dickson (PD) is popular with locals, Singaporeans and resident foreign expats. The coastline is lovely, and the area makes for a relaxing short break, or even day trip from the city, but it’s difficult to get around here without your own vehicle.
Ranau is a collection of concrete shop blocks on the road between KK and Sandakan. There's a busy Saturday night market, but otherwise this a good town for passing through: rampant construction is scarring the lovely valley it sits in. That said, there is a podiatry experience here you don't want to miss (we don't often use those words).
Off the beaten tourist track, Kuala Selangor has a friendly kampung (village) atmosphere and a few sights worth making the trek out here for, including a nature park in the mangroves, the remains of an old fort and a nightly light show of fireflies along the Sungai Selangor.
The main draw of Alor Gajah, 24km north of Melaka City, is the nearby resort A'Famosa, with its fun and refreshing water park. The countryside town itself, 6km from the resort and just off the highway to KL, has a small museum, some gaily painted shophouses and the striking blue-roofed mosque Masjid Al-Rasyidin Daerah – but little else of great interest.
The Kinabatangan River is Sabah's longest: 560km of chocolatey-brown water, coiling like the serpents that swim its length far into the Bornean interior. Riverine forest creeps alongside the water, swarming with wildlife that flee ever-encroaching palm-oil plantations.
Tunku Abdul Rahman National Park
Whenever one enjoys a sunset off KK, the view tends to be improved by the five jungly humps of Manukan, Gaya, Sapi, Mamutik and Sulug islands. These swaths of sand, plus the reefs and cerulean waters in between them, make up Tunku Abdul Rahman National Park, covering a total area of just over 49 sq km (two-thirds of which is water).
An old town on the banks of the enormous Sungai Pahang, Temerloh has hints of colonial style and a colourful Sunday market. As the main city of central Pahang, it serves as a transport hub. The bus station is in the centre of the shop-and-restaurant filled new town (which is just a few minutes' walk from the old).
A lethargic riverside town, languorously Malaysian in mood, Muar was historically an important commercial centre but today it’s a very sleepy backwater. Most of the action is in the central Chinatown, which shows off cool historic architecture and a few temples. It makes for an off-the-beaten-path (though not very action-packed) stop between Melaka and Johor Bahru.
Poor Kuala Besut! Though a lovely seaside town, most visitors only spend an hour or two here. Such is the fate of the transport gateway to one of Malaysia’s best-known island paradises. The restaurants and coffee shops are all located around the jetty (where you can rent snorkelling equipment for use on the islands). The town’s few hotels are also scattered around the jetty.