Locals laud Taiping (City of Peace) for trailblazing Malaysia’s first museum, first railway and first newspapers in English, Malay and Tamil. But it’s Taiping’s ‘Rain City’ title that has stuck. Verdant lake gardens and a refreshing hill station to its east, Bukit Larut, are both gifts of Taiping's weather, the wettest in Peninsular Malaysia.
This busy, compact fishing town has everything that travellers passing through on their way to the islands might need: OK sleeping options, shops, cold beers, even a laundry. The river is clogged with colourful fishing boats, and though most people only stay long enough to hop a ferry to Tioman, this is a relaxed village with a surprisingly lyrical air.
Mt Kinabalu & Kinabalu National Park
Gunung Kinabalu, as it is known in Malay, is the highest mountain on the world's third largest island. It is also the highest point between the Himalayas and the island of New Guinea. Rising almost twice as high as its Crocker Range neighbours, and culminating in a crown wild granite spires, it is a sight to behold.
Malaysia's oldest, largest and most popular national park straddles the borders of Pahang, Kelantan and Terengganu. Since 1939, Taman Negara (which means national park in Bahasa Malyasia) has been a haven for amazing tropical flora and a vast variety of wildlife, including elephants, tigers, leopards and flying squirrels.
Like Bako National Park 8km to the east, the Santubong Peninsula (also known as Damai) is a 10km-long finger of land jutting out into the South China Sea. It was declared a national park in 2007. With some decent sandy strips and a couple of resorts, Santubong is the best place in Sarawak for a lazy, pampered beach holiday.
Petaling Jaya & Shah Alam
Heading southwest of Kuala Lumpur along the Klang Hwy, the Kota Darul Ehsan ceremonial arch marks the transition between the city and Selangor. Just over the boundary, the mall-heavy suburb of Petaling Jaya (known locally as PJ) blends into Shah Alam, the state capital, with its famous Blue Mosque.
A visit to the world's most famous place to see orangutans in their natural habitat is all the more compelling thanks to the outdoor nursery for orangutan youngsters in the same complex, and the nearby Sun Bear Conservation Centre and Rainforest Discovery Centre. In addition, the Labuk Bay Proboscis Monkey Sanctuary is only a short drive away.
Klang & Pelabuhan Klang
About 30km west of KL lies Klang, Selangor’s former royal capital. The town makes for a pleasant diversion and, if combined with a trip to nearby Pulau Carey and a sumptuous feast in the vibrant Little India, a good day out. Aficionados of mosque architecture should consider Klang a must visit for the beautiful art deco Masjid Di Raja Sultan Suleiman.
Referred to as the 'mainland' on Penang Island, Seberang Perai is the 760km strip of land on peninsular Malaysia that is also part of Penang State. Living in the island's shadow, this is the forgotten half of the state, even many of the people who live here commute to work and play across the Selat Utara (North Channel).
Though referred to as a hill station, Genting is a modern and heavily developed resort 2000m above sea level. About 50km north of KL, it’s in stark contrast to the Old English style of other Malaysian upland resorts. There are no walks here, no quaint stone village, and in general little public space to stroll about and enjoy the mountain scenery.