By Emma Richards
A bucket list for 2016; with a country like Malaysia, it’s difficult to know where to start. It’s no secret that Malaysia has an abundance of world class, tropical beaches. It’s well known that Malaysia is home to some of the lushest, most bio-diverse rainforest on the planet. If it’s shopping you’re after, whether it’s treading the expansive malls for your designer catch or scouring the local stalls for a unique trinket, Kuala Lumpur is hard to beat.
So in a country that has so much to offer, and in a time when Google can tell you the top 10 things to do anywhere in the world, I hope to offer up a bucket list that you wouldn’t necessarily find in the pages of your Lonely Planet guide. This alternative bucket list to Malaysia offers the chance to enjoy some of the lesser known idiosyncrasies of this fine nation.
Photo source: mopsg.com
Melaka is famous for a lot of things, historic significance predominantly, and rightly so. Melaka’s streets are filled with colonial buildings and littered with historic monuments, affording any visitor an enlightening stroll around the small community. What it may not be so well known for is its artistic street art. Penang tends to dominate the niche of Malaysian street art, however, Melaka has quietly been developing its own scene that is flourishing within the tight colonial alleyways and avenues.
The best way to take it all in is not to set yourself a path but just meander through the city streets and see where they take you. From full pavement-to-roof murals to the more obscured, hidden pieces, take the time to appreciate them all. For an impressive display head to the Melaka River where, stretching out along the bar and shopfronts, you can find murals of all colour and subject matter. Some encompassing the rich history of the town and many depicting its more current obsession, food!
Melaka is a culturally rich and vibrant city that has actively embraced its varied and diverse past and, I’m happy to see, is now embracing its vibrant and eclectic future.
Photo source: facebook.com/EPIC.Tribe
When you think of Malaysia it’s unlikely that psy-trance festivals are one of the first things that come to mind. With 2015 being the ‘year of festivals’ they certainly lived up to the name with hundreds of festivals, of all variety, taking place throughout the country in the 12 month period. A slightly more fringe festival that may not have dominated the advertising inches was the small, alternative festival of Belantara.
While many may flock to Thailand and Goa for their psy-trance fix, Malaysia has a growing scene that hosts an annual festival, drawing psy-trance appreciators from around the globe. Located just outside of the bustling metropolis of KL, this little jungle festival offers the opportunity of open air camping, calming meditation and the chance to dance all night to world renowned DJ’s. The smaller size of the festival affords a more intimate vibe and provides a great setting to get to know your fellow festival goers and to truly appreciate the beauty of the jungle surroundings.
Photo source: klscah.org.my
Not far from the centre of Kuala Lumpur rests a gem of tranquillity and reflection. The Kwong Tong Cemetery is the oldest in KL and is the resting place for many of the first Chinese arrivals to Malaysia. Here you can find elaborate tombs for anyone from a humble tin miner to some of the most prominent city pioneers, including Yap Ah Loy, the founder of KL.
A graveyard may not be at the top of everyone’s list as a must-visit whilst in KL but the tranquil settings, the ornate tombstones and the sense of history in this place makes it a worthy, thought-provoking and calming break from the hustle and bustle of KL city. The tombs themselves are grand and elegant individual works of art in their own right. Many describing in detail the lives of those they entomb and some still holding photographs, giving you a real sense of briefly gazing into the past.
Photo source: davidhagerman.photoshelter.com
You can’t visit Malaysia without taking some time to appreciate the food. Malaysians love to eat! And why wouldn’t they? The food on offer here has something to satisfy even the most discerning of foodies. Malaysians are passionate about their food and nowhere is this more evident that the bustling 24hr mamak stalls. These places remain busy from dawn to dusk and beyond. You can even drop in at 3am and the place will still be buzzing with life. Not only is the food out-of-this-world delicious but the atmosphere and the energy is captivating.
These spots aren’t just a place for a good feed, they pose as a social gathering place for much of the community. They offer a place to catch up with friends, watch a late night football match with the locals and put the world to rights over a steaming glass of teh tarik.
This is just a small taste of things to keep you entertained in Malaysia throughout 2016. Whatever your interests or your passions you’re bound to be spoilt for choice here. No doubt while adventuring around you’ll find the country has more and more to offer as you go, so throw yourself in, try new things, meet new people and come to love the culture and people of Malaysia as much as I do.