By Lloyd Green
Heading to Malaysia soon? Here’s a month-by-month guide of the must-see things to do during the year.
We start off with Thaipusam, a colourful annual Hindu festival where thousands of devotees travel from Kuala Lumpur to Batu Caves and up the temple’s 272 stairs to the shrine of Lord Murugan to fulfil vows and perform prayers. There’s dancing, music and other bizarre rituals including body piercing and carrying milk pots and kavadi up to the temple. It’s an experience not to miss.
Chinese New Year is a time of family, friends and in Malaysian spirit, friends of friends. The whole country comes to life with traditional dancing dragons and lions, parades, fireworks displays, decorations and of course amazing food. Oh, and if you dress in red, you’ll be loved even more! Traditional CNY hotspots are Petaling Street at Chinatown, Kuchai Lama in Petaling Jaya, George Town in Penang, Ipoh and Malacca.
Each year these spectacular balloons dominate the skies over Putrajaya at the International Hot Air Balloon Fiesta. Held on the banks of the picturesque Putrajaya lake, the event attracts entrants from all over the world and offers plenty for families and children including picnic areas, night displays and fireworks.
April is home to the Malaysia Water Festival which takes place annually in Langkawi, Port Dickson and Labuan off the east coast of Sabah. The Labuan event is by far the biggest attraction on the island and features the Labuan International Deep Sea Fishing Tournament, the Cross Channel Swimming Challenge, the Round Island Kayak Challenge and much more.
May marks the start of high season for strawberry production in the Cameron Highlands, and while the region is attractive to tourists all year round, many farms offer the opportunity for visitors to handpick their own strawberries during peak months.
As far as bucket lists go, climbing Mount Kinabalu in Sabah is certainly atop most people’s agenda. The views are spectacular and the climb itself is undoubtedly an experience to remember. The best months to climb are between April and August with daily permits during peak season hard to come by.
Borneo is a hotbed for some of the most pristine diving spots in the world with thousands of visitors flocking to Sabah each year. There is an abundance of sea life to explore, with enough variety to entertain experienced divers as well as holiday-makers.
Lose yourself in the rhythmical beats of the Rainforest World Music Festival, a three-day annual international music and cultural extravaganza at the foot of Mount Santubong National Park in Sarawak. Fall in love with the music, the people and of course the rainforest as bands, musicians and artistes from all over the globe sweep you off your feet.
Crystal clear-blue water, sandy white beaches, dense jungle. What else could you want? Unlike other popular destinations, Perhentian Islands is closed during monsoon season (October to March), so make the most of this island gem before the weather rolls in.
If you love sport, you’ll love Malaysia this October. Hold on tight for the F1 Petronas Malaysia Grand Prix in its new time slot of September 30 to October 2, followed by the thrills and spills of the Malaysian MotoGP on October 28 to 30. For golfing fans, catch the world’s best players in action at the USPGA Tour-sanctioned CIMB Classic and the Sime Darby LPGA Malaysia.*
Malaysian’s love to shop and there’s no better time to grab a bargain than during Malaysia’s main shopping festival, the ‘Malaysia Year-End Sale’. The sale begins in mid November and continues until early January the following year. Popular shopping malls in Kuala Lumpur include Mid Valley Megamall and The Gardens Mall, 1 Utama Shopping Centre and Pavilion KL.
The Penang Island Jazz Festival is Malaysia’s longest-running jazz festival. Combining the best acts from Malaysia and abroad the festival attracts over a thousand jazz aficionados and die-hard fans each year who make the annual pilgrimage for the end of year musical extravaganza.
*Note: Times and dates for both the CIMB Classic and the Sime Darby LPGA Malaysia have yet to be finalised.