The Malaysian capital often gets overlooked for a stopover in favor of Hong Kong and Singapore, but not only does the city itself have plenty to offer, once it’s time to bolt, you’ve got plenty of options too.
Only a few miles from Kuala Lumpur, Batu Caves is a must see if you’re visiting KL. The three big limestone caves (as well as a clutch of other smaller ones) contain a number of important Hindu shrines, and are reached via a staircase of 272 steps. There’s also plenty of wildlife, like the macaque monkeys – inside the caves – who’ll eat any peanuts that you have lying around, and there are often Hindu ceremonies taking place around the cave.
When KL’s modern buildings get overwhelming, Malacca is the perfect antidote. 150km south of KL, it’s a UNESCO World Heritage Site thanks to its long history. It was centre of the Malay world until the 16th century and then went through Portuguese, Dutch and British colonization, all of which have left their architectural mark. For a mix of Eastern and European influences, it’s on a par with Georgetown in Penang.
The nearest beaches to Kuala Lumpur (just over an hour), Port Dickson offers 12 miles of palm-fringed sand, a coral reef, and exceptionally clean water. There’s even a local yacht club offering dinghy and sailing lessons in the Straits of Malacca, as well as a lagoon and a lighthouse towards the south of the stretch.
This elephant sanctuary two hours away from KL, is also known as the Elephant Orphanage Sanctuary, since its inmates are all unwanted orphans. It’s set in the beautiful Krau Game Reserve and you don’t just have to look at the animals – you can feed them, bathe them, even ride them. You might want to bring a change of clothes, though, in case you get unintentionally sprayed.
Want to see how the Malaysians do theme parks? Then head over to Sunway Lagoon. The place is split into five areas: an extreme park, wildlife park, water park, scream park and amusement park, and the titles are pretty self-explanatory. It’s good value too – 100 ringgits, or $31, for entry into all five sites, which beats Dollywood.