Malaysia sits between Singapore and Thailand, literally and on the scale of how easy it is to travel.
The country is divided into two main regions, Peninsular Malaysia on the west, composed of Kuala Lumpur & nearby states.
And, East Malaysia, composed of Sabah and Sarawak in Borneo Island.
Best for Safaris, endangered species, hiking
Underappreciated by Americans, Malaysia is rightfully known for its incredible ancient rainforests. You could spend your entire trip hiking and visiting wildlife sanctuaries — I had a nice time watching the world’s derpiest-looking bear at the Sun Bear Conservation Centre — without ever getting bored. And yet you can still wander through Kuala Lumpur to get your shopping and dining fix. Malaysia also routinely comes out on top in world rankings of countries most attractive to Muslim travelers (along with Singapore, which we’ll get to in a sec).
Best place to go: Borneo. The island is divvied up among a few different countries — visit the Malaysian slice for Kinabatangan River. Book a boat tour (Sukau Greenview is a great one) for viewing all manner of wildlife, including the region’s legendary orangutans, which are on track to go extinct in less than a decade (for a much closer look once you’re done, catch a bus to Sepilok Orangutan Sanctuary). If you are very lucky, you’ll also spot some pygmy elephants. Have you ever seen a baby pygmy elephant? It is literally the smallest a creature can be and remain an elephant.
Food to eat: Laksa. I’m going to keep this brief because thinking about it while not being able to eat it is vaguely distressing, but laksa is a thick, spiced, brightly colored coconut curry with a truly magical combination of add-ins like hard-boiled egg and lime. I think it’s best with shrimp, but you find the laksa that works for you.