KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia - This multiracial nation's tourism tag line is "Malaysia Truly Asia," and true to its slogan, it is home to a unique potpourri of Asian cultures - Malay, Chinese, Indian along with many indigenous groups on Borneo island.
Malaysia is one of the most pleasant, hassle-free countries to visit in Southeast Asia. Aside from its gleaming 21st-century glass towers, it boasts some of the most superb beaches, mountains and national parks in the region.
Any tourist itinerary would have to begin in the capital, Kuala Lumpur, where you will find the Petronas Twin Towers, which once comprised the world's tallest buildings and now hold the title of second-tallest. Both the 88-story towers soar 1,480 feet high and
Also worth visiting is the Central Market, a pre-war building that was the main wet market for the city, and has now been transformed into an arts and cultural center.
The limestone temple Batu Caves, located nine miles north of the city, have a 328-foot-high ceiling and feature ornate Hindu shrines, including a 141-foot-tall gold-painted statue of a Hindu deity. To reach the caves, visitors have to climb a steep flight of 272 steps.
In Sabah state on Borneo island, you'll find the small mushroom-shaped Sipadan island, off the coast of Sabah, rated as one of the top five diving sites in the world. Sipadan is the only oceanic island in Malaysia, rising from a 2,300-foot abyss in the Celebes Sea. Borneo contains part of three different countries Malaysia's Sabah and Sarawak states share the island with Indonesia and Brunei.
You can also climb Mount Kinabalu, the tallest peak in Southeast Asia, visit the Sepilok Orang Utan Sanctuary, go white-water rafting and catch a glimpse of the bizarre Proboscis monkey, a primate found only in Borneo with a huge pendulous nose, a characteristic pot belly and strange honking sounds.
While in Malaysia, consider
Another interesting destination is Penang, known as the "Pearl of the Orient." This island off the northwest coast of Malaysia boasts of a rich Chinese cultural heritage, good food and beautiful beaches.
In Pahang, Endau-Rompin National Park boasts of tropical jungles that date back millions of years, making them older than those of the Congo or Amazon. Picturesque trails, giant limestone caves, fishing spots and river trips make it a haven for adventurers.
Tourism is Malaysia's second-largest source of foreign exchange after exports. The country this year is celebrating the 50th anniversary of its independence from Great Britain.
Malaysia recently launched its biggest-ever tourism campaign in the hope of luring 20 million visitors in 2007. More than 16 million tourists visited in 2005, the last year for which complete statistics were available.
While the majority of the visitors were from Asia mostly neighboring Singapore, Thailand, Indonesia, Brunei, China, Japan and India growing numbers of Western travelers are also making their way here. Of the 885,000 travelers from the West, 240,000 were from the United Kingdom, 265,000 from Australia and 150,000 from the U.S.
www.tourismmalaysiausa.com; (213) 689-9702.