Malaysia the Heaven for Tourists – from the Eyes of Mr. Cesar Guedes former UNODC Country Representative Pakistan

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Cesar Guedes
Former UNODC Representative (served in 2013 – 2019 in Pakistan). Now engaged as Senior International Consultant and writer in various specialised magazines in Asia, Europe and Latin America on history, diplomacy, security, and travel. Guest teacher at academic institutions in Peru and Vietnam He is based in Hanoi, Vietnam.
Introduction
Malaysia is an amazing multicultural country in Southeast Asia that has been growing steadily over the past twenty years. Comprising of two regions separated by the South China Sea, Malaysia is a multi-ethnic, multi-religious federation of 13 states and three federal territories.
The country gained its independence in 1957 from Great Britain, who established their presence in the country in 1824. Previously it was intermittently occupied by the Netherlands and Portugal. Malaysia boasts one of Southeast Asia’s most vibrant economies, the fruit of decades of industrial growth and political stability.
The country is benefiting from a steady and continued growth in manufacturing, mining (including oil and gas), agroindustry (being palm oil and rubber key in this activity), agroforestry and tourism. It has an area of 331,000 square km and a population of 33 million. The literacy rate is of 96% and the per capita income US$ 11,780.
Day 1: Exploring Kuala Lumpur
My wife Lisa and chose Malaysia to travel and celebrate our 30 years wedding anniversary. As we arrived in Kuala Lumpur, the vibrant capital of Malaysia, we were immediately captivated by the blend of modernity and rich cultural heritage.
After checking into our hotel, we kicked off our adventure by heading straight to the iconic Petronas Twin Towers, the tallest twin towers in the world. Standing at the base, you marvel at their architectural grandeur and snap some obligatory selfies.
Next, we made our way to the nearby KLCC Park, a lush oasis nestled at the foot of the towers. Here, we took a leisurely stroll along the landscaped pathways, enjoying the serene ambiance amidst the urban hustle and bustle.
For lunch, we indulge in some delicious Malaysian cuisine at a local restaurant, savouring dishes like Nasi Lemak, Satay, and Roti Canai, which tantalize our taste buds with their aromatic flavors and spices.
In the afternoon, we visited the bustling Central Market, a vibrant hub of Malaysian arts and crafts. We browsed through stalls selling intricate batik fabrics, traditional handicrafts, and colourful souvenirs, perhaps picking up a few treasures to take home.
As evening approached, we headed to Bukit Bintang, Kuala Lumpur’s premier shopping and entertainment district. Here, we explored the bustling streets lined with upscale malls, trendy boutiques, and lively night markets. We later dined at one of the many restaurants offering diverse cuisines from around the world, followed by a nightcap at a rooftop bar overlooking the glittering city skyline.
Day 2: Kuala Lumpur Cultural Immersion and Exploration
After a hearty breakfast, we embarked on a cultural journey through Kuala Lumpur, starting with a visit to the majestic Batu Caves. Located just outside the city centre, these limestone caves are home to a series of Hindu shrines and temples, nestled within towering caverns. You climb the steep staircase leading up to the main cave, admiring the colourful statues and intricate carvings along the way.
From there, you make your way to the historic district of Merdeka Square, where you find some of the city’s most iconic landmarks, including the Sultan Abdul Samad Building and the National Mosque. You take a guided tour of the mosque, marvelling at its stunning architecture and learning about its significance to Malaysia’s Islamic heritage.
For lunch, we sampled some traditional Malay Street food at Jalan Alor, a bustling food street renowned for its wide array of culinary delights. You can feast on dishes like Char Kway Teow, Hokkien Mee, and Hainanese Chicken Rice, relishing the bold flavours and aromatic spices.
In the afternoon, we visited the Islamic Arts Museum Malaysia, home to one of the most impressive collections of Islamic art and artifacts in Southeast Asia. We spent hours wandering through the galleries, admiring exquisite calligraphy, intricate textiles, and stunning ceramics. We also visited the National Museum of Malaysia, which provides a pictorial and well time-lined recount of the fascinating history of the country.
As the sun sets, you head to the KL Tower, one of the city’s most iconic landmarks, for panoramic views of the city bathed in golden light. You can ascend to the observation deck and watch as the city comes alive with twinkling lights, offering a breathtaking vista of Kuala Lumpur’s skyline.
Day 3: Kuala Lumpur Nature and Relaxation
On your final day in Kuala Lumpur, you escape the urban hustle and bustle for a day of tranquility and natural beauty. You start your morning with a visit to the Kuala Lumpur Bird Park, the world’s largest covered bird park, home to over 3,000 birds from 200 species. You wander through lush aviaries, marvelling at colourful parrots, majestic eagles, and exotic hornbills.
Next, we made your way to the serene Lake Gardens, a sprawling green oasis in the heart of the city. Here, you take a leisurely boat ride on the tranquil lake, soaking in the peaceful ambiance and enjoying views of lush gardens and towering trees.
In the afternoon, we visited the Kuala Lumpur Butterfly Park, a tropical paradise teeming with thousands of colourful butterflies fluttering amidst lush foliage. You stroll through winding pathways, surrounded by vibrant blooms and the gentle hum of butterfly wings.
As evening falls, we headed back to the city centre for one final culinary adventure, perhaps trying some traditional Malay dishes at a local restaurant or exploring the vibrant street food scene.
Bidding farewell to Kuala Lumpur, we are filled with memories of its vibrant culture, stunning architecture, and warm hospitality, knowing that we have only scratched the surface of all that this dynamic city has to offer.
Day 3 : Excursion to Meleka Exploring History and Culture
It is a comfortable 1 ½ hour road trip on an excellent superhighway that you can complete in just 1 hour and twenty minutes. This city has seen better days; a couple of centuries ago it was the most important seaport in this part of Asia due to its strategic location in the Straits of Malacca connecting China, India and Europe for the spice and silk trade.
It was often the source of disputes among Great Britain, Portugal and the Netherlands who have left in the city and indelible imprint. As the sun peeks over the horizon, casting a golden hue on the ancient streets of Melaka, a city steeped in history and culture, we embarked on a day-long adventure to immerse ourselves in its captivating charm.
Our day began with a visit to the iconic A Famosa fortress, a remnant of the Portuguese colonial era. Standing proudly against the backdrop of the azure sky, this centuries-old fortress whispers tales of battles fought, and conquests won.
As you stroll through its weathered walls and crumbling ramparts, you can almost feel the echoes of the past reverberating through the air. Nearby is Little Portugal, also known as “Portuguese Settlement,” which is a vibrant community established centuries ago during the Portuguese colonization of Melaka, this enclave retains a distinct cultural identity characterized by its Portuguese heritage. Being myself of Portuguese ancestry, I could highly appreciate the value of this well preserved distant outpost.
Next, we made your way to St. Paul’s Hill, where the majestic ruins of St. Paul’s Church await. Climbing the stone steps to the summit, you’re rewarded with panoramic views of the city below. Inside the church, weathered tombstones and ancient artifacts offer a glimpse into Melaka’s rich history as a melting pot of cultures and religions.
As the midday sun reaches its zenith, we ventured into the heart of Melaka’s vibrant culinary scene. Along Jonker Street, a kaleidoscope of sights, sounds, and aromas envelops you as street vendors peddle their wares. You can indulge your taste buds in a gastronomic adventure, sampling local delicacies such as Nyonya laksa, chicken rice balls, and satay skewers.
After satiating our appetite, we explored the bustling Jonker Walk Market, browsing through stalls selling everything from handcrafted souvenirs to traditional batik textiles. The lively atmosphere is infectious as street performers entertain crowds with music and dance.
In the afternoon, we delved deeper into Melaka’s rich cultural heritage with a visit to the Baba Nyonya Heritage Museum. Housed within a beautifully preserved Peranakan mansion, the museum offers a fascinating glimpse into the lives of the Peranakan Chinese community through intricate artifacts, opulent furniture, and captivating stories passed down through generations.
Continuing your cultural immersion, we meandered through the narrow alleyways of Chinatown, where ornate temples and traditional shophouses line the streets. The intoxicating scent of incense fills the air as devotees pay homage to their ancestors, casting a sense of reverence over the bustling enclave.
As the day draws to a close, we found ourselves by the tranquil waters of the Melaka River, where brightly painted trishaws line the banks. We boarded a river cruise boat, gliding along the gentle currents as the setting sun paints the sky in hues of orange and pink. This was indeed a marvellous sunset spot.
Against the backdrop of ancient mosques and colonial-era buildings, we reflected on the day’s adventures, feeling grateful for the opportunity to experience the magic of Melaka—a city where history, culture, and tradition converge in a symphony of sights, sounds, and sensations.
Day 4: flight to Kota Kinabalu (Sabah – North Borneo) city tour
It is a 2 ½ hours flight from Kuala Lumpur to Kota Kinabalu (known as Jesselton during British times). We began our visit to the vibrant Gaya Street Marke, where you can browse through local handicrafts, souvenirs, and sample delicious street food.
We visited the impressive Kota Kinabalu City Mosque, known for its stunning architecture and serene surroundings built on an island in an artificial lake. At the entrance they have a photo exhibit featuring the most important mosques in the world, including Islamabad´s Faisal Mosque.
We drove thereafter to Signal Hill with gives you an uninterrupted panoramic view of Kota Kinabalu city skyline, its harbour and neighbouring islands. In the afternoon, we took a leisurely stroll along the waterfront at Tanjung Beach, where you can enjoy beautiful views of the sunset over the South China Sea.
For dinner, we indulged in some fresh seafood at one of the many waterfront restaurants, where you can feast on dishes like grilled fish, prawns, and squid at very reasonable prices.
Day 5: Kota Kinabalu Island Adventure
On our second day, we embarked on an island-hopping adventure to explore the stunning marine life and crystal-clear waters of the Tunku Abdul Rahman Marine Park. We joined a boat tour that took us to several picturesque islands such as Manukan, Sapi, and Mamutik. Indeed, a nice time snorkelling among colourful coral reefs, swimming in the clear blue waters, or simply relaxing on the white sandy beaches. In the evening, we returned to Kota Kinabalu.
Day 6: Kota Kinabalu Cultural Immersion and Nature Exploration
We immersed in the rich cultural heritage and natural beauty of Kota Kinabalu. Starting our day with a visit to the Sabah State Museum, we learnt much about the history, culture, and traditions of Sabah’s rich history. The museum is well designed with various exhibits that detail important aspects of Sabah´s timeline.
I found the section of British Colonial era and Second World War 7 Japanese Occupation well-structured and informative. Next, drove 30 Km east to the Mari Mari Cultural Village to experience traditional Kadazan-Dusun culture (they were head-hunters until not so long ago !!), including traditional music and dance performances, as well as demonstrations of traditional handicrafts and agricultural practices.
In the afternoon, we took a scenic drive out of the city to visit the majestic Mount Kinabalu, Southeast Asia’s highest peak. While not enough time to climb the mountain, it was still very enjoyable to appreciate stunning views of the mountain and surrounding landscapes from various viewpoints along the way. In the evening, we took a dinner cruise (Borneo Cruises) and navigated for two hours by the Kota Kinabalu Bay and dined overlooking the beautiful and splendidly illuminated city skyline.
Day 7: Trip to Sandakan
We took an early morning flight (6am) to Sandakan; it is a 40-minute direct flight. Otherwise it would be a 330Km – 6hrs drive ! The Sandakan region is especially important to explore the Borneo Island jungles and wildlife, including endangered species such as orangutans, sun bears, and proboscis monkeys and pygmy elephants.
We left the airport and commenced our journey after a quick breakfast stop at a beautiful colonial coffee house in Sandakan downtown. From there we drove directly towards Sepilok, which is approximately a one-hour drive on a smooth well-built modern road, passing through patches of jungle and palm oil plantations.
The Sepilok Orangutan Rehabilitation Centre is a sanctuary dedicated to the treatment of orphaned and injured orangutans, with the aim of eventually releasing them back into the wild. You can witness the feeding sessions which usually happen in the morning around 10:00 AM.
A few hundred meters away is the Bornean Sun Bear Conservation Centre. Here, you can observe rescued sun bears, the smallest bears in the world, and learn about conservation efforts to protect them. The have an imprint patch of fur in their chest (like a sun) that makes each one of them unique; it is like a fingerprint.
Lunch was at a nearby resort with a buffet lunch that had multiple food options from he local cuisine and fresh fruits and juices.
We drove for about one hour back to the coast, actually a mangrove area at the mouth of a river, and visited the Labuk Bay Proboscis Monkey Sanctuary. This sanctuary offers a chance to see proboscis monkeys in their natural habitat.
They are also nick named “Dutch Monkey for their fair skin, reddish fur and long nose. Feeding sessions usually occur in the late afternoon, providing excellent photo opportunities. These apes cannot survive in captivity.
In the evening and after fulfilling day of wildlife encounters, we headed back to Sandakan Airport to take our flight to Kota Kiinabalu
Day 8: Kota Kinabalu and back to Kuala Lumpur
After a relaxing morning and time at the hotel swimming pool, which has an infinity pool with amazing sea view we checked out and took our flight to Kuala Lumpur and onwards connecting to our international flight back to our home in Hanoi.

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