5. Believe it or not, Kuala Lumpur is not just a concrete jungle
Kuala Lumpur offers a few days worth of city comforts, bar crawling and shopping galore. Fewer know that the capital city is also a good starting point to experience Malaysia's rainforest. Straight in the city centre, KL Eco Park's canopies teem with monkeys, while the nearby Lake Gardens offer attractive botanical gardens and the KL Bird Park, the city's top-notch tropical aviary.
In the northern fringes of Kuala Lumpur at Kepong, the Forest Research Institute of Malaysia (FRIM), established in 1929, is an accessible jungle research centre covering 600 hectares. At last, the Titiwangsa Lake Gardens are perfect for jogging, a quiet jungle stroll, and views of Kuala Lumpur's skyline.
6. Malaysia is predominantly Islamic but has a rich ethnic mix
With the way Muslims are portrayed in the media these days, knowing that Malaysia is a predominantly Islamic nation may discourage many travellers from visiting. Truth be told, Malay Muslims are just a majority among a rich ethnic mix, and even so, they are very hospitable people.
Even without venturing into Malay hinterland – Kelantan, Terengganu, Johor states and the islands along the east coast – meeting liberal Malays in the cities will change ideas built on stereotypes.
7. Chase Malaysia's ancient and colonial ghosts
Malaysia's rich colonial past always rewards travellers with unexpected adventures. Think of Kuala Kangsar in Perak: did you know that Anthony Burgess, author of seminal A Clockwork Orange, lived and taught English here in the mid 1950s? Go find his favourite pub.
More ancient mysteries await in the Lenggong valley: a UNESCO World Heritage Site, it's home to the Perak Man – Southeast Asia's oldest most complete human skeleton – and a three-million-year-old meteorite impact site. If that's not enough, British-built bona fide manor Kellie's Castle, near Batu Gajah, is said to have secret dungeons and a resident ghost.
8. Make your visit count
From participating to turtle conservation programmes on the east coast, to volunteering at Langkawi's dog shelter, getting involved with conservation work on the Kinabatangan River, or helping the endangered Sun Bears in Sepilok, Malaysia has plenty on offer for conscious, nature-loving travellers. By taking part in any of these programmes, not only will you make a difference, but you'll bring home everlasting memories.
9. Rent a car to experience all Malaysia has to offer
Buses and trains are fast and convenient, but they don't reach off-the-grid areas rich in cultural and natural delights. What's more, Malaysia's well-manned roads are ideal for self-driving, there's no traffic in the countryside, and you won't need an international driving licence to rent a car. Sharing rental costs works better than riding buses when travelling as a group, and propels unending chances for adventure.
Explore more of Malaysia with The Rough Guide to Malaysia. Compare flights, find tours, book hostels and hotels for your trip, and don’t forget to buy travel insurance before you go.