Things to do in Kuching and Malacca, Malaysia

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If you travel to and through Asia, there is a good chance you will find yourself at the Kuala Lumpur airport (KLIA). It is a fantastic airport that services a large, thriving, and somewhat interesting city known simply as KL and a very friendly, welcoming, and interesting country: Malaysia. If you find yourself landing at KLIA, consider a stop-over in Malaysia. KL is a good two-or-three-day city with outstanding food, but you can also consider side trips to places like Penang, Langkawi, Cameron Highlands, and many others. A couple of favorites are Kuching and Malacca.

 

Kuching is part of East Malaysia and is the primary city of the state of Sarawak and resides on the third largest island in the world: Borneo. It is a short flight from KL and well-served by many airlines. Keep your passport handy because even though Kuching is part of Malaysia, there is still passport control and customs. Built along the Sarawak River, Kuching is one of the rainiest places in Malaysia. You may choose to go in the dry season and encounter more tourists or the rainy season and brave the moisture in favor of fewer people. With its good food, cat museum, river walk, dramatic scenery, cultural center, and other attractions, Kuching is a good attraction on its own.

 

What makes it special are orangutans and proboscis monkeys and in general the flora and fauna. Seeing these creatures is not a slam dunk. The orangutans tend to be more visible in certain seasons than others so the trip to the Semenggoh Wildlife Center should be planned carefully. The Rafflesia flower resides in Guning Gading National Park and is another trip that should be planned around the flower blooming. You can probably go to Bako National Park anytime and see the proboscis monkey and in the rainy season, you might even experience a hair-raising boat ride from Kampung Bako. The park and wildlife such as the proboscis, langurs, and Bornean bearded pigs justify the trip. It is a good day trip, or you can even spend a night or nights there.

 

A couple of hours drive from KLIA is Malacca, the city that lends its name to the famous straits that are the shortest shipping route between the Far East and the Indian Ocean. Malacca is a great tourist town, perfect for a two or three-night stay. Several cultures chipped in to make Malacca what it is today: Dutch, English, Portuguese, and Nyonya, a mixture of Chinese and Malay. The Stadthuys is the iconic center and attraction of Malacca and this red square with the Christ Church will be in almost any Malacca photo depiction. It is a great half-day excursion complete with seeing the square, shopping, and taking a ride in one of the decorated bicycles. Close to this is Jonker Street, famous for its night market but also an interesting daytime visit. Jonker Street is narrow and pre-pandemic, it was very crowded during the night market. Another great highlight is the straights themselves. The Malacca Strait Mosque is a beautiful structure, best seen in the morning or sunset but good anytime, and the straights themselves poke the imagination. There are museums, the Malacca River, and so many good places to eat, and of course the Nyonya and other food and snacks. There is even durian ice cream. Fishing on the straits of Malacca at night and then dining at an outdoor Portuguese seafood restaurant the next day might also interest some. There are ways to tailor Malacca to many tastes but one final reminder: the food is great.

 

These are just a couple of alternatives if you find your jet landing at KLIA and want to spend a few days exploring a fascinating and often under-appreciated country.

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