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Where to go in Malaysia with kids
Malaysia is a Southeast Asian country occupying parts of the Malay Peninsula and the island of Borneo. It's known for its beaches, rainforests and mix of Malay, Chinese, Indian and European cultural influences. The capital, Kuala Lumpur, is home to colonial buildings, busy shopping districts such as Bukit Bintang and skyscrapers such as the iconic, 451m-tall Petronas Twin Towers.
1. Legoland Malaysia and Thomas Town, Johor Bahru
These awesome big attractions are located in Johor Bahru just across the causeway from Singapore. You can’t go wrong with these Malaysia attractions for family. Thomas Town, in particular, is a great option if you are visiting Malaysia with toddlers
2. KLCC, Kuala Lumpur
This area of Kuala Lumpur is a perfect destination on a family trip to Malaysia. There are many attractions here including a massive free playground and water playground. There’s also a science museum, aquarium and the huge Petronas Towers.
3. KL Bird Park, Kuala Lumpur
I LOVE this bird park in Kuala Lumpur and it is definitely a best place to visit in Malaysia with family. It has the biggest walk in avairy in the world and is just fantastic to walk around. It’s nice being surrounded by so much green in this big city.
4. Sunway Lagoon, Petaling Jaya
This big theme park is located in Petaling Jaya – very close to KL and is one of the best places to visit in Malaysia with kids. There are many different sections including a new Nickelodeon themed and a wildlife park as well as more thrilling rides
5. Cameron Highlands
Another of the great family holiday destinations in Malaysia is the Cameron Highlands. There are some great low key attractions in these hills which make for a lovely respite from the heat. You can visit tea plantations, strawberry farms, bee farm, butterfly house, go on some great hikes, learn about the indigenous people of the area and enjoy the outdoors
- Legoland Malaysia and Thomas Town, Johor Bahru
- KLCC, Kuala Lumpur
- KL Bird Park, Kuala Lumpur
- Sunway Lagoon, Petaling Jaya
- Cameron Highlands
- Eat and play in Penang
- Semenggoh Wildlife Centre, Kuching
- Perhentian Islands
Multiculturalism at Work: Malaysia with Children
On a personal note, I believe that the country’s complex multinational, multi-ethnic and multi-faith history (as well as its present and future) is a worthy experience for families interested in the concept of world citizenship.
Malaysia is a predominantly Muslim state, and if you live in Western countries and watch Western media, it can be very easy to see all followers of that faith in a negative light.
However, spend a little time in Malaysia with kids, and you realize just how well various ethnicities and religions can get along. I’m not saying that it’s some doe-eyed utopia, but Muslims, Christians, Hindus, Buddhists, Atheists/Agnostics and others on the religious spectrum have coexisted here peacefully for a century. And not just “co-exist.”
They don’t just “tolerate” each other: Muslims wear Santa Claus hats at Christmas, and Christians attend Ramadan feasts with their neighbors at sundown. Buddhists get henna tattoos for Diwali, and Hindus celebrate Chinese New Year with friends at local temples.
People don’t just tolerate each other — they actually seem to like each other, too.
Bring a Jacket
Malaysia is super hot and humid year-round, so lots of buildings have the air conditioning cranked. Oh, it feels great when you’ve just traipsed in from the tropical heat outside, but after ten minutes it can be freezing, especially if you walked in sweaty and in shorts & sandals. We always brought a jacket or sweatshirt to the mall and often brought socks and a fleece jacket (yes a fleece) to the movie theater.
Malays use their right hand for eating, shaking hands, pointing, etc. Try to do the same. This is not strictly enforced, so if you’re left-handed, don’t stress, but FYI. It’s also very common to eat with your hands, sans utensils. There is almost always a sink nearby for people to wash their hands afterward.
If you stay for a while, you’ll discover that “Malay time” is similar to the “mañana culture” of Spain and Latin America. Two o’clock doesn’t mean two o’clock, and “I’ll fix it today” usually means “I’ll get to it sometime this week.” Don’t fight it (at least not too much) as it won’t change much and only give you an ulcer.
Eating in Malaysia
Visiting Malaysia with kids means lots of great eating experiences. Malaysia is an eater’s paradise. Thanks to geographic location and a dizzyingly mixed cultural history, you can find so many types of food that you and your kids will love. There is Chinese, Thai, Indian, Sri Lankan, and Malay flavors, to start. But if you’re looking for pizza and burgers, you’ll find plenty. In our neighborhood in Penang, we also had Mexican, Korean, Japanese, Vietnamese and even Bulgarian!
If you like spicy food, you’ll find plenty, but unlike many places in Southeast Asia, Malaysia has lots of non-spicy options, as well.
Malaysian shopping malls are an experience unto themselves, and their food courts and in-mall restaurants will satisfy just about any need. That said, our favorite places to eat are the hawker centers. These are basically where a dozen or more street food stands get together under one roof. The food is cheap, fresh and delicious, and this way you can try many things at once. Highly recommended
Driving in Malaysia
The peninsula has an excellent road system, and we drove all over it, but on the highways, people seem to only go 30-50 kilometers above or below the speed limit. The result: one really fast lane, and one really slow one.
We’d often got into the fast lane to pass a cement truck plodding along, only to have a white BMW appear out of nowhere flashing its high beams at us to get out of the way.
Keep in mind that people will ride your bumper at over 120 km/hour on highways if they can’t get around you. My advice is to oblige them, but keep watch for extremely slow vehicles entering the other lane.
Some villages have no other major roads to turn to, so it’s uncommon for a tractor or bulldozer to pull onto the highway to reach the next town three exits away.
Muslim Customs and Taboos
Malaysia has an ostensibly secular government, but there are certain factors of Muslim culture that you should be aware of. For example:
Public Dress Code: Bikinis and other revealing clothing are ok at pools and beaches, but it’s best to put on some clothes when walking into a cafe, restaurant or other public indoor space.
Alcohol: It is available at most non-Halal restaurants and convenience stores. There aren’t any official open-container laws, but don’t get blatantly hammered around local Malays.
Pork: Pork products (and alcohol too) will often be in a far corner of grocery stores like TESCO. And with pork, the Malay cashiers won’t touch it. Instead, there will be a Chinese- or Indian-Malay guy in the pork section to wrap it and put a barcode on it, then when back at the register, so you hold that item for the cashier while she scans it.