Experiential travel, Malaysia
Get up close and personal with elephants, learn kitchen secrets from a chef, hurl yourself down a snowy mountainside, paraglide into paradise – if you're after an eye-opening, mind-expanding or pulse-quickening experience, these are the hotels for you…
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Step off the grid in Sabah, an island where crystal-clear waters, primeval rainforest and untamed fauna beckon the wild at heart.
With its untouched, dramatic landscape, this north-eastern pocket of Malaysian Borneo is a place for adventurers. Idling the days away on pristine beaches and in bath-warm waters may be tempting, but its vast wilderness lies waiting to be explored. This is a playground for eco-adventurers: active types can enjoy river cruises, white-water rafting and caving. Don a snorkel from the dive shop at Bunga Raya or pick up a PADI license to explore the reefs around the islands of the Tunku Abdul Rahman National Park (+60 (0)88 523 500), which is home to jungle-clad Gaya Island where you can spy giant clams and blue-spotted rays. Back on dry land, hang out with gentle ginger giants at the Sepilok Orangutan Rehabilitation Centre (+60 (0)89 531 180), see pygmy elephants at the Tabin Wildlife Reserve (+60 (0)88 267 266) or trek up the daunting, Unesco-protected slopes of Mount Kinabalu.
Underwater explorers will love Gayana Eco Resort's coral-dotted, marine-reserve dive centre (the treks into the Borneo jungle won't disappoint, either). Bali's Alila Manggis is splashing distance from seven of the globe's best dive sites and is edged by sublime snorkeling waters. Sumba, an hour's flight from Bali, is a hush-hush travellers' secret, and at Nihiwatu you'll sample the island's best: incredible ocean views, breeze-cooled outdoor living and world-class surf breaks in reach. A speedboat ride from Amanzoe, a marble-hewn hilltop haven in southern Greece, is the island of Dokos, whose diver-drawing coast lays claim to the world's oldest known shipwreck.
With fabulous hawker fare and bags of colonial charm, there are plenty of reasons to visit Penang. Soak up the fragrant flavours of the Straits with a culinary tour.
You’d be remiss not to sample Georgetown’s celebrated street food: Malaysians flock here from across the country to pull up a plastic chair in atmospheric Chinatown. Tastebud-tingling Nyonya cuisine is the star of the show: wander down brash, neon-lit New Lane and pick the most appetising hawker stall. Tuck into char koay teow, a deceptively simple dish of smoky stir-fried noodles studded with juicy prawns, or try fresh popiah rolls and chargrilled stingray.
Missed out on Malaysia’s national dish? Sample award-winning satay in First and Business Class on Malaysia Airlines and order tender braised lamb shank, moreish tandoori prawns or delicate cod from its Chef on Call service. Gourmet Economy travellers can also upgrade to six fine-dining meals including Japanese, Malay and Western treats.