Semester Break Exploration Guide For International Students in Malaysia
February 05, 2024
Malaysia is a vibrant and multicultural country in Southeast Asia. It is a well-known educational destination among international students due to its cultural diversity and affordability.
It is also a great destination for international students to explore the country during their semester breaks.
Therefore, as an international student, you have to make use of this opportunity to explore Malaysia.
The country welcomes you with open arms, offering rich cultural diversity, beautiful landscapes, delicious foods, and friendly locals that make your trip memorable.
Stepping outside the confines of the academic environment and exploring Malaysia will be an enriching experience for you.
Therefore, I provide this article as a guide for you to make the most of your stay in the country.
So buckle up and get ready to experience one of the best trips during your semester break in Malaysia.
What are the activities that you can do in Malaysia?
You might be wondering how to turn your semester break in Malaysia into one of the best experiences.
There are plenty of suggested activities that you can do while exploring Malaysia, such as visiting attractions, sightseeing, celebrating local festivals, and adventurous activities.
1. Visiting Malaysia’s attractions
Whether you study in city-bustling or suburban areas, as an international student, exploring Malaysia during your semester break is a must-do.
Not only is it a fun and relaxing experience, but it also offers a great opportunity to learn more about the country's heritage, history, and people.
To make the most of your visit, there are some top destinations in Malaysia that you won't want to miss out on, including Kuala Lumpur, Melaka, and Penang.
Each of these places has its own unique attractions waiting to be explored.
Starting with Kuala Lumpur, the capital city of Malaysia, is an exciting and vibrant destination. One of the city's most iconic landmarks is the Petronas Twin Towers.
As once the tallest towers in the world, these magnificent structures showcase the city's modern architecture and offer breathtaking views from the sky bridge.
Moreover, if you are interested in shopping, Kuala Lumpur has various clothing options.
One of the most famous places is Bukit Bintang, where you can buy local or international clothes brands from shopping malls or boutiques.
However, if you are looking for more budget-friendly options, you can explore thrift stores in Chinatown and the Puchong area, which are accessible by train.
Moving on to Melaka, it is known as a UNESCO World Heritage due to its rich historical background.
The city's well-preserved architectural marvels, such as St. Paul's Church and A Famosa, offer insights into the region's colonial past.
And lastly is Penang, which is known for its street art, historic architecture, and delicious local foods.
If you are looking for aesthetic and vibrant surroundings for OOTD, you can visit the capital city of Penang, Georgetown. Georgetown is a popular choice because of its vibrant street art, with murals and sculptures.
Similar to Melaka, Penang is on the UNESCO World Heritage list. You can take walking tours or visit sites like Fort Cornwallis, Khoo Kongsi, or the Blue Mansion to gain insights into Penang's architectural heritage and history.
And do you know what's the best part of Penang?
It lives up to its title, "Food Paradise of Asia". Penang local food has a lot to offer, from a mix of Malay, Chinese, and Indian cuisines to fusion ones like Baba Nyonya (or Peranakan), which uses Chinese and Malay cooking methods.
So, when in Penang, make sure to taste some of the must-try foods, including Assam Laksa, Cha Kuetiau, Nasi Kandar, Cendol, Curry Mee, Lor Bak, Mee Goreng, and more.
2. Enjoy nature sightseeing
Another activity that you can do in Malaysia is explore the country's beautiful natural landscapes.
One must-visit destination is East Malaysia states, which are Sabah and Sarawak.
The states are famous for their rainforests and wildlife, which you can find in, for instance, Kinabalu National Park.
Imagine you trekking through the forests, surrounded by nature's serenity, diverse plants, and animal species- it will become a precious memory for you!
Besides Sabah and Sarawak, you can also do adventurous activities while enjoying the natural landscape in Taman Negara (National Park).
Fun fact: Did you know Taman Negara spans across three states, Kelantan, Pahang, and Terengganu?
Yes, you read it correctly! It is one of the largest and oldest tropical rainforests in the world.
You can do many exciting activities in Taman Negara, such as canopy walking, jungle trekking, bird watching, mountain climbing, cave exploration, and more.
If you plan to spend your semester break there, you can visit by tourist or public bus and train services (if you are from Johor Bahru or Kota Bahru).
Important note: You must gather sufficient information first before going to Taman Negara. Since there are different transportation modes, you must know your arrival destination and fare services.
But if you're looking for a refreshing getaway, you can plan your trip to Cameron Highlands. This place is known for its tea plantations, strawberry farms, and pleasant weather.
There are plenty of casual activities you can do in Cameron Highlands, like ATV riding, visiting The Sheep Sanctuary, strolling at Cameron Highlands Floral Park, camping at Taman Eko, and more.
Each activity has its ticket fare, so make sure to check the price first.
3. Holiday trip to Malaysian islands
Planning a holiday trip to the Malaysian islands is an absolute treat for international students in Malaysia.
There are a few suggestions, such as Pulau Perhentian and Pulau Redang in Terengganu.
The islands are a breathtaking destination with beautiful beaches and clear water.
You can do fun activities, like snorkeling, scuba diving, island hopping, and watching the sunset or sunrise at the beaches.
4. Festival celebrations and leisure activities
As an international student in Malaysia, you have many opportunities to celebrate cultural and festival events.
Celebrating local festivals such as Hari Raya, Chinese New Year, and Deepavali is one of many highlights of being a part of the Malaysian community.
You can experience joyous moments, visit open houses, and partake in traditional feasts, where you can taste local delicacies.
You can also engage with the local community to understand the significance of this celebration.
Apart from festival celebrations, you can participate in workshops that offer insights into crafts or cooking.
For instance, you can do batik painting in Central Market, Pasar Seni, at an affordable price range of RM15-Rm30. You can choose a batik design, and the shopkeeper will brief you about color mixing.
And you can also participate in a cooking class. Whether you want to learn about local or international cuisines or desserts, you can join the cooking class with a price ranging from RM60 to RM100 in the Kuala Lumpur area.
5. Do adventurous activities
If you love adventurous activities, here are some more suggestions- white water rafting and cave exploration.
Picture yourself paddling through wild rapids and swirling currents, working as a team to "conquer" the challenging waters.
Surrounded by lush forests and towering cliffs, you will feel the rush of excitement as you navigate the breathtaking scenery.
Or, if you're up for an underground thrill, you can sign up for cave explorations in the Batu Caves and Gua Tempurung.
Batu Caves, located in Gombak, is a captivating destination. As you approach the caves, you will be "greeted" by the awe-inspiring sight of massive limestone formations rising high into the sky.
The adventure begins as you climb the steep steps leading to the main cave entrance, where a statue of Lord Murugan stands guard.
The experience not only provides thrilling moments but also offers cultural insights.
The main cave houses several Hindu shrines and temples, where devotees come to offer prayers and pay respects.
On the other hand, Gua Tempurung, located in Perak, has a magnificent limestone view.
As you enter the cave, the first thing you'll notice is the stalactites hanging like natural chandeliers. The walls have beautiful rock formations shaped over centuries by the flow of water.
The cave consists of five platforms, and each of them has a different level of difficulty.
You can book tour types, ranging from Tour 1 to Tour 4 (from the easiest to most challenging), before you proceed with the cave exploration.
Important note: You must prioritize safety when you do cave exploration, such as following a professional guide, wearing lightweight and moisture-wicking cloth materials, staying hydrated, and being mindful of your physical abilities.
Travel tips for international students exploring Malaysia
Exploring Malaysia as an international student can be an exciting adventure. However, you must keep a few helpful travel trips in mind.
1. Budgeting and finding student discounts.
Firstly, you must budget wisely, and taking advantage of student discounts can go a long way in maximizing your funds.
Malaysia has various student discounts on transportation, attractions, and even dining options.
So, you must carry your student identification card and inquire about discounts to the staff.
Doing so will help you save money while experiencing all the fun activities in Malaysia.
2. Safety tips while traveling
Next, you must prioritize your safety by familiarizing yourself with local customs, laws, and emergency contact numbers.
Besides, keep your personal belongings secure and be watchful in crowded places to avoid theft.
You can do some research about the safety of the areas you plan to visit to take the necessary precautions.
3. Using local transportation
Exploring Malaysia becomes easier by commuting via local transportation. Public transportation, like buses, trains, and taxis, is widely available in major cities like Kuala Lumpur and Penang.
Commuting via this transportation offers convenience and affordable options for exploring different regions of the country.
4. Learn basic phrases in Malay
As an international student, you must learn basic phrases in Malay, as it is beneficial throughout your trip.
Understanding simple greetings and expressions will help you navigate daily interactions and foster connections with the locals.
Malaysian cuisines to enjoy while you exploring Malaysia
While you travel to some regions in Malaysia, you need to taste the local delicacies.
The country has diverse food offerings, and it is a wonderful way to experience the culture and flavors of Malaysia.
1. Street foods in Malaysia
You can find Malaysian street food stalls at hawker centers, which are open-air areas where many different food sellers gather.
There are some must-try foods, such as cha kuetiau, murtabak, roti John, and desserts at reasonable prices, ranging from RM5-RM15.
When you're at street food stalls, there are a few tips to keep in mind. Firstly, you look for busy stalls, as this indicates their food is tasty and popular.
If this is your first time going to food streets in Malaysia, you can ask the locals for recommendations, as they can guide you to the best stalls.
2. Traditional foods
Other than food streets, you must also experience traditional foods like rendang, laksa, and Hainanese chicken rice.
Rendang is a flavorful, aromatic dish that originated from the Malay community. You can eat it with steamed rice or nasi impit (rice cubes). Rendang is commonly served during cultural celebrations like Har Raya Aidilfitri.
In addition, laksa is a popular noodle soup dish that has regional variations. For example, Penang laksa and Sarawak laksa have different tastes.
Why don't you give them a try and find which one you like?
Hainanese chicken rice has also become a staple in Malaysian cuisine.
This dish consists of poached or roasted chicken served with fragrant rice cooked and a variety of condiments like ginger, chili, and soy sauce.
It is often served during festive occasions and family gatherings.
Embracing the opportunity to savor these traditional dishes allows you a deeper understanding of Malaysian culture and a chance to partake in the festivities.
3. Popular traditional kuih and desserts
Aside from Malaysian typical heavy meals, like nasi lemak or roti canai, you can taste traditional kuih and desserts in Malaysia.
The most popular ones are Karipap (or curry puff), kuih seri muka, and kuih lapis. Seri muka and kuih lapis are sweet. Meanwhile, karipap has a crunchy and savory taste.
In addition, Cendol and ABC (Ais Batu Campur or Ais Kacang) are refreshing desserts.
Both of them are shaved-iced desserts and have different toppings and ingredients.
Cendol has pandan-flavored jelly mixed with coconut milk and sweet palm sugar syrup.
However, ABC is a colorful dessert with sweet ingredients like a scoop of vanilla ice cream, red beans, sweet corn, grass jelly, and colorful syrups.
Both of them taste sweet and creamy and are perfect desserts for hot days in Malaysia. You can find these desserts at street stalls at prices ranging from RM3 to RM6.
4. Mamak stalls
Usually, mamak refers to outdoor stalls run by the Indian-Muslim community.
Mamak stalls have a lively atmosphere and are open for extended hours, which makes them popular with students and locals who want to eat or hang out with friends.
They have a variety of food choices, like roti canai, mee goreng mamak, and nasi kandar, at affordable prices.
In addition to the delicious food, you must try teh tarik, which is frothy tea with condensed milk. It is a famous drink that customers often get at the stalls.
Besides good food and drink, the stalls are known for being friendly and lively places.
The fun atmosphere, along with the smell of spices and sizzling food, makes mamak stalls a popular spot for late-night get-togethers.
5. Variety of fruits selections
The variety of fruit selections in Malaysia offers a delightful experience for international students. Malaysia's tropical climate allows the growth of various exotic fruits, such as durian, rambutan, and mangosteen.
You may be familiar with durian, known as the king of fruits. It has a distinct taste and smell. Some might find the taste to be sweet and creamy, while others think it is too strong.
Rambutan, on the other hand, has a juicy taste that is similar to lychee. But do you know that Malaysians would peel this fruit's skin and remove its seed before chilling it?
That's one of the Malaysian ways of eating rambutan, especially on hot days.
Mangosteen is another popular tropical fruit, and it has delicate white segments. Its flesh is sweet, a bit tangy, and juicy.
In addition to durian, rambutan, and mangosteen, there are many other tropical fruits in Malaysia. These include jackfruit, papaya, dragon fruit, starfruit, and more.
So, take the chance to try these tropical treats while you travel in Malaysia during your semester break!
Eating etiquette and practices in Malaysia
Have you ever wondered about trying to eat like a Malaysian? If so, let's try these tips!
One of them is using your hands while eating certain food, such as nasi lemak and kuih.
It is common in Malaysia to eat with your right hand, using your fingers to pick up the food and bring it to your mouth. But if you are not comfortable with this way of eating, you can also use utensils such as chopsticks, a spoon, or a fork.
The second tip is very important, and it applies to all Malaysian dishes.
When you have dishes with gravy, condiments, or sauce, you must mix it all together with the rice or noodles on your plate. This helps to spread the flavors and make each bite tastier.
Let's move on to the next tip, which is that Malaysians often eat together as a group. This is called communal eating, where everyone partakes in the dishes placed in the center of the table.
Here's a helpful communal eating tip: If the food is out of your reach, you can politely ask someone sitting nearby for assistance. They will be happy to help you by scooping some food onto your plate or passing it to you.
So, that's all, folks!
As an international student in Malaysia, you must go and spend some time in casual and fun outdoor activities.
Why not add a touch of fun and create moments of joy during your study journey in Malaysia?
Take a break from your academic pursuits and explore Malaysia- its culture, people, and nature, during your semester break. I'm sure it will be an exciting and memorable journey for you!