Concrete jungle

Malaysia is known for its vast array of architecture, but travellers may not know that it is home to masses of forests and wildlife.

©Pete Seaward/Lonely Planet


Kate Veteri

Destination: Malaysia

Explore the real concrete jungle this year by heading to Malaysia, just a hop, skip and jump from Singapore – home of the 2018 HIA National Conference. As one of only 17 megadiverse countries of the world, Malaysia offers a culturally rich experience for all those who visit the skyscraper- and forest-lined country. Known for its landscape studded with historical colonial-style architecture, religious temples and the modern stylings of some of the world’s tallest buildings, Malaysia has still managed to retain its ecological beauty.

One stunning example is Pulau Tioman Island, where you can immerse yourself in the translucent waters of the South China Sea, or get lost amongst the lavish trees of the island’s jungle. Offering visitors the best of both land and sea, Tioman Island showcases the natural beauty of Malaysia and the harmony developed between manmade villages built on the waterfront and the surrounding natural environment.

Cameron Highlands, Malaysia
©Pete Seaward/Lonely Planet
The Petronas Twin Towers building was the tallest in the world between 1998–2004
©weerasak saeku/Shutterstock

Lush forests in the east of Malaysia are home to around 2000 species of trees, with approximately 240 different species per hectare. Spectacularly, these forests are the habitat of the Rafflesia genus – the largest flowers in the world, with a record diameter of one metre. While the east is one of the most biodiverse areas in the world, Malaysia in its entirety was estimated in 2007 to be two-thirds covered in forest. Around 14,500 species of flowering plants and trees create dense forests that are believed to be 130 million years old, and contain an estimated 20 per cent of the world’s animal species – making Malaysia home to some of the most diverse wildlife on earth.

As well as variety in plants and nature, Malaysia also has a wide variety of foods on offer. Walk through Jalan Alor and breathe in the alluring smells of traditional foods that have been influenced by cuisines from around the world. The traditional cuisine has many external influences but the Malaysian dishes have developed their own unique flavour and style.

Chili and other spices are liberally used, largely thanks to Malaysia’s history as part of the ancient spice route. While local dishes vary in different areas, Jalan Alor exhibits the widest variety of foods due to the capital’s high immigrant population.

The many cultures that have contributed to Malaysia’s exotic cuisine all have their own history and traditions. Visitors can learn about local cultures and lifestyles at the living museum, Sarawak Cultural Village. With a replica building representing every major ethnic group, you can truly immerse yourself in Malaysian culture.

The Menara KL Tower: 7th tallest telecommunications tower in the world
©Victor Maschek/Shutterstock
The Cathedral Cave is the largest & most popular cavern in Batu Caves
©Jarel Remick/500px

All buildings at the Sarawak Cultural Village are staffed with members of the various ethnic groups dressed in traditional costumes, displaying historical activities. Delving deeper into the lifestyles of Malaysian ethnic groups, each building has a ‘storyteller’ who provides visitors with expert knowledge in describing and interpreting traditional cultures and lifestyles, as well as entertainment through multicultural dance performances.

After a cultural immersion you can take a step back into the wonderful history Malaysia has to offer by walking through Batu Caves. An important Hindu landmark, Batu Caves are three major cave temples and multiple smaller caves situated within a limestone hill. The 100-year-old temple is home to numerous Hindu statues and paintings. It sits amongst limestone foundations said to be around 400 million years old. The 43-metre high, iconic gold painted statue of Lord Murugan illuminates the entrance of the cave. All materials for the creation of the statue were brought from Thailand – including the 1,550 cubic metres of concrete and 250 tons of steel bars.

On an even bigger scale, you can look to the sky in Kuala Lumpur for amazing modern Malaysian architecture. The Petronas Twin Towers and the Menara KL Tower are a sight to see sitting amongst the clouds, and both hold records for their height. Climbing up to 451.9 metres in height, the Petronas Twin Towers is the tallest twin towers building in the world – while the Menara KL Tower, sitting at a height of 421 metres, is the tallest telecommunications tower in South East Asia.

Langkawi, Malaysia
Photo courtesy Tourism Malaysia
Culture in action
©Matt Munro/Lonely Planet

Located in the heart of Kuala Lumpur, the Menara KL Tower is situated within Bukit Nanas Forest Reserve – one of the oldest forest reserves in the country. The thriving green forest reserve is home to flora and fauna indigenous to Malaysia’s tropical climate. The preservation of a 100-year-old Jelutong tree showcases Malaysia’s integration of the natural environment into modern living. In addition to miraculous views of the forest in a capital city, the Menara KL Tower is also home to the KL Tower International Towerthon Challenge held in May 2018. For the athletically inclined, the challenge consists of an 800-metre uphill run before ascending 2,058 stairs to the finish line.

If you prefer something more relaxed than scaling thousands of stairs, Kuala Lumpur will be home to Trenchless Asia 2018 between 7–8 May. Showcasing the latest in available international machinery, products and methods in installation and refurbishment of underground utilities and pipelines without disruption to the surface, Trenchless Asia is the perfect event for engineers and building professionals alike – and a great way to get into the spirit of the 2018 HIA National Conference.

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