8 of the best countries / destinations to visit around Malaysia

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Malaysia is surrounded by countries that are rich in cultural history, architectural achievement, bustling city life and natural beauty. In less than three hours, you could be in Siem Reap ready to climb through the ruins of its ancient temples, or be walking along one of Krabi’s picturesque beaches squishing the sand underneath your toes.

Here’s a list of the best countries around Malaysia that are less three hours’ flight from Kuala Lumpur – a perfect distance for a long weekend getaway.

1. Siem Reap, Cambodia


Time from KL: 2hrs

A location sure to give you your fair share of ancient history and temple tours, the city of Siem Reap is home to thousands of temples. Wander through the ancient grounds of the famous sites, stand in the ruins of the Angkor Wat libraries and see the smiling Buddhas at Angkor Thom. At Ta Prohm explore the corridors and courtyards where tree roots have snaked their way through the stone structures and floors, and relive the scene from the Tomb Raider movie.

After a day of exploring the city’s temples, Pub Street will welcome a hungry appetite. With a variety of restaurants and cuisines available, you’ll be able to enjoy some local grub or a western-inspired dish. After your meal, you can finish off the evening browsing the local markets for a bargain or relax with a foot massage at one of the spas.

2. Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam


Time from KL: 2hrs

Formerly known as Saigon, the city was renamed Ho Chi Minh City after the Vietnam War. Ho Chi Minh has all the hustle and bustle of an Asian city and then some. Amid the skyscrapers, the organised chaos of motorbikes, rickshaws and cars crowd the roads lined with shopping, hotels, restaurants and museums.

For interesting day trips, travellers can visit the historical Cu Chi tunnels, which are a series of underground tunnels built during the Vietnam War that served as the the Viet Cong’s base. There you can learn about the historical context of the extensive network, and if you’re brave enough go underground. It’s an eye-opening tour, where guides educate you about all the gore and trickery that took place during the Vietnam War.


3. Krabi, Thailand


Time from KL: 1hr 20mins

On the coast of the Andaman Sea, Krabi is a province of tropical islands. It’s a spot that draws tourists from across the world with the temptation of island-hopping from one beautiful beach to the next, welcoming visitors with stretches of white sand and clear coastal waters.

Some of the most popular islands in the Krabi province include Koh Phi Phi, Koh Lanta, and Railay Beach, where tourists can enjoy underwater adventures such as snorkelling and diving, or simply soak up the sun from the sandy shore. Aside from its beaches, a dose of culture and religion can be found at the sacred sites located in Krabi. One of the most sacred sites in the province is the Tiger Cave Temple, a place of Buddhist worship. After a demanding climb of over 1200 stairs to reach the summit of the temple, the workout rewards you with vistas over the Thai landscape.

4. Bandar Seri Begawan, Brunei


Time from KL: 2hrs 20 minutes

The small nation of Brunei includes two areas of land surrounded by Malaysia and the South China Sea. As a country relatively untouched by the demands of tourism, Brunei offers a fascinating insight into a tightly regulated sultanate – including bans on selling alcohol and drinking in public (although you may import alcohol to drink in private).

The capital city of Bandar Seri Begawan is a welcome contrast from the skyscrapers and modernity of other Asian cities such as Singapore and Kuala Lumpur, instead showing the country’s affluence in its buildings of religious worship.

In fact, the mosques in Brunei are some of the most magnificent and majestic buildings in the region. In 1992, as an honour to the current sultan and the 25th anniversary of his reign, the Jame’Asr Hassanil Bolkiah Mosque was constructed and is now the largest mosque in Brunei. Underneath its regal white, blue and gold outside, the interior of the mosque showcases artistic details with stained glass windows, curvy staircases, and golden chandeliers hung from high ceilings.

5. Yogyakarta, Indonesia



Time from KL: 2hrs 35mins

Situated on the Indonesian Island of Java, this city, among others, is often a back-runner against the reigning tourism hub of Bali. But just like Bali, Yogyakarta is home to an abundance of equally beautiful natural landscapes, from sand dunes, hilly terrain, to waterfalls, and temples dating back to the 9th century.

Yogyakarta’s two most well-known temples have been listed as UNESCO World Heritage sites. These two sites are the Borobudur Temple, a place of worship for Buddhism, and the Hindu temple of Prambanan. The Borobudur Temple draws tourists out of bed for an early morning to witness a sunrise spectacle. The elevated temple grounds offer panoramic views of the Indonesia landscape with the ever-changing sky as a backdrop, as the sun rises from behind the surrounding volcanoes.

6. Singapore


Time from KL: 1hr 15mins

As a major hub for international air traffic, this metropolis sees its fair share of international visitors, welcoming them with a blend of Asian and European culture and influence. Known for immaculately kept streets – so much so that the country has even banned chewing gum – Singapore is a city of eclectic and unique architecture.

Stemming from colonial and more contemporary influence, the cityscape features a number of distinctive structures that have put Singapore on the map, such as Marina Bay Sands, Helix Bridge, Gardens by the Bay and the Esplanade.

Behind its affluence of high-end shopping malls, hotels and dining, the city’s vibrant past is celebrated in the architectural structure and contents of National Museum of Singapore, with history dating back hundreds of years.

7. Vientiane, Laos


Time from KL: 2hrs 45 mins

Unlike many fast-paced capitals around the world, Laos’ capital Vientiane emits a slower, laid-back vibe. The pace of the city paves the way for visitors to enjoy a relaxed exploration of the tree-line streets and rich heritage of Vientiane. Situated riverside, days in Vientiane are spent admiring the colonial architecture and Buddhist temples, eating from French-inspired cafés and bakeries, and are best finished with a sunset over the Mekong River.

Among the many Buddhist structures built in the area is the Pha That Luang. Located in central Vientiane, the golden building serves as a stupa, which is a place of meditation. Pha That Luang is an important national monument in Laos, serving as a symbol of Buddhist religion.

8. Mandalay, Myanmar


Time from KL: 2hrs 40mins

A previous capital of the country Myanmar, this city is located right on the Irrwaddy River. As a destination that is often only visited en route to Bagan, the city is a common stopover hub and often visited as a day trip.

While the city may be overlooked in comparison to Bagan’s crowd-pulling sunrises and sunsets over ancient pagodas, Mandalay has views of its own. From the summit of Mandalay Hill, a panoramic view of the flat sprawling city of Mandalay can be enjoyed after a barefooted climb. It is a 240 metre climb to the summit of Mandalay Hill. Perched atop the hill is the Sutaungpyei Pagoda, which holds within its wall a vibrant and glitzy interior.

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