With a knack for tracking down off-the-beaten-path destinations, Renee Osman, Head Of Sales & Marketing for Diethelm Travel Malaysia, has spent nearly a decade helping travellers explore Malaysia and leave with lasting memories.
Here’s what she had to share for an insider’s look at this enigmatic country.
I would have to say the Petronas Twin Towers thanks to their sheer domination of Kuala Lumpur’s skyline and prominent recognition in the heart of our lovely city…it’s an icon of Malaysia!
This is a classic example of my favourite hotspot – the building is surrounded by KLCC Park, a green haven that boasts Lake Symphony, jogging tracks, walking paths, waterfalls, fountains and reflecting pools. It also has cool restaurants located at the foot of the building in Suria, making it a place where I like to chill in the evening after office hours too!
Located in the heart of Sabah, Deramakot Forest Reserve is indeed a hidden gem and my absolute favourite “under-the-radar” destination. Rich in wildlife with 75% of Sabah’s mammal species found within its 55,507 hectares of mixed dipterocarp forest, Deramakot is one of Sabah’s best wildlife watching destinations and is only accessible by four-wheel-drive vehicles.
I live in Kuala Lumpur and among the city’s perks is our highway connectivity. For a long weekend, my family and I enjoying heading out on a 2.5-hour drive to the old town of Ipoh. Here you can discover a wealth of interesting history, gorgeous street murals, amazing local food and engaging outdoor activities such as caving, water rafting and abseiling. There’s so much to do in this little town…we love going back again and again.
If I could only choose one, I’d pick the dish that is loved by everyone in this country: nasi lemak. It’s basically just rice cooked in coconut milk but it’s the side dishes that really matter. Depending on where you are in Malaysia, nasi lemak comes with a variety of flavourful accompaniments such as hard-boiled eggs, peanuts, vegetables, lamb/chicken/or beef curry, seafood and sambal (chilli-based sauce).
Malaysia is officially a Muslim country with approximately 60% of the population being Muslim and it holds a set of beliefs regarding social customs that may seem conservative to some travellers. While that’s true, Malaysians are also an incredibly diverse, multicultural bunch and are respectful towards each other’s different beliefs and cultures – more than 140 languages are spoken in the country! There are also plenty of destinations in Malaysia with clubs, bars and restaurants serving alcohol to cater to international guests.
We love food. A mix of different cultures and flavours, Malaysian dishes are often the subject of intense debate for many Malaysians on what is the best. Food plays such an important role throughout the country that it’s common for us to greet one another not by asking “How are you?” but “Dah makan?” meaning “Have you eaten?”. And, yes, we need to eat rice every day – a day isn’t complete without it!
The people in Malaysia are warm and friendly – we are willing to give suggestions, lend a helping hand or simply welcome you with a smile. Most Malaysians speak English, but you’ll be able to feel the warm welcome even when there is a language barrier.
My go-to has to be SPG by Bijan in Kuala Lumpur. Located at Jalan Ceylon, this restaurant offers a new wave of modern Malay cuisine in a lovely tropical terrace lounge within a secret bungalow.
My family and I loved the overnight trip to Lemanak River in Sarawak – Sarawakian hospitality is hands-down the best! A visit to Sarawak is not complete without visiting an authentic Iban longhouse. Traditional longhouses are no longer easy to find due to widespread developments, but this tour offers a real longhouse experience and chance to connect with different tribes in Sarawak, complete with beginning the journey travelling in a shallow draught canoe. (Also, the longhouse we take guests to has been supported by Diethelm Travel Malaysia for over a decade to help maintain not only the original structure but traditional customs in the surrounding region.)
I’ve never had a chance to visit Tawau. The town is a gateway to many unique places, including Tawau Hills National Park (where you can spot pygmy elephants on a private plantation) and Sipadan Island, which is one of the best dive spots in the world.
I would love to experience Diethelm Travel’s 2-Day Marine Biology Awareness course in Kota Kinabalu.
The programme offers a chance to learn more about the local marine ecology, conservation projects and how tropical ecosystems are severely threatened by human activities.
Travelling for me is not just about visiting beautiful places but also a journey of learning.