After months of staying in the great indoors to curb the spread of Covid-19 and help flatten the curve, Malaysians can once again pack their bags and go on holidays around the country.
The domestic tourism sector has resumed under the recovery movement control order (MCO) period, which is expected to last until Aug 31. Under this phase, interstate travel – which includes flights and ferry services – is allowed once again, with standard safety measures put in place at all entrance and exit points.
Malaysians, however, are still barred from travelling overseas.
Many local travel stakeholders see this as an opportunity for Malaysians to explore their own backyard, which in turn may help revive the country’s tourism sector.
Tourism, Arts and Culture Minister Datuk Seri Nancy Shukri said restarting tourism in the country is timely as this can help the country accelerate the economic recovery phase.
Nancy, however, cautioned travellers to abide by the guidelines and safety measures issued by relevant authorities.
“These activities need to be carried out with utmost responsibility while practising the new normal and strictly adhering to all standard operating procedures (SOPs) set by the National Security Council and the Ministry of Health, ” she said.
For Malaysians who have had to hold back their wanderlust during the MCO, the question now is: Where to go first?
Here, we list down some of the best holiday options that you can pursue during the recovery MCO.
Escape to a hidden island
Redang, Sipadan, Tioman and Pangkor probably top the list of Google results when you search for “popular islands in Malaysia”. But in this new age of social distancing, it might be a good idea to check out some of the more hidden gems in the country.
Malaysia has many islands that should not be dismissed. Sure, you might find better resorts and facilities at more popular or tourist-friendly islands. But a trip to the smaller or lesser-known ones will reveal pristine beaches, clear blue waters and more.
Some destinations to look out for include Mataking Island and Lankayan Island in Sabah, Tenggol Island in Terengganu and Aur Island in Johor.
Mataking, for one, is where you can find an underwater post office, touted to be the first of its kind in Malaysia. The attraction is actually a 12m-long wooden cargo ship that was sunk over a decade ago to create an artificial reef and help the surrounding sea creatures thrive.
Tenggol, meanwhile, is the farthest island from the mainland of Terengganu and was uninhabited in the past. These days, it is recognised by enthusiasts as one of Malaysia’s best-kept diving secrets. There are many diving spots here such as Tanjung Gemok, Teluk Rajawali, Teluk Air Tawar and Tokong Timor.
Eat to your heart’s content
The United Nations World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO) states that gastronomy is key to helping the industry recover.
“As governments seek to revitalise their hard-hit tourism industry, gastronomy will have a key role to play in enriching the tourism offers and stimulating economic development in destinations all around the world, ” UNTWO said in a statement.
Fortunately for us Malaysians, we live in a country where good food is found in every nook and corner.
While home-cooked food is great, it’s time to go on a Malaysian food trail with your nose – and stomach! – as your guide. Every state has its own unique dishes, which you can discover on a solo journey, or a road trip with family and friends.
Head to Kelantan for some nasi kerabu and ketupat sotong. Then stop by Terengganu for your nasi dagang fix and, of course, kerepok lekor.
If you plan to travel south, then Johor’s very special laksa is a must-try. Something that separates laksa in Johor from laksa in other states in Malaysia is the usage of spaghetti noodles.
And if you’re holidaying anywhere in Sarawak, do try their internationally-renowned laksa too.
Other local delicacies to feast on in the peninsula include satay (the ones in Kajang, Selangor are popular but if you’re looking for something non-halal then head to Melaka for a taste. Try masak lemak cili api (Negri Sembilan), gulai tempoyak ikan patin (Pahang) and gulai nangka (Kedah).
And then of course, you can’t talk about food without mentioning Penang. Head to the island city for some simple but delectable street food like char kuey teow, curry mee and chendol.
Venture into the jungle
Beginning June 15, forest activities – namely hiking and jungle trekking – were given the green light to operate. There are some restrictions, though. Only day trips are allowed for now, and in groups of not more than 20 people.
The reopening of ecotourism is certainly good news for nature enthusiasts who, for the past few months, have had to be content with whatever greenery is in their garden to satisfy their lust for the forest life.
Malaysia is home to many national and state parks. The country has such a unique wildlife and lush tropical rainforests, all of which can be found at these gazetted venues.
Whether it’s to marvel at the tall tualang tree or perhaps even to run into the tapir, the parks offer a treasure trove of nature experiences. There are also dramatic trails to be discovered within the vicinity of these places.
Some parks worth checking out are Royal Belum Park (Perak), Endau-Rompin National Park (Johor), Batang Ai National Park (Sarawak), Kinabalu Park (Sabah) and Penang National Park (Penang).
The Royal Belum Park actually houses limestone hills that date back to the late Jurassic period! Meanwhile, jungle trekking at the Endau-Rompin National Park will bring you through various waterfalls, with the most popular one being the 50m-tall Mahkota Falls.
And then of course, there is the world-famous Taman Negara, which is regarded as one of the oldest forests in the world. The lowland forest houses over 100 species of trees while mostly all of Peninsular Malaysia’s large mammals can be found across its vast terrain.
To get an idea of its vastness, consider this: Taman Negara extends across three states: Pahang, Kelantan and Terengganu.
All the way up
For a refreshing change of air (literally), plan a holiday to the highlands. Malaysia has various hill retreats that offer a cool escape from the city. Panoramic views of rolling hills beckon at many of the highlands here.
A majority of the highland destinations in the peninsula is located in Pahang. These are namely Cameron Highlands, Genting Highlands, Fraser’s Hill and Bukit Tinggi. There’s also Bukit Larut in Perak. Some popular attractions at Cameron Highlands include tea plantations, strawberry farms and rose gardens. Those with an affinity for nature and an adventurous streak should visit Fraser’s Hill. Popular activities here include bird-watching, jungle trekking and hiking.
If you’re looking for some entertainment, Resorts World Genting (RWG) has reopened with enhanced safety measures in place to ensure the health and safety of all its guests and employees.
“RWG has re-engineered its processes and developed a comprehensive safety plan in line with the government’s guidelines and global best practices, ” the company said in a statement.
Meanwhile, head to Kundasang and Ranau in Sabah not just to escape the heat but see great views of the majestic Mount Kinabalu, check out some cows at the Desa Dairy Farm, and drink tea at the Sabah Tea Garden.
Staycation in the city
If your goal is to just get out of the house, then consider a staycation that’s just one taxi or train ride away. After months of having to contend with deserted lobbies, hotels are now vying to get guests into their rooms once again. A quick search on the Internet will reveal plenty of deals and competitive room rates.
As a matter of fact, some travel stakeholders are of the opinion that many people would opt to keep their holidays close to home in the near future.
With staycations, the key is to figure out what you want to do. Some people are happy to just stay in, order room service all day and relax, while others want to make use of hotel amenities like the gym or an in-room hot tub. Once you have identified a location, search for an accommodation that fits into your budget.
More recently, Senior Minister (Security) Datuk Seri Ismail Sabri Yaakob announced that private pools at hotels can reopen from July 1. Ismail, however, said that hotels must provide lifeguards, observers or supervisors in the location to ensure the number of people in the pool is controlled at all times.
Are you ready to make your booking?