Despite being one of the world’s most-visited tourist destinations, some of Malaysia’s lesser-known southern regions remain largely undiscovered despite an abundance of unique sightseeing opportunities that are best experienced on four wheels.
One of the companies most capable of providing low-cost car hire in Malaysia is Auto Europe, which was founded in 1954 and now operates with more than 24,000 convenient pick-up locations in over 180 popular destinations worldwide.
Malaysia’s incredible capital, Kuala Lumpur, is the perfect starting point for a fun-filled road-trip through the country’s beautiful south. After savouring the city’s many first-rate attractions, the journey to Malacca through the enchanting state of Negeri Sembilan offers travellers a succession of thrilling adventures and stunning scenery.
The magic of Malacca
Now a vibrant seaside town, Malacca has long-been a cultural crossroads and today’s visitors can start soaking up the city’s rich heritage by enjoying a leisurely stroll through Jonker Street, a lively social hub and busy street-food center situated right in the heart of Chinatown.
Besides its wonderful waterfront district, the list of other unmissable attractions for people lucky enough to be exploring Malacca by car includes the Museum of History & Ethnography (housed in the Governor’s official residence) and the Baba-Nyonya Heritage Museum, a top tourist sight spread across three well-preserved townhouses.
Many of the most striking buildings in Malacca’s charming historic center were built by Europeans who occupied the city hundreds of years ago. Most worthy of note is Saint Paul’s Church, which was constructed by the Portuguese at the beginning of the 16th century and is the oldest church in the whole of south-east Asia.
Into the hinterland
A very popular detour for road-trippers travelling through southern Malaysia is a visit to Gunung Ledang National Park, which is reachable in less than two hours from Malacca through some of the most breathtaking scenery imaginable.
Established in 2005, the park is a protected area covering almost 9,000 hectares and home to many rare plants and animals. Its centerpiece (and main point of interest for most visitors) is Mount Ophir (Gunung Ledang in the local language) which peaks at 1,276 metres (4,186 feet) and offers spectacular 360-degree views of the surrounding landscape from the top.
Mount Ophir is a hiker’s dream come true with mild weather normally guaranteed throughout the year and a choice of different trails available. Climbers can easily get to and from the summit in less than a day without requiring any specific mountaineering skills.
Heading further south
From Gunung Ledang, the drive back to Malaysia’s glorious south-west coast takes just over an hour and is full of interest, with the journey culminating at the royal town of Muar.
Blessed with a history stretching back several centuries, Muar is famous for its hot springs at the nearby spa resort of Grisek and mee bandung, a locally-created traditional Malaysian dish of noodles cooked in a deliciously spicy sauce.
Nestling majestically at the southern tip of the Malay Peninsula, the delightful city of Johor Bahru is the next stop on our exciting road-trip through Malaysia. Its highlights include several world-class museums and mosques, most notably the Sultan Abu Bakar State Mosque which is large enough to accommodate up to 2,000 worshippers at the same time.
The city is also home to the Arulmigu Sri Rajakaliamman Glass Temple, the world’s first Hindu temple to be entirely covered in glass. Visitors with young children will also want to spend a few hours at some of the city’s superb family attractions, such as Legoland Malaysia where dozens of rides, a major water park and a world-class aquarium await.
Singapore and the South China Sea
Travellers with more time on their hands have the added advantage of being within easy striking distance of Singapore, one of the world’s great travel destinations.
After leaving your car in one of Johor Bahru’s many secure car parks, reaching Singapore is a simple case of popping over the border to spend a day or two visiting the city’s top tourist attractions, including the Botanic Gardens, Skypark, Gardens by the Bay and the iconic Raffles Hotel.
The good thing about an extended road-trip around southern Malaysia is that you don’t necessarily have to follow the same route back to Kuala Lumpur. The country has so much more to offer, particularly along its idyllic east coast which embroiders the translucent waters of the South China Sea.
Suggestions here include a visit to Tioman Island, a true beach paradise located 32 kilometers (20 miles) off Malaysia’s picturesque eastern coastline. Besides all the swimming, snorkeling, kayaking and kite-surfing opportunities available, the island is also popular for its unique rambling experiences and jungle-trekking activities organized throughout the year.
The best way to complete the journey back to Kuala Lumpur is via the Endau Rompin National Park, a vast protected area situated a short drive inland where visitors can enter one of the world’s oldest rainforests and marvel at the sight of rare rock formations dating back almost 250 million years.
Have a great trip!