For the gap year traveller, Malaysia is a two-for-one. There’s the peninsula, with its Chinese and Indian flavours, and then across the South China Sea there are the wild rainforests of Borneo, where orangutans and remote tribes live as they have for millennia. Peninsular Malaysia is divided between the busily modern west coast and the laidback good life of the east but in between is dense jungle to explore.
Malaysia is a destination made for adventure travel. Sarawak lives up to the legends of wild Borneo, with rainforest, longhouses and even blowpipes. In Gunung Mulu park, you can cave in the largest underground chamber in the world or follow the old Headhunters’ Trail. There’s also hiking and hot springs, outstanding coral-reef diving, and trekking with Asian elephants, tigers and leopards in the unspoilt rainforest of Taman Negara.
Malaysia has plenty to offer in the way of student travel, with accommodation to suit most budgets. There are many opportunities to relax, too – if the sea-and-sand hotspot of Langkawi isn’t what you’re after, head for the Perhentian Islands, where conditions are simpler. And if it’s the buzz of an Asian metropolis you’re after, Kuala Lumpur, where skyscrapers soar among the mosques and temples, and there’s all the wi-fi and nightlife you could ask for.
Malaysia has plenty to offer if you’re looking for volunteer work. You can get involved in animal conservation with orangutans in Borneo or as a zoo volunteer in Kuala Lumpur, or alternatively join community projects among tribespeople.