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Malaysia: Discover the very best of Asia's secret shores.
Malaysia's buzzing and impressive capital, Kuala Lumpur, can be too much for some and recently, its northerly neighbour, Langkawi, has also become a developed tourist destination. If you’re looking for somewhere breathtakingly beautiful to escape the Malaysian hubbub, head for the relatively undiscovered east coast.
The state of Terengganu is the true Malay heartland, with very few Europeans, and even few Chinese and Indians, who make up around 30 per cent of the country's population. The area is populated by 95 per cent ethnic Malays, so if you’re interested in authentic Malaysia, this is the place. Local traditions remain strong and you can see batik-weaving and traditional boat-building, reports the Independent.
Head for the small port of Marang, and take a speed boat to the tiny island of Gemia, dominated by the Gem Wellness Spa and Island Resort, with forty-five wooden chalets flanked by two natural, lounger-free beaches. You can hire kayaks and snorkelling gear from smiling, laid-back staff and enjoy excellent local food, all at a very reasonable price.
Alternatively stay at a similar-style hotel on one on the other five islands off the eastern coast, each designated a marine park. So snorkellers will love swimming alongside clown and angel fish, grouper, stingrays and turtles. Explore the crystal waters of these half a dozen islands off the coast, lined with white sandy beaches and coral gardens that run straight from the shore.
If you’re looking for a little pampering, try the mainland’s only real high-end beach resort, the secluded Tanjong Jara, designed to emulate a Malay sultan's palace. It has 99 spacious rooms plus a spa, and its restaurants draw visitors from the Middle East and China.
And now is the time to book, as resorts open again after the November to February eastern monsoon abates. You’ll save money too. While prices go up in summer at European resorts, fares to long-haul destinations can actually sink, with direct return flights on Air Asia from London to Kuala Lumpur for around £650.