Malaysia – For the First Time

My Malaysian Journey

The first time I went to Malaysia was January, 2000. I have never shared this before but I missed my connection. It’s a bit of a long story but suffice it to say that between de-icing on the runway in Toronto and other delays, I arrived at LAX too late to catch my Singapore Airlines flight. I was put up in a hotel for my unexpected layover. By the time I got on board I was exhausted. It was the first time I had an opportunity to travel on Singapore Airlines. It was business class. I was blown away. The service was excellent and the food was phenomenal. That’s quite the compliment coming from a former flight attendant. I was so tired that I just couldn’t sleep. So, I put on some Chinese music and slept like a baby. That’s how I discovered the music of Fong Fei Fei.

To tell you the truth, it was my first trip to Asia, and I didn’t know what to expect. Upon landing at KLIA, I discovered a large, bright and airy, state of the art airport complete with gardens and monorails. After I wheeled my cart out, jam-packed with all of the paraphernalia I needed for the seminars I was offering in Kuala Lumpur and Singapore, there were a number of surprises. The car that was waiting for me had a Bob Marley and the Wailers decal on the windshield. We passed a club called Marley’s with a statue of Bob Marley in the front. The vegetation was similar to my Jamaican homeland and I was soon to discover that the food was just as spicy.

First Glimpses of Malaysia

It was a few days before Chinese New Year so there were red lanterns everywhere. It created an enchanting setting at night. When I arrived at the Regency, check in was not at the front desk. Instead, I was taken up to my room and served tea while the required documentation was filled in. I was most impressed. My session, which took place at the same hotel, was a success and there were 65 delegates from banks, airlines, IT companies, and more. They loved the fact that I played reggae music during breaks and taught them how to dance reggae. I had a blast. It almost didn’t seem like work.

During that trip, I didn’t even have to take any city tours. My hosts took me to a fantastic Indian restaurant and my Malaysian landlord’s friend took me to Kuala Lumpur’s Chinatown, Bangsar’s night market and a restaurant that had a buffet and a cultural show. As we approached the restaurant, I saw 2 ornately dressed men approaching. One held an umbrella that was ornately decorated in gold and silver over the head of the first gentleman. I asked, “Is he a prince or something?” My companion laughed and said, “No, it’s part of the show”. The show depicted a typical Malaysian wedding and it was very entertaining.

On that trip, spent a relaxing morning on my own at Templer’s Park in Selangor. I was thrilled to see the tiny monkies playing on the beach.

I have never seen so many waterfalls in my life. In fact, I climbed higher and higher and never ran out of waterfalls before I had to return to the taxi. It was a truly relaxing experience.

If you want to build some of these experiences into your group’s itinerary, it’s really quite simple, just arrange a day or night city tour in KL and you’ll visit Chinatown, the restaurant with the cultural show and many other attractions. I recommend a 5 night stay in Malaysia as there is so much to see and do.

What appeals to me most about Malaysia is the variety. Without leaving the country, you can:

  • explore a cosmopolitan city like Kuala Lumpur
  • see incredible historical sites in Melaka
  • experience the hospitality of the 7 largest ethnic groups in Malaysia at the Sarawak Cultural Village near Kuching
  • explore jungles and rainforests in Teman Negara and Endau Rompin
  • relax on the beach in Penang, Langkawi, or Pulau Perhentian
  • discover Aboriginal culture through a visit to an Orang Asli village
  • enjoy stunning mountain views in Cameron Highlands
  • soar above the clouds in a cable car to Genting Highlands where you find a theme park, restaurants, and casino

Where else in the world would you be able to do all of this during one trip? The real value is that you can do all of this for a fraction of what it would cost to do an incentive trip, executive retreat or team building session at home. For this reason, Malaysia is a highly desirable destination for companies in the Middle East, Europe, the UK, and North America.

Helpful Links:

Incentive Travel in Malaysia

Team Building in Malaysia

Anne Thornley-Brown is the President of Executive Oasis International, a Toronto based company specializing in incentive travel, executive retreats, and team building. Anne has toured Asia 16 times and offered sessions for over 2000 executives, managers and professionals in Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand, and India. Companies that have sent delegates to her sessions have included Petronas, Digi, Mobil/Exxon, Dell Computers, Malaysian Airlines, Maybank, Samsung. She has conducted private in-company sessions for a number of companies including OCBC Bank, Permodalan Nasional Berhad, and Penang Port.

Kuala Lumpur

Places to see in Kuala Lumpur

KL Tower

Get a panoramic view of Kuala Lumpur. Be sure to reserve dinner at KL Tower well in advance of your trip for a truly enchanting experience.


In the words of my Malaysian hosts, Bangsar is a happening area. You’ll find nightclubs, fantastic eateries, and chic boutiques. Once a week, there is a night market.


Visit traditional shop houses, enjoy tasty dishes and treat yourself to traditional Chinese treatments like reflexology and cupping.

Bukkit Nanas

Bukkit means hill in Malay. You’ll find this word coming up over and over gain. Bukkit Nanas is a nature preserve in the heart of the city near KL Tower

Lake Gardens

A peaceful oasis where you’ll find deer, bird and butterfly parks.

Royal Selangor Polo Club

You can arrange riding lessons and polo clinics for your group there and, if your timing is right, you’ll have a chance to see a polo tournament. When I was there, polo teams from all over Malaysia were participating in a tournament. One of the members, Beh Chun Chuan of BP Polo invited me to stay and enjoy the BBQ with his family.

Mines Resort City

Mines Resort City is located on the site of an old tin mine. It has a beach resort, the Palace of the Golden Horses, and the Mines Wonderland theme park. In a previous blog entry, I already described the afternoon I spent exploring the Palace of the Golden Horses and the wonderful afternoon tea I enjoyed there. When I finished exploring, I went down to the water and hopped on a ferry that took me across to Mines Wonderland. It’s well worth working into your group’s schedule.

You’ll gain access to the only shopping centre in the world that you can enter by boat. There is a theme park with all kinds of rides and a number of attractions. When I visited, there was an exhibit featuring some of the Terra Cotta Warriors from China.

There is even a snow house to give people who have never experienced winter a chance to see snow and ice. Yes, they provide winter clothes. The Dancing Fountain is the perfect way to top off a visit to the Mines Wonderland. Mines Resort City is not far from the airport so, if you have  a night flight, you can arrange for your group to spend their last afternoon in Malaysia there before heading off to the airport.

Where to go Shopping in Kuala Lumpur

You’ve probably heard that Kuala Lumpur is a shopper’s paradise. It’s true. Here are my favourite places to go shopping:

Suria KLCC at Petronas Twin Towers

Of course, not to be missed is the KLCC complex. The Petronas Twin Towers were at one time the tallest towers in the world. The shopping is incredible and there is often a large park with man-made lake that is perfect for walking or jogging in KL’s early morning cool.


This is the largest discount shopping mall on the Asian complex. Be sure that your wallet is full as you’ll find a lot of bargains. Don’t forget to go to the lowest level near the car park and book a Thai massage for the end of your shopping trip. It’s the perfect way to revive tired feet and sore back and shoulder muscles after a full day of shopping.

Sunei Wong

Whether it is a fashion show or a performance by a local band, there is always something happening at this busy mall. You’ll will bargains galore particularly for clothing, electronics, and shoes.


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