On the island Penang, the capital George Town is a UNESCO World Heritage Site that gives visitors a taste of the past. Tile-roofed shops offer visitors old-fashioned shaves with straight razors, coffee that may seem unnecessary in the hot weather and quaint merchandise like antique dessert plates. In nearby Melaka -- also a UNESCO World Heritage Site -- you can stroll along Jalan Tokong, colloquially called the "Street of Harmony." It houses a Taoist temple, Hindu temple and Muslim mosque, which peacefully coexist and warmly welcome visitors.
Malaysia's architecture is among the world's most ornate. For sheer height, the Petronas Twin Towers (petronastwintowers.com.my) soar 1,483 feet into the sky above Kuala Lumpur. For more history, Kuala Lumpur Railway Station (no website; Jalan Sultan Hishamuddin, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia) is a romantic white structure featuring Moorish arches and minarets. This Islamic-style building was the main railway station in Malaysia until 2001, when another railway station became the country's primary terminal.
Malaysia's religious buildings offer more architecture, with the perks of meaning and history within their walls. Colorful, carved deities cover the towering front wall of Sri Mahamariamman Temple (no website; 65 Persiaran Endah, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia; 011-03-2274-7088), built in 1892. Thean Hou Temple (no website; 65 Pesiaran Indah, Kuala Lumpur 50460) is a tiered Chinese temple with a prayer hall and small waterfalls on the grounds. And Jamek Mosque (no website; Jalan Tun Terak, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia) stands as one of the oldest mosques in Kuala Lumpur, with pristine domes that showcase the Indian Mogul architecture that influenced its design.
Surrounding Malaysia's showy cities are jungles that host rare wildlife. Batu Caves (no website; Batu Caves, Sri Subramaniam Temple, Kuala Lumpur 68100, Malaysia; 011-60-3-2287-9422) combine religious history, architecture and nature. The site consists of Hindu shrines and temples standing tall in front of a massive limestone wall, with three caves to explore; one even has Hindu paintings on the interior walls. If you prefer animals, Kuala Lumpur Bird Park (klbirdpark.com) is an outdoor aviary hosting approximately 200 species of birds, most of them endemic to Malaysia, while Penang Butterfly Farm (butterfly-insect.com) calls itself a "living museum" where lucky visitors can hope for butterflies to land on their shoulders in the jungle-like garden.