The easiest way to get off the grid in Malaysia involves taking a trip into the rainforest. Phone signals, Wi-Fi connections and social media updates are virtually non-existent when you’re surrounded by the dense jungle. We’re not suggesting wandering out into the dense foliage alone in the hope of escaping the modern world. Instead, book a night or two at eco-resorts like Sabah’s Danum Valley. The field centre lies some two hours along jungle tracks from the nearest town. And you don’t have to rough it either. The on-site accommodation ranges from camping facilities and hostel beds to more luxurious eco-lodges.
The idyllic image of a small house surrounded by rice fields and palm trees features on souvenirs and paintings in the touristy areas. But experiencing this setting for yourself combines a picturesque retreat with an opportunity to get off the grid in Malaysia. Kampongs, or villages, fill the countryside in West Malaysia and Malaysian Borneo. Some villagers rent their space as guesthouses or an Airbnb. Embrace the rural lifestyle, hospitality and lack of connectivity.
Pulau Tiga (Three Islands) near Sabah’s Kota Kinabalu is the original Survivor Island. Hosting the first season of the popular TV series, the island has since transformed into a major tourist attraction. Most visitors spend the day and return to Kota Kinabalu in the evening. Others prefer to stay the night at the island’s mini-resort. Nothing beats standing on an empty beach watching the boat sail away towards the horizon.
Gunung Tahan (Mount Tahan) is West Malaysia’s tallest peak in Pahang State. The mountain lies deep in the heart of the not-so-creatively named Taman Negara (National Park). Standing at 2,187 metres (7,175 feet), it might not seem like the world’s biggest challenge. Especially when Sabah’s Mount Kinabalu soars almost twice its height. However, the climbing part isn’t the challenge. Hikers first need to pass through nearly 70 kilometres (43 miles) of jungle trails to reach the beast! Joining a group to scale Mount Tahan practically guarantees to get off the grid in Malaysia for at least five days.
Thousands of kilometres of tropical coastline surround Malaysia. The tourist-centric beaches in Langkawi juxtapose with almost secret coves in Borneo. If you have a vehicle, you’re never too far from finding a hidden spot. Relax on the sand while your phone struggles to find a signal. Replying to those emails can wait!
Sarawak’s indigenous Iban tribes once lived in communal longhouses. Located deep in the rainforest, the adventurous and physically fit can trek and stay overnight with these indigenous communities. Tour groups take visitors to some of the more accessible longhouses in Sarawak. Reaching others might involve long hikes and a series of boats along the muddy rivers.
If you want to go off the grid in Malaysia for just a few hours, visit the rainforest. Several trails form a network through the hills and jungle in the satellite townships surrounding Kuala Lumpur. Locals often hike in the early morning for exercise along the colour-coded paths. We recommend taking public transport to the Cheras neighbourhood and spending a couple of hours in the jungle. You can experience the wildness and return to the comforts of Kuala Lumpur in the afternoon.
Both Sabah and Sarawak have dozens of islands in the South China Sea. The accessibility and level of tourist infrastructure vary. Kota Kinabalu’s Tunku Abdul Rahman Marine Park and diving paradise at Sipadan Island lure more visitors. But the others further afield have limited electricity and almost no Wi-Fi connectivity whatsoever. Leave the phone at home while you soak up the atmosphere of spending alone time on a tropical island.
Malaysia’s national parks and protected areas include rainforests, mountains and cave systems. Experiences range from jungle treks and canopy walks to heading deep underground through limestone passageways. Don’t expect a phone signal when you’re this far from civilisation. Instead, grasp the chance to get off the grid and leave the modern world behind for a few hours.
Our final way to get off the grid in Malaysia isn’t for everyone. Distance running and marathon events are currently a nationwide trend. Many of these runs take place in the rainforests. Signing up and participating can be among the most rewarding travel experiences, especially after crossing the finishing line. Events range from the relatively short half marathon distances (21 kilometres or 13.1 miles) to 24-hour slogs along 100 kilometres (62 miles) of muddy trails. Apart from the sense of accomplishment, this also provides an opportunity to spend some alone time amongst Malaysia’s wildlife.