Malaysia is chock full of stories to tell and artifacts to see. Influenced by the many cultures that have passed through, settled down, resulted or represent the true natives, this country’s museums present a wonderful display of the people, flora, and fauna unique to Southeast Asia.
Islamic Arts Museum Malaysia
Housing the largest growing collection of Islamic art and artifacts from all over the world, the Islamic Arts Museum Malaysia is the best place to explore Islamic culture within Southeast Asia, focusing on China, India, and the Malay regions. The museum’s extensive displays showcases Islamic motifs throughout time and culture, from the religion’s roots in Persia and the Middle East to its status as modern Malaysia’s national religion. Spend a tranquil afternoon studying Islam through its practitioners’ creations in a splendid nature walk in Kuala Lumpur. HOURS: daily: 10am–6pm
The Petrosains, The Discovery Centre, the pride of PETRONAS (Malaysia’s leading power company) is a modern museum dedicated to educating future generations on the science and industries of oil, gas and water works. This specially curated center is full of interactive displays and situated within one of Kuala Lumpur’s best malls in the PETRONAS Twin Towers, providing lots of amenities and entertainment for the whole family. HOURS: Tues–Fri: 9:30am–5:30pm; Sat–Sun: 9:30am–5:30pm
Detailing the history of the Chinese-Malay union that formed the rich and unique Peranakan culture, the Baba & Nyonya Heritage Museum of Malacca has worked hard to preserve much of the 19th century Malaya during which Peranakan heritage thrived. Located in a pre-WWII clan house, this museum stands out as one of the best-kept remnants of the old world and delves into the lives of mixed marriage descendants. HOURS: Mon–Thurs: 10am–1pm, 2pm–5pm; Fri–Sun: 10am–1pm, 2pm–6pm
What started out as passion project by British naturalist Alfred Wallace to collect new wildlife specimens of the strange and yet largely unexplored island of Borneo became Sawarak’s oldest museum, which has grown to showcase the indigenous inhabitants and their different tribes. One of the few establishments to suffer extreme looting and damage during the Japanese occupation in WWII, the Sarawak State Museum remains one of the most beautiful examples of 19th-century Victorian architecture in the state and hosts locally sourced exhibits.
Unlike the Baba & Nyonya Museum in Malacca, the Pinang Peranakan Mansion details the diverse and distinct Penang communities. A refurbished mansion that once belonged to one of Penang’s richest Chinese clan, the previously decrepit relic found new life as a home for the prevalent multiracial society in Malaya. The museum’s restored richness will give visitors insight into the influence of Chinese culture on the surrounding local communities. HOURS: daily: 9:30am–5pm
A living museum of Borneo’s rain forest, the Rainforest Discovery Center is the perfect place to witness specimens in their natural habitats. Acting as a reserve of sorts for much of Borneo’s unique wildlife with minor replanting and controlled climates, the center educates visitors on the varieties of deep rain forest plants that normally take hours and expert eyes to spot in the wild. It also neighbors the Oran Utan Rehabilitation Centre, and they collaborate in the hopes remaining relevant tourist attractions to keep the place well looked after and funded. HOURS: daily: 8am–5pm
With so many museums all over the country offering their special regional collections, the National Museum is not to be missed. Through relics and archaeological finds dating back to prehistoric eras, discover Malaysian pre-culture and witness the rise and decline of ancient maritime and agricultural kingdoms. The museum also features a collection of aboriginal produce in a separate building nearby, mainly from the rural regions of Peninsular Malaysia. HOURS: daily: 9am–6pm
Established solely to feature the military influences and achievements of the country, the Port Dickson Army Museum displays every army that has passed through Malaya and influenced modern Malaysia’s armed forces. Learn about the Portuguese and Dutch colonialists’ advancements as well as the moment communism had during Malayan unrest. The museum is free and near the beach in the lovely state of Negeri Sembilan, famous for its seaside attractions. HOURS: Wed–Sat: 10am–5pm
Perak Museum, the oldest museum on Peninsular Malaysia, also has a fantastic collection of life and culture outside of Kuala Lumpur all housed in a great Art Deco mansion. Perak having the most indigenous tribes on the peninsular region, the museum’s collection of tribal handicrafts and ancient lore is more abundant than even that of the National Museum, with artifacts passed down from over a century within their galleries. The museum is also popular among locals for having traveling exhibitions to preserve the land’s love for its roots and peoples. HOURS: daily: 9am–6pm
Fairly new to the museum scene, the Wonderfood Museum of Penang uses the Japanese art of replicating foods for shop displays to recreate Penang’s and Malaysia’s most beloved foods for the ages. Although the sense of taste is unfortunately absent, a trip around this funny and colorful exhibit will surely tempt visitors to simply step outside and head to the nearest hawker stall convergence for another hearty meal in the heart of Georgetown to satisfy the visual tease. HOURS: daily: 9am–6pm