Malaysia What it's known for

Fly on Malaysia Airlines from New York and Los Angeles to Malaysia's capital of Kuala Lumpur.

Stay at one of three stunning retreats on islands off both coasts of the Malay Peninsula. The Datai was designed to resemble a long-lost stone temple covered by creeping vines. This handsome hotel has a certain relaxed elegance. You'll see it in the graceful curve of the poolside chairs and hear it at night in the rustle of a living jungle, JapaMala, a coastal Relais & Chateaux property on Tioman island, has stilted, wooden villas and chalets, Try the funky Coral Redang Island Resort on Redang, part of a nine-island archipelago with a marine park.

See how rice harvesting can be festive. Head to the Sarawak region of Malaysia on June 1 to witness a community come together in unity, aspiration and hope, all centered around a successful end to the rice harvesting season. Dress in traditional, beaded and feathered costumes while elders in the community perform ceremonial rites and make offerings of food and tuak, homemade rice wine, to the gods of rice and prosperity. Offering some to yourself as you usher in the next harvesting season is, of course, always encouraged.

Eat at hawker stalls, a collection of food vendors. At Gurney Drive on Penang, you can sample Malaysian, Indian and Chinese street specialties, such as Nasi Lemak (coconut rice wrapped in pandan leaf with strange accompaniments, i.e. fish head and sambal), Mee Goreng (noodles stir-fried with veggies and chili), and Nasi Kandar (an Indian curry dish). The Chinese use chopsticks; the Indians often use their fingers. Cecil Street Market also has great eats. For dessert, definitely order a Cendol, a concoction of shaved ice, coconut milk and green flour noodles. You can eat like a king at hawker stalls for less than $8. For a taste of Nonya cuisine, a blend of Chinese and Malaysian, put Hot Wok restaurant on your itinerary.