Picture this—it’s been a long week, and you’re hankering for a getaway. The rigmarole of city life has worn you down, and you badly need a change of pace and scenery.

While Malaysia is blessed with amazing destinations like Ipoh, Johor Bahru, and Kuala Terengganu, there are destinations besides these cities that are ideal for a laid-back weekend to recharge your batteries.

At these hidden gems, you can also enjoy the special attractions known only to locals and the most diehard of travel enthusiasts.

You don’t even have to go far for a rejuvenating small-town holiday – some of the best spots are less than a three-hour drive from the capital, Kuala Lumpur.

Nestled in the foothills of the Titiwangsa Range, Bentong district enjoys a cooler climate all year round, owing to its elevated location; Bentong is located 145 metres above sea level.

However, be sure to pack an umbrella or a poncho, as it usually rains quite a bit here.

Begin your visit by stopping at Bentong Market, one of the best spots to try an array of delightful local food options such as wonton noodles, tau fu fah (soya bean pudding) and roti canai (Indian-style flatbread).

Many of the stalls here have been operating for generations and are neighbourhood institutions in their own right, as the many regulars you might meet will attest.

Walk off the calories with a stroll along the historical Bentong Walk, where murals line the streets, mostly concentrated along Jalan Loke Yew.

For history buffs, a visit to the Bentong Gallery is a must. Here, you’ll find the lowdown on the town’s founding and its ties with two of the area’s key exports—Musang King durian and Bentong ginger, known for its larger-than-average size.

If you’re in Bentong on a weekend, head to the town’s Saturday night market. The many street vendors here selling trinkets and souvenirs give even Melaka’s famous Jonker Walk a run for its money.

For something more adventurous, take a 15-minute drive west to Chamang Waterfall and marvel at the breathtaking natural beauty of the cascades, which draw in visitors from across the country.

Here, you can take a dip, enjoy a picnic and just be merry to your heart’s content, but be mindful of the no-go zones where the falls are treacherous, especially during the rainy season.

Where to stay: The Waterway Villa, Athome Resort, Erya by Suria Janda Baik

There is much to admire about Sekinchan, initially a town inhabited mainly by Teochew fishermen, but chief among them is the vast paddy fields that stretch as far as the eye can see.

Local legend has it that the town’s name was coined by a schoolteacher who came to the area to escape occupying Japanese forces during World War II.

He originally named the place Shi Geng Zhuang, which roughly translates to ‘village suitable for plantation’. Over the years, the name has proved to be remarkably prescient, as Sekinchan is now one of the country’s major rice producers.

The paddy fields are hard to miss, but pay a visit to the Sekinchan Paddy Gallery to get an insight into how rice is grown, both traditionally and with modern technology. And if you’re wondering, yes, a packet of rice is included in the admission price.

Head 4 kilometres southwest to Bagan Fishing Village, and depending on the time of your visit, you might get to watch local fishermen unload their catch of the day.

You can also make your way to the seafood market, where many of the villagers make their living selling fresh catch.

The nearby Pantai Redang is also popular with visitors, with many restaurants lining the beach where you can savour freshly prepared seafood without breaking the bank.

Before you head off, be sure to stop by the Wishing Tree that grows adjacent to the Datuk Kong Temple. For a small donation, you can write your wish on a piece of red ribbon attached to a small coin before completing the ritual by throwing it onto the tree’s branches.

Where to stay: Check out some of the humble but beautiful stays in Sekinchan here.

In its heyday, Kampar, located in the heart of the Kinta Valley, was the cradle of Malaysia’s tin mining industry.

Once home to the world’s largest tin ore reserve, the town experienced a boom throughout the late 19th and early 20th centuries due to the industrial revolution, attracting workers and traders from across the Commonwealth.

Immerse yourself in Kampar’s history by visiting the Kinta Tin Mining Museum, which houses over 1,000 artefacts and chronicles the town’s golden era.

Explore the two-storey museum at your leisure, or embark on a guided tour for a more in-depth experience. You can even try your hand at panning for tin at the outdoor dulang (mining pan) washing station. But be warned – it’s more complicated than it looks!

If you’re feeling peckish, head to Dai Ga Jay Noodle Shop in Kampar’s old town and dig into a hearty bowl of traditional pan mee. Made with a unique Kampar-style recipe, the dish is served either dry or in a clear anchovy or tom yum soup.

After lunch, you can stroll along the row of old shophouses and admire the colonial architecture that is prominently featured in this part of town.

Be sure to drop by the Kampar Old Town Biscuit Shop to stock up on a variety of local snacks. Then head to the Kampar Club to enjoy some Chinese food in a relaxed setting or just drinks before you leave.

Where to stay: Vista Hotel, Sementra Nature Resort

Melaka is well-known for its UNESCO World Heritage listed historical centre, but approximately 5 kilometres afield lies the quaint district of Klebang, which also deserves a place in your travel itinerary.

This sleepy coastal town holds the distinction of being one of the best places in Melaka to take in the sunset.

At the picturesque Klebang Beach, you can choose between riding an ATV or going on horseback to traverse the expansive white sand beachfront.

Nearby, the famous sand dunes are also a must-see. More reminiscent of the movie Dune than anywhere else in Malaysia, the site, a result of land reclamation projects since the turn of the century, has quickly turned into an attraction of its own.

Fancy being in a real-life submarine? Then, pay a visit to the Submarine Museum, where an Agosta class 70 submarine greets visitors just by the entrance.

An absolute dream for naval aficionados and neophytes alike, the vessel was actually used by the Royal Malaysian Navy for training exercises in the 2000s. The interior of the sub is still adorned with paraphernalia from that time.

Before leaving the area, enjoy a coconut shake from Klebang Original Coconut Shake or a hearty meal at Asam Pedas Claypot Klebang, where the eponymous sour-spicy dish is sublime, regardless of which type of fish you choose.

Where to stay: Liu Men Hotel Melaka, Rucksack Inn Premium, Timez Hotel Melaka

The southernmost Malaysian state of Johor is known as a melting pot of regional influences, and nowhere else lays claim to this more than Muar.

The town, which sits on the estuary where the Muar river meets the Straits of Melaka, is steeped in history dating back to pre-colonial days and features prominent British, Dutch, and Peranakan influences.

Begin your tour by visiting the Sultan Ibrahim Jamek Mosque, just outside the town centre. Built in the early 20th century, it is the oldest mosque in the area and a sight to behold.

Resembling a palace more than a place of worship, the intricate white and blue frontage has a striking regal appearance.

Dig into local specialities such as otak-otak, oo chien (oyster omelette), mee bandung, and laksa Johor along Jalan Haji Abu. Referred to as Glutton Street by locals, the food options here are as plentiful as they are affordable.

Another foodie hotspot is 99 Hawker Centre, where you’ll find hearty options such as biryani, nasi lemak, and succulent skewers of satay.

In the town centre, you can admire murals along Jalan Meriam. Prefer something in the shade? Then head to Muar Art Gallery, just a few blocks away, for your culture fix.

End the day at Tanjung Emas Park, which offers scenic river views and is a good place for people-watching as many locals descend onto the square in the evening. Enjoy a picnic, leisurely stroll, or even an inexpensive one-hour boat cruise along the river here before bidding adieu to this gem.

Where to stay: MUO Boutique Hotels, Dream Luxury Hotel, Sabak Awor Resort

This story by Ahmad Hamizan was originally published on AirAsia. Zafigo republished this story in full with permission from the publisher, simply because good stories should be read by as many people as possible! If you have stories that will be of interest and useful to women travellers, especially in Asia, please get in touch with us at info@zafigo.com.