Sunrise or sunset? In this Part 1, David Bowden lists five places in Malaysia that have the best views of the light displays. EVERYONE loves the illuminating rays of a sunrise or sunset. Photographers appreciate that both times are the 'magic hour' as the light is most dramatic at these times. I'm divided as to which one I prefer but obviously sunrise presents different opportunities to sunset. Upon consideration, I lean more to a sunset than a sunrise simply because sunrise means waking early, bumbling in the dark, getting ready and then stumbling to a sunrise point. However, there's a sense of achievement and bravado with a sunrise but some places are now so crowded, the experience is more circus-like than quiet contemplation of the new dawn, while sunset on the other hand occurs after you've spent the day toiling at whatever you do. Here are some places that I think are great Malaysian venues for admiring kaleidoscopic light displays of both sunrise and sunset.
PULAU TIOMAN, PAHANG
Unlike most Tioman Island beaches, Juara is the only one with an easterly aspect making it ideal to admire the sunrise. There are several chalets along the beach and they all afford decent views of the sun as it creeps over the South China Sea horizon. You can also be guaranteed of some rideable waves rolling in along the stretch of golden sand. Turtles also come onto the beach to lay their eggs and there may be some laggards near the water's edge at sunrise.
MANUKAN ISLAND, SABAH
Seeking and taking local advice is always a good travel tip so when I arrived on Manukan Island within Tunku Abdul Rahman Park offshore from Kota Kinabalu, I couldn't help but notice Mount Kinabalu in the distance. Mind you; it's not hard to miss Malaysia's highest peak as it's visible from many parts. Being cognizant that there was the possibility of a sunrise photo, I asked staff about the direction of sunrise and was given valuable information.
The advantage of Manukan is that you can overnight at Sutera Sanctuary Lodge located along the beach. Another important fact is that the sun rises an hour earlier in East Malaysia than West Malaysia which means 6am. So, I was up at 5.30am to get into position. The view from Manukan's northern end was perfect as, on cue at 6am, rays of sunlight streamed over the mountain. The window of photographic opportunity is a matter of minutes; afterwards the sunrise becomes direct sunlight. An added bonus was the 6am AirAsia flight taking off from Kota Kinabalu Airport.
MOUNT KINABALU, SABAH
This is possibly Malaysia's most difficult sunrise as to admire it you have to climb the 4,092 metres of Mount Kinabalu to reach its summit. For mere mortals, this is a two-day exercise but during the annual Climbathon race, runners cover the 26km climb and back in 2.5 hours. The ascent involves registration, accommodation at Laban Rata and an early morning departure to complete the final ascent to Low's Peak for the sunrise. But, there's no guarantee the sun will oblige as more often than not, the summit is covered in cloud.
LAKE GARDENS, KUALA LUMPUR
The residents of Kuala Lumpur are fortunate to have such an expanse of greenery so close to the city centre. There are connecting pathways, bridges and underpasses to KL Sentral so it's possible to reach the park via public transport. For an interesting perspective of the lake and the Sentral Skylight, head down to Lake Gardens at sunset to admire the ever-changing city lights.
BANYAN TREE HOTEL, KUALA LUMPUR
It's a brave and foolish developer who opens a Kuala Lumpur high rise these days without including a rooftop bar/restaurant. One of KL's classiest downtown bars with altitude plus an open air terrace is Vertigo on the 59th level of the Banyan Tree Hotel. The outdoor section (assuming it isn't raining) is ideal for admiring the sunset behind the KL Tower. Banyan Tree has got urban sunsets covered with Horizon Grill on the 58th floor having an outdoor section and Altitude on the 53rd floor where you might be able to detect a sunset through the urban maze of tall buildings.