Going Off the Grid in Malaysia

by Idham Firdaus Alias

According to www.urbandictionary.com; “Off the Grid” is an adj. unrecorded, untraceable through normal means (Jesus, 2004). This means that one does not want to be found via phone, email, social media etc. and basically just turn off our mobile phones. But is it even possible these days now that everyone has a mobile phone and everyone has at least one social media account? Having them is a necessity by today’s standards. Probably one of the negative effects that we will experience after deactivating all our social media accounts is that we could be forgotten. To some people, if you don’t have Facebook or Twitter, you don’t exist. Maybe we will end up not talking to a lot of people simply because we no longer have WhatsApp on our phones.

Maybe going totally of the grid forever is kind of extreme. Let’s take a few steps back. What we should do is go off the grid for a few days. Luckily Malaysia has a combination of rainforests, biodiversity and a more rural way of life within our reach from the big cities. Let’s forget about our phones and emails for a moment. Here are some tips to get off the grid in Malaysia.

Heading deep into the best of Malaysia’s national parks

Mulu Marriott Resort and Spa, It sits next to the Gunung Mulu National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site in Sarawak Borneo. It’s the only five-star luxury resort in the Mulu region. Picture by Mulu Marriott Resort and Spa (Marriot Hotel, 2019)

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. Due to its significant topographic variations, Malaysia’s rainforests are also diverse in nature, including lowland and highland rainforests, peat swamp forests and mangrove forests amongst others. Don’t expect a phone signal when you’re this far from civilisation. Experiences range from jungle treks and canopy walks to heading deep underground through limestone passageways.

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 Malaysia’s Taman Negara or National Park and be enthralled by the stunning range of biodiversity thriving there. 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.

Banjaran Titiwangsa or the Main Range, runs along the backbone of Peninsular Malaysia and stretches 500km southwards from the Thai border. It plays a vital role in serving as water catchment areas to supply fresh water for almost 90% of the Peninsula’s water needs. Over in East Malaysia, the famed GunungMulu National Park in Sarawak and Kinabalu National Park in Sabah have been declared as UNESCO World Heritage Sites (David, 2018).

Have your own desert island experience

You can the beach all to yourself! Picture by Lukas Uher (ShutterStock.com, 2019)

Funny, most Malaysian learned about Pulau Tiga Island in a foreign TV game show called “Survivor” in year 2000. In this reality game series produced by CBS network, 16 Americans were competing with one another on Pulau Tiga and the sole survivor took home $1 million. The Survivor TV series was so famous that it gave Pulau Tiga a new nickname “Survivor Island“ (My Sabah, 2012).

Pulau Tiga means “Island of Three” in Malay language. In 1978, Pulau Tiga is gazetted as a Marine Park, which covers an area of 158 square KM (96% is sea rich with coral reefs). The Park consists of 3 islands, namely, Pulau Tiga (Survivor Island) being the main island, Pulau Kalampunian Besar (Sands Spit Island) and Pulau Kalampunian Damit (Snake Island). Of the 3 islands, only Pulau Tiga Island has accommodation, the other two islands are uninhabited To visit Pulau Tiga, just drive 2.5 hours, about 114 KM from Kota Kinabalu city to Kuala Penyu town, then take a 20-minute boat ride to reach the island 15 KM away.

The game is long over, 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. 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 or maybe for a few days.

Spend the Night in a Kampong

Walking through the rice paddy fields was a great way to unwind Picture by adventureswithfamily (Rosie, 2016)

A Malaysian Homestay in a traditional village, called ‘Kampong’, is the best way to get to know the real Malaysia. Kampung Sungai Haji Dorani, in Sungai Besar, Selangor is one of the several villages that has been selected by the Ministry of Tourism to provide a Malaysian homestay experience. ‘Kampong’ stay is very popular amongst visitors from Singapore, Europe and Japan.

The idyllic image of Kampung Sungai Haji Dorani surrounded by rice fields and palm trees features on souvenirs and paintings in the touristy areas. As part of the homestay, the host can arrange for several activities for guests. This includes kite flying and fishing by the river. Walking through the rice paddy fields and the surrounding kampong area is a great way to unwind and enjoy the peaceful and quiet rural area. 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. There are many more villages that offer a Malaysian homestay, and each one is different.  Some villages have rice paddy fields, while others have durian and other fruit orchards. Some focus on traditional crafts like basket weaving or kite-making.  Activities available at each homestay are also different.


David, H. J. (2018, May). 10 magical Malaysian rainforest retreats. Retrieved from CNN: https://edition.cnn.com/travel/article/malaysia-rainforest-resorts/index.html

Jesus, K.-f. (2004, May). off the grid. Retrieved from UrbanDictionary.com: https://www.urbandictionary.com/define.php?term=off+the+grid

Marriot Hotel. (2019, May). Main Page. Retrieved from Mulu Marriot Resort and Spa: https://www.marriott.com/hotels/travel/myymu-mulu-marriott-resort-and-spa/

My Sabah. (2012, Aug). Pulau Tiga, the Survivor Island of Borneo. Retrieved from My Sabah: http://www.mysabah.com/wordpress/pulau-tiga-the-survivor-island/

Rosie. (2016, Apr). Kampung Dorani Malaysian Homestay. Retrieved from Adventures With Family: https://www.adventureswithfamily.com/kampung-dorani-malaysian-homestay/

ShutterStock.com. (2019, May). Borneo. Retrieved from ShutterStock.com: https://www.shutterstock.com/image-photo/borneo-573586030