We feature some of the brightest Instagram storytellers in the Passion Passport community through our Instagram Spotlight series. This week, Nazirul Hakim (@iamnazirul) gives us an insider’s look at his favorite locations around the world — from the riads of Morocco to the streets of Malaysia.

George Town, Penang, Malaysia

If I had to pick my favorite region in Malaysia, I would choose Penang any day. It’s just so diverse. Visiting the capital, George Town, is like entering a world where time stands still — a world where history, nature, and tradition are woven together in a rich, cultural tapestry. And, since George Town contains the best of Penang’s sights, sounds, smells, and tastes, it wouldn’t be too much of a stretch to say that George Town is Penang in a nutshell.

From heritage buildings to nature parks, Penang’s capital city offers a multitude of attractions to appease any curious visitor. This historic town is best enjoyed on foot or trishaw, the latter of which enables you to take in the sights and sounds that the area is known for. The island manages to embrace modernity while still retaining its traditions — due to its well-preserved buildings, George Town has been awarded a distinction as a UNESCO World Cultural Heritage Site.

As a photographer who loves capturing unique facades, I often find myself drawn to the Chinese warehouses in old George Town. In my opinion, it’s one of the most photogenic locations you’ll find in this part of Malaysia, so I recommend it to anyone passing through.

Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

The mention of Kuala Lumpur’s Old City — which covers Medan Pasar, Chinatown, and Little India — conjures images of old, empty, decaying shops despite the area’s heritage value and its hustle and bustle. Chinatown’s Petaling Street is one of the most popular tourist spots in Kuala Lumpur, and it’s deeply immersed in Chinese culture and tradition.

I grew up in this chaotic city, and a passing interest in photography soon became a hobby, especially after I graduated from college three years ago. I would head out with my camera every weekend with no specific destination in mind. Along the way, I would encounter the most interesting individuals and unpredictable moments. This is now my favorite way to shoot, and this city taught me that.

Chinatown, Singapore

My plans to visit Singapore for the first time came together at the last minute, as my brother and I were able to visit our aunt, who lives there. Once there, we learned that it truly is possible to tick off the best things to do in Singapore on a budget, and during our three-day excursion, we developed a real feel for the city-state. To put it simply, Singapore’s culture, atmosphere, and architecture exceeded our expectations.

For me, the highlight of our trip was visiting Chinatown — a must on any trip to Singapore. This neighborhood is the cultural capital of the city, and is filled to the brim with interesting characters and even more interesting facades. From floating lanterns to inflatable dogs, this busy, lively area did not disappoint. To anyone going to Singapore, I’d suggest taking your camera and spending time getting lost in Chinatown. We had an absolute ball exploring, and I can’t wait to return!

Bali, Indonesia

As soon as we touched down in Bali, my friend John and I knew that there were a few places we really wanted to visit, including the town of Ubud and the island of Nusa Penida. So, set off exploring. We headed to Ubud first and eventually discovered that the rice fields on the island are most incredible in the morning. We strolled through them without a guide and talked to locals about the different types of rice that are grown there. It was an incredible experience.

Next, we made a day trip to Nusa Penida, where this T-Rex-shaped cliff at Kelingking Beach has sent the tourism industry skyrocketing with its natural and iconic beauty. There, we rode a motorbike and searched for out-of-the-way places — it’s hard to describe how adventurous we felt as we wound down the island’s dusty roads, swam in two different locations, jumped off of cliffs, and met friendly locals. In my opinion, Nusa Penida became the most interesting place we visited on our trip.

Of course, Nusa Penida is also paradise for photographers. Between the lush colors — the blue of the ocean, the green of the paddy terraces — and dynamic textures, this island offers outstanding landscapes that can easily fill entire memory cards with stunning snaps.

Morocco

Morocco is a place that draws you in from the moment you arrive. From the colorful, heady markets filled with the rich scents of spices to the vibrant Atlas Mountains, there is just so much to see in this incredible North African country.

For me, one of the special highlights of my time there was visiting Marrakech’s Bahia Palace, which offers a beautiful and tranquil escape from the incessant chaos of the city. The Bahia — which literally translates to “the beautiful” — is a 19th-century palace that boasts gorgeous courtyards and lavish architecture.

Quite honestly, this was one of my favorite trips from the past year. I believe that the details, colors, and patterns were made to be photographed, and I miss seeing the many forms of art that go into the construction of each building (mosques, hotels, museums, and more). My only regret is not having time to explore some cities in the north. Of course, as I always say, that just means I need to go back.

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Nazirul Hakim
Nazirul Hakim is a travel consultant and self-taught photographer who began taking by pictures of food. Today, he mainly photographs street scenes, food, and beverages. He loves traveling, being active outside, meeting new people, and sharing local experiences in his native country of Malaysia.