INTRODUCTION TO MALAYSIA
Malaysia is a bubbling, bustling melting pot of races and religions where Malays, Indians, Chinese and other ethnic groups live together in peace and harmony. The multiculturalism made Malaysia a gastronomical paradise and home to hundreds of colorful festivals. As a people, Malaysians are very relaxed, warm and welcoming and they love celebrating and socializing.
Geographically, Malaysia is almost as varied as the culture. 11 states and two federal territories (Kuala Lumpur and Putrajaya) form Peninsular Malaysia, which is separated by the South China Sea from East Malaysia, which includes two states (Sabah and Sarawak on the island of Borneo) and a third federal territory, the island of Labuan.
One of Malaysia's key attractions is its extreme contrasts which further add to this theme of ‘diversity’. Towering skyscrapers look down upon wooden houses built on stilts while five-star hotels sit just meters away from ancient reefs.
Rugged mountains reach dramatically for the sky while their rainforest-clad slopes sweep down to floodplains teeming with forest life. Cool highland hideaways roll down to warm, sandy beaches and rich, humid mangroves.
PLACES TO VISIT:
The Cameron Highlands is one of Malaysia’s most extensive hill stations, first developed by the British in the 1920s. It has a population of more than 34,000 people consisting of Malays, Chinese, Indians and other ethnic groups. The Cameron Highlands is renowned for its trails. They lead visitors through the forest to waterfalls and other tranquil spots. Apart from its jungle walks, the sanctuary is also known for its tea plantations and visitors can book several “tea factory” tours.
Georgetown Inner City
Named after Britain’s King George III, Georgetown is located on the north-east corner of Penang Island. Most of George Town’s population is of Chinese origin. Due to strict controls, George Town retains many of its colonial-era shophouses to this day. It is officially recognized as having a unique architectural and cultural townscape without parallel anywhere in Southeast Asia. The town truly springs to life in the evenings, when most of the locals head to the nearby street hawkers to have their meals and drinks.
Taman Negara, which literally means “national park” in Malay, is one of the oldest tropical rain forest in the world. It features massive trees, waterfalls, jungle treks of various duration and the world’s longest canopy walkways. Several trails enable the visitor to explore the forest without a guide. Taman Negara is a haven for endangered species such as the Asian elephant, tigers, leopards and rhinos, but numbers are low and sightings are very rare. It’s unlikely that you will see anything more than birds, small deer, lizards, snakes and perhaps a tapir.
Tioman is a small island located off the east coast of peninsular Malaysia. In the 1970s, Time Magazine selected Tioman as one of the world’s most beautiful islands. Tourists have surged to the island ever since, seeking a taste of paradises. The island is surrounded by numerous white coral reefs, making it a haven for scuba divers while the interior is densely forested. Visitors outnumber villagers outside the monsoon (November to February), but Tioman can be virtually deserted at other times.
With a summit height at 4,095 meters (13,435 ft), Mount Kinabalu is the highest mountain in Borneo. The mountain is known worldwide for its tremendous botanical and biological species biodiversity. Over 600 species of ferns, 326 species of birds, and 100 mammalian species have been identified at Mount Kinabalu and its surrounding. The main peak of the mountain can be climbed easily by a person with a good physical condition, and requires no mountaineering equipment although climbers must be accompanied by guides at all times.
Petronas Twin Towers
The Petronas Twin Towers in Kuala Lumpur were the world’s tallest buildings before being surpassed in 2004 by Taipei 101. However, the towers are still the tallest twin buildings in the world. The 88-floor towers are constructed largely of reinforced concrete, with a steel and glass facade designed to resemble motifs found in Islamic art, a reflection of Malaysia’s Muslim religion. The Petronas Twin Towers feature a sky bridge between the two towers on the 41st and 42nd floors.
Malaysia’s best-known holiday destination, Langkawi is an archipelago of 99 islands in the Andaman Sea. The islands are a part of the state of Kedah, which is adjacent to the Thai border. By far the largest of the islands is the eponymous Pulau Langkawi with a population of about 65,000, the only other inhabited island being nearby Pulau Tuba. Fringed with long, white beaches and with an interior of jungle covered hills and craggy mountain peaks, it’s easy to see why this is Malaysia’s most heavily promoted tourist destination. The most popular beaches can be found on the west coast with a wide choice of restaurants and eateries and some of the best resorts in Langkawi.
Located off the coast of northeastern Malaysia not far from the Thai border. The Perhentian Islands are the must-go place in Malaysia for budget travelers. They have some of the world’s most beautiful beaches and great diving with plenty of cheap accommodation. The two main islands are Perhentian Besar (“Big Perhentian”) and Perhentian Kecil (“Small Perhentian”). Both the islands have palm-fringed white sandy beaches and turquoise blue sea.
The Mulu Caves are located in the Gunung Mulu National Park in Malaysian Borneo. The park encompasses incredible caves and karst formations in a mountainous equatorial rainforest setting. The Sarawak chamber found in one of the underground caves is the largest cave chamber in the world. It has been said that the chamber is so big that it could accommodate about 40 Boeing 747s, without overlapping their wings. The enormous colony of Wrinkle-lipped bats in the nearby Deer Cave exit almost every evening in search of food in a spectacular exodus.