Malay, Chinese and Indian influences bubble together in this land sliced in two by the South China Sea. Kuala Lumpur towers as a shimmering example of modern Asia with fascinating history and culture nestled among the skyscrapers and luxury hotels. And at the other end of the spectrum there is its tribal culture, prevalent in areas such as Sarawak.
Malaysia’s cultural allure is complemented by its natural assets such as the lush rainforests of Peninsular Malaysia and the Malaysian Borneo where you can have an encounter with the beloved orangutans. Intrepid travellers can take on the challenging 4101 metre ascent of Mount Kinabalu, just one of the mountains to be found in the destination. And those who prefer simply lounging on white sands with the occasional dip into crystal clear water can head to beach destinations such as Langkawi or a number of smaller island destinations such as the Perhentian Islands which are also popular for diving.
Food is also a massive drawcard. Try the Nonya cuisine, or take on the vast market made up of hawker stalls in Penang – the birthplace of the curry of the same name. Pastel coloured sweets made of rice and coconut are also worth a try – if you can handle the sugar rush. And slightly stinky, but actually pretty tasty once you get past the initial pungency, are ices made of the durian fruit.
Places to Visit in Malaysia
- Kuala Lumpur
- Kota Kinabalu
Unique Things to See and Do in Malaysia
- Have an encounter with some orangutans
- Climb Mount Kinabalu
- Snorkel at the Perhentian Islands
- Spread out on the sand at Langkawi
- Gorge on street food in Penang
The Creation of a Country
The country of Malaysia was founded in 1963, but it was no simple feat. First proposed in 1961 by the British, the original vision was for a federation that would include not only Malaya, Sabah (then known as British North Borneo) and Sarawak, but also Brunei and Singapore. However, Brunei decided against joining the scheme, while opinions in Singapore were divided.
But the plan was ill-received by neighbouring Indonesia which responded with a policy of confrontation, while the Philippines was also riled, claiming possession of North Borneo. Both countries rejected the findings of a UN study which indicated that the residents of the two Borneo territories were in favour of the plan and severed ties with the country which was newly inaugurated on September 16, 1963. Conflict flared, but was settled by 1966 when a change of leadership took place in Indonesia, and the Philippines ended its claim on North Borneo.
By this time, Singapore had left the federation. But this did not mark the end of the difficulties which had become internal, with tensions rising between the various ethnic groups that made up the population. This erupted into full-blown riots in 1969 following the general elections, with hundreds killed and much destruction seen across the country but particularly in Kuala Lumpur.
Getting Around Malaysia
Domestic air services are a fantastic way of covering large distances in Malaysia and can be very affordable thanks to a burst of low cost carriers such as AirAsia in the area. However, if you prefer to stay on the ground then you can take a taxi, bus or mini bus.
Bicycle rickshaws can also be found in some cities such as Kuala Lumpur and Melaka. KL also has commuter trains and a light railway in addition to a monorail.
Best Time of Year to Travel to Malaysia
A visit to Malaysia will normally feature high temperatures and intense humidity no matter what time of year you go; showers are also likely. However, the arrival of the northeast monsoon marks the start of the rainy season which affects Peninsular Malaysia’s east coast as well as western Sarawak from late November to mid-February. September and October are the wettest months on the west coast of the Peninsula and in Sabah.
Did you know…?
The largest cave chamber in the world by area is the Sarawak Chamber in Gunung Mulu National Park in Sarawak.
Did you ALSO know…?
The Petronas Towers in Kuala Lumpur were the world’s tallest buildings between 1998 and 2004, and are still regarded as the world’s tallest twin buildings.
Ready to plan your visit to Malaysia? Check out these popular guides and trips.