With wildlife-packed rainforests, vibrant cities, postcard-worthy islands and mouth-watering culinary delights, the country more than lives up to its slogan: Malaysia, Truly Asia. The diverse blend of Malays, Chinese, Indians and ethnic groups, combined with a dash of old colonial legacy, have created a mosaic of cultures and flavours.
Divided into two, its territories are split between West Malaysia, located on a peninsula connected to the mainland of Asia; and East Malaysia on the island of Borneo.
The booming metropolis, Kuala Lumpur, is the country’s capital where gleaming glass skyscrapers and multi-storey mega malls tower over colonial architecture, traditional wet markets and pockets of virgin rainforest. It is also home to the iconic Petronas Towers, the world’s tallest twin towers.
Malaysia has more than 800 islands across both sides of the peninsula and around Borneo. While some feature heritage buildings, Chinese shophouses and colourful temples; others consist of a handful of wooden shacks leading onto powdery-white sands.
Large parts of Malaysia remain intact and almost untouched, protected by national parks and wildlife reserves. Explore emerald tea plantations, mountains cloaked in mist, and ancient rainforests home to an awe-inspiring range of fauna and flora. Venture into Malaysian Borneo for some of the best diving in the world, wild treks, and a glimpse of endangered orangutans.
The weather in Malaysia is characterised by two monsoon seasons; namely the Southwest Monsoon from late May to September, and the Northeast Monsoon from November to March. The Northeast Monsoon brings heavy rainfall, particularly to the east coast states of Peninsular Malaysia and western Sarawak, whereas the Southwest Monsoon normally signifies relatively drier weather.
Malaysia is a tropical holiday destination, where temperatures fluctuate between 25 and 35 degrees during the year. It is usually very hot and humid, especially in the major cities. It is less hot on the many islands surrounding Malaysia, mainly due to the cool breezes. It is also less hot in the ‘highlands’ of Malaysia; here you can enjoy cooler temperatures that never exceed 25 degrees.
Bring loose, comfortable clothes that will keep you cool when the humidity is high. Walking shoes are needed if trekking in the rainforest and highlands. It’s a good idea to carry a fold up umbrella in your bag in case of an unpredictable rain shower. Bring a jacket for the cooler nights if venturing into the highlands.
A beach holiday can be enjoyed all year round in Malaysia, as the east and west coasts experience their wettest months at alternate times of the year.
Malaysia’s architecture has been influenced by India, China and Islam, which can be seen in particular in Malaysia’s religious buildings. The British also left their influence, with great examples found in Kuala Lumpur. Traditional arts and crafts include carving, silversmithing, weaving, kite making, batik and boat building.
The dances of the indigenous Malay, Orang Asli and different ethnic peoples of Sabah and Sarawak are truly exotic and enchanting. As the Chinese, Indians and Portuguese settled in Malaysia, the traditional dances of their homelands became a part of Malaysia’s culture and heritage. Performing arts and shadow puppet shows are also popular, often showing Indian influences.
· Always dress respectfully and remove your shoes when entering places of worship.
· Remember not to point your feet at people or sacred objects.
· Do not touch the head of an adult as this is considered rude.
· Malaysians are quite conservative so refrain from displaying affection in public.
· Swimwear is acceptable by the hotel pools but females should cover up at mainland beaches.
Malays, Chinese, Indians and many other ethnic groups have lived together in Malaysia for generations. All these cultures have influenced each other, creating a truly Malaysian culture. The largest ethnic groups in Malaysia are the Malays, Chinese and Indians. In Sabah and Sarawak, there are a myriad of indigenous ethnic groups with their own unique culture and heritage.
Islam makes up the largest demographic in Malaysia accounting for 60% of the population. Buddhism is the second largest religion dating back more than 2000 years, and accounting for approximately 20% of the population. This is followed by Christianity, Hinduism and traditional Chinese religions. The remainder is accounted for by other faiths, including Animism, Folk religion, Sikhism, Baha’i Faith and other belief systems.