‘Selamat Datang’ is the traditional Malaysian greeting that welcomes visitors to this vibrant and exotic country. Ethnically diverse cultures share the same lush landscape and create a fusion of cultural styles, cooking and religions that is distinctly Malaysian. Festivals throughout the year mark the Malay, Chinese and Indian holidays, as well as those of the indigenous Orang Asli and the tribes of Sabah and Sarawak.
Malaysia is a country with two distinct parts. Peninsula Malaysia constitutes the long fringe of land, extending down from Asia, which borders Thailand and Singapore. The South
China Sea separates the mainland from the less populated East Malaysian provinces of Sabah and Sarawak. The dense jungles of Sabah and Sarawak support abundant plant and wildlife and Mt Kinabalu in Sabah stakes its claim as the highest peak in South East Asia.
Full country name: Federation of Malaysia
Area: 329,750sq Km
Capital: Kuala lumpur
People: 50% Malay, 33% Chinese, 9% Indian, plus indigenous tribes such as Orang Asli and Iban
Language: Bahasa Melayu (official), Chinese (Hakka and Hokkien dialects), English, Tamil
Religion: Muslim, Buddhist, Taoist, Christian, Hindu, Tribal
GPD: US$99 billion
Major export: Tin, Rubber, Palm oil, Timber, Oil, Textiles, Electronics
Major trading parteners: USA, Japan, Singapore
International telephone Code: 60
Visas: Commonwealth citizens and most European nationals do not need visas for visits of less than three months. Visitors are usually issued an extendable 30 or 60-day visa on arrival.
Health risks: Dengue fever, hepatitis, malaria, rabies
Time: GMT/UTC plus eight hours
Electricity: 220-240V, 50 Hz
Weights & measures: Metric
When to go
Malaysia is hot and humid year-round. The temperature rarely drops below 20°C, even at night, and usually climbs to 30°C or higher during the day.
The major change in seasons is marked by the arrival of the monsoons that bring heavy downpours on the east coast of Peninsula Malaysia, the northeastern part of Sabah and the western end of Sarawak (from November to February). Boat trips to the islands do not run during the height of the monsoon. The best time to visit Malaysia is between April and October.
Malaysia has over 200 golf courses. The locations vary from coast to tropical rainforest or the mountainous highlands. The Malaysian Open Golf Championships, held on the 16-19 February 2006, attract top professionals. For further information, contact Tourism Malaysia (see Top Things To Do).
More than 150 karate training centers offer regular training sessions under black-belt instructors six days a week. Visitors are welcome to receive free karate training for one week in any of the centers. A list can be obtained from the Chief Instructor, Karate Budokan International, Jalan Jubilee, Kuala Lumpur.
Malaysia has many unusual sports, including Gasing-top spinning (called Main Gasing), which uses tops fashioned from hardwood and delicately balanced with lead. Wau-kite flying is a traditional pastime. Sepak Takraw is a game like volleyball, played with a ball made of rattan strips. Players may use their heads, knees and feet but not their hands.
Malaysian longhouses, which are common along the rivers in Sarawak and Sabah, are really entire villages housed under one single roof, inhabited by native communities. For some years now, Tourism Malaysia has been promoting these characteristic habitations to tourists who are welcome to stay free of charge (although small gifts as a sign of appreciation are recommended). Visitors should be accompanied by a local guide who can also take them on a jungle walk.
Malaysia’s central railway travels largely through areas of dense jungle. It commences near Kota Bahru and continues via Kuala Krai, Gua Musang, Kuala Lipis and Jerantut to meet the Singapore-KL railway line at Gemas. Owing to extensive road building, this itinerary may change, and travelers are advised to check with Tourism Malaysia (see Top Things To Do).
Trekking and caving
Nearly 75 per cent of Malaysia is covered in forests, of which the rainforest is reputedly the world’s oldest (130 million years). There are seven national parks and many wildlife reserves and protected areas. Many of the parks offer excellent trails for jungle trekking, particularly at Taman Negara National Park (peninsular Malaysia).
Attractions - Kuala Lumpur
In 130 years, Kuala Lumpur has grown from nothing to a modern, bussling city of well over a million people. Superficially, KL (as it s almost universally known) may appear to be just another modern Asian city of gleaming skyscrapers, but it retains much of the character and local colour that has been so effectively wiped out in other Asian-boom cities such as Singapore. It has plenty of colonial buildings in its centre, a vibrant Chinatown with street vendors and night markets, and a bustling Little India.
When KL does something, it likes to do it big. The twin Petronas Towers skyscrapers - the tallest building in the world - dominate the skyline, while in Merdeka Square stands a 95m (312ft) flagpole. Despite the economic crisis, Kuala Lumpur is currently the site of large-scale development, with work underway on a new US$8 billion city on the southern fringe of the capital as well as an adjoining ultra-high-tech multimedia supercorridor . Before the Asian economic crisis hit in 1997, there were also plans to build the world's longest building, too.
Budget hotels and hostels can be found in Chinatown and Jalan Pudu Lama. Mid-range hotels are concentrated in Chinatown and on Jalan Bukit Bintang. The night market in Chinatown is the most interesting place to eat in the evening.