Malaysia, which celebrated 50 years of independence in 2007, is one of the rising stars of South– East Asian tourism; a nation looking to the future while cherishing the proud history of the past. Centuries of trade combined with a vibrant mix of Malay, Chinese, Indian and tribal influence have created a diverse people and culture that make it a colourful and intriguing place to visit, and a gastronomical paradise.
The British were relatively late arrivals to the region in the late 18th century, following Portuguese and later Dutch settlement, but they played a key role following the European wars of the 1790s and, in particular, the defeat of the Netherlands by France in 1795. The Federated Malay States were created in 1895, and remained under British colonial control until the Japanese invasion of 1942.
After Japanese defeat in 1945, the 11 states were once again incorporated as British Protectorates and, in 1948, became the Federation of Malaya. In 1963, the Federation of Malaya merged with Singapore and the former British colonies of Sarawak and Sabah, on north Borneo, to form modern Malaysia. Singapore seceded to become an independent state in its own right in 1965, leaving Malaysia in its present form.
Malaysia today is a country of contrasts. Towering skyscrapers look down upon wooden houses built on stilts, and five-star hotels sit several metres away from ancient reefs. Cool hideaways are found in the highlands that roll down to warm, sandy beaches and rich, humid mangroves. To visit Malaysia is to experience a harmony of varied cultures and landscapes.
Things To Do
- Overland Tours – The best way to explore Malaysia's ethnic diversity and plantations from lowland to highlands.
- Scuba diving – The most popular spots are the islands off the East Coast of peninsular Malaysia (Perhentian, Redang, Tioman and many more), although the dive season is limited to April through September. However, the most famous dive site, often ranked among the best in the world, is Sipadan in at the easternmost tip of Malaysian Borneo, and there are many other less well known sites like Layang Layang.
- Whitewater rafting – Many national parks in Malaysia offer whitewater rafting, where you brave anything from tame Grade I to the incredibly difficult and dangerous Grade V rapids.
- Jungle Trekking – The oldest rainforest in the world is located in Malaysia, along with 25 other national parks. The best treks are in Taman Negara and Borneo.
- Self– drive – Due to Malaysia's smooth highways, stretching from Johore (border to Singapore)in the south to Bukit Kayu Hitam (border to Thailand) in the north, you can feel comfortable renting a car driving the length of the country at your own leisurely pace.
- Shopping – Kuala Lumpur is fast becoming one of the best shopping cities in South East Asia, with great shopping facilities. Penang is not far behind.
- Food Trails – Malaysia's mixed culture produces many variety of food. Penang, Malacca, Kuala Lumpur and Ipoh are known food havens. mountain climbing. The most popular summit is Mt.Kinabalu which, at nearly 8000m, is the highest in South East Asia. Others include Mt Tahan, Frasers hill and Penang hill.
- Golfing – There are about 200 golf courses in Malaysia, designed up to the highest caliber international standard. Although most courses belong to private clubs, many welcome visitors and charge only nominal green fees.