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Malaysia - the most important information for travelers 2021

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Malaysia. Top destinations in Malaysia.

West CoastEast CoastSouthSabahSarawak

Malaysia is divided into two major geographic regions, commonly known as Peninsula Malaysia and East Malaysia. See geography for more information.

Region: west coast

West coast (Perlis, Kedah, Penang, Perak, Selangor, Kuala Lumpur, Putrajaya, Negeri Sembilan, Malacca)
The more developed region with the modern capital Kuala Lumpur, the UNESCO World Heritage Sites with colonial flair and the Langkawi Archipelago.

Region: east coast

East coast (Kelantan, Pahang, Terengganu)
The more traditional Muslim region, home to Taman Negara (National Park), numerous pristine islands and the jungle railway that meanders through the rural hinterland.

Region: South

South (johor)
Consisting of just one state, two coastlines, endless palm oil plantations and the gateway to Singapore overland.

Region: Sabah

Excellent diving on the island of Sipadan plus dung diving in Mabul, the nature reserves, the federal island of Labuan and the mighty Mount Kinabalu.

Region: Sarawak

The southern state of East Malaysia. Home to traditional longhouses, lush jungles and national parks in contrast to the state capital Kuching.

Get to know and understand the uniqueness of Malaysia.


Malaysia is a mixture of the modern world and developing country. With its investments in high technology industries and moderate oil wealth, it has become a wealthy nation in Southeast Asia. Malaysia is a happy mix for most visitors: it has a high-tech infrastructure and things are generally going well and more or less according to plan, but prices remain cheaper than, say, Singapore. The demographics between rich and poor are also impressive: for example, a luxurious high-rise that was built directly across from old, run-down shops or apartments. However, there is no extreme rural poverty or gigantic slums as in other places in Southeast Asia.
In terms of attractions, the Peninsula (West) Malaysia has islands with beautiful beaches and a fraction of the visitors to Thailand's most popular beaches, mountainous areas surrounded by tea plantations, interesting historical cities, world-renowned food and the ultra-modern, multicultural capital of Kuala Lumpur. The island kingdom (East Malaysia) contains lush jungles with a diverse local population and wildlife, as well as breathtaking natural attractions such as huge caves, beautiful mountains and fantastic diving spots. Above all, Malaysia is not as popular with backpackers as other Southeast Asian travel destinations such as Thailand, Laos and Vietnam, partly because of the relatively higher costs, partly because of the more religious and conservative, if generally more tolerant, culture.

A brief history of Malaysia. What is Malaysia most famous for?

Before the rise of European colonial powers, the Malay Peninsula and Archipelago were home to empires such as the Srivijaya (whose capital is near modern Palembang, Sumatra, but encompassed the entire Malay Peninsula and is at its greatest extent further north), the Majapahit (in Java, now part of Indonesia, but regarded by most scholars as the entire Malay Peninsula and most of the coastal region of Borneo under their vassal states) and the Malacca Sultanate. The Srivijaya and Majapahit empires saw the spread of Hinduism in the region, and despite the fact that Malays are Muslim, many Hindu legends and traditions survive in traditional Malay culture. The mass conversion to Islam only took place after the arrival of the Arab traders during the Sultanate of Malacca.
In the 16th century, the Portuguese established the first European colony in Southeast Asia by defeating the Sultanate of Malacca. The Portuguese were religiously intolerant and cruel, so the Sultan of Johor helped the Dutch defeat them and the Netherlands took control of the city. The British established their first colony on the Malay Peninsula in Penang when it was ceded by the Sultan of Kedah in 1786. Finally, with the signing of the Anglo-Dutch Treaty in 1824, the area was divided into Dutch and British spheres of influence. With this treaty, the Dutch agreed to cede Malacca to the British, and in return the British surrendered all of their colonies on Sumatra to the Dutch. The dividing line roughly corresponds to today's border between Malaysia and Indonesia.
Before World War II, the Malay Peninsula was ruled by the British as the Federated Malay States (Selangor, Perak, Negeri Sembilan and Pahang), which were ruled as a single entity, the Unfederated Malay States (Johor, Kedah, Perlis, Terengganu and Kelantan) , each ruled as separate protectorates, and the Straits Settlements (including Malacca, Penang, and Singapore), which were crown colonies. These colonies and protectorates were collectively known as "Malaya". British Borneo consisted of the British colony of North Borneo, the Kingdom of Sarawak, ruled by a British family called "White Rajas", and the British protectorate of Brunei.
World War II was disastrous for the British-Malaysian command. The Japanese swept down both coasts of the Malay Peninsula and, despite fierce fighting, much of the British military was tied up fighting the Germans in Europe, and those who stayed in Malaya simply couldn't handle the Japanese onslaught. The British military equipment that was left to defend Malaysia was out of date and inconsistent with modern Japanese technology, and the only two British battleships in the area, the HMS Prince of Wales and the HMS Repulse, were taken by Japanese bombers off the east coast of Malaysia sunk. By January 31, 1942, the British were pushed back as far as Singapore (then considered part of Malaya), which also fell to the Japanese on February 15, 1942. In Borneo, which fell to the Japanese on April 1, 1942 after months of fierce fighting, the situation was no different. The Japanese occupation was brutal and many, especially the ethnic Chinese, suffered and died during the occupation. One of the most famous atrocities committed by the Japanese was the Sandakan death marches, with only 6 of 2,345 prisoners surviving the war.
After the Second World War, the Federated Malay States, the Unfederated Malay States, and the street settlements of Malacca and Penang were merged into a single British colony, known as the Malay Union. In the Malay Union, the sultans of the various states have ceded all of their powers, except those in religious matters, to the British crown. Widespread opposition to the Malay Union caused the British to reconsider their position, and in 1948 the Malay Union was replaced by the Federation of Malaya, which restored the leadership positions of the sultans. In Borneo, the White Rajas transferred Sarawak to the British Crown in 1946 and made it a Crown Colony of the United Kingdom.
On August 31, 1957, Malaya gained independence from the British. At midnight the Union Jack was lowered and the Malaysian flag was hoisted in its place at what is now Dataran Merdeka (Independence Square) in Kuala Lumpur. The crowd, led by Malaya's first prime minister, Tunku Abdul Rahman, then sang "Merdeka" seven times. On September 16, 1963, Malaysia was created through the merger of Malaya with the British colonies of North Borneo (now Sabah), Sarawak and Singapore, with Brunei choosing not to join. The first few years of the country's history were claimed by the Confrontation (Konfrontasi) - actually a series of aggressions by Indonesia that eventually ended in their defeat and a formal peace that has continued since - and Sabah of the Philippines. On August 9, 1965, Singapore was officially expelled from the federation after several bloody race riots, as the majority of Singapore's Chinese population and the People's Action Party, led by Lee Kuan Yew (later the longtime Prime Minister of Singapore), viewed Malay rule as a threat were. There were further racial riots in 1969 that resulted in the forced resignation of Tunku Abdul Rahman; his replacement by Tun Abdul Razak; Changes in the Malaysian constitution aimed at preventing the United Malays National Organization (UMNO)-led Barisan Nasional (BN) coalition from ever being defeated in future national elections; and the beginning of the New Economic Policy, which aimed to balance the economic interests of the generally poorer Malay community (and also the non-Malay indigenous peoples of East Malaysia) versus those of the generally less poor Chinese community (with the poorest major ethnic group, the Indians, and also to aggressively promote the Orang Asli (indigenous people) on the peninsula, who were largely ignored in the process.
In 1975, boat people from the South China Sea began coming into Vietnam, and Malaysia became one of the main havens for Indochinese refugees, but generally only those of the Muslim Champa minority were invited to stay permanently. Later, during the period of enormous economic development under the long tenure of Mahathir Mohammed, large numbers of guest workers from Bangladesh, Indonesia, India and several other countries in the region were invited and even more immigrated illegally. This further increased the diversity of the population, and a fair number of workers were reported in local newspapers that they were married to local women, but it also led to social unrest, as many Malaysian men turned down competition and immigrated during the economy Dependent on workers that most Malaysians were no longer willing to work because their standard of living was higher, most Malaysians also did not want to permanently accept large and possibly almost unlimited numbers of poor people from the much more populous countries in the region. Some immigrants have been expelled and even convicted of violating immigration laws, but the problem has never really been resolved.

Understanding - Politics

Malaysia is a federal constitutional monarchy consisting of 13 states and 3 federal territories, nominally headed by the king (Yang di-Pertuan Agong, lit. Paramount Ruler), whose position rotates every five years under the rulers of the 9 royal states of Malaysia and Malaysia gives a unique political system of rotating monarchy. The current king, Tuanku Muhammad V of Kelantan, was sworn in on December 13, 2016 and his term ends on December 13, 2021.
Malaysia's government is largely based on the British Westminster system, which consists of a bicameral parliament, with each of the states also having its own unicameral Dewan Undangan Negeri (State Legislative Assembly). The lower house, known as Dewan Rakyat (Hall of the People), is directly elected by the people. The House of Lords, known as the Dewan Negara (National Hall), consists of 26 members elected by state governments, with each state having 2 representatives, while the remaining members are appointed by the king. The head of government is the prime minister, who is the party leader of the victorious party in the lower house. In the 2018 elections, the Pakatan Harapan (PH) opposition coalition, led by former Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad, achieved a shock victory over the United Malays National Organization (UMNO) coalition led by Barisan Nasional (BN), which has been in power since 1973.
In practice, the king is only the nominal head of state, while the prime minister is the one who has most of the authority in government.

Understanding - Geography

Malaysia is made up of two geographic regions, Peninsula Malaysia and East Malaysia, separated by the South China Sea.
The Peninsula Malaysia (Semenanjung Malaysia) occupies the entire Malay Peninsula between Thailand and Singapore and is also known as West Malaysia (Malaysia Barat) or the slightly archaic Malaya (Tanah Melayu). It is home to most of Malaysia's population, its capital and largest city, Kuala Lumpur, and is generally more economically developed. The Malaysia Peninsula is made up of plains on both the east and west coasts separated by a mountain range called the Banjaran Titiwangsa, with the west coast being more densely populated and generally better developed than the east coast.
East Malaysia (Malaysia Timur) is about 800 km east of the Malaysia peninsula. East Malaysia occupies the northern third of the island of Borneo, along with Indonesia and small Brunei. Much of the development in East Malaysia is concentrated in the cities of Kuching, Miri and Kota Kinabalu. Outside the big cities and towns there is an impenetrable jungle where headhunters once roamed and the coastal plains towered into the mountains. East Malaysia is rich in natural resources and provides much of Malaysia's industrial and tourist hinterland.

Understand - people

Malaysia is a multicultural society. While Malays make up a majority of 52%, 27% of Malaysians are Chinese (who are particularly visible in the cities), 9% are Indians, 12% are members of indigenous people (often called Orang Asli, Malay for "Original People"), and there is a diverse grouping of 1.5% "Others", including Thai communities in the northern border states and the Portuguese clan in Malacca. The majority of the population (including virtually all Malays, as well as a significant minority of Indians) adheres to Islam, the official religion, and there are significant minorities who practice Christianity, Buddhism, Taoism, Hinduism, Sikhism, and animism.

Understanding - culture

Malaysia shares many cultural similarities with its neighbors Indonesia, Singapore and Brunei due to their common history. Since the first great kingdoms to emerge in the region were Hindu kingdoms with much influence from India, Malay culture has significant Indian influences. This is most evident in Malay cuisine with the relatively heavy use of curries, albeit with local instead of Indian spices, which means that Malay curries often have a unique local taste that differs from that of their Indian counterparts. The minorities of Malaysia also continue to cultivate their own culture, with the Chinese and Indian communities maintaining the traditions of their ancestral homeland.

Understand - Holidays

One of the most important features of Malaysian culture is the celebration of various festivals and events. The year is full of colorful, exhilarating and exhilarating activities. Some are religious and solemn, others are lively, joyous events. An interesting feature of the main festivals here is the "open house" custom. At this time, the Malaysians celebrating the festival invite friends and family to their home for traditional delicacies and fellowship.
Multicultural Malaysia celebrates a wide variety of festivals, but the ones to watch out for across the country are Islamic holidays, most notably the fasting month of Ramadan. During its 29 or 30 days, Muslims refrain from eating, drinking, smoking and sex from morning to night.
Not all Muslims follow the tradition or maintain the entire Ramadan fast, but most make very serious efforts. Pregnant, breastfeeding, or menstruating women are not expected to fast, nor are the elderly, sick, or travelers. People get up early to eat (sahur) before sunrise and leave early to get home in time to break quickly at sunset (buka puasa).
At the end of the month, the festival of Eid ul-Fitr, known as Hari Raya Puasa or Aidilfitri, is when many locals take a week or two off vacation to Balik Kampung or return to their hometowns to meet family and friends. Accordingly, this is one of the many times a year when large cities like Kuala Lumpur have practically no traffic jams.
Another important festival is the Muslim festival of Eid ul-Adha, known as Hari Raya Haji or Aidiladha. During this festival, Muslims perform the Hajj, or pilgrimage to Mecca. In the local mosques, cows and goats are donated and sacrificed by the faithful, after which the meat is distributed to everyone. Family reunions are also celebrated during other major festivals where the locals usually wear traditional costumes and outfits as these festivals are an integral part of Malaysian society.
During the month of Ramadan, non-Muslims are expected to show consideration for fasting.Non-Muslims, as well as Muslims who travel (musafir), are exempt from fasting, but it is polite not to eat or drink in public. Public school systems also require non-Muslims not to eat in front of those who fast. Many restaurants close during the day and those that stay open hold back. Business travelers will find that things move a little more slowly than usual. The benefit for foreign travelers is the Ramadan bazaars in every town and city, which are bursting with activity and bursting at the seams. Hotels and restaurants are also pulling out all the stops to eat in bulk for quick celebrations. During the month of Ramadan, meals at the end of the fast are usually considered major festivals. The global fast food chain McDonald's is known for holding several Ramadan festivities during the month.
Other important holidays are the Chinese New Year (around January / February), Deepavali or Diwali, the Hindu Festival of Lights (around October / November), the Buddhist holiday of Wesak (around May / June) and Christmas (December 25th). During the Chinese New Year celebrations, George Town and Ipoh become major cities as many local Chinese people work and live from there. However, this situation is gradually changing as more and more people make Kuala Lumpur their hometown. While visiting during such festivals, travelers will see many wonderful festivals, but the downside is that many ethnic shops and restaurants will be closed. Best in the time shortly after the first two days of the big festival (Hari Raya / Chinese New Year), when the shops open and the festive atmosphere has not yet subsided.
Another great festival is Deepavali, celebrated by the Malaysian Hindus as the festival of light from classical India and one of the most important cultural festivals. In Malaysia, the locals practice this tradition by wearing new clothes and receiving gifts of money. This practice has been adopted by all Malaysians regardless of their religion. They hand out red packets or ang pow during Chinese New Year, green packets or 'suit raya' for Hari Raya Aidilfitri and multi-colored packets during Deepavali.