Malaysian lies in the heart of Southeast Asia.  The southernmost  projection of mainland Asia. This crescent-shaped country is just north of the equator.  Malaysia is made up of two regions, which are separated by about 750km of the South China Sea. In the west is Peninsular Malaysia, and in the east are Sabah and Sarawak, which span the north and northwestern coast of the island of Borneo.

Peninsular Malaysia shares a land frontier with Thailand to the north and a maritime boundary with Singapore to the south, while Sabah and Sarawak border Kalimantan. In the northeast, Sabah also shares maritime borders with The Philippines. Situated in the northwest coast of Sarawk is Brunei.

The country covers an area of 329,733 square km. Peninsular Malaysia has an area of 131,573 square km, while Sabah and Sarawak 73,711 and 124,449 square km respectively. Its coastline extend for nearly 4,675km from the Indian Ocean to  the South China Sea. The west coast of the Peninsula is most accessible because the Straits of Melaka is sheltered.

Malaysia is a multi-racial country. With several major races and numerous indigenous tribes living harmoniously together, Malaysia truly exemplifies the “melting pot of cultures”.

The official religion is ISLAM but Malaysians are guaranteed their freedom of worship. Religious organisations may own property and operate their own institutions.

All the Malays and some of the Indians, Chinese and orange asli are Muslims. The majority of Chinese are Buddhists or Taoists, and the Indians are Hindus with a minority of Sikhs. There are also Christian Chinese and Indians, together with the Eurasians. The indigenous people of Sabah and Sarawak are mainly animists/traditional believers or Christians.

Malaysians speak many tongues. The language of the indigenous Malays, Bahasa Melayu, has been made the official language, ie Bahasa Malaysia. English is spoken widely and used extensively in business, commerce and industry.

The various races and tribes speak their own languages and dialects. The main Chinese dialects are Hokkien, Contonese, Teochew, Hainaneseand Hakka. Most Indians speak Tamil, with Punjabi, Urudu, Gujerati, Hinidi, Telungu and Malayalam speaking minorities

Festivals and Celebration of Malaysia:

As a multi-racial and multi-religious county, Malaysia enjoys a variety of celebrations, central to which is the unique tradition of the “open house” A Malay custom of inviting relatives and friends to participate in the festivities of Aidilfitri and Aidiladha, has been adopted by all Malaysians in their own religious festivals.

National Day: The National Day is celebrated throughout the country on August 31 to commemorate Malaysia’s Independence. Colorful parades, variety shows and shopping carnivals are held to mark the event.

Birthday of the Yang di-Pertuan Agong: The Supreme Head of State, is celebrated on the first Saturday of the  month of June. The highlight is the conferment of a awards and titles by His Majesty to those who have distinguished themselves in their services to the country.

Aidilfitri/Hari Raya Puasa: The Muslim festival of Aidilfitri concludes a month of daily fasting form sunrise to sunset, and is celebrated with fellow Muslims throughout the world. Beginning seven days before the Hari Raya, oil lamps are lighted outside the house to usher in the auspicious day. The day begins with Muslims asking for forgiveness from family members and prayers conducted in mosques throughout the country. The day is also marked by the giving of  zakat or alms to the poor. Homes are gaily decorated and a variety of delicacies are prepared for visiting friends and relatives.
Aidiladha/Hari Raya Haji: Aidiladha is celebrated on the tenth day of the twelfth month in the Muslim calendar, when Muslim s perform the last rites of the Haj (Pilgrimage) in the Holy City of Mecca. Those with means will perform qurban (Sacrificing cattle) to give to the poor. Other Islamic celebrations in Malaysia are Awal Muharram ( the first day of the Muslim calendar), the birthday of Prophet Muhammed and Nuzul Quran( day of revelation of the Quran)

Chinese New Year : The Lunar New Year marks  a new year which is named in  rotation  after each of the  12 animals of the Chinese zodiac. Festivities begin with the family reunion dinner on the eve of the occasion. The following days are spent visiting temples, friends and relative, paying respect to the elders and giving away of angpau, red packets containing money, to unmarried youngsters. One of the main attractions during this festive occasion is the dragon/lion dance. The festival lasts for fifteen days, culminating in Chap Goh Meh, which is celebrated on a grand scale with prayers and offerings.

Moon Cake Festival: Celebrated on the fifteenth days of the eighth month of the Chinese lunar calendar, the festival is celebrated with the eating of moon cakes and the lighting of paper lanterns.

Wesak Day: Buddhists  celebrate the spiritual birth and  the attainment of Enlightenment by Lord Buddha by the chanting of sutras, and lighting of incense and  candles, the offering of flowers, as well as the release of pigeons. The highlight of the occasion is the colorful procession of illuminated floats with devotees carrying lighted candles and lanterns.

Deepavali: This festival of lights marks the ‘victory of good over evil’ to commemorate the  victory of Lord Krishna over the demon king Ravana. The day begins early with Hindus taking an oil both and praying in temples, followers by visits to friends and relatives. Homes are brightly lit with oil lamps while the sitting room is beautifully decorated with kolam, colorful patterns/drawings on he floor made of rice flour. The day is also marked by the serving of sweet delicacies.

Thaipusam: Thaipusam is a day of penance and atonement for Hindus to mark the birthday of Lord Subramaniam. Amidst chanting and drumming, devotees carry kavadis or wooden steel yokes with long spikes and metal hooks pierced into their bodies. In  Kuala Lumpur, the festival begins with a grand procession of the silver chariot bearing the statue  of Lord Subramaniam, accompanied by thousands of Kavadi bearing devotees intent on climbing the 272 steps leading to the Hindu temple atop the Batu Caves.

Gawai Dayak: Celebrated by the Dayaks of Sarawak, it marks the end of the paid- planting season and the beginning of a new season. A day before the celebration, every member of the family will return home to attend a reunion ceremony, complete with sumptuous  food and merry-making. Dancing and tuak (rice wine)- Drinking add to the merriment. The festival offers visitors a chance to see the Dayak decked in their finest costume, complete with elaborate headgears and accessories.

Pesta Ka’amatan (Harvest Festival): Celebrated in the month of May, Pesta Kea’amatan is celebrated by the Kadazan-Dusun and Murut people of Sabah in homage to the rice spirit called Bambarayon. The highlight of the festival is the dance performed by the high priestess of the tribe in search of Bombayaron. A good harvest can be expected if the rice spirit is found. After the dance, merry making follows with the drinking of tapai (rice wine) and more dances. A beauty congest is also held to seek the fairest maid in honour of a sacrifice made by a maid in olden times.

Christmas: Malaysian Christians attend midnight church services on the eve of Christmas Day. Carollers bring Yuletide joy at shopping centres, hotels, individuals. Old Folks’ and Children’s Homes in celebration of the birth of Jesus Christ.

Flora Fest: Held in July every year, this week-long festival futures a flora hunt, florathon, floral exhibitions and completions in various shopping complexes, hotels and other public places. The highlight of the festival is a spectacular floral parade along the steers of KL.

Malaysia Fest: A two week extravaganza showcasing the best of Malaysian culture, crafts and cuisine and the various attractions of Malaysia’s 13 states. Food festivals, cultural shows and exhibitions of the numerous crafts and attractions of the states are held in hotels and shopping complexes.

        Until the beginning of the  15th  century, the history of what is now Malaysia is difficult to reconstruct with any certainty. Historians have tended to regard the rise  of a great enter port, Malaka and the period of the Melaka Sultanate, founded just before 1400 A.D. as an identifiable starting paint for Malay history. Behind the splendor of Melaka’s court and the vigour of its commerce, however, lay traditions of government and trade that had evolved over centuries.
        A major theme emerging from prehistory into the historic period of the Malay archipelago is the importance of trade in shaping the region’s history. The geographical position of the Malay archipelago on the crossroads of two major sea routes which link it to the vast Indian traders were estimated to have arrived at least  1,700 years ago. Trade with India brought two major religions, Buddhism and Hinduism, and the concept of political power.
        Based on available Chinese records, a direct line can be traced between kantoli, the first important Malay entrepot, Sri Vijaya, which emerged in the seventh century in southeast Sumatra and Melaka. Early kingdoms which shared the same commercial world as Srivijaya were Langkasuka in the Patani region, Chiih-tu, believed to be in the Kelantan area. Tan-Tan, somewhere near present-day Trenganu, Melayu, believed to be on the Jambi River just north of Palembang and Vijaypura in west Borneo. Kedah, as kingdom, preceded Melaka but historical data on this state is scanty. By the time Melaka was founded around 1400 A.D, the Malay archipelago had for hundreds of years been part of a complex trading network stretching from African to China.

        Both Malay and European account Melaka’s establishment to Praameswara, a refuged Hindu prince from Palembang, who had first set up a settlement in Temasek, which he called Singapura (Singapore). Parameswara later on was forced by the Sri Vijayan empire to flee from Singapura and to move his kingdoms to Muar and then to Melaka. During the 15th century, Melaka rose to become, in the words of Tome Pires, ‘of such importance and profit that it  seems to  me it has no equal in the world’. Melaka’s prominence in the 15th century earned for the Sultanate a place of ascendancy in the Malay world which remained effective long after its defeat by the Portuguese. Legitimacy was often based on the ability to trace connections back to the original Melaka royal house. Sabha and Sarawak, on the other hand, did not come under the ambit of Melaka. These were part of the Brunei Sultanate, which attained the height of its glory in the 16th century after the fall of Melaka.
        The fall of Melaka in 1511 did not mark the end of the regime, for in Malay political culture, it was the institution of ruler rather than the territory  which provided the  proper basis for the existence of government (Kerajaan).
        One of the greatest legacies of Melaka was its cultural influence, principally because of its association with Islam in the early 15th century. The spread of Islam itself through the archipelago is generally attributed to the Muslim traders, mainly from India, in the 13th century. Parameswara himself converted to Islam.  As Melaka expanded territorially, it compelled its vassals in the Straits area to accept Islam. So, intertwined was the concept of Islam with Melayu in the Malay peninsula that to convert to Islam was sometimes referred to as Malay.

European Incursions:
        With the aim of dominating the key points in the Muslim trading network through which Asian spices reached Europe, Portugal sent Alfonso de Albuquerque to  capture Melaka. Melaka fell on 10 August 1511 after a month-long siege. Sultan Mahmud Shah and his family fled Melaka and subsequently established the states of Pahang., Johor and Perak. They were the earliest Sultanates to be established in the Malay Peninsula. Pahang in the 17th  century, was absorbed by Johor and only re-emerged as an independent Sultanate in 1881.
        With the help of the Kingdom of Johor, the Dutch laid assault on Melaka and captured it in January 1641. Neither conquest, however, contributed to any important Social change in Malay society. Portuguese influence on Malay culture is basically limited to a dozen words and music. One long-lasting legacy is the Kristang, the people of Portuguese descent who still live in Melaka. In 1824, the Duch signed the Anglo-Dutch Treaty exchanging Melaka for Benkolen in effectively ending whatever little influence they had on the peninsula.

British Administration and Development:
        British political influence in the 19th  century  altered the country’s political, economic and social systems, with consequences that are still felt today.
        Late in the 18th  century Britain began to extend its commercial interests  from India to Pulau Penang, which it acquired from the Sultan of Kedah in 1786, In 1819, Britain acquired Singapore from the Sultan of Johor, followed by Melak in 1824 from the Dutch, prompting the British to establish a British colony comprising Pulau Penang, Melaka and Singapore, know as the Straits Settlements.
        The Pangkor Agreement of 1874 marked the beginning of radical political and administrative changes in the Malay States. Duties and privileges once the preserve of the Malay kings and the aristocrats were transferred into the hands of the British Residents, who were appointed to advise he Sultans on all matters except those touching on Islam and Malay custom. The reality, however, was that the Sultans were compelled to accept the advice, leaving hem nothing more than puppets. To consolidate its power, the British combined the States of Perak, Selangor, Negeri Sembilan and Pahang into a federation known as the Federated Malay Sates (FMS) in 1895. In 1909, the Siamese transferred to the British their rights of suzerainty over Kedah, Perlis, Kelantan and Terengganu. A British Advisor was then appointed to each of these four Sates. Johor joined this grouping in 1914 to form the Unfedrated Malay Sates.
        The  economic invasion begun in the mid 19th century led to the bringing in of large numbers of immigrants from China to work in the Tin mines and rubber industry around 1910.Its growth led to a second wave of immigration of Indian to the Peninsula. To support their economic activities, the British built roads, railways and communication system.
        The British also introduced the trappings of a British-style government, law and education system to the county. The administration of the country was concentrated in the hands of an elite British colonial service.
        The 19th century also swathe emergence of new states. In 1821, the Siamese had conquered Kedah and ruled for 20 years. After the Siamese withdrawal, Perlis, then a territory within Kedah, was granted its independence. In 1881, Pahang freed it self from the Johor Empire, and the present ruling house was founded. Peninsular Johor likewise asserted its independence in 1885 when the de facto ruler, the Maharaja, declared himself a Sultan. Otherwise, the Malay society on the whole, did not immediately feel the impact of foreign domination. Changes occurred mainly at the top. At the lower level of society, there was no major dislocation. Even when education was introduced, constraints were placed on the development of English education. Malay vernacular education was an instrument to ensure that no radical changes occurred at the lower levels of Malay society.
        In 1840 a British adventurer, James Brooke, visited Kuching, then part of Brunei’s domain. During his stay he successfully intervened in a revolt against the rule of the Sultan of Brunei’s Viceroy. As a reward, the Sultan in 1841 installed him as Rajah. Subsequently the Rajah’s territory was enlarged to the extent of the present boundary of the State.
        In 1877 and 1878, British business interests succeeded in obtaining cessions of north and east Borneo from the Sultans of Brunei and Sulu respectively. When the British North Borneo Company was founded in 1882, it acquired all the ceded possessions. In 1888, Sarawak, Brunei and North Borneo ( Now Sabah) became British protectorates.

        A new constitution was introduced in1955. This transferred the responsibility of government to the elected representatives of the people. The new Federal Legislative Council was consist of 52 elected members. In the first general elections of July 1955, the Alliance Party –coalition of the United Malays National Organisation (UMNO), the Malayan Chinese Association (MCA) and the Malayan Indian Congress (MIC) swept 51 of the 52 seats and led the drive for independence. The president of UMNO, Tunk Abdul Rahman became the Chief Minister.
        In 1956, conference was held in London to discuss independence. It was agreed that a Constitutional Commission be appointed to draft a constitution providing for a full self-government and independence within the Commonwealth. The Reid Commission, which was given that task, submitted its report to the Government in February 1957. The Legislative Council then  accepted with the Alliance and the British Government. The Federation of Malaya Agreement was subsequently signed in August 1957. Malaya finally achieved independence on August 31,1957. Tunku Abdul Rahman became its first Prime Minister.

        Malaysia is a federation comprising the13 states of Johor, Kedah, Kelantan, Melaka, Negeri Sembilan, Pahang, Perak, Perlis, Pulau Pinang, Sabah, Sarawak, Selangor,Terengganu, and the 2 federal territories of Kuala Lumpur, Labuanand Putrajaya.
        At the time of   independence in 1957, there were only the 11 states in Peninsular Malaysia, Singapore, Sabah and Sarawak joined the Federation in 1963 with the formation of Malaysia, but Singapore broke away 2 years later. Kuala Lumpur, then the capital of Selangor, was turned into a Federal Territory on February 1,1974. The island of Labuan in Sabha followed suit on April 16, 1984 and Putrajaya in 1st February 2001.

Perlis Indera Kayangan:
Bordering Tailand, this sugarland of Malaysia charms with its serene and rustic beauty. For a view of a picturesaue fishing village with a rich offering of sea bounty, visit Kuala Perlis and for unbeatable shopping at bargain prices, head fo the border town of Padang Besar. Visit the wondrous lime stone caves at Gua Kelam and Wang Kelian, and meet with more than 50 species of snakes at the Sungai Batu Pahat snake farm.

Kedah Darul Amman:
Termed the  ‘Rice Bowl’ of Malaysia, Kedah is steeped in history with the ancient Hindu and Buddist ruins of Bujang Valley dating back 1,500 yeas ago. The Balai Besar and Royal Museum showcase the best of Malay architecture and Kedah’s royal and cultural heritage. Visit Lake Pedu for rest and recreation, the Bukit Hijau Recreational Forest for its seven-tier-waterfalls, and for the ultimate dream vacation, bask in the mystery and beauty of the  legendary island of Langkawi.

Pulau Pinang

Known as ‘Pearl of the Orient’, Pulau Pinang with its unique blending of the East and West, the old and the new, is a haven for heritage buiding buffs, sun seekers, shoppers and gourmets alike. Amidst the bustle of city life, one may find solace in  beautiful old buildings like the Acheen Street Mosque (1820), Kek Lok Si Temple with its Pagoda of Ten Thousand Buddhas and the Temple of Chaiya Mangkalaram that houses one of the world’s longest reclining status of the Buddha.

Perak Darul Ridzuan:
The silver state, once rich with tin, now offers excellent tourist destinations and business opportunities. Known for its limestone hills and caves, Perak has the Tempurung Cave and the cave temple of Sam Poh Tong. The royal town of Kuala Kangsar is beautiful with the resplendent Ubudiah Mosque and the nail-less Kenagan Palace. Taiping, the first town to  have trains, has Malaysia’s oldest museum, while Ipoh abounds with beautiful historical buildings. For nature lovers, visit the pristine Belum Forest, the fishing paradise of Lake Banding, the beautiful Pangkor Island and  Kuala Gula Bird Sanctruay.

Selangor Darul Ehsan:
The industrial heartland of Malaysia. Selangor is the location for Malaysia’s new “State-of-the-art” KLIA international airport at Sepang, the beautiful new administrative centre of Putrajaya, and the Multimedia Super Corridor, Malaysia’s premier information technology tested. Selangore also offers numerous shopping paradises and theme parks. Batu Caves, the southernmost lime store cave in the world. Contains a Hindu Shrine located atop hundreds of  steps, while the Blue Mosque is surrounded with lakes and parks. Kumpung Kuantan’s mangrove swamp is one of the few remaining places in the world to observe thousands of fireflies, while at the MinesResort City one can watch the light show at what was once the world’s largest open-cast tin mine.

Federal Territory of Kuala Lumpur:
Kuala Lumpur, meaning “muddy confluence”, is the commercial and business capital of Malysia. A bustling metropolis that houses the world’s tallest building, the PETRONAS TWIN TOWERS, it also retains its old world charm in majestic colonial era buildings, quaint per-war shop houses and the way businesses and daily life are conducted. For a panoramic view of the city, climb the KL Tower and dine at the revolving restaurant. Sports enthusiasts should not miss the National Sports Complex, the venue for the highly successful XVI Commonwealth Games held in September 1998. Other notable Moorish-inspired buildings are the Railway Station, Sultan Abdul Samad Build  and the Jamek Mosque, the beautifully preserved traditional Malay house of Penghulu Abu Seman, the Royal Palace, the Islamic Arts Museum, National Art Gallery and the National Theatre. Beautiful with greenery, the Garden City bustles at night with numerous night markets, eateries and shopping haunts. City travel is now more convenient with the light rail transit system. For sights and sounds that capture the imagination, shop or brows at the lively PETALING STREET (China Town) or the colorful MASJID INDIA STREET (Little India). Catering to all tastes and means, Kuala Lumpur is truly a city for all.

Negeri Sembilan Darul Khusus:
From the beautiful Sri Menanti Palace to the unique matrilineal kinship system, this state is rich with Minangkabau influence. More laid back, it offers respite for many “Kllites” who have madeSeremban their hometown. Besidesthe woulderful tourist attractions, like the Jeram Toi Waterfall, the Pedas hotsprings, the Tampin Forest Reserve and the Port Dickson Beach, Negeri Sembilan is also known for excellent business opportunities.

Steeped in history, this Historical City of Malaysia has historical buildings dating back to the Melaka Sultanate and the Portuguese and Dutch Colonial eras. Blending the best of the Chinese and the Malays, the Baba Community epitomize the cultural uniqueness of Malaysia. A must for antique lovers is the Jonker Street. Offering a wide range of sights and leisure activities, Melaka is a firm favorite with many Singaporeans.

Johor Darul Takzim:
Linked with Singapore by  a causewayu, Johor has numerous attractions from the beautiful Besar Palace and Abu Bakar Mosque, to the Kota Tinggi waterfalls and the excellent noodle mee rebus and yong tau foo.  The Endau Rompin National Park guards the world’s oldest rainiest while Desaru beckongs with its long stretch of while sand. Dotted with numerous islands, Johor offers excellent scuba diving, snorkeling, windsurfing and other water related activities.

Pahang Darul Makmur:
The largest state in Peninsular Malaysia. Pahang is still covered by extensively by rainforest. Taman Negara, the country’s most well known national part and estimated to be 130 million years old, is home to some of the world’s most rare flora and fauna. The mysterious Lake Chini is said to be the dwelling of a dragon, while the jungles of Lake Bera are peopled by the ancient Semlai Aborigines. Visit Fraser’s Hill for its quaint and colonial holiday bungalows, while Cameron Highlands is home to Malaysia’s tea, vegetable and flower-growing industry. The cool Genting Highlands house a world-class casino, a theme park and an excellent 18 hole golf course.

Kelantan Darul Naim:
Famous as a seat of traditional Malay culture, Kelantan offers age-old customs and traditions, as well as beautiful local handicrafts. A unique people with strong entrepreneurial skills, the Kelantanese are also known for their handiwork – songket, batik, wood carving and silverware. Traditional pastimeslike playing the giant kites wau, top spinning gasing or puppet show (wayang kulit) are still practiced. As beautiful as their names, Moonlight Beach, Beach of the Seven Lagoons and Beach of the Whispering Breesze, Keantan’s beaches are has some of the most dazzling in the world.

Terengganu Darul Iman:
Rustic fishing villages, unspoilt islands, sandy white beaches and crystal clear seas make Terengganu a tourist paradise. Pulau Redang is acknowledged as Malaysia’s premier marine paradise with 25 diving sites. Watch the leatherback turtles lay eggs in Rantau Abang and traditional boat making at Duyung Island. Exquisite silk, batik, wood-carving and pandanus weaving make beautiful souvenirs. Terengganu is also the site of Petronas off-shore oil operations

The “Land of the Hornbill” enchants with its natural splendors, exquisite handicrafts and diverse tribes. Gunung Mulu National Park is famous for its enormous caverns and underground caves, while the Niah Caves house the oldest human remains in SEA, as well as millions of bats and swiftlets. Stoll along Kuching’s renowned River Esplanade and dine on Sarawak’s sumptuous seafood. Sarawak’s Cultural Village is living museum showcasing the state’s rich cultural diversity.

Federal Terriotory of Labuan

A charming island port and Malaysia’s only deep-water anchorage. Labuan is a renowned international offshore financial centre and duty-free port. The  island offers excellent hotels and international venues for meetings, conventions and trade exhibitions. Labuan also has the charming traditional water village, the colonial era Botanical Garden and the excellent Labuan Golf and Country/Club.

Called “the Land below the Wind”, Sabah is an enchanting mosaic of cultural diversity and natural splendors. Kinabalu Park, with the majestic Kinabalu Mountain at its centre, offers an abundance of flora and fauna. The Padas River is a haven for whitewater rafting, while Sipadan and Ligitan are unparalleled for diving enthusiasts. Selingan and Gulisan offer turtle watchin, while the tamu, the weekly open market, offers a glimpse into the colorful blend of local cultures.

Federal Territory of Putrajaya:
Putrajaya  is just 25 kms away from Kuala Lumpur and 20 kms from the Kuala Lumpur International Airport. Putrajaya is the new Administrative Centre of the Federal Government of Malaysia. Situate within the Multimedia Super Corridor (MSC)., Putrajaya is set to become a model city with its sophisticated and up-to-date information network. Putrajaya will use multimedia technologies to become an electronic administrative centre, where interdepartmental communications and interactions with the public are conducted via electronic and multimedia cannels.
        The development of Putrajaya marks a new chapter in the history of modern city planning in Malaysia. Termed as Malaysia’s first Intelligent Garden City, Putrajaya is not only the seat of the Federal Government, it is also an ideal place to live and engage in sports and recreational activities. Putrajaya also has residential areas, commercial hubs and public amenities and surrounding botanical gardens spread across the landscape. Putrajaya has been planned and integrated for an ideal “live-work” environment.

          Malaysia is a country of immense beauty. The inhabitants open and warm hospitality is part of life here, while the warm and sunny climate makes perfect year-round recreation. From pristine white beaches, crystal clear seas, treacherous white rivers, the solitude of nature, the camaraderie of a simple kampong village life or the hustle and bustle of cosmopolitan cities, the choices offered to visitors are limitless.
Accommodation is available at luxurious holiday resorts and five-star hotels, as well as at rustic chalets and huts. A bewildering array of local cuisine and international fare are served at exclusive restaurants, as well as at  the ubiquitous warong stalls and fast food outlets. Travel within Malaysia has also been facilitated by regular inter-city air, bus and train services.

The Petronas Twin Towers is now the centerpiece of the ultramodern Kula Lumpur City Centre (KLCC).Standing 452 meters high, the 88 Story Twin Towers are currently the tallest building in the World. The Twin Towers is the headquarters of the Malaysian National Oil Company, Petronas. The Petronas Philharmonic Hall, home of the Malaysian Philharmonic Orchestra and the Petronas Perfuming Arts Group, is also situated there along with numerous up market stores, eating outlets and cafes. An eight-point star formed from two squares at the  heart of each tower represents the relationship between heaven and earth. A160-foot sky bridge link the two towers at floor 41 and 41.

Situated beside the magnificent Towers is the 20 hectare KL City Centre Park, a beautiful mosaic of a peaceful garden offering visitors relaxation and reprieve from the modern city. A haven of flora and fauna, about 1900 indigenous trees and palms have been planted, with sculptures, murals and fountains completing the picture of a haven in the midst of a metropolis. A wading pool and a playground are provided for children.

The KL Tower is not just a communication centre but also an exciting tourist destination with much to offer visitors. The fourth tallest communication centre in the world at 421 meter, the Tower has an observation platform, a revolving restaurant, a telecommunication station, a metrological station, a mini theatre, an amphitheatre and various stores. At the upper ground level, a 146 meter pedestrian mall with a reflecting pool has been built for visitors wishing to take a breather.
The Tower is also a cultural centre with daily cultural performances, arts and crafts shows. There are numerous shops offering interesting goods and  bargains, as well as a revolving restaurant serving international and local cuisine. The viewing platform offers visitors a 360 degree view of Kuala Lumpur. By day the city’s magnificent buildings, lush greenery and the light transit system fairly glimmer under the sun, while thousands of lights twinkle and shimmer at night.

Malaysia’s rainforest contains a bewildering array of flora and fauna. No less than 15,000 species of flora and 1,765 species of fauna have been identified. The forest also shelters some of the world’s most remarkable and rare animals, like the tiger, rhinoceros, the clouded leopard, sunbear, elephant, orange utans, macaque, gibbon, lori and trpir.

Taman Negara in Pahang is the oldest national park in Malaysia. It is famous for its sira salt licks where some of the park’s most elusive dwellers like the tigers and leopards come to during at night. Visitors can enjoy this remarkable sight safe in the park’s  far-above-ground hide-outs. At night the forest comes alive with the shimmer of insects, fungi, and lichens, as well as from millions of little sounds of the night creatures. Sometimes, thousands of fireflies congregate upon a tree, lighting it like a Christmas tree.

Kompong Yong offers a closer look at the Park’s orang asli indigenous people. Of the Batek tribe, many of them still maintain the traditional way of life. The park, which employs many of the Bateks, enables them to earn income while remaining close to nature. Every July, the park comes alive with cultural performances, fun games and exhibitions showcasing the handicrafts of the Bateks and souvenirs of the park. With a diverse terrain ranging from tropical  forests near sea level to the sub-alpine scrub near the top, Kinabalu Park in Sabah is an acclaimed botanists’ paradise. Kinabalu Park is home to Rafflesia, the largest flower on Earth, the rare necklace orchids, the amazing pitcher plants and Mount Kinabalu, which according to the local folklore, is the revered place of the dead. At 4101 meters, Kinabalu is the highest peak in Southeast Asia. There are hot springs at Poring, open-air sulphur baths believed to have skin-curative properties.  Kinabalu Park is distinguished  for its active outreach programme, natural history museums and a strong research and education centre.

The Bako National Park and the Crocker Range National Park, the Endau Rompin National Park, the Kenong Rimba National Park, the Niah National  Park and the Gunung Mulu National Park. The Endau Rompin National Park is home to the Buaya Sangkut waterfall. Legend has it that a crocodile was caught in the river, causing the water to rise and forming the fall.

The Gunung Mulu National Park with virgin rainforest, crystal clear streams, fresh air and quiet peaces, also has the most extensive and spectacular cave system in the world. The Sarawak Chamber is the largest natural chamber in the world while the Deer Cave is the largest cave passage. The Clearwater Cave, the longest in Southeast Asia, has a river with the clearest water running through it.
The Lang and Wind Caves abound with spectacular stalactites and stalagmites that gleam and shimmer under the light. Some of the formations resemble the trappings of a royal room, complete with gilded throne, towering columns and lavish ornaments, a veritable Ali Baba’s treasured trove turned to stones. Another wonder is the spectacular Api Mountain or Pinnacles. A mass of razor sharp towering peaks, the pinnacles are almost gothic in appearance.

Sam Poh Tong and Perak Tong in Perak contains many Buddhist statues, shrines and murals. Tourists and devotees alike throng the caves  to see the religious paintings and statues, as well as the tortoise wells. Some tortoises are said to be more than a hundred years old. Tambun Cave has Neolithic rock paintings said to be 20,000 years old, while Niah Caves have prehistoric paintings and human artifacts estimated to be 40,000 years old.

The southernmost limestone caves in the world, the Batu Caves is a Hindu shrine attracting devotees from all over the country. Once a year during the religious festival of Thaipusam, thousands of devotees file up the 272 steps leading to the caves to honour the deity Lord Subramaniam. One part of the caves is well lit, showing the magnificent limestone formations within.

The Gomantong Cave is Sabah is home to thousands of swifts that produce the highly sought after birds’ nests. This very expensive Chinese delicacy can fetch more than US$500 per kilo. The nests are harvested after the breeding season is over. A dangerous operation using only ropes, rattan ladders and poles, the exercise demands great agility and speed.

Other caves are Gua  Tempurung (Coconut Shell) and Rimau (Tiger) of Perak, Gua Kelam(Unclear) of Perlis, Gua Bewah and Gua Taat (Obedient) of Terengganu, Gua Telinga (Ear) and Gua Daun Menari (Dancing Leaves) of Pahang, Fairy Cave and Wind Cave of Sarawak.

Malaysia’s cool hill resorts offer respite from the heat and stress of modern living. Fraser’s Hill and Cameron Highlands of Pahang, once the  retreats of the colonial British, continue to draw visitors with their charming Tudor-style bungalows, complete with fireplaces, rose bushes and lowering trellis.
Fraser’s Hill is well known as a bird haven.270 species of local and migratory birds have been identified here. Each June, an International Bird Race is organised here. Cameron Highlands is famous for its bounteous flowers and vegetables and the delicious Cameron Tea, its beautiful rose gardens, excellent golf course, and cooling waterfalls. Every year, a flower festival is held to display the best of Cameron’s flowers.

Genting Highlands, on the other hand, is famous for its man-made attractions. It has an outdoor theme park offering thrilling roller coaster rides. The fascinating Train and Boat Ride takes visitors to a miniature of all the states of Malaysia and countries of the world in one ride.

Genting Highlands also has a casino. To get to the top, take the Genting Skyway, a cable car ride that allows you to savour the green splendour of  Malaysia’s jungle and hills.

The ancient Jerai Mountain was once an island and a navigation point for sailors from the Middle East and India. From top, one can see Pulau Pinang and Langkawi. Jerai has  the Sungai Teroi Forest Recreation Park, a forestry museum and a waterfall. For a truly quiet retreat, head for Larut Hill in Perak. No lavish accommodation or entertainment here, only quaint colonial bungalows and rest houses, the fresh air and tranquil surroundings for company.

It is hard to overstate the beauty of Malaysia’s beaches and islands. Endless stretches of sandy white beaches rimmed the  peninsula and the island of Borneo, interrupted only by mangrove swamps. Dotted with  charming fishing villages and graceful swaying palm trees, the beaches enchant with their fine sands, hidden alcoves, sheltered waters and strange rock formations. Some of the  beaches have names like Moonlight Beach, Beach of the Seven Lagoons and Beach of the Whispering  Breeze, names as enchanting as the beaches themselves.
The island’s attractions are not limited to the beaches and seas only. Many have jungles and hills, perfect for hiking, trekking and nature watching. Tioman Island in the South China Sea has been acknowledged as one of the most beautiful islands in the world. Tioman also has a waterfall, an 18-hole golf  course, a museum  and glass bottomed boats, perfect for viewing underwater life.

Besar Island Terenganu is replete with history. There is and ancient well dating back to 500 years known as Tempayan Well used by the early islanders to hide their belongings from pirates. Legend has it that Langkawi derived its name from the lang eagle. In the old Malay language, Kawi means reddish brown eagle. A magnificent statue of the eagle poised for flight in Eagle Square is now Langkawi’s most prominent landmark for visitors arriving by sea. Consisting of 99 islands, Langkawi is blessed with natural wonders, an intriguing heritage of legends and myths, and strange rock formations that stir the imagination and inspire tales.

Langkawi has Telaga Tujuh (Seven Wells), a geological wonder of cascading waterfall broken by a series of seven natural pools. Sequestered by lush green forest, it was said to be the bathing place of the seven fairy princesses. The largest lake in  Langkawi, The Tasik Dayang Bunting ( Lake of the Pregnant Maiden) is outlined by rocky outcrops that resembling a pregnant maiden laying on her back. It was said that a fairy princes once buried her still born child in the lake, and blessed the water so that any childless woman who bathed in the lake would conceive thereafter. Singa Besar Island (Big Lion) is a wildlife sanctuary.

Malaysia offers superb white water rafting fromitsrivers which have recently become  part of the eco-tourism industry. Padas and Kiulu Rivers have been given Grade 3 and Grade 2 respectively in international white water rafting grading system. Deep and swift, these rivers can well to Grade 4 after heavy rains.  Other notable white water rivers are the Grade2 Sungkai River in Perak, Grade 3  Kuala Kubu  River in Selangor, as well as Jeram Besu, Lipis River and Trembeling River in Pahang. Adventures should also take the opportunity to enjoy the beautiful scenery along the rivers which have waterfalls and lata plateau, perfect to picnics.
For the true diving enthusiasts, the oceanic island of Sipadan in Sabah is a must. Considered to be one of the best diving sites in the world, it rises 600 meters on a limestone outcrop crowned by coral reef. Just 5 kilometers from the beach, the seabed suddenly drops 850 meters!  Sipadan also  has an under water limestone cave 60 meters deep, complete with stalactites and stalagmites. Besides the profusion of soft and hard corals, tropical fishes, barracudas, sharks, jacks, tuna and turtles also abound.

Layang-layang, an oceanic atoll northwest of Sabah is another favorite dive. All around its rims, the seabed drops 2000 meters. Visibility averages 55 meters.  Hammerhead sharks, manta rays, hawksbill turtles, and tunas could be found here. The island is also famous for bird watching as thousands of migratory birds nest there. The most numerous, are of  course the swiftlets, after which the island is named. The island is also perfect for windsurfing, sailing, snorkeling and fishing.

Other diving sites are the Islands of Redang and Perhentian in Terengganu, Tioman in Pahang and Payar Marine Park Kedah.  Amongst the attractions in Payar are the enchanting ‘Coral Garden’ with its bright, multi-hued soft corals and freeing baby sharks, just off the beach.


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