The people of Malaysia comprise of a fascinating mix of ethnicities, ranging from the Malays, Chinese, Indians and indigenous Orang Asli (Original People) of Peninsular Malaysia to the diverse tribal communities of Sabah and Sarawak in East Malaysia.
Although the national language is Bahasa Melayu (Malay), English is widely spoken amongst the population of around 29 million.
Non-Malays are usually fluent in both Bahasa Melayu as well as their mother tongue. Apart from Mandarin, Malaysian Chinese commonly communicate in dialects such as Cantonese (especially in capital of Kuala Lumpur and its surrounding areas) and Hokkien, while the Indian community speaks primarily Tamil as a second language.
Design & Architecture
Malaysia’s cityscape in KL is a beautiful contrast of colonial architecture standing out against shining office towers and multi-lane highways.
Penang – the oldest British settlement in Malaysia, is one of the country’s top holiday attractions, known its historical capital of George Town, a UNESCO World Heritage Site that is home to colonial buildings, settlements and some of the oldest religious buildings in Malaysia.
Beautiful Islamic architecture is also seen in the mosques of Malaysia, ranging from traditionally influenced design as seen in the elaborate Safavid-era Persian theme of the Putra Mosque to the stark lines and intimidating facade of the Tuanku Mizan Zainal Abidin Mosque (or Iron Mosque), built mainly out of steel and cooled from the tropical heat by a state-of-the-art water cooling system.
One of the largest Hindu religious temple complexes outside of India can be found in the Batu Caves just outside of KL. This series of temples, shrines and museums is housed in 400 million year old limestone caves – a breathtaking site to behold.
Malaysia is a predominantly Muslim country with Islam being the official religion. Islamic Sharia Law is enforced by the Sharia Courts upon Malays and Muslims. Homosexuality and sodomy are still criminalised by the Penal Code.
While Malaysia is relatively modern and open to global influence, it is still recommended to dress conservatively and according to the largely conformist culture. Should you intend to visit religious places of interest in Malaysia or Muslim homes, you are encouraged to wear long sleeved tops and long bottoms. Women are also advised to cover their heads and hair before entering mosques.