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Introduction to Malaysia

Flights to Malaysia are served by most major airlines and land at eight international airports all over Malaysia. The Kuala Lumpur International Airport (KLIA), Malaysia’s main international airport, is located in Sepang (about 45 km away from KL’s city centre) and is also Asia’s fastest growing airport.

Entering peninsula Malaysia by land via Singapore and Thailand is easily done via public and tour buses.

Accommodation in Malaysia

There are plenty of serviced apartments, holiday beach resorts and hotels in Malaysia. A wide range of budget accommodation such as traditional Chinese hotels, backpacker hostels and dormitory style guesthouses are available for booking in most cities. The homestay concept is still relatively new, but is a great way to learn first hand the Malaysian way of life.

Getting around Malaysia

Taxis are very common in Malaysia, and although meters are often used, it is always helpful to agree on a price beforehand if the taxi driver is not going by the meter.

For trips from the airports and railway stations, you can purchase coupons at the taxi counter stationed at both places. Several car rental agencies offer self-drive and chauffeur-driven cars should you want to rent a car in Malaysia.

The national KTM train runs from Kuala Lumpur to Padang Besar in the north, Singapore in the south, and up to Tumpat on the east coast. Buses are fast and economical, and seats can be reserved fairly easily.

Malaysian Currency 

The Malaysian Ringgit is written as RM. Tipping is not expected, although much appreciated.

Entry Requirements

All visitors to Malaysia require a valid passport/travel document with minimum validity of six months beyond the period of intended stay. Visa requirements vary for different countries of origin so be sure to check.

Climate

Temperatures range from 21°C to 32°C with cooler temperatures in the hills, particularly during the evenings. Cool, lightweight summer clothing is best to endure the heat and high humidity with medium-weight woollens at night in the cooler highland areas.

Weather in Malaysia is generally sunny and wet. The east coast, Sabah and Sarawak see heavy rainfall from November to February while the west coast of the peninsula is wet from April to October.

As with all tropical territories, you should always carry your umbrella with you.

Malaysia’s Cuisine

Malaysian food is nothing short of fantastic. There is a choice of Chinese, Malay, Indian, Indonesian, Japanese, Thai, Korean and Western – it’s all here.

Nyonya cuisine is probably the most famous of these fusions and is a blend of Chinese ingredients and Malay spices. Malay-style food comprises of seafood, meats and vegetables cooked with sweet, savoury and spicy sauces, and served with rich coconut milk infused rice or nasi.

Street stalls or hawkers are where the best local cuisines can be enjoyed cheaply. The theatrical ambience of these hawkers is like no other – with continuous demonstrations of wok tossing, teh tarik (tea pulling), the artful skill of flipping rotis (Indian bread), and barbecuing of satay sticks. You can enjoy most of these sights, sounds, smells and tastes at the neighbourhood mamak (or Indian food) stall.

As a Muslim nation, there are restaurants offering halal food prepared in religiously approved conditions. Malaysia is known for its wide variety of tropical fruits, including rambutans, mangosteens, jackfruit and durians. Roadside vendors selling fruits and other snacks are commonplace and the prices are usually cheaper than in supermarkets – especially when the special skill of bargaining is employed.

Malaysian Nightlife

Although Malaysia is a Muslim country, alcohol is still widely available in bars and nightclubs, especially in capital cities and tourist areas.

Nightlife in Malaysia is anything but boring. Kuala Lumpur offers a wide choice of nightspots with entertainment ranging from cultural shows and cabarets to Western-style bars and discos. Hot spots include Petaling Street, Jalan Alor, the Asian Heritage Row, Bangsar and many neighbouring suburbs.

Malaysia’s Culture

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.

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