WELCOME TO MALAYSIA
Malaysia has a host of attractions to please even the most demanding tourists with her colourful cultural heritage, nature wonders, sparkling shopping malls and enticing local delicacies, making her one of the most fascinating destinations in this part of the world. Malaysia also boasts age-old tropical rainforests dating back some 130 million years. Be pampered with all the state-of-the-art sophistication that her ultra-modern cities offer, or simply laze in the sluggishness of her quaint villages. Whatever you long for, you will get it here in Malaysia.
Lying within longitudes 100° and 119° east and latitude 7° North, Malaysia is bordered by Thailand in the north and Singapore in the south. The country is made up of 13 states and 2 federal territories and can be divided into 5 major regions: The federal territories of Kuala Lumpur and Labuan, states of Selangor and NegeriSembilan; The northern region of Perlis, Kedah, Penang and Perak; The east coast states of Kelantan, Terengganu and Pahang; The southern states of Malacca and Johor; and the East Malaysian states of Sabah and Sarawak. Total land area is 329,758 sq km and Peninsular Malaysia alone covers 131,585 sq km. East and West Malaysia are separated by the 1,000 km wide South China Sea. Each of the geographical regions has its own unique share of attractions - the enchanting flora and fauna, sunny beaches, idyllic islands, marine parks, historic sites, etc.
Malaysian Standard Time is 8 hours ahead of GMT and 16 hours ahead of US Pacific Standard Time. Hot and humid throughout the year, Malaysia has only 2 distinct seasons - rainy season and dry season. Temperatures in the lowlands range between 21 and 32 degrees Celsius while those in the mountains are remarkably lower, depending on altitude. The average annual rainfall is 200cm.
Malaysia's multi-racial population of 23 million comprises the Malays, Chinese, Indians, Sikhs, Eurasians as well as the natives of East Malaysia such as Ibans, Bidayuhs, Kadazans and Muruts.
Bahasa Malaysia is the official language of the country but English as well as Chinese and Indian dialects are also widely spoken here. While Islam is gazetted the official religion, the other faiths such as Buddhism, Hinduism and Christianity are also freely practised here. The national flower is bunga raya or hibiscus.
Being on the crossroad between South China Sea and the Indian Ocean, Malaysia has since the early times felt the foreign influences and powers.
Hindu-Buddhism influence had been felt particularly in the northwest of the peninsula long before the Islamic faith was introduced to this country. This can be proved from the archaeological findings at Bujang Valley, Kedah, dating as far back as 300AD. Bujang Valley prospered as an important trading post until the rise of Malacca in the face of the lucrative spice trade almost a thousand years later. The strategic geographical location of Malacca attracted colonial powers. In 1511, Malacca fell into the hands of the Portuguese, and then the Dutch in 1641 before it was receded to the British in early 19th century. The British consolidated their hold on the Malay states following the founding of Penang in 1786 by Captain Francis Light.
The East Malaysian state of Sarawak was ruled by British adventurer James Brooke and his descendants since 1841, and both Sarawak and North Borneo (Sabah) became British protectorates in 1888.
The spirit of nationalism was first felt in this country as early as 1930s and resurfaced after World War II to bring about the independence of the nation on 31 August 1957.
The Federation of Malaysia was formed in 1963. Today, Malaysia is a key Member of ASEAN which includes also Brunei, Indonesia, Laos, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam.
Malaysia is made up of 2 federal territories and 13 states, among which 9 on the peninsula are under the Malay Rulers (sultans). Yang Dipertuan Agung elected among the 9 rulers every 5 years, is the head of state while the prime minister is the head of government in Malaysia. General Election is held once every 5 years. The current leading party Barisan Nasional is a coalition of several political parties representing the different ethnic groups in Malaysia. The stability and harmony prevailing in this country has been a major factor to her vibrant economic growth.
Manufacturing is the most important sector in the country's economy and has successfully transformed the nation from an agriculture-oriented economy to an industrial economy. A pride of the nation, Malaysia's very own Proton cars are now penetrating the highly competitive world markets. Besides manufacturing, tourism is also an important money spinner in this country.