Diverse, stimulating Malaysia is a must-see in Southeast Asia. Split between Peninsular Malaysia, south of Thailand on the Malay Peninsula, and East Malaysia, taking up the northern third of the island of Borneo, Malaysia displays as many sights, tastes, and sounds as it does historic cultures. Muslim, Buddhist, Hindu, Christian faiths and more live together in peace and prosperity, each reflective of the Malay, Chinese, Indian, aboriginal, European, and other cultures that have settled and thrived upon this dynamic landscape.
Malaysia is as forward-looking as it is diverse, and nowhere looks as far ahead as Kuala Lumpur, a bustling, modern metropolis full of Islam-inspired skyscrapers and more traditionally built temples. Little is prized in KL more than the food and the shopping, with its multicultural mix of delectable street foods, found in colorful stalls lined up at colorful, lively markets. Should the sweltering heat prove too much for you, there are always the beautiful, high-end shopping malls, complete with air conditioning.
The amateur historian and budding gourmand will find equal pleasure in a visit to George Town, on the island of Penang off the northern coast of the Malay Peninsula. Founded by the British in the 18th century and built by the hands of a diverse mix of people from around the region and beyond, George Town presents a stunning combination of cultures, each with contributions to the city’s architecture and cuisine. The latter, in particular, is renowned across the region and the world, with incredible seafood, distinctive and delicious fruits, and a great mix of modern and traditional eateries and cafes.
This country is defined in large part by the sea. Most of Malaysia’s people live on its coastlines, which are ample due to its geographic situation at the end of a large peninsula and on the edge of Asia’s largest island. As such, comfortable, high-end beach resorts are always an option, as is out-of-this-world diving. From Langkawi Island off the coast of the Malay Peninsula, to the Semporna Archipelago stretching off of Borneo, Malaysia’s oceanside paradises and undersea wonders are vast and welcoming.
Malaysia’s natural beauty also extends far from the sea, however, with its less populated inland areas, stunning mountains, and deep, wild jungles. Kota Kinabalu, in northeastern Borneo, is a charming place in the midst of a transformation into an international attraction. The big draw, however, are the Kinabalu and Crocker Range National Parks, gorgeous reserves full of mountain-climbing opportunities and adventures in the dense, ecologically diverse bush. Equally gorgeous, though a different kind of geographic pleasure, are the Cameron Highlands located inland on the Malay Peninsula. This relative escape from the heat and humidity of the seaside lowlands is a popular destination for locals and foreigners alike. The resort experience and natural beauty exist comfortably side by side.
And that’s just getting started. Malaysia’s a big, dense country in many ways, from its thick jungles to its packed metropolises. A vast array of cultures and species live beside each other in ways that might seem unimaginable in other climes. Don’t let it overwhelm you – this miracle of geography, history, and culture is meant to be enjoyed.
Kuala Lumpur, the capital of Malaysia, was founded as a lowly tin mining supply point in the 1850s, little more than a convenient port through which to bring provisions for the mines’ Chinese migrant laborers. In 1869, the Chinese migrant Yap Ah Loy became the town’s administrator, and set it on its path from frontier outpost to a bonafide city while fighting gang and clan warfare and later a larger civil war with rival factions.
In the 1870s, the British took control and Kuala Lumpur’s colonial phase began. British development plans led to an explosion of growth in the 1880s, and the majority of structures were mandated to be built of stone or brick to avoid fire. Thus began Kuala Lumpur’s lineage of beautiful structures exhibiting the traits of a diverse range of cultures, often with an emphasis on Islamic motifs. This is certainly true of Kuala Lumpur’s most prominent structures, the Petronas Towers, the tallest twin towers on Earth. On the hugely popular tours of the buildings, the five pillars of Islamic and arabesque patterns can be seen in multiple elements of the impressive structures’ construction.
This modern metropolis just continues to get more exciting. Its diversity manifests delectably in its food scene, beautifully in its architecture, and touchingly in its success and multicultural harmony.
Bangsar Shopping Centre
No. 285 Jalan Maarof
Kuala Lumpur 59000
00 60 3-2011 2986