Malaysia is a multi-ethnic country. It has two geographical regions separated by the South China Sea – the West Malaysia or Peninsular Malaysia and the East Malaysia or Malaysian Borneo. The Malay Peninsula has Singapore to its south and Thailand to its north while the Malaysian Borneo borders Brunei and Indonesia. The multi-religious country also share maritime borders with Vietnam and the Philippines.
Official Name: Persekutuan Malaysia (short form: Malaysia; International long form: Federation of Malaysia)
Total Area: 127,354.64 square miles
Capital City: Kuala Lumpur
Largest Cities by Population: Kuala Lumpur, Seberang Perai (Penang), Kajang (Selangor), Klang (Selangor), Subang Jaya (Selangor), and George Town (Penang)
Government: Federal Parliamentary Democracy with a Constitutional Monarch
Seat of Government: Putrajaya
Language: Bahasa Melayu (official)
Currency: Malaysian Ringgit (MYR)
Main Religions: Islam, Buddhism, and Christianity
Weather and Climate: Tropical with Annual Southwest Monsoons from April to October and Northeast Monsoons from October to February
National Anthem: Negara Ku (English: My Country)
Malay or Bahasa Malaysia is the national language and lingua franca of the country. The government, educational systems, and businesses in Malaysia apply Rumi from the Roman alphabet but the traditional Bahasa Malaysia script is Jawi, which heavily derived from the Arabic script.
The affluent country attracts many foreigners since many of the locals speak English. It is also taught in schools and is widely used in commerce and the government. Many Malaysians also speak Chinese, Thai, Punjabi, Tamil, Malalalam, and Telugu. It is not unusual to meet a bilingual or multilingual Malaysian.
Malaysia is a melting pot of cultures. The country is home to many ethnic groups including the original indigenous tribes such as the Ibans, Bidayuh, Kadazans, Bajaus, and Muruts. Both the Chinese and Indian cultures also influenced the country as they increased their migration to the country.
Malaysia’s highway system consists expressways and major highways that run north to south along the east and west coasts. Kota Baharu and George Town is connected by east-west links in the north. The links also connect Kuantan and Kuala Lumpur in the farther south.
The country also has a railway system that consists of narrow and standard gauge railroads. The rail system is under the operation of the Malay Railway Administration. Aside from providing links to the eastern areas of the peninsula, these railroads also has links to Singapore and Thailand. Sarawak has zero railroads.
Located on the bustling Strait of Malacca is the country’s leading ports: Kelang, George Town, and Johor Baharu. Sarawak’s main port is Kuching while Kota Kinabalu serves as Sabah’s. Most of the international flights in the country are through the impressive Kuala Lumpur International Airport but there are also other major airports including the Penang, Kota Kinabalu, and Kuching. Domestic flights in the country, particularly in large cities, Sabah, and Sarawak are provided by the Malaysian Airline System (MAS).
Contrary to what most think, Malaysia is not a third world country. It is, in fact, one of the wealthiest and most developed countries in the Southeast Asia region. The country began as an export-oriented economy, particularly in its mining industry. Rubber and tin were the principal products exported by Malaysia. However, from the 1970s, the economy added plantation activities, with tropical hardwood, natural gas, petroleum, and palm oil as main exports products. The increase in the number of products for export helped the country to reduce its reliance on overseas commodity markets. The country is one of the largest producers of natural rubber along with Indonesia and Thailand.
In an effort to prosper the export industry of the country, the government provided special incentives for labor-intensive, export-oriented industries that mainly used wood, rubber, and raw materials. This helped the commodity-based country to shift to a manufacturing-based economy.
Peninsular Malaysia’s industry includes light manufacturing, tin mining and smelting, rubber and palm oil processing and manufacturing, and timber logging and processing. In Sabah, the main industry is in petroleum production and mining, while Sarawak is popular for its agricultural processing, logging, and petroleum production and refining.
While tourism is not the main industry, it is an important source of income for the diverse country. Many of the expansive hotels are concentrated within the capital city of Kuala Lumpur and the George Town of Penang.
As diverse as the country are its key attractions. While tourists enjoy gazing at the towering skyscrapers such as the Petronas Twin Towers, they are equally amazed by the wooden houses on stilts. Big hotels sit across ancient reefs, allowing visitors to experience the uniqueness that is inherent of Malaysia. From sandy beaches to highlands, there are so much to explore in multicultural Malaysia.
The country also has an interesting array of hill resorts including Pinang Hill, Raub, and Cameron Highlands. Many of the foreigners also head off to the island resorts located off the peninsula. There are also various spectator sports that attract huge crowds. This includes football, cricket, rugby, horse racing, and sepak raga. Locals in the rural areas are also fond of flying kites and engaging in silat, a Malay martial art.