Malaysia

Malaysia

With a rich cultural heritage made up of Malays, Chinese, Indian and indigenous groups, Malaysia’s society is a melting pot of cultures. Each ethnic group has its own language and practices – which can be best enjoyed through the country’s colourful festivals and delicious variety of cuisines. Then there is its spectacular natural beauty, including gorgeous beaches and some of the world’s oldest tropical rainforest. It’s national parks and conservation projects are ideal for wildlife watching, trekking, river rafting and canyoning – a destination for adrenaline junkies and outdoors lovers. So rich in biodiversity it is simply mind-boggling! The surrounding oceans are just as beautiful and bountiful, and a popular destination for travellers wishing to snorkel or dive amongst the corals, in search of tropical fish, turtles, sharks and dolphins.

batu-ferringhi-beach-penang

Currency

The currency found in Malaysia is known as a ringgit. Often given the abbreviation RM, the ringgit is divided into 100 cents, and the different notes available are RM1, RM5, RM10, RM20, RM50, and RM100. For reference, one English pound is equal to 5.61 ringgits, as well as one American dollar is equal to 4.24 ringgits. Wages in Malaysia tend to average at around 1,200 RM per month. The cost of living, however, is measured to be approximately 42.89% lower than that of the United Kingdom, as well as rent being approximately 66.27%.

Cost

Because Malaysia is located right next to the equator, its climate is known to be quite humid and hot throughout the entire year. Temperatures average to be around 27 °C (80.6 °F) and the average rainfall is approximately 98 inches per year. It does not categorise its year with different seasons, but with sunny and rainy days. And although rainfall is experienced all year round, the western coast of Sarawak and the eastern coast of the main peninsula experience the most rain during November-February months. The time that is recommended the most to visit Malaysia is any time in between March and October, since it is after the rainy season has passed and not quite as humid.

Travel

All of the Malaysian airports are run by Malaysia Airports Holdings Berhad, which has approximately 6 international airports. The busiest and most popular airport that is used is Kuala Lumpur International Airport (KUL), while Kota Kinabalu International Airport (BKI) and Penang International Airport (PEN) are also used often. When arriving from KUL airport, it is important to note of the different ways to get to the city centre that might be the cheapest option. If one person, Low Cost Carrier Terminal (LCCT) or KLIA Ekspres (KLIA Express) are the best ways to get the centre of Kuala for RM35. However, if you are 2-3 people with 1-2 pieces of large luggage, a budget taxi would be the best option. If more than 2-3 passengers with luggage, you may have to take the more expensive option, the premier taxi, or the family taxi which can fit six people. Vouchers for these taxis can be purchased at any of the available counters at the airport. The public transportation, known as the ‘Hop On Hop Off Bus,’ is actually commonly used by tourists. You are also able to purchase ALL DAY tickets for the other bus services available. Tickets for the train, monorail, or Light Rail Transport (LRT) are all quite cheap and can be purchased at any of the stops. The pricing of the tickets vary on the distance that you travel. As far as the taxi service goes, you should always use a cab that goes by the meter, and should even verify before beginning your journey that they price it by it. Getting dropped off at mainstream locations is usually the best price wise, and if coming from a hotel and you do not want to get a premier taxi service called for you by the concierge, you can go outside and haul one from the street yourself.

Dress

melakan-hindu-festivalThe traditional attire for women used to be a kemban, which was a sarong that was wrapped around the body. However, as Malaysia has adopted Islam as its national religion, women now wear baju kurungs which are blouses paired with long skirts. The material can either be made from songket or batik fabric, or any regular fabric like cotton. Along with the attire is a selendang, or shawl, or they can opt for a headscarf such as a tudung or a hijab. For Malaysian men, the traditional attire is known as baju melayu, which consists of a long sleeved top worn over trousers called sampin, or having a short sarong wrapped around their waist. The Malay men also wear a hat, known as songkok.

People

Malaysia is currently known as the 41st most populated country in the world, and includes a variety of citizens, non-citizens and multiple different ethnic groups. Its population is approximately 28,334,000, with 79% of the population living in Penninsular Malaysia. Among the different demographics of Malaysia, the Malays and Bumiputeras comprise a total of 68.8%, Chinese 23.2%, and the Indians 7.0% of the total population. The official religion of Malaysia is Islam, with about 60% of the population being Muslims. However, religions such as Hinduism, Buddhism, and other Asian traditions such as Taoism are also practiced. Freedom of religion is accepted in Malaysia; however, if you are Muslim, you are not allowed to convert. Malaysia has been praised for its peaceful developments towards coexisting with other faiths within the country.

Politics

The political climate of Malaysia works in that the monarch is the head of state, and the prime minister is the head of government. It also still includes an execute branch (run by the federal government and the 13 state governments), the legislative branch (run by the federal parliament and the 13 state assemblies), and also a judiciary branch (independent of both executive and legislative).

Food

Being in Southeast Asia, Malaysia is known to have a very diverse and rich culture. This most definitely is seen in the diversity in Malaysian cuisine, with not only Malay influences, but also strong Indian and Chinese influences as well. Some popular Malay dishes consist of nasi lemak (coconut milk steamed rice), sambal belacan (shrmp paste with pounded chillies), and beef rending and beef serunding. Some notable Mamak dishes (Indian influenced Malaysian food) are teh tarik (tea with milk) and murtabak and rojak (mixed fruits and peanut sauce). Finally, some Cantonese and Chinese dishes that have become prominent in Malaysia are various stir frys, char siew (sweet barbecued pork), bak kut teh (herbal soup), dim sum, and many sweet and sour dishes. No matter what route you are going for in the variety that Malaysian food offers, you can’t go wrong with any of these dishes.

Health

Malaysia is, however, prone to several precautions. There have been traces of Zika virus and mosquito borne diseases such as dengue fever in Malaysia, so travellers are warned to take the necessary precautions before and during their visit. The states of Perlis, Kedah and Penang have also been declared to have rabies existing within them. Malaysia can also pick up the air pollution that is experienced from fires in Indonesia during the June-October months. As with most countries, it is important to make sure you wash your hands thoroughly when in public places as other countries may contain bacteria not particular to your native country.

Risk

The more coastal regions of Malaysia are advised for travellers to stay away from, as there are growing threats of kidnapping in these areas. It is also important to note that there is an underlying threat of civil unrest and terrorism currently in Malaysia. When getting off public transportation, be sure to be aware of your belongings as pick pockets are a known presence.

Major Cities

  • Kuala Lumpur – As the capital of Malaysia, Kuala Lumpur is also the nation’s largest city. Home to many different types of areas, KL is home to the famous Petronas Towers, Merdeka Square, as well as Petaling Street of Chinatown. And because it’s known as the seventh most visited city in the entire world, and rated as the best city to live in Asia when retired. Besides the extraordinary skyscrapers, Chinatown in this capital is famous for being one of the most popular flea markets in the world. There, you can expect to find souvenirs, batik prints, many different art galleries, and much more. If wanting to taste the delicacies of Malaysia, the area of Jalan Alor is the best possible place to try some of the most amazing food from inexpensive stalls or from the selection of restaurants in the area. Once you’ve finished up some food in Jalan Alor, only five minutes down the road is the famous Changkat Bukit Bintang, a famous street known for its nightlife.
  • Langkawi – An archipelago made up of about 99 islands, Langkawi is located on the west coast of Malaysia and is home to some of the most scenic views of the turquoise blue sea and white sandy beaches. When there, be sure to take advantage of the Kilim Karst Geoforest, home to some of the large mangroves, floating fish farms, caves, and different wildlife are native to. Here is where you can find boat rentals, river cruises and more as your transportation this popular spot. One of the most obvious details of Langkawi is the many islets that surround it. These small islands in themselves are good excursions that last up to a couple hours, where you can go swimming, paddle board, snorkel, and even feed eagles native to the area. In the evening, the Pantai Cenang is quite famous for having some of the best sunset views of the beach. Here you can try some of the seafood the area is famous for as well as indulging in some of the cheaper alcohol Malaysia tends to offer. If wanting to go the more adventurous route, then the Telaga Tujuh Waterfalls, otherwise known as the Seven Wells Waterfall, or even the Langkawi Sky Bridge are must see views. And the shopping area that everyone tends to gravitate towards is none other than Kuah Town, where you can find everything from perfumes to cigars at discounted prices.
  • Taman Negara – As it literally translates to “national park,” this location in Malaysia is known for having the oldest deciduous rainforest in the world, estimated at being 130 million years old. Here, visitors can embark on a canopy walk with some of the most amazing views once higher up, as well as jungle trekking or viewing the Tahan River. By taking a boat from Kuala Tahan up the river to the beginning of the tour, you can either hitch a ride on one of the boats going up, or you can use a tour program for a little extra cost. Once arrived, the trek up is up to you and your intent. On the canopy walk, it includes some of the most beautiful views of the rainforest, as well as being an exceptional point to seek out some of the wildlife in the area.
  • Penang – Known as both “Pearl of the Orient” as well as the food capital of Malaysia, Penang has no shortage of amazingly preserved sights. The capital city of Penang, George Town, is quite known for its famous buildings such as the Penang Khoo Kongsi, Cheong Fatt Tze Mansion, or any of the other amazing temples on the heritage streets. Visiting the historic colonial structures or clan jetties are also popular attractions to visit. And come afternoon, indulging in some of the best dessert Penang has to offer is a known activity. And there’s nothing more recommended in George Town than enjoying the incredible nightlife scene that Penang has to offer.

Main Attractions

  • Kilim Karst Geoforest – A five minute drive away from Tanjung Rhu Beach, Kilim Karst Geoforest is known for its mangroves, beautiful sandy beaches, as well as its majestic hills. Birds are known to be popular in the area, especially eagles. There are two ways to go about exploring the mangroves, with a tour-led group, or by yourself. Your transportation is priced under what format your excursion falls under; however, all the transportation takes place on the Kilim River to the national park.
  • Batu Caves – As one of the most important landmarks for Hinduism, the Batu Caves are comprised of three major caves with many small ones as well. The golden statue of Lord Marugan is what greets you at the very beginning of the caves, foreshadowing the number of shrines that exist throughout the caves. Thousands of Hindus tend to come to the Caves during Thaipusam, a major Hindu festival. Here, people can give their offerings that are placed on structures called ‘kavadis,’ or participate in different types of piercings that signify different promises they made to the gods. The true test of endurance is climbing to the top of the 272 steps of the caves. The view, however, is well worth it.
  • Kuala Gandah Elephant Sanctuary – For the past 30 years, this sanctuary has been working to relocate elephants living in problematic/dangerous habitats that started to be overcome by poachers, to their sanctuary where they can live without being under constant threat. Not only is this a place where visitors can admire these wonderful creatures, but it also hosts several research and public awareness activities to learn more about their work. Because these are an endangered species in this part of the globe, the Kuala Gandah habitat works towards doing everything in their power to protect these amazing creatures, and rehabilitate a positive human-elephant contact.
  • Langkawi Sky Bridge – A steel bridge erected 700 meters above sea level, this attraction is one that visitors tend to love when visiting Langkawi. From this long bridge, you can get views of the Andaman Sea, the islands around Langkawi, as well as a possible far off glimpse of Thailand. Past visitors have raved of how every step you take provides a different look and experience into your overall surroundings. While trek up may be a little high, there are resting points located on the duration of the trip. And because it’s made of steel, this bridge is absolutely safe, and has become somewhat of an engineering marvel throughout the world.
  • Pinang Peranakan Mansion – This historic museum displays the life and culture of the Peranakans — Babas and the Nyonyas — a group of Chinese people that were once native to this area. Because of their interesting and elaborate lifestyle and culture, the antiques they once carried, the language and the cuisine are still prominent in Penang. This building in particular is restored to the format in which it once stood like in the 19th century, with both its Peranakan influences as well as the colonial influences it adapted to later on in its history.

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