Malaysia is situated right in the heart of South
East Asia and is divided into two regions, known as East Malaysia
and West Malaysia. West Malaysia, or also known as Peninsular Malaysia,
consist of the southern portion of the Malay Peninsula and the nearby
islands. East Malaysia occupies the northern section of Sabah and
Sarawak. Malaysia is a federation of 13 states plus 3 federal territories
Pulau Pinang, Perlis,
Kuala Lumpur, Labuan,
Lumpur, the capital city, is the largest federal territory,
there are two others, Labuan
Malaysia's climate is hot and humid all year
round, with plenty of sunshine and rainfall all year round. Temperatures
are usually between 20-30°C (68-86°F) with humidity of 90%. The
East Coast of Peninsular Malaysia experiences more rain season
than the other regions. The wettest season on the West Coast of
the Peninsula is between September and December, on the East Coast
and in Sabah and Sarawak, is between October and February. Rain
often comes in short, strong bursts and is usually seasonal.
Malaysia has a combined population of over 19.9
million people. Because of its central location, Malaysia has
traditionally been a meeting point for traders and travelers from
both the East and West. As a result, Malaysia has a multicultural
and multiracial population consisting of Malays, Chinese, Indians
and numerous indigenous and aboriginal peoples. The Orang Asli
are the aboriginal people of Peninsular Malaysia, with an estimated
population of over 60,000 and who, for the most part, still lead
a simple yet fascinating lifestyle.
With such a varying ethnic composition, there
is a great diversity of religions predominant throughout Malaysia.
Although the official religion is Islam, freedom of worship is
practiced. As a result, it is a common to see temples, mosques
and churches within the same area.
Aboriginal Malays or better known as the (Orang
Asli) began moving down the Malay Peninsula from South-Western
China about 10,000 years ago. The peninsula came under the rule
of the Cambodian-based Funan, the Sumatran-based Srivijaya and
the Java-based Majapahit empires, before the Chinese arrived in
Melaka in 1405. Islam arrived in Melaka at about the same time
and spread rapidly. Melaka's wealth soon attracted European powers,
and the Portuguese took control in 1511, followed by the Dutch
in 1641. The British established a thriving port in Penang in
1786 and took over Melaka in 1795.
The British colonized the interior of the peninsula
when tin was discovered. East Malaysia came into British hands
via the adventurer James Brooke (who was made Rajah of Sarawak
in 1841 after suppressing a revolt against the Sultan of Brunei)
and the North Borneo Company (which administered Sabah from 1882).
Britain took formal control of both Sabah and Sarawak after WW
II. The indigenous labor supply was insufficient for the needs
of the developing rubber and tin industries, so the British brought
large numbers of Indians into the country, altering the peninsula's
The Japanese overran Malaya in World War II.
Communist guerrillas, who fought the Japanese throughout the occupation,
began an armed struggle against British rule in 1948 and Malaya
achieved independence in 1957. Sabah, Sarawak and Singapore combined
with Malaya to establish Malaysia in 1963, but two years later
Singapore withdrew from the confederation. The formation of Malaysia
was opposed by both the Philippines and Indonesia, each having
territorial claims on East Malaysia. Tension rose in 1963 during
the `Confrontation' with Indonesia. Indonesian troops crossed
Malaysia's borders but were repelled by Malaysian and Commonwealth
forces. The United Malays National Organization (UMNO) has been
in power since 1974. In September 1998, the country also hosted
the Commonwealth Games.
With a population of about 18 million, one of
the extraordinary facets of Malaysia is indeed its people. Malaysia
has traditionally been a meeting point for traders and travelers
from both the East and West because of its central location, between
the Indian Ocean and the South China Sea. Therefore, Malaysia
has a multicultural and multiracial population consisting of Malays,
Chinese, Indians and numerous indigenous people. The country's
racial, religious and cultural harmony is something you'll truly
come to appreciate. Naturally, from this richly mixed populous
spawns an endless list of festivals and celebrations, all year
Although Malaysia's ethnic mix is generally harmonious,
the various communities remain largely separate. Malaysians have
mostly integrated one and another cultures as well as joining
in the celebrations of the festivities.
The multi ethnic mix also promotes variety and
conglomeration of music and art. The Chinese and Malays, for example
influence Malaysian music heavily. The music is based largely
around the gendang (drum), but includes percussion instruments,
flutes, trumpets, and gongs. The country has a profound tradition
of dances and dance dramas, some of Thai, Indian, and Portuguese
origin. Other artistic traditional forms include wayang kulit
(shadow-puppets), silat (traditional martial art), and craftsmanship
such as batik, weaving and silver-and brass-work.
The national language of Malaysia is Malay that
is also spoken by over 200 million people in other countries of
the region such as in Brunei, Singapore and Indonesia. Other commonly
spoken languages are various Chinese and Indian languages dialects.
English is also widely spoken throughout the country and is used
as a language for instruction in all private colleges.
Malaysia has a complex federal political system,
with extensive local power in the hands of nine hereditary Sultans,
who elect the Head of State (entitled HM the Yang di-Pertuan Agong)
every five years. There are 13 states plus three 'Federal Territories'
(Kuala Lumpur, Putrajaya and the island of Labuan), with Prime
Minister ruling the federal Government. The Prime Minister, a
person formally appointed by the head of state leads the largest
party in the Dewan Rakyat. The Prime Minister governs with the
assistance of an appointed ministerial cabinet.
The legislative power lies in the hands of the
bicameral parliament, comprising Dewan Rakyat (House of Representatives)
and Dewan Negara, or Senate. Dewan Rakyat compromises of 192 members-
directly elected for a five year term, while the Dewan Negara
has 40 members whom are appointed by the Head of State and 30
members elected by the country's 13 regional assemblies.
The different types of religion in Malaysia reflect
the variety of races living there. Islam is the official religion
but Buddhism, Hinduism, Christianity and other religions are practiced
freely. Islam is practiced predominantly by the Malays. Most of
the Chinese believes in Buddhism and Taoism but others are Christians.
The region's Indian population mostly practices Hinduism, and the
Christians practice Christianity.