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
, 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
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
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 racial mix.
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 round.
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
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.