Discovering Malaysia

Cut in half by the South China Sea, Malaysia is, in fact, two countries that combine the best of India, China and Southeast Asia all rolled into one. Add to this a little bit of colonial charm left over from years of British rule and you now have a modern state with its eyes firmly focused on the future.

The vast majority of Malaysian’s live on the peninsula in modern cities complete with skyscrapers and an intercity rail network. Malaysian Borneo, however, remains a land shrouded in mystery where ancient rainforests and orangutans battle to survive against a wave of deforestation.

While Malaysia is a land of many faiths, it is worth noting that over 60% of the population is Muslim and that Malaysia regards itself as an Islamic state despite a large group of the population being Buddhist, Christian and Hindu. The benefit of being a multi-ethnic society is that members of the government who consider themselves as being moderate Muslims have the backing of non-Muslim minority and are able to stay in power. While Malaysia may be divided religiously there is no doubt that the nation is united when it comes to the wide variety of foods that each group brings to the table.

laksa malaysian food
Similar in many ways to Indonesian style food, the dishes you will find in Malaysia represent the many groups that call the country home, be it freshly caught fish and shrimp from the South China Sea, to Malay Chicken Satay. Add to this delicious Chinese sauces and flavours mixed with spicy Indian curries and you have a gourmet’s delight of food options to choose from.
A favourite street food in Malaysia is the national dish of Nasi lemak which consists of rice cooked in coconut milk, fried anchovies, cucumber, hard-boiled egg all wrapped in a banana leaf and drizzled with spicy sambal sauce.

 

petronas twin towers malaysia travel

The capital city of Kuala Lumpur or KL as the locals call it has become a regional hub for people travelling around Asia mainly thanks to Malaysian/British millionaire Tony Fernandes and his low-cost carrier Air Asia.
Even if you are just passing through Malaysia on route to somewhere else it is well worth taking the 28-minute express train ride to the centre of town and exploring the Petronas Twin Towers and all the wonderful shopping KL has to offer.
For travellers looking to explore deeper into Malaysia drive a couple of hours south to the birthplace of Malay culture in the port city of Melaka and soak in its mellow vibe while admiring its historic centre.
To imagine life during British rule head north from KL to Penang and its capital Georgetown, a UNESCO World Heritage site that also boasts a thriving Chinatown.
From Penang, journey inland to the tea plantations of the Cameron Highlands where you can play a round of golf before sitting down for high tea.
Tourists looking for picture postcard beaches flock to the island of Langkawi near the Thai border where you will find all the big name hotel-resorts.

malaysia beach

Unlike life on the peninsula Borneo is less developed with most people visiting the island for the chance of seeing an orangutan in the wild and while it may still be possible, it is easier to visit the Sepilok Orang-Utan Rehabilitation Centre in Sabah and learn about what they are doing to save this wonderful creature.

orangutan
Adventure and eco-tourists can marvel at a place that contains over half the plants found on earth while hearing tales of how the tribes in Borneo where head-hunters until the British cured them of their gruesome tradition.
With every adventure sport possible, Borneo is a wonderful place for adrenalin seekers looking to run the rapids on the Padres River or repel down limestone cliffs to explore prehistoric caves.
Diving around Sipadan Island is said to be the best to be had anywhere on the planet with over 3,000 species of fish hundreds of corals and Hawksbill Turtles all in abundance.

diving in malaysia

No matter where you choose to spend your time in Malaysia the country has something that will appeal to every kind of tourist.

Travel to Europe

Living in Europe it is easy to take for granted what a wonderfully diverse continent we live in, an area of the world that owes much to the ancient civilizations of Greece and Rome.

Stretching from the Baltic States and Scandinavia in the north to the warm waters of the Mediterranean in the south and from the Atlantic Ocean in the west to the gates of Constantinople in the east, Europe is home to 11% of the world’s population.
Geographically speaking, Europe is overlooked by the Austrian, French, Italian and Swiss Alps while being dissected by the Rhine, Elbe, Loire and Danube rivers. Add in Norway’s fabulous fjord’s the ruggedness of the Scottish Highlands the density of Germanys Black Forest and you have a kaleidoscope of natural wonders.

History & Art

acropolis athens
From Neolithic stone circles in England to the Acropolis in Athens, nearly everywhere you go in Europe you will be treated to a daily dose of History. There is a proverb that says “all roads lead to Rome” which was certainly true during the 1,500 years long Roman Empire and a good place to start any European tour.
From Rome head north to Florence for its Renaissance art before being charmed by the beauty of Venice, the Dolomites and the Italian lakes of Garda, Como and Maggiore.
Travel on through Switzerland and France to the Napoleonic splendour of Paris before crossing the channel to London where you can get lost in Britain’s glorious past. Untouched by the war Prague is arguably the prettiest city in Europe and can easily be combined with a trip to Vienna and Budapest. With its sun-drenched beaches and a rich cultural history that includes 800 years of Moorish rule, Spain is today a tourist hotspot that attracts visitors from around the globe.

Historically Europe cannot be beaten when it comes to museums and monuments with London’s British Museum considering itself to be the self-appointed protector of the world’s antiquities.

For art lovers the Louvre in Paris is the Holy Grail followed closely by Amsterdam’s Rijksmuseum and Madrid’s neoclassical Museo del Prado.

Food & Drink

italian food
Food lovers will be in heaven with styles and tastes running the full gauntlet of culinary delights.
From eating pickled herrings during Sweden’s midnight sun to feasting on souvlaki and tzatziki at an Aegean Island Taverna, your taste buds are only held in check by your own imagination.
Britain and Ireland get a bad rap when it comes to food but get full marks at breakfast time with a meal that sets you up for the entire day.
Hungary stands out as a bit of an outsider when it comes to food, with its nomadic Magyar people bringing their traditional northern meat dishes south where they were they were inspired by the Ottoman Turks and later the Austro-Hungarian Empire into the mouth-watering delights we find in Budapest today.

wine
France and Italy immediately come to mind as the leaders of classic European food with the humble baguette never tasting better than it does fresh from the oven at a Parisian boulangerie or a bowl of spaghetti alle vongole by a Venetian canal.
With the exception of Napa Valley in California, the best wine in the world comes from France with both Italy and Spain coming in second with their Tuscan and Rioja offerings.
If it is a beer you are after you cannot go wrong with a trip to Belgium where you will find around 1150 different varieties. Munich meanwhile throws the biggest beer themed party with their Oktoberfest and no matter how much the Germans may tout their purity law their beer is no match for the Czech Republic where you can sample the original Pilsner.

europe postcard

Visit Asia

Stretching all the way from the Bosporus Strait in the west to the Diomede Islands in the east, Asia is not only the planet’s largest continent but also it’s most populous, with 4.4 billion people calling it home.

Following Marco Polo’s epic tale of an overland journey to China in the late 1,200’s and the marvels he encountered upon the Silk Road before arriving at the great market in Peking , the Venetian travellers exploits spurred a new wave of explorers to find a safer, quicker way to the riches of this far off land.

great wall of china

Christopher Columbus was looking for a way to China while accidentally discovering the America’s in 1492, leaving it to Portuguese mariner Vasco da Gama to be the first man to sail around Africa to India in 1498.

With a fast route to Asia now mapped out, it did not take long for the enlightened European states to colonise Asia dividing the spoils amongst themselves. Only Siam (Thailand) managed to remain a sovereign state while acting as a buffer between British Burma and French Indochina.

Himalayas

 

From the majestic snow-capped Himalaya Mountains to dense jungles where tigers still roam free, Asia is a place where you will find densely populated cities like Mumbai and Shenzhen where poverty and prosperity share a polluted coexistence, to idyllic tropical islands where tourists escape for a slice of paradise.

Today Asia has never been more accessible to foreigners than at any time, with China a leading magnet for people looking to discover the wonders of the Forbidden City and a chance to walk along the Great Wall.

Vietnam has opened its doors to tourism and is fast developing resorts along the South China Sea in an attempt to emulate the success that Thailand has had in encouraging western tourists to vacation on its beaches.

Food is, of course, a big deal in Asia with its varied cuisines now found all around the world thanks to immigrants opening restaurants that showcase the food of their native lands. Be it the delicate flavours of Cantonese sauces, or the spicy kick from Sichuan dishes, China alone has eight different styles of regional cooking.

Add to these, hot curries from the Punjab and mild fish dishes from Kerala and you have Indian cooking that differs vastly from region to region. A bowl of Pad Thai noodles has to be a favourite when eating at a Bangkok street market, with Satay and Bami Koreng popular street foods in Singapore, Indonesia and Malaysia. The truth is no matter where in Asia you go there will be foods that will awaken you taste buds.

asian food

Asia is also leading the way when it comes to infrastructure and design, with the world’s fastest train hitting speeds of 267mph as you travel the 19 miles from Shanghai Airport to the centre of the city. South Korea meanwhile has the world’s fastest internet with school children ditching their books in favour of tablets, while Japan continues to lead the world in robotics with Tokyo the place to go if you want to get hold of the latest technology.

Whether it is admiring the French-colonial architecture of Vientiane while cruising on the mighty Mekong River or viewing a spectacular sunset from the temple complex at Angkor Wat, Asia is much more than a winter beach destination and is just waiting to be explored.

cambodia temple

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