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