Despite the location of Malaysia, it is a relatively easy transition from the western world to Far East Asia due to its buzzing cities which are very different culturally but have some elements that any tourist quite far from home will feel comforted by. Kuala Lumpur, as the capital city, is far less intimidating than you might expect, and far less industrialised as some other Asian cities are. It remains extremely loyal to the origins of Malaysian culture, which gives the city a light atmosphere of both authentic culture and modern elements. The city is always roaring with the hum of cars on the ring roads above and around the central areas and also has many swanky bars and restaurants where you can try delicious and great quality Malaysian, Chinese or Indian food if you would prefer to test out the more sophisticated areas of the city. The Petronas towers are a huge landmark associated with the buzzing capital, along with other skyscrapers in the business district of the city, known as the Golden Triangle. The towers have the greatest view of the city, along with being on top of one of the largest shopping centres! There are lots of magnificent temples to stop by at to get your cultural hit, many round the corner from the central areas for back packers' hostels and central hotels. Located very close to the old colonial area of KL, the National Mosque and Islamic Arts Museum are stunning pieces of architecture in their own rights, but also display a fundamental part of Malaysian culture. You are able to enter the National Mosque and be in awe-inspired by the ornate embellishments and stunning features that make up such a significant place of worship. The Islamic Arts Museum displays 7,000 magnificent artefacts including jewellery, engraved Qur'ans, and lavish tapestries.
The colonial area is another must-see, with incredible architecture from the British rule in Malaysia, the colourful streets and squares make lovely places for slow wandering in the awesome heat, with locals chattering away to one another the atmosphere is infectious. Nearby there are huge covered markets where you can pick up anything from souvenirs to mark your stay in KL, to fake handbags and trainers. Chinatown in KL is one of the largest communities of Chinese immigrants than in any other city's Chinatown area, home to bustling covered markets with iconic red lanterns hanging down at all times of the day and of the year; it is a charming site not to miss. There are wonderful street restaurants in Chinatown too, where the food is deliciously prepared for very good prices.Penang
The vibrant coastal region of Penang keeps visitors coming back time and time again to Malaysia due to the fun loving atmosphere and endless activities. As an island, Penang is a common holiday retreat and a stark difference between some of the busy cities. Close to Thailand's hectic west coast, the especially influenced Chinese immigrant culture is a perfect combination of a very relaxing break with a bit of bar activity. Furthermore, there is an eclectic mix of the distinctive indigenous Asian cultures and the colonial-era influences. Georgetown, the capital of the region, is a very original place to visit, with restored colonial shop houses and magnificent architecture which seems to be one of the most appealing aspects. Modern, artistic mind-sets come out to play in this wonderful place to explore, where there is inspiration at every turn whether it be with off the wall street art, bright blue British colonial mansions, elaborate temples or the expansive beaches. On top of everything to see, the food is an experience in itself in Penang!Lovely Langkawi
Similarly to the Thai party islands and very close to them in location, Langkawi is perfect for young travellers or couples looking for a romantic getaway with its picturesque beaches and stunning sunsets. However, unlike the Thai party islands, the small group of islands have remained still relatively underdeveloped and a complete paradise. The laid-back atmosphere and duty free regulations make this a hot spot for voyagers looking for a relaxing few days. It is a perfect place due to the abundance of hip bars, restaurants, spas if you are feeling like splashing out a little, while the locals go about their business like they have done for years. The islands are a wonderful place to go diving as well, or just enjoy a chilled out boat ride as the water is the clearest blue colour and hopelessly beautiful.Cameron Highlands
Famous for tea, and its rolling green mounds, the Cameron Highlands make a fascinating stop for travellers due to the historic fuzzy tea plantations, permanent ethereal mist, sweet villages, dramatic waterfalls that cut through the valleys and most importantly the drop in temperature compared to the rest of the sweltering Malaysian weather. The refreshing, crisp air creates the perfect conditions for enjoying a hike in the beautiful Malaysian jungle-style countryside which allows you to see another equally original side of Malaysia and its culture. It is easily accessible from Kuala Lumpur and makes an excellent stopping-off point on any travels up to Thailand, to get a good insight into an authentic Malaysian industry.
Surface area : 131000.0 km2
Population : 24854000 inhabitants
Batiks are printed garments usually worn around the waist. Made with traditional motifs and colours, they are popular among the people of Malaysia, Indonesia and Singapore.
If you find yourself in the Kota Bharu region, you might like to consider buying a kite; they are handcrafted with intricate detail and certainly worth having a look at.
Silver Filigree is used to make fine jewellery like necklaces, bracelets, brooches and rings.
Considering the diversity of the country, the food is nothing less than a beautiful reflection of all three major cultures that come to make up Malaysia. Chinese, Malay and Indian tastes flourish in a wonderful combination of seafood, meat dishes, noodles, and vegetables. The food is always fresh, exotic and entirely enticing.
The most famous Malay dishes are called Nasi goreng, Mie goreng, Sang Har noodles, Satay meat and Nasi kandar. All of which are delicious variations of rice or noodle based plates with moderately spicy or rich creamy sauces with meat or seafood, or a combination. Malaysian food has wonderful base sauces with natural goodness added to with rich, colourful, tempting flavourings including coriander, saffron, and lemongrass.
While you are in Malaysia you must honour the culture and test yourself by seeing if you can handle eating durian. The funky fruit looks innocent, but just peel back the skin and you will be hit by a horrendous smell. See if you are up to the challenge of eating one whole piece! Other than the questionable taste of durian to visitors and probably many locals, there are plenty of other sweet fruits that will taste fresher than ever before. As well as locally grown exotic fruits, there is a wonderful array of desserts to try too, such as pumpkin cake, banana fritters, sticky rice in palm sugar and pandan crepes. Although there textures may be slightly strange and different to us, after a few tries you will adore the Asian twist on cakes and the varying flavours.
As Malaysia has only been in its current, collective state since 1963, there is such a vibrant mix of different cultural heritages and plenty of different festivals to experience. There are four main religions in Malaysia, while Islam takes precedence; Buddhism, Hinduism, and Christianity are still prominent parts of the culture. Therefore, there is a huge amount of cultural inspiration from faith, of which you are able visit and experience. Natives who live in rural areas of the country more often practise the cultural norms of the Malaysian society than those in the cities. Forms of these cultural demonstrations are the fascinating Malay martial art display called Silat which features elaborate movements, precise timings and highly-skilled manoeuvres, a traditional shadow play using animated puppet shadows on white cloth screens which are usually adapted from ancient epic stories, and also the musical or dance performances to traditional music, which is extremely beautiful.
Malaysia is a very charming country to visit, with an infectiously friendly atmosphere and kind people. However, it is not the most organised of places, so it is definitely recommended to book most of your hostels or hotels long before you arrive. Especially if you would like to do particular excursions out of cities or trekking in the national parks, it is worth having that organised a few days before you would like to do it. Although Malaysia is not top of the list for malaria or other diseases, it is worth going along to your doctors to ensure you have had the right vaccinations, just in case. If you are just heading to the main cities, there will be no need to worry, but heading up into the mountainous regions can put you at risk since some areas are rife with mosquitoes.
The weather in Malaysia is always warm and sunny. Despite the heat, it is sometimes unbearably humid so make sure you are prepared for those kinds of temperatures. Depending on which coast you are situated, the rainy season can come quite hard. On the west coast it can sometimes rain very heavily between May and October, but it is usually only for a few days at a time on the coastline. The rainy season and monsoon warnings greet the east coast from November to March.
As Malaysia is a predominantly Muslim country, it is important to remember to be respectful when visiting particular areas of the country. When in Kuala Lumpur for example, it is fine to dress in a western manner if you are going for dinner and just shopping, but if you are hoping to visit the mosques or the Buddhist temples it is important to dress appropriately and modestly.
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