In the whole country, unusual natural landscapes play host to incredible plant and animal species worth discovering for both their diversity and magnificience. It is not unusual to come across monkeys and snakes during short walks on the beaches bordering the jungle.
Vestiges of the past or contemporary creations, Malaysia has plenty of sites and monuments to visit during your rambles around the country. Hindu sanctuaries, mosques and impressively tall towers will introduce you to a different side of Malaysia.
Built in the middle of the oldest natural reserve in the country, the Kuala Lumpur Tower was a veritable architectural feat. At 421m high, it is the fourth largest communications tower in the world. The city of Kuala Lumpur is home to plenty of monuments, such as the Istana Negara (National Palace). Once a home to the royals, it is now used for important receptions and inauguration ceremonies.
Malaysia is a cosmopolitan country where many religious co-exist: Islam, Buddhism, Hindu, Christianity, Taoism and traditional Chinese faiths. The country's arts and culture have, therefore, been influenced by the East, India, China and Europe. This ethnic diversity is found in all areas, from the originally Indian art of puppets to Chinese cuisine. Rice and noodles are the staple elements and are found in every dish. The spices (pepper, saffron, curry, etc.) are a result of Eastern influences and are the signature of Malaysian cuisine. Malaysia is thus a country with a rich culture, where a "tolerant" version of Islam is combined with various legends and Hindu, Buddhist and animist traditions.
The Malaysians combine Islam with various Hindu and animist elements. Most Malaysians believe that the souls of the deceased are reincarnated into devils, phantoms or evil spirits. They also give a lot of importance to how they dress and public behaviour. Malaysian tradition dictates that foreigners are guests and should be treated as such.
Here are a few pointers to give the best possible impression of yourself and your country:
- Shaking hands is not an automatic gesture - Never give anyone the middle finger - Do not touch anyone's head, especially children and monks - Avoid eating with your left hand (considered unclean) - Avoid arguing in public
Malaysia's two big traditional festivals are Flora Fest and Thaipusam. The first is a parade celebrating flowers that has been held every year in January since 1991. The second is a Hindu festival that takes place at the Batu Caves. During this awesome festival, pilgrims enter into a state of trance before entering the cave.
If you are a fan of shopping you will be in seventh heaven in Kuala Lumpur. The city has at least 30 huge shopping centres that are open every day from 10:00am to 10:00pm, with shops that will satisfy everyone's tastes and budgets. There are also plenty of open-air markets where you can bargain with the merchants. If you really want to take advantage of the shopping opportunities, you have to come during the period of sales in August and at the end of the year; when you will find countless great deals. Bukit Bintang is the largest commercial zone in the city and is located close to the most prestigious hotels and the most stylish shops. This is where you will find upscale shopping centres, like Starhill Gallery, Sungei Wang Plaza, Bukit Bintang Plaza, Lot 10, and KL Plaza. Boasting luxury boutiques filled with items by big fashion designers, they also have plenty of restaurants where you can have a bite to eat between purchases, and beauty centres and spas if you are looking to relax and be pampered. Other large commercial zones include the district of Jalan Tuanku Abdul Rahman, where you will find the popular Japanese store 'Sogo', and the 'Little India' district, where you can purchase authentic Indian specialities and articles. If you are looking for some really upscale merchandise and high quality local products, head to the districts of Jalan Ampang and Jalan Tun Razak. Chinatown, in Petaling Street, is the ideal place to go for counterfeit items and Chinese knick-knacks.