Malaysia is made up of both Peninsula Malaysia and the provinces of Sabah and Sarawak on the island of Borneo. Lying between Thailand to the north and Singapore and Indonesia to the south, Malaysia is a country of immense diversity with towering mountains, rainforests, long snaking rivers, balmy beaches and exotic islands, historic colonial towns and exciting modern cities.
Situated at the heart of Southeast Asia at one of the world’s major crossroads, Malaysia has always been pivotal to trade routes from Europe, the Orient, India and China, the strong trading links having had a major impact on the culture, language and social customs of the country.
In September 1963, Malaya, Sarawak, Sabah, and initially Singapore united to form Malaysia with Singapore subsequently assuming independence in 1965. It is from this rich historical background that the country derives its potpourri of heritage, society and customs with influences from four of the world’s major cultures – Chinese, Indian, Islamic and Western. Bahasa Malaysia is the official language, although English is widely used.
Malaysia is a secular country with Islam the predominant religion. All other religions are widely represented, however, and are practiced freely.
Malaysia’s gateway and modern capital city, Kuala Lumpur, or ‘KL’ as it is often called, boasts non-stop action and notable sightseeing. Ethnic diversity also means an extensive choice of fine cuisine with seemingly endless choices available. Shopping facilities rank amongst the best in south-east Asia, with a broad range of goods available at bargain prices. Away from the city Malaysia is blessed with some of the most impressive settings in the region with a myriad of relaxing beaches and hideaways, lush, expansive national parks and alluring tropical islands and hidden coves.
Wildlife too is in abundance, the country being home to the wonderful and mischievous orang utan, exotic tigers, elephants, elusive rhinos, giant turtles and numerous species of birds and plants. Add to this magnificent caves and national parks, fascinating Borneo long-houses, the legends of the headhunters and the extraordinary mix of friendly people – Malaysia has it all!
KUALA LUMPUR: The city of Kuala Lumpur is Malaysia’s exciting gateway, commercial, political and social centre. A modern city of contrasts with a remarkable buzz. Great food, gleaming high-rises, superb shopping, unsurpassed value, minarets and temples galore, excellent hotels, gliding monorails, F1 Grand Prix, the mighty Petronas Towers and vibrant sights and sounds.
LANGKAWI: The largest in an archipelago of islands in the Andaman Sea close to the Thailand sea border. The main island is served by good air and ferry links. The west coast has seen the most recent developments. The north coast beaches remain relatively free of development with virgin forest tumbling down hillsides to meet the white sands of the pristine coastline.
PENANG: A relatively small island linked to the mainland by a bridge, Penang has long been considered Malaysia’s premier resort. Of its many beaches, Batu Ferringhi is the best known with modern resort hotels, bars, eateries, entertainment outlets and night-markets. The state capital, Georgetown teams with colonial and Chinese influences. A World Heritage nominee, the town boasts temples and colonial-era buildings, copious amounts of fun, food and retail therapy.
PANGKOR: The islands of Pangkor and Pangkor Laut lie in the Straits of Malacca, some four hours drive from KL plus a short ferry ride. Pangkor has long beaches and forested hills. The private island of Pangkor Laut is famous for Pangkor Laut Resort and the beaches of Emerald Bay.
THE EAST COAST: Favoured for turtle watching and quieter than the west coast. A more traditional Malaysia, where life is slower. Relax on seemingly endless beaches fronting the South China Sea. Visit Tasik Chini, the east’s mysterious lake or try island hopping, Taman Negara Park and the bustling coastal towns of Kuantan and Kuala Terengganu are worthy of a visit.
SABAH: Perched on the northern tip of Borneo, home to precious wildlife and Asia’s highest mountain. Kota Kinabalu is the small, prosperous state capitol. Nearby beach resorts and islands include Tanjung Aru, Pantai Dalit and the Tunku Abdul Rahman Marine Parkwith Gaya and Sapi islands.
Attached by a causeway to southern Malaysia, this diamond shaped island is awash with tropical greenery and a fascinating and vibrant mix of cultures and ethnic races, making it one of Asia’s most exciting, outgoing, chic and sophisticated cities.
Sir Thomas Stamford Raffles, a representative of the British East India Company, established a British trading post on the southern part of the Malay Peninsula in 1819. Within a few years settlers from Malaya, India, and South China arrived and built their own mosques, temples and shrines alongside the British colonial edifices. Settlements were established in different parts of Singapore. Those same areas, Little India, Chinatown and Arab Street amongst them, still retain their ethnic individuality. Today, this former trading post has grown into the World’s busiest port and South-East Asia’s most prosperous and dynamic country.
Singapore enjoys a reputation as a clean, safe and sophisticated destination. Far from being regimented and stoic, as some might suggest, Singapore is able to compete with anywhere in Asia when it comes to the good things in life. It is a refreshing destination, with swathes of lush
greenery throughout the island offering a welcome respite from the bustle of urban life. Singapore can also prove addictive to some, a ‘retail therapy heaven’, offering incredible shopping diversity in the shops and plazas along Orchard Road as well as in its many ethnic street markets.
Singaporeans are passionate about food and eating. Look around and the proof is everywhere. In almost every corner of the island you will find an incredible range of delicious food, served hot or cold, at any hour of the day or night. From the food houses of Chinatown and the many local hawker centres to the chic caf?s and busy restaurants found at Boat Quay, Clarke Quay, the choice is endless. A chance to indulge in international cuisine or national signature dishes such Hainanese chicken rice and chilli crab is a must. This rich m?lange of flavours uniquely distinguishes Singapore as one of the food capitals of the World.
Singapore certainly offers choice and flexibility. With a myriad of things to do and see, Singapore also has an unsurpassed reputation for quality and service. This includes some of the best hotels in the World along with a choice of smaller, sophisticated boutique-style properties catering to all tastes and budgets.
CHINATOWN: A Singapore heritage site located just behind the skyscrapers of Singapore’s financial district with sights and sounds like no other.
Fortune-tellers and tailors are as much a part of the street life as temples and tea houses. The shop-houses along Smith Street have been carefully restored to retain their original look and uniqueness. In the evening Chinatown transforms into a bustling food street with locals and visitors feasting on the many local dishes available here. The Tanjong Pagar area houses traditional shops with modern shops located at the junction of Cross Street, New Bridge Road and Eu Tong Street.
LITTLE INDIA: Perhaps the most colourful of Singapore’s ethnic neighbourhoods with shops selling Bollywood DVD’s and south Indian produce. More akin to actually being in India itself but all arranged in a neat and unique Singapore package.
ARAB STREET: A notable contrast to Singapore’s shopping malls and department stores with many bazaar-style shops offering handicrafts and textiles. The Sultan Mosque is probably the biggest tourist draw. Modest dress should be worn before entering.
ORCHARD ROAD: World famous epicenter of Singapore’s shopping and entertainment industries. This is a ‘shoppers paradise’ that rarely sleeps. Also a great haunt for excellent fine dining, classy restaurants and bars.
SINGAPORE RIVER: Singapore’s past, present and future all come together here. Visitors can follow the riverbank on foot or make the return
journey by on one of the river’s famous ‘bumboat rides’ and cruises passing centuries-old godown warehouses and shop-houses. Robertson
Quay, Boat Quay and Clarke Quay are home to some of the cities lively shops, wine bars, al fresco bars and restaurants with waiters plying for trade as potential patrons pass leisurely by.
MALAYSIA AND SINGAPORE – GENERAL INFORMATION
PASSPORTS AND VISAS
Malaysia: No visa required for British passport holders for visits not exceeding two months. Singapore: No visa required for British passport holders for stays up to 30 days. At least six months validity is required on the passport for both countries, based on date of departure for Singapore. Proof of onward/return travel along with visas and/or entry permits required by Singapore.
VACCINATIONS AND HEALTH
Malaysia: Yellow fever immunisation essential if arriving from an infected area within six days. Protection against malaria recommended if visiting remote jungle regions. Malaysia and Singapore: Precautions against hepatitis A, typhoid and polio recommended. Please consult your GP for up to date information.
Malaysian Ringgit (RM) and Singapore dollars (S$ ). US dollars, sterling and euros accepted along with major credit cards. ATM facilities are widely available in both Malaysia and Singapore.
Malaysia: Tropical climate with warm and humid weather all year round and occasional rainfall throughout the year. Wetter months on the west coast are between May and September. On the east coast and in Malaysian Borneo the rainy season is November to February. Temperatures are cooler in the hills and highlands. Singapore: Warm and subject to rainfall all year round with high humidity, particularly March to September.
TIPPING AND BARGAINING
Malaysia: Tipping is not generally necessary although always appreciated if the service is deserving of it. Singapore: Not encouraged.
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