Malaysia is composed of 13 states, 11 on the Malay Peninsula and two on the island of Borneo (Sabah and Sarawak). With influences that include Portuguese, Dutch and British, Malaysia is a melting pot of cultures and religions, home to Malays, Chinese, Indians and many other groups. They are a nation of food lovers, friendly and welcoming to tourists.
Nowhere is Malaysia’s past more evident than in its cuisine. This is more of a smorgasbord (spicy Malay, Chinese, Indian, Nyonya and Portuguese) than a melting pot. Popular dishes include satay, nasi lemak, rendang and roti canai (pancake eaten with meat or chicken curry, a roadside stall staple).
While Malaysia’s eastern side is more Malay, the west is more developed. Cities include Kedah, Perak, Selangor, Malacca, Putrajaya (seat of government) and, of course, Kuala Lumpur, the glittering capital, where most flights to Malaysia will land.
The eastern side of Malaysia is more traditional. Here you’ll find the states of Kelantan, Pahang and Terengganu.
On Borneo, Sabah boasts six national parks, great scuba diving and Mount Kinabalu, Southeast Asia’s second-highest mountain. Sarawak is the least touristy state with thick jungle, mountains and 11 national parks.
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Malaysia’s climate is typically tropical with an average temperature of 30 degrees and little seasonal change. The rainy season lasts from the end of October, when the monsoons arrive, until the beginning of May.
The east coast of the country is best seen between May and September. Bargain hunters should search for cheap flights to Malaysia during this time.
The west coast, October-November and April-May are best avoided due to the rains.
Kuala Lumpur has a light rail system as well as buses, taxis and rental-car companies.
Malaysia has a good public transport system with buses and trains offering a fast and comfortable service.
Trishaws – a three-wheel vehicle – are to be found in the cities. Tourists can hop around the major islands by ferry.
(prices quoted are from London)