Overview: Reefs and rainforests, mountains and minarets, skyscrapers and sampans, Malaysia more than lives up to its official slogan “Truly Asia”.
One of the great cultural melting pots, Malaysia is a nation where Chinese joss-houses, Hindu temples and gold-domed Malay mosques jostle for space with bustling markets and towering skyscrapers. Away from the cities, untamed nature awaits, in the form of jungles dripping with rare and exotic species and coral reefs teeming with turtles, sharks and rainbow-colored tropical fish.
Malaysia offers two countries for the price of one – Peninsular Malaysia is the long finger of land extending south from Asia as if pointing towards Indonesia and Australia. Much of the peninsula is covered by dense jungle, particularly its mountainous, thinly populated northern half. On the western side of the peninsula there is a long, fertile plain running down to the sea, while on the eastern side the mountains descend more steeply and the coast is fringed with sandy beaches. The other part of the country, comprising more than 50% of its area, is Malaysian Borneo – the northern part of the island of Borneo (the larger, southern part is the Indonesian state of Kalimantan). Malaysian Borneo is divided into the states of Sarawak and Sabah, with Brunei a small enclave between them. Both states are covered by dense jungle, with many large river systems, particularly in Sarawak. Mt Kinabalu (4101m) in Sabah is Malaysia’s highest mountain.
At a glance:
- Population: approximately 32 million
- Capital city: Kuala Lumpur (pop. 1.95 million)
- Area: 330,803 square kilometers
- Currency: Malaysian Ringgit (MYR)
- Time zone: UTC + 8 (summer daylight saving not observed)
- Religion: Islam (official), Buddhism, Christianity and Hinduism.