Malaysia is a country in Southeast Asia, located partly on a peninsula of the Asian mainland and partly on the northern third of the island of Borneo.
West (peninsular) Malaysia shares a border with Thailand, is connected by a causeway and a bridge (the 'second link') to the island state of Singapore, and has coastlines on the South China Sea and the Straits of Malacca.
East Malaysia (Borneo) shares borders with Brunei and Indonesia. Malaysia is a mix of the modern world and a developing nation. With its investment in the high technology industries and moderate oil wealth, it has become one of the richer nations in Southeast Asia.
Culture & Festivals
One of the significant characteristics of Malaysian culture is its celebration of various festivals and events. The year is filled with colourful, exhilarating and exciting activities.
Some are religious and solemn but others are vibrant, joyous events.
One interesting feature of the main festivals in Malaysia is the 'open house' custom. This is when Malaysians celebrating the festival invite friends and family to come by their homes for some traditional delicacies and fellowship.
Multicultural Malaysia celebrates a vast range of festivals, but the ones to look out for nationwide are Islamic holidays, most notably the fasting month of Ramadan. During its 29 or 30 days, Muslims refrain from eating, drinking and smoking from dawn to sunset.
People get up early before sunrise for a meal (sahur), and take off early to get back home in time to break fast (buka puasa) at sunset.
At the end of the month is the festival of Eid ul-Fitr, known locally as Hari Raya Puasa or Aidilfitri, when many locals take one to two weeks off to 'balik kampung' or return to their home towns to meet family and friends.
Other major holidays include Chinese New Year (around January/February), Deepavali or Diwali, the Hindu festival of lights (around October/November), the Buddhist holiday of Wesak (around May/June), and Christmas (25 December). Another major celebration is Deepavali, celebrated by the Malaysian Hindus.
Deepavali is the festival of light originating from classical India and one of the main cultural celebration amongst Hindus. In Malaysia, locals practice this tradition by wearing new clothes and receiving token gifts of money. This practice has been adapted by all Malaysians without regards of the religion. The red packets or ang pow during Chinese New Year, green packets or 'duit raya' for Hari Raya Aidilfitri and multi-coloured packets during Deepavali.
By Plane: National carrier Malaysia Airlines (MAS) has extensive worldwide network coverage and regularly ranks high in airline quality assessments, while no-frills low-cost carrier AirAsia and her sister company, AirAsia X, now cover an ever-expanding set of destinations including Australia, China, Cambodia, Hong Kong, India, Indonesia, Laos, Macau, New Zealand, the Philippines, Singapore, Sri Lanka, Thailand, Myanmar and Vietnam.
By Train: Keretapi Tanah Melayu tickets can be bought online but you must book at least 48 hours in advance. Direct sleeper train services operated by the State Railway of Thailand connect Bangkok (Thailand) and Butterworth near Penang (Malaysia). Singapore is the southern terminus of the KTM network. Comfortable overnight sleeper and somewhat misnamed daytime "express" trains ("express" means the train skips smaller stations) connect Singapore with Kuala Lumpur and Tumpat, near Kota Bharu.
By Bus: Long-distances buses/coaches into Malaysia run from Brunei, Indonesian Borneo, Singapore and Thailand.
A multitude of bus companies operate direct routes from Singapore to various destinations in Peninsular Malaysia, including Malacca, Kuala Lumpur, Penang, East Coast cities and even the Kuala Lumpur suburbs of Petaling Jaya and Subang Jaya.
Frequent buses make the short run between Singapore and Johor Bahru, and you can save a few bucks by changing at JB's Larkin terminal to a cheap domestic bus instead of taking a more expensive direct bus.
Perhentian Islands are a small group of beautiful, coral-fringed islands off the coast of northeastern Malaysia in the state of Terengganu, not far from the Thai border.
The name Perhentian means "stopping point" in Malay. This is because the islands became a staging point used by traders traveling from Malaysia to Bangkok. The two main islands are Pulau Perhentian Besar ("Big Perhentian Island") and Pulau Perhentian Kecil ("Small Perhentian Island").
The small, uninhabited islands of Susu Dara, Seringgi and Rawa lie off Kecil. All the islands belong to a protected marine park, which means that fishing, collecting coral and littering are strictly prohibited, although in practice litter is one of the major problems that face the islands.