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Centuries of trade have resulted in a vibrant mix of Malay, Chinese, Indian and indigenous tribal cultures, creating a veritable melting pot of peoples, traditions and religions that makes it a deeply intriguing place to visit. Tropical island resorts and endless white, sandy beaches offer a taste of paradise, while beneath warm coral seas, world-class dive sites await exploration. Orang-utans, the oldest rainforest in the world, city skyscrapers and majestic mosques and temples plus a gorgeous coastline are enough to tempt even the most jaded visitor. The region now known as Malaysia was first mentioned in Chinese and Sanskrit records of the seventh and eighth centuries.

Practical Information

Area: 329 758 km² (127 320 miles²)

Capital: Kuala Lumpur. Population: 1.5 million

Population: 26 million

Currency: Ringgit (MYR symbol RM) = 100 sen

Government: Constitutional monarchy since 1963. Gained independence from the UK in 1957.

Tipping: 10% service charge and 5% government tax are commonly included in bills.

Time zone: GMT + 8

Languages: Bahasa Melayu and English

Additional descriptions

Malaysia: Social customs

Malaysia’s population is ethnically and culturally diverse. Malays account for more than half the population and lead a calm life governed by the authority of elders and a strong sense of respect and etiquette.Read more The Indian, Pakistani and Sri Lankan members of the population originally came to Malaysia to take up positions in the civil service, police and local government departments, as well as in the new rubber plantations, but many are now among the professional classes. European influences (British, Dutch and Portuguese in particular) are also very marked in Malaysia, although the European section of the population is now small. The Malaysian equivalent of ‘hello’ is the Muslim ‘peace be with you’. Malay men are addressed Encik (pronounced Enchik) with or without the name; single Malay women should be called Cik (pronounced Che) and married women Puan. Touching the hand to the chest is a sign of respect and a relaxed wrist and gentle touch should be adopted when shaking hands. Chinese and Indians usually use Western forms of address. Hospitality is always warm, lavish and informal. When eating food by hand, only the right hand should be used. Visitors should respect religious beliefs and follow the Malaysian example, such as wearing appropriate clothing. Footwear should be taken off at the door when entering a house or temple. Dress should be informal, but not over-casual.

Malaysia: Food and local specialties

In multiracial Malaysia, every type of cooking from South-East Asia can be tasted. Malay food concentrates on subtleties of taste using a blend of spices, ginger, coconut milk and peanuts. There are manyRead more regional types of Chinese cooking including Cantonese, Peking, Hakka, Sichuan and Taiwanese. Indian and Indonesian food is also popular. Korean and Thai food are available in restaurants. Western food is served throughout the country. Although the country is largely Islamic, alcohol is available. Things to know: Table service is normal, and chopsticks are customary in Chinese restaurants. Indian and Malay food is eaten with the fingers. Set lunches, usually with four courses, are excellent value for money. The national specialties are: Sambals (a paste of ground chilli, onion and tamarind) is often used as a side dish. Blachan (a dried shrimp paste) is used in many dishes. Ikan bilis (dried anchovies) are eaten with drinks. Satay (consists of a variety of meats, often chicken, barbecued on small skewers and served with a spicy peanut dipping sauce and a salad of cucumber, onion and compressed rice cakes). Gula Malacca (a firm sago pudding in palm sugar sauce). Locally brewed beers such as Tiger and Anchor are recommended. The famous Singapore gin sling. Sugar cane juice.

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