Introducing Malaysia: What’s so ‘Truly Asia’ about it?

For our readers who really like to study a place, know its history and how it evolves into a diverse and thriving culture, here’s an article of your interest. From the history-buffs to the nature-lovers, the sun-seekers to the avid shoppers, there’s something for everyone in Malaysia and we’ve noted it down for you here.

Picking up where we left off from, here’s to answer the two questions that were previously asked.The first one – what makes Malaysia so attractive to its tourists? And the second – why is it termed ‘Truly Asia’ as against the rest of Asia?

To answer the two, it’s necessary to briefly understand the history of the nation; and the resultant cultural implications of it.

The Malaysian population, demographically, consists of majority Malays, Chinese, Indians and a few others in minority.

There are several reasons such as the civil war, the opium battle, famines and poverty in Mainland China that led to the immigration of the Chinese from different regions to Malaysia. Similarly, trade between Southern India (mainly Tamil Nadu) and Malaysia had already established strong holds and a second wave of immigration was witnessed during the British colonization of parts of the Malaysian peninsula.

This gives the country a very peculiar characteristic – it’s a melting pot of many Asian traditions and its cultural roots can be traced back to different dynasties, regions and lifestyles. And while it has its own individualistic character, the fabric of its being consists of a fusion of customs and traditions carried out across the Asian continent.

So there never is a dearth in variety and diversity; the more you uncover, the more there is to know.

Similarly, each of the 13 states and 3 federal territories of Malaysia have their own uniqueness, cultivated on account of diverse land topography, demography of the majority, arts and linguistics and the product of trade.


For example, the northern states of  Perak, Penang, Kedah and Perlis are known for the natural, free-flowing Hot Springs, UNESCO World Heritage City – Georgetown, pristine beaches at Langkawi (of the ‘Roy’ movie fame) with their intricate glassartefacts and the lush-green state-parks respectively.

Northern States
Caption: From L-R Clockwise: Langkawi beaches, Wall Murals at  Georgetown, Hot Springs in Perak and Trickshaw rides in Penang)

As you go towards the Southern states of Negeri Sembilan, Melaka and Johor, you’ll be awed by the rich cultural heritage and historical significance peculiar to this region. Melaka was a Dutch occupied region and also the seat of the ‘Baba Nyonya’ Heritage (more about it in the articles to come).

The central region, the ‘Modern-affair’, consists of Kuala Lumpur, Selangor and Putrajaya – home to the capital city, Twin Towers and KL Towers, Formula one racing, I-City (Digital City) and a completely man-made city (Putrajaya).

Western States
From L-R Clockwise: Putrajaya International Conventional, The government office, Formula1 track at Sepang, Petronas Twin Towers, The KL Tower and I-City)

The eastern states of Pahang and Terengganu are often called ‘the diver’s paradise’ with some of the most vibrant aquatic life at Tioman or Redang Island. You could also catch the highest waterfall in Southeast Asia – the seven-tiered Jelawang Waterfall – in the state of Kelatan. And if that’s not enough for an adventure addict, try the states of Sabah, Sarawak and Labuan on the *eastern islandic region. Here you’ll find UNESCO World Heritage Site Mount Kinabalu with its infamous Giant Red Leechesand the longest cave in Asia with razor-sharp limestone spikes at GunungMulu National Park (colloquially called Abraham Lincoln’s side profile) respectively. The Sipadan Island in Sabah are one of the best diving experiences in the world.

Note: Did you know, the Sarawak Cave Chamber is so big, that it can fit 40 Boeing 747 aircrafts easily? Now that’s worth a visit.

Eastern States
From L-R Clockwise: Limestone spikes in Sarawak, the Jelawang Waterfall, the ‘Diver’s paradise’ at Sipadan Island, Abraham Lincoln’s side profile at the GunungMulu National Park)

(*Note- Malaysia is broadly divided into two halves, divided by the Chinese Sea- the peninsular region or Western Malaysia and the Borneo Island or Eastern Malaysia)

For us Indians, it is much easier to understand this diversity given that we have similar geographical and cultural diversifications. But put it all together in a land-mass the size of one of our bigger states – that’s Malaysia for you and there’s sure a lot to cover.

On this five-day expedition, I was given a tour of the capital, Kuala Lumpur, the man-made city Putrajaya and island of Penang. And in each of the five articles to follow, I will be covering a few sites of interest, certain historical significance along with some unknown facts.

With this, you could choose your area of interest and start planning your holiday to the East!

What do you think?

Written by Shonita Joshi

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