The early Malays have inhabited the Malaysian peninsula since at least 1000 BC, and may have migrated from China. They had continuous contact with India, and were probably named from the Tamil words meaning “mountain land.” The Malays also interacted with China, enjoying trade relations with both China and India. This contact influenced the culture of the Malays, who adopted Sanskrit, as well as Hinduism and Buddhism. Early Malaysia was ruled by a series of kingdoms, with links to nearby nations. The Srivijaya Empire rose to power during the 7th century, ruling the region throughout the next six centuries, until they were overtaken by the kinds of Siam in the 13th century.
Around the same time, the region was introduced to Islam, which spread throughout the following centuries. The Malacca Sultanate was established as an independent state in the 15th century, but the arrival of the Europeans soon led to Portuguese control of Malacca in 1511. The Dutch conquered the colony in 1641, but the British followed, establishing the colony as part of the British East India Company in 1786. The British expanded their control to include neighboring settlements, forming the Federated Malay States. The parts of the region that were not part of this federation were called the Unfederated Malay States, and were guided by British rule.
After the Japanese occupation during World War II, the area began to move toward independence. The people formed the Malayan Union in 1946, still under Britain's protection, and the Malaya joined a federation with other former British colonies, including Singapore and Sarawak on the island of Borneo in 1963. Singapore left the union in 1965 because of the racial tensions between its Chinese population and the Malays.
Neighboring Countries :
Malaysia shares land boundaries with Thailand, Indonesia, and Brunei. The peninsula and island of Borneo are separated by the South China Sea. Malaysia has maritime borders with Singapore, Vietnam, and the Philippines.
Major Cities in Malaysia
- Kuala Lumpur (capital)
- Putrajaya (administrative capital)
- George Town
- Kota Kinabalu
Malaysia is made up of two major land areas: Peninsular Malaysia and Malaysian Borneo. Peninsular Malaysia, as its name suggests, is located on a peninsula of the Asian mainland. The other land area is Malaysian Borneo, or East Malaysia, which takes up about a third of the island of Borneo. Between the two land areas is the South China Sea, along which Malaysia has many miles of coastline. There are also several small islands included in Malaysia's territory, including Labuan, Banggi, Betruit, Langkawi, and Penang. The waters along the coasts of Malaysia are home to coral reefs.
Peninsular Malaysia's terrain includes the Titiwangsa Mountains that run from north to south and are covered in tropical forests. East Malaysia's mountains include the Crocker Mountains, containing Malaysia's highest point at Mount Kinabalu, which stands at an elevation of 4,095 meters (13,436 feet).
Malaysia's longest rivers are Rajang River, Kinabatangan River, and the Pahang River. The natural lakes of Malaysia are Bera Lake and Tasik Chini, and along the border with Thailand is the largest man-made lake in the region, Kenyir Lake.
Another geographic feature of Malaysia is its caves, carved out of the soft limestone along the coasts. Malaysia is home to the largest cave chamber in the world, Sarawak Chamber.
Points of Interest :
Malaysia's capital, Kuala Lumpur, offers cultural experiences, shopping, museums, and attractions, like its theme parks, or the Petronas Twin Towers. The city of Malacca was once the heart of the region, and is an important historical destination, with colonial sites influenced by the Portuguese, Dutch, and British settlers. Other colonial sites include Fraser's Hill and Penang.
On Malaysian Borneo, Kinabalu National Park is a popular destination for outdoor recreation, including hiking and climbing, and is home to the country's highest peak and diverse wildlife. The park is designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Some of Malaysia's natural sites are located in the Titiwangsa Mountain range in Peninsular Malaysia, including the protected areas of Krau Wildlife Reserve and Taman Negara.
Many visitors to Malaysia head to the islands, like Tioman and the Perhentian Islands, where travelers can lounge on the beaches or enjoy water recreation, like scuba diving.
The largest airport in Malaysia is Kuala Lumpur International, located outside the capital. Other important airports include Penang, Kota Kinabalu, and Kuching, though there are domestic flights to several additional cities as well as to many of the islands. Train and bus are also potential methods of entering Malaysia from neighboring countries, including Thailand, Singapore, Indonesia, and Brunei. Bus is a recommended way to get around the country with reasonable prices and fairly reliable service. It is also possible to drive into and around Malaysia, with its strong network of well developed roads. In cities, taxis are usually available, although public transportation is sometimes a better option. Kuala Lumpur has several types of public transportation, including tourist bus and rapid train lines.
Last Updated on: February 20, 2019