Malaysia's early history was shaped by the powerful Malay sultanates, including Malacca, which thrived as a vital trading hub in the 15th century. The arrival of European powers, particularly the British, brought about a series of colonial periods, impacting trade, governance, and societal structures. Following World War II, Malaysia gained independence from British rule and formed the Federation of Malaysia in 1963. The Federation practices a unique system for the rotation of its presidency. Each state takes turns holding the position of the Malaysian King, who serves as the ceremonial monarch for five years. The rotation follows a set order based on the seniority of the nine Malay rulers, who head the states that have hereditary monarchs. The nation experienced periods of economic growth, social transformation, and political challenges. Today, Malaysia stands as a diverse and dynamic country, blending its rich cultural heritage with modern development, economic progress, and a multi-ethnic society.
For the average visitor, Malaysia appears to have it all, from white sand beaches and remote rainforests to the high-rise bustle of its modern capital city.
Kuala Lumpur is a very dynamic city. It's quite developed though there are a few green parks. Indians, Chinese and Malays make up its colorful mix. The main center of action is Bukit Bintang, a street that is a hive of activity with a good mix of tourists and locals.
In comparison with peninsular Malaysia, this city of half a million in Borneo is considerably more laid back. It's obsessed with cats (there's cats statues everywhere and even a cat museum). Some of the highlights include the Iban longhouses and the semi-wild orang utans. Orang utans are endangered species with dwindling numbers in the world, their rainforest homes are being destroyed to make way for plantations producing palm oil. It was cool to watch them come down from the trees to see who the strangers on their territory were.
Founded in 1786 by the British East India Company, Georgetown, the capital city of the state of Penang, served as a crucial trading port and became a melting pot of diverse influences. The city's historical core, known as the George Town UNESCO World Heritage Site, boasts an array of colonial-era architecture, including colorful Peranakan shophouses, clan houses, and colonial buildings. The city is celebrated for its vibrant street art scene, where murals and installations contribute to its artistic and bohemian atmosphere.
Surrounded by a palm oil estate, Putrajaya is the administrative capital of Malaysia. It's a daytrip from KL, mainly for its rose-colored Putra Mosque and the green-domed Perdana Putra, which is the prime minister's office complex.