Malaysia is a tropical country in Asia’s South-eastern region. Located between 2º and 7º North of the Equator it consists of two geographical regions – Peninsular Malaysia (West Malaysia) and the states of Sabah and Sarawak (East Malaysia) in Borneo. The two are separated by the South China Sea. Peninsular Malaysia shares a land border in the North with Thailand and is connected to the South to Singapore by two bridges, namely the Johor Causeway and the Tuas Second Link. Sabah and Sarawak occupy the northern part of Borneo, bordering Indonesia and the Sultanate of Brunei. Malaysia is also an average of three hours flight to most South East Asian countries. Malaysia, therefore, serves as an important gateway to over half of the global population.
With an area of 329,750 sq. km, both West and East Malaysia share similar landscape, featuring coastal plains that rise to densely forested hills and mountains, the highest of which is Mount Kinabalu (in Sabah) at 4095m and Mount Tahan (in Pahang, West Malaysia) at 2,187m. The sea lying between Peninsular Malaysia and Indonesia’s Sumatra Island is the Straits of Malacca, arguably one the most important and busy shipping routes in the world.
Malaysia enjoys sunshine all year round and this is ideal for outdoor location filming. Temperatures are normally from 21ºC (70ºF) to 32ºC (90ºF) but can get a little higher during dry periods. Higher grounds are much cooler with temperatures between 15°C (59° F) to 25°C (77°F). Annual rainfall varies from 2,000mm to 2,500mm.
Approximately 28.96 million people live in Malaysia. They comprise diverse ethnic groups which are Malays and other Bumiputera or indigenous people (67%); Chinese (24.3%); Indians (7.4%) and Caucasians and other immigrants (1.3%). Islam is the country’s official religion; however other religions are also practiced. As reflective of the multi-ethnic population, other than Bahasa Malaysia, many other languages like English, various Chinese dialects and Tamil are spoken as well.
Raya (festive day) in the month of Syawal according to the Muslim calendar. The Chinese New Year is more consistently celebrated in January-February; Deepavali for the Hindus in October-November while December is the Christmas celebration for the Christians. The festive mood for each of these celebrations actually begins a month earlier where streets and shopping complexes are lavishly decorated. This includes ethnic and cultural performances. For example, magnificent acrobatic Lion Dances will be performed for Chinese New Year throughout January-February in most major shopping complexes.
In Sarawak the colourful Gawai Dayak festival is celebrated on June 1. It is a collective celebration by the native ethnic groups comprising the Ibans (Sea Dayak) and the Bidayuh (Land Dayak). The celebration involves many interesting and unique rituals, feasting and dancing. Malaysia is a land of diverse cultures and celebrates many festivitals. Each ethnic group has one main religious or cultural celebration. The Muslims celebrate the Eid Mubarak or what the locals call Hari Other celebrations include the Thaipusam (January-February) where Hindu devotees perform a ritual, carrying kavadis where their skin, tongue and cheeks are pierced with skewers. In Kuala Lumpur they march several kilometres to the Batu Caves temple. The Chinese Moon Festival takes place sometime in September during full moon whereby families get together and watch the full moon as they eat traditional moon cakes. The Hungry Ghost Festival is another colourful event taking place in August where traditional Chinese operas, puppet shows and open-air concerts are performed.
Kuala Lumpur is the federal capital and most populous city in Malaysia. Since Kuala Lumpur is also the country’s commercial centre, it is among the fastest growing metropolitan regions in the country. The city covers an area of 243 km2 (94 sq mi). Kuala Lumpur was ranked 48th among global cities by Foreign Policy's 2010 Global Cities Index and was ranked 67th among global cities for economic and social innovation by the 2thinknow Innovation Cities Index in 2010. The city has played host to many international economic, sporting, political and cultural events which include the 1998 Commonwealth Games and the Formula One Grand Prix. Kuala Lumpur is home to the tallest twin buildings in the world, the Petronas Twin Towers, which have become an iconic symbol of Malaysia's futuristic developments. Putrajaya, 25km from Kuala Lumpur, is the new government administrative capital that houses most ministries and government agencies.
The Malaysian currency is in Ringgit (RM) and sen (cents). Notes are issued in RM1, RM5, RM10, RM50 and RM100 denominations while coins are in 5, 10, 20 and 50 sen denominations. The current exchange rate against the USD is RM3.17 to USD1. Foreign currencies can be exchanged at all banks and authorized money changers throughout the country. Major credit cards are widely accepted.
Malaysia is made up of 13 states and three Federal Territories. The 11 states on Peninsular Malaysia are Perlis, Kedah, Penang, Perak, Selangor, Melaka, Negeri Sembilan, Kelantan, Terengganu, Pahang and Johor. Sabah and Sarawak make up the rest. The three Federal Territories are Kuala Lumpur, Putrajaya (both in the Peninsular) and Labuan in Sabah.
Malaysian appliances operate on 220-240 volts at 50 cycles per second, which is identical to the United Kingdom, British voltage. A universal adaptor is required for overseas electrical devices.
Commonwealth countries: No visa is required of citizens from Commonwealth countries (except for Sri Lanka, Bangladesh Cameroon, Ghana, Mozambique, Nigeria and Pakistan).
Visa is also not required for visit not exceeding 3 months for citizens of Albania, Algeria Argentina, Australia, Austria (Vienna), Bahrain, Belgium, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Brazil, Croatia, Cuba, Czech Republic, Denmark, Egypt, Finland, France, Germany, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Jordan Kyrgyzstan, Kuwait, Kyrgyz Republic, Lebanon, Liechtenstein, Luxembourg, Morocco, Netherlands, Norway, Oman, Peru, Poland, Qatar, Romania, St Marino, Saudi Arabia, Slovakia, South Korea, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Tunisia, Turkey, Turkmenistan, United Arab Emirates, United Kingdom, Uruguay and Yemen.
No visa is required for stays of less than one month for nationals of all ASEAN countries except Myanmar nationals. For a stay exceeding one month, a visa will be required, except for Brunei and Singapore nationals.
For more info www.imi.gov.my
Peninsular Malaysia has extensive roads that connect all major cities and towns. The major North-South Expressway spans from the northern tip of the Peninsular (Bukit Kayu Hitam) and the southern tip (Johor Bahru). It is a part of the Asian Highway Network, that also connects into Thailand and Singapore. The East Coast Expressway which starts from Kuala Lumpur provides a link from the West Coast to the East Coast of Peninsular Malaysia passing through the states of Selangor, Pahang and Terengganu. Roads in Sabah and Sarawak are highly curved, passing through mountainous regions.
Malaysia has many forms of public transportation which include Malaysian rail roads which comprise heavy rail (including high-speed rail), light rail transit (LRT), monorail and a funicular railway line. Extensive rails within Kuala Lumpur are serviced by regular and dependable train, LRT and monorail services. Peninsular Malaysia has extensive railroads that connect all major cities and towns, including Singapore and Thailand.
Malaysia has seven major ports namely Port Klang, Penang Port, Johor Port, Port of Tanjung Pelepas, Kuantan Port, Kemaman Port (all in the Peninsular), and Bintulu Port (in Sarawak). All these ports are equipped with modern facilities. Bintulu Port is the only port which handles liquefied natural gas.
Kuala Lumpur International Airport (KLIA) is the main airport of the country. There are also airports in smaller towns, as well as small domestic airstrips in rural Sabah and Sarawak. Malaysia’s national carrier, Malaysia Airlines (MAS), serves both domestic and international destinations while Air Asia which operates from the Low Cost Carrier Terminal (LCCT) in KLIA provides low-cost services in the region.
The inter-city telecommunication service is provided in Peninsular Malaysia mainly by microwave radio relay. International telecommunications are provided through submarine cables and satellite providing services from fixed line, mobile as well as dial-up and broadband Internet access services. Major telecommunication providers are Telekom Malaysia, MAXIS, DIGI and Celcom.
Be warned! Drug trafficking is a serious offence in Malaysia. It carries a mandatory death penalty.