If you’re coming from elsewhere, Malaysia is one of the easiest and most comfortable south-east Asian countries you can visit. There’s the vibrant air of a thriving economy,
the beginnings of a pluralist culture, and a good contrast between the 21st-century skyscrapers of the cities and the dreamy isolation of romantic beaches, glorious tropical forests and stunning mountains.
Malaysia is well-connected to the world through its international airport at Sepang, which is close to the capital city, Kuala Lumpur. Malaysian Airlines and Air Asia also cover the country, which is separated into two distinct regions by the South China Sea – Peninsular Malaysia and Malaysian Borneo. This makes Malaysia a good base from which to visit much of south-east Asia, as it borders Thailand, Indonesia, Singapore, Brunei and the Philippines. Malaysia is near the equator, and so the climate is tropical. The landscape throughout is one of beautiful coastal plains which give way to densely afforested hills and mountains, the highest of which is Mount Kinabalu on the island of Borneo.
The country’s wealth grew because of its controlling position on the Strait of Malacca, making it one of the most important shipping routes in the world. This led to Malaysia becoming a British colony at the end of the 18th century, a situation that lasted for the best part of 200 years. Malay is the official language, but because of the country’s history, English is widely spoken. Malaysia continues to trade in rubber, palm oil, cocoa, pepper, pineapple and tobacco, deriving much of its foreign earnings through these exports. The strongest European influences are Portuguese and British; there remains a strong Portuguese community in Malacca, which has its roots in the 16th century and the early Portuguese trading colony there.