Malaysia is one of the rising stars of
South-East Asian tourism, a nation looking to the future while cherishing the
ways of the past. Centuries of trade have resulted in a vibrant mix of Malay,
Chinese, Indian and indigenous tribal cultures, creating a veritable melting
pot of peoples, traditions and religions that makes it a deeply intriguing
place to visit.
Tropical island resorts and endless white, sandy beaches offer a taste of paradise, while beneath warm coral seas, world-class dive sites await exploration. Orang-utans, the oldest rainforest in the world, city skyscrapers and majestic mosques and temples plus a gorgeous coastline are enough to tempt even the most jaded visitor.
The region now known as Malaysia was first mentioned in Chinese and Sanskrit records of the seventh and eighth centuries. In subsequent centuries the area was under the influence and loose control of various Thai and Indonesian empires, including the great Sumatra-based civilisation of Sri Vijaya.
The British were relatively late arrivals to the region in the late 18th century, but they played a key role following the European wars of the 1790s and, in particular, the defeat of The Netherlands by France in 1795. The Federated Malay States were created in 1895, and remained under British colonial control until the Japanese invasion of 1942.
After Japanese defeat in 1945, the 11 states were once again incorporated as British Protectorates and, in 1948, became the Federation of Malaya. In 1963, the Federation of Malaya merged with Singapore and the former British colonies of Sarawak and Sabah (North Borneo) to form Malaysia. Singapore seceded to become an independent state in its own right in 1965, leaving Malaysia in its present form.
Such history highlights why Malaysia is so ethnically and culturally diverse. Even better, the magnificent landscape is no less diverse - dense jungles, soaring peaks and lush tropical rainforests harbour an abundant flora and fauna.