Background on Malaysia

Malaysia is a federation of 13 states in Southeast Asia, formed in 1963. The country consists of two geographical regions divided by the South China Sea; West Malaysia (or Peninsular Malaysia) and East Malaysia.

West Malaysia (or Peninsular Malaysia) on the Malay Peninsula shares a land border on the north with Thailand and is connected by the Johor-Singapore Causeway and the Malaysia-Singapore Second Link to the south with Singapore. It consists of the 11 states Johor, Kedah, Kelantan, Malacca, Negeri Sembilan, Pahang, Perak, Perlis, Penang, Selangor and Terengganu, and the two federal territories of Putrajaya and Kuala Lumpur.

East Malaysia occupies the northern part of the island of Borneo, bordering Indonesia and the Sultanate of Brunei. It consists of the federal territory of Labuan islands and the states of Sabah and Sarawak.

As states of Malaysia were formerly British colonies, many Malaysian institutions are based on those of the British. For instance, the Malaysian system of government draws heavily on the British Westminster system. The head of state is the Yang di-Pertuan Agong (colloquially referred to as the King), who is elected from among the state sultans to a five-year term, making Malaysia one of two elective monarchies in the world (the other is Vatican City). As a constitutional monarchy, executive power is vested in the Prime Minister, with the King serving as more of a figurehead. The legislative branch consists of Parliament, which is mostly based on the British Parliament. A judiciary has also been established under the Constitution. The Barisan Nasional (National Front), a coalition of several political parties, has ruled Malaysia since Malaya’s independence in 1957.

Initially heavily dependent on agricultural and mining activities, the Malaysian economy has since shifted its focus to manufacturing and tourism as its major sources of income. Despite the shift, Malaysia is one of the top producers of rubber and palm oil. In the 1970s, the government implemented the controversial New Economic Policy (NEP) to address an income disparity between the Malays and Chinese.

Although historically dominated by the Malays, modern Malaysian society is heterogeneous, with substantial Chinese and Indian minorities. Malaysian politics have been noted for their allegedly communal nature; the three major component parties of the Barisan Nasional each restrict membership to those of one ethnic group, and the only major violence the country has seen since independence was the May 13 Incident of racial rioting in the wake of an election campaign based on racial issues.

(from Wikipedia)

The Malaysian Ringgit (RM), the standard unit is worth 100 sen (cents). Currency notes are in denominations of RM1, RM2, RM5, RM10, RM20, RM50,and RM100, while the denomination of RM500 and RM1000 will no longer be valid as of July 1st 1999. Coins are in denominations of 1 sen, 10 sen, 20 sen, 50sen and RM1.

Money Changing
Foreign currency and traveller’s cheques may be changed at all commercial banks during normal banking hours.
Licensed money changers at the airport and within the city, sometimes offer better rates. Traveller’s
cheques are also accepted by hotels and major department stores but banks give the best rates.

Bahasa Malaysia is the national language of the country. English, is the second language and is mostly used in business.

Islam is the official religion besides Buddhism, Taoism, Hinduism, Christianity and other religions.

There is such variey Malay food. The popular dishes are satay, nasi lemak, rendang, roti canai, murtabak, laksa, chicken rice and fried noodles.

Major Festivals

Hari Raya Aidilfitri
It is celeberated by Muslims after the month-long Ramadan(Fasting month)

Chinese New Year(January/February)
It is a joyous time when friends and relatives give each other ‘angpows’.Normally, they will have dinner together with their family.


Malaysia By Air
There are more than forty airlines serving Malaysia from all over the world. Malaysia has her own national carrier, Malaysia Airline System (MAS), which operates the largest fleet of aircraft in South East Asia. It has flights from over 50 destinations worldwide.
Kuala Lumpur International Airport
The taxi fare to Kuala Lumpur city centre is RM60.00. There is also a cheaper alternative if you are travelling with less luggage: take a bus from the airport the Nilai Railway station and take the commuter train into the city. The total fare for this is below RM20.00.
The taxi service uses a coupon system from the airport to destinations within the city or its suburbs. Vouchers at fixed prices (depending on destinations) must be purchased at the Taxi counter at the airport concourse. These are to be given to the taxi driver at the start of the journey.

Malaysia by Rail
Peninsular Malaysia is served by two railway lines connecting the country to Singapore in the South and Thailand in the North. The trains are run by Keretapi Tanah Melayu Berhad (KTM) offering an inexpensive and comfortable way of travelling into Malaysia and seeing the countryside.
Besides this, those wanting to travel in style can opt for the Eastern and Oriental Express train service, which was launched in September 1993 and operates between Bangkok and Singapore. The Express offers luxury accommodation and fine cuisine on wheels. The train departs from Bangkok every Wednesday and the cost for a standard ticket to Kuala Lumpur is RM2,340.00 and from Singapore to Kuala Lumpur is RM1,020.00.

Car Rental Services
There are many agencies which provide car rental services to those who prefer the convenience of driving, provided that the driver has a valid international driver’s license.
Most of the car rental agencies are stationed at the airport, hotels, shopping and office complexes. Driving is British-style – on the left side of the road. Arm yourself with a Kuala Lumpur road map, fasten your seat belt (compulsory for front passengers) and you are on your way to exploring the many wonders of the country!

Most taxis are fitted with meters, but these are used only in major towns such as Kuala Lumpur, Johor Bahru and Ipoh. Taxi rates run per kilometre and there is a non-optional 20-30% air-conditioning charge added to the fare.
Malaysians usually tip drivers with their coin change. To acknowledge excellent service, 10% is greatly appreciated but not expected. When traveling early in the morning or
late at night, drivers prefer to fix a price for the destination. Negotiating is advisable.

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