Malaysia Travel Guide - with Wired Destinations
Discount Hotels in Malaysia : Kuala Lumpur, Penang, Langkawi, Cameron Highlands, Sarawak, Melaka, Kuantan, Kota Bahru, Johor, Perak, Terengganu, Genting Highlands, Sabah
Malaysia The Country – with Wired Destinations
Malaysia’s area of 342,000 km2 comprises Peninsular Malaysia, and Sabah and Sarawak on Borneo Island. It is situated north of the equator, with the peninsula bordered by Singapore in the south and Thailand in the north. Sabah and Sarawak border Indonesia (Kalimantan).
Electrical and electronic goods, manufactured goods, textiles, clothing and footwear, palm oil, natural gas, petroleum, timber and rubber are the main exports. Malaysia's main trading partners are the United States, Singapore and Japan. Tourism also ranks among the top three contributors to the economy.
Despite the economic crisis that began in 1997, the unemployment rate is relatively low. The stabilization of the ringgit and stimulation of domestic demand are expected to help resuscitate the economy.
The government's ambitious information technology-based Multimedia Super Corridor (MSC) project is also viewed as an important springboard in helping the country to achieve developed nation status by 2020.
Malaysia is a constitutional monarchy comprising 13 states and a federal territory. Independent from British colonial rule since 1957, the Malaysian government is regulated by the Parliament comprising the Yang di-Pertuan Agung (king), who is elected for a five-year term from among the sultans of the states, and two houses: the House of Representatives, to which members are elected once every five years, and the Senate, to which members are nominated.
The executive functions of the government are carried out by the cabinet, led by the prime minister. The current prime minister in Malaysia is Dato' Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi, who came into office in October 2003. Najib Tun Razak is scheduled to succeed him during the next UMNO General Assembly, from 23 March 2009 – 28 March 2009. The political entity which has been in power since Independence is the Barisan Nasional (National Front) coalition representing numerous race-based parties.
Newspapers and Magazines
The main daily newspapers are in Bahasa Malaysia and English. There are also Chinese and Tamil language newspapers. The New Straits Times is the voice of the government, but it is difficult to be otherwise when all media have to apply annually to renew their operating license under the Printing and Presses Act. The other big English language national daily is The Star and the main business weekly is The Edge. The Malay Mail is an afternoon tabloid with a chattier, local slant. Sabah and Sarawak have their own papers, including The Sabah Times, Sabah Daily News, Daily Express, Sarawak Tribune and Borneo Post.
Most of these papers have online editions; The Star Online is one of the most popular websites for Malaysian news. There are also a large number of local magazines, from leisure to entertainment and business. Foreign newspapers and magazines can be purchased in large cities.
Radio and Television
Television is the most popular medium in Malaysia, watched in international hotel rooms and longhouses with the same enthusiasm. Programs are cosmopolitan and American sitcoms and documentaries are shown alongside Indonesia's hottest films and Koran reading competitions. Sports are given generous amounts of air-time.
The government television stations are RTM1 and 2; the private operators are TV3, 8TV and NTV7, while the subscription-only satellite TV broadcaster, Astro, offers 44 channels, including MTV and CNN. The news in English is broadcast at 6.30pm on RTM1 (also known as TV1) and 12am on TV3 and NTV7. Most hotels offer an in-house cable station as well as selected Astro satellite channels. Check the local newspaper for program details.
The radio can be heard everywhere, blaring out a wild assortment of different sounds; a flick of the dial will tune you to Malay rock or heavy metal, Tamil numbers or Western classical music, Canto-pop or the latest hits from Britain or the United States. The main national English language radio stations are: Hitz FM, Mix FM, Light & Easy (format radio stations which play a mix of local and international numbers), THR – which specializes in traffic updates – and the government-run Radio 4.
Malaysia Security and Crime
Like anywhere else, pickpockets will be your biggest worry. Unless you are in a luxury Malaysia hotel, do not leave valuables in your room, except in a safe. Carry your passport and money with you at all times – even for a bout of sunbathing – or keep them in the main hotel safe. Sling your camera around your body, and make sure your backpack is firmly strapped on. If you are going diving or snorkeling or take part in any other adventure sport, put valuables in a small backpack which you can leave with the operators. Travelling on public transport is safe –just keep an eye on the luggage that is taken out whenever your interstate coach stops. Walking around at night is safe; women should be a little more careful, especially in tourist areas but groups are fine.
Hitch-hiking is uncommon and hence can be frustrating and dangerous. Public transport, if slow and erratic in some places, is cheap and plentiful.
Malaysia’s New Lifestyles
Leisure and tourism are relatively new concepts to Malaysians. As an industry, tourism was established only in the 1960s, which was also when Malaysians started traveling on holiday. Today, tourism is one of the top three revenue-earners for the country, and the industry comes under a federal ministry which spends millions on infrastructure and promotions. This investment is most evident in ease of access and range of accommodation.
The industry's Achilles' heel is service. Therefore, sometimes, a complaint might receive a less than satisfactory response, or staff at a three-star resort might be slow or ignorant. The key is to be patient and firm – often, making a joke out of a situation gets a quicker response than anger.
Punctuality or the lack thereof, is the other point to note. Malaysians follow "Malaysian time", which translates to anything from a few minutes to hours late. Rarely does a bus or boat leave ahead of schedule, and almost never without a passenger. Have a “cuppa” and wait. Detailed information about an area is also scarce, although it is improving; but locals are always happy to regale you with a local legend, or point out "must-sees".
Because of the incipience of tourism, particularly in the rural areas, great is the danger of cultural pollution. Satellite television notwithstanding, age-old traditions, lifestyles, and morals are crumbling before the holy grail of the so-called better life. Tourism can rent the fragile social fabric of a family and community through something as simple as what a foreigner wears (or often, does not), to more direct interaction and infusion of ideas.
Visitors to the country are also, more and more, encountering another breed of locals: the Malaysian on holiday. To many Malaysians, spending money on leisure is still anathema to their frugal, Asian work-based ethos. Malaysian Chinese, in particular, holiday only once a year during Chinese New Year, and often go overseas; otherwise, those running their own businesses in particular, work 7 days a week. On the other hand, leisure is important to the city-bred, middle-income baby-boomers of the 1990s, and especially those exposed to Western norms.
Malaysians generally like to travel in big groups and thus tend to be noisy – it is a cultural trait. They like crowds, and will try to replicate home by bringing along their stereos, card games and mahjong sets. They also enjoy karaoke, even in a rainforest or cave. On the other hand, Malaysians do not generally sunbathe in the nude or wander about drunk, yelling obscenities – generally, nor do tourists.