In an effort to highlight places of interest in countries across the world, their varied culture, economy and history, The Statesman brings to you a Weekly Focus on countries with which India shares diplomatic ties and friendship. This week’s focus is on Malaysia.
Know all about the country.
Capital: Kuala Lumpur, Currency: Malaysian ringgit, Language: Bahasa Malaysia (official), English, Chinese (Cantonese, Mandarin, Hokkien, Hakka, Hainan, Foochow), Tamil, Telugu, Malayalam, Panjabi and Thai. Religion: Muslim (official) 61.3 per cent, Buddhist 19.8, Christian 9.2, Hindu 6.3, Confucianism, Taoism, other traditional Chinese religions 1.3, other 0.4, none 0.8, unspecified 1 (2010 est.) Ethnic groups: Malay 50.1 per cent, Chinese 22.6 per cent, indigenous 11.8, Indian 6.7, other 0.7, non-citizens 8.2 (2010 est.)
The country is affected by the South-West Monsoon from May to September and the North-East Monsoon from November to March. Different parts of the country have their dry and wet seasons at different times of year. On the west coast, the wettest months are May-October, while on the east coast, the wettest months are September-December. The best times to visit in dry weather are June-July on the east coast, January-February on the west coast, April in Sabah and June-July in Sarawak.
About 170 weekly flights connect various destinations in India and Malaysia. British Airways, Air India, Asiana Airlines, Etihad Airways, Emirates, Singapore Airlines, AirAsia, Jet Airways and Malaysia Airlines fly between the two countries. There are two types of visas, eNTRI and eVisa. Malaysian eVisa is valid for 90 days and must be used within three months from the date of the eVisa issuance. eVisa allows maximum stay of 30 days inside Malaysia. The Malaysia eNTRI allows stays for a maximum of 15 days. Both visas are valid only for single entry (you need to re-apply each time you want to visit Malaysia). Documents required are passport, photograph, copy of passport main page, travel itinerary, return flight ticket with e-ticket number (Indian nationals who want to apply online), hotel reservation or invitation letter from your host, birth certificate for minors (if applicable).
A paradise for foodies
Malaysia is not just a melting pot, it is a cooking pot, blending culinary influences from as far away as Europe, China and India. The national cuisine shares obvious similarities with Thai and Indonesian food, but Malaysian cooking has its own unique specialities, based on exotic spices, chilli, ginger, lemongrass, lime leaves, coconut milk and peanuts. Many dishes are extremely spicy, but rice is served with almost everything, and a cup of sweet tehtarik will help cool things down. Be sure to sample mamak cuisine, imported to Malaysia by Tamil Muslims. Traditionally served at street stalls, mamak dishes can be sampled at nasi kendar (rice and curry) canteens across the country. Although Malaysia is predominantly Islamic, bars and restaurants in larger cities serve beer, wine and spirits. Some of the specialities are char kway teow, nasi goreng, roti canai and rendang daging.
Langkawi: Langkawi is an archipelago made up of 99 islands in the Andaman Sea on Malaysia’s west coast. Eagle Square, Underwater World Langkawi and Pregnant Maiden Lake are some of the highlights. Other things to do are Island Hop-ping at Dayang Bunting, diving at Pulau Payar Marine Park, ride the steepest cable car at Gunung Mat Ching-cang, Mangrove River Cruise, Mahsuri Maus-oleum, Crocodile Farm, Laman Padi, Handicraft Complex.
Penang: This big island on the west coast of Malaysia is one that the country is proud of. George Town is a Unesco World Heritage city, the place where you can see a unique architecture and culture. Some highlights are Penang Hill, Snake Temple, Kek Lok Si Temple, Dhammikarma Burmese Temple, War Chaiyanabgalaram, Batu Feringgi and Gurney Drive. Penang is also well known as a foodie paradise.
Malacca: The Peranakan city of Malacca is locally spelled as Melaka. Malacca city is a Unesco World Heritage site. The state of Malacca is one of the smaller states in Malaysia, rich with history and tourist attractions. Some attractions include Christ Church, the Stadthuys, St. Paul’s Hill, Dutch Fort, Portuguese Settlement.
Kuala Lumpur: The beautiful skyline, adorned by Menara KL Tower and Petronas Tower, is a must-see. Other highlights include Perdana Lake Gardens, Thean Hou Temple, Batu Caves and Berjaya Times Square.
Other attractions include Perhentian Islands, Tioman Island, Taman Negara (oldest national park in Malaysia, and one of the world’s oldest tropical rainforests), Cameron Highland, Malaysian Borneo (third largest island in the world), Putrajaya (Federal Administrative Center of Malaysia), Mount Kinabalu and Gunung Mulu National Pa