Heritage & Culture - Malaysia
Malaysia as one of the crossroads of Asia has a rich and diverse heritage which is reflected in its colurful traditions and exciting cuisine
The Malay Archipelago has been a historic crossroads throughout its past, drawing cultures, seafarers, tribes and traders. As a result, its cultural heritage is dazzlingly unique. Its mix of ancient and modern influences from across the continent and beyond is at the heart of its identity. The ancient kingdoms that once ruled the region were involved in the global shipping trade from as early as the 1st century AD.
Little is known about these formative days, but many of today’s indigenous ethnic groups have their roots in this era, or even earlier.
These first kingdoms culminated in the powerful Melaka Sultanate in the 15th century, by which time Islam, Hinduism and Buddhism were all established in the region. Settlers had arrived from China, India, Persia and Arabia, among other places.
In the 16th century, the arrival of the Portuguese signalled the start of a long period of colonial influence. Both the Dutch and the British also had major roles to play. The European way of life was absorbed into much of Malaysian society.
When Malaysia gained independence in the 20th century, all these myriad cultures – Asian and European, old and new – had intermingled to create the destination we know today.
Cool of the Cameron Highlands
Lying 1,500m above sea level, the Cameron Highlands have long been a cool escape from the heat of coastal Malaysia. Try trekking, visit one of the many villages or get a taste for the area at the strawberry farms or tea plantations that make the most of the cooler climate. Taking tea and scones is also a bit of a tradition here, dating back to a time when British colonial officers would holiday in the area.
Melaka - an historic port
The city of Melaka has a rich trading history and is a UNESCO world heritage site. Take a trip down the river, which was the main artery for trade and transport in the city's heyday, to see some of its historic buildings or head to the Stadthuys – a 17th-century Dutch building that's now a museum. Jonker Street is the place to go to grab a bargain – it's a renowned antiques market and cafes and craftshops have sprung up in recent years giving the area an old-meets-new atmosphere.
George Town - Penang
George Town in Penang is one the most fascinating cities in the entire Southeast Asian region. It is inscribed on UNESCO’s World Heritage List along with Melaka. It has developed a rich multicultural character over five centuries of trade and interaction between East and West. Penang is renowned for its ties with Britain. It was here that Captain Francis Light first established a base, hoisting the Union Jack in 1786. Today it still retains a deep feel of history, with the well-preserved bulk of Fort Cornwallis and the old-world splendour of the Eastern & Oriental Hotel two of the biggest draws for cultural tourists.
Floating mosque - Kota Kinabalu
Surrounded by water – as the name suggests – this picturesque mosque is a great example of Islamic contemporary architecture. By far the largest mosque in the city of KK, it can hold up to 12,000 people in its prayer hall. The mosque is located just outside the city, a 10-15 minute taxi or bus ride away. It's closed during the day on Fridays.
Festivals & Fiestas
The country’s diverse cultural mix means it has a busy calendar of festivals. These range from religious feasts to harvest celebrations, and can often be spectacular. Thaipusam in January or February is a Hindu celebration in which devotees parade from KL’s Batu Caves, often with bells attached to their skin by hooks and skewers. Around the Chinese New Year (falls between late January and mid-February Malaysia’s Chinese communities celebrate with street performances, food markets and colourful parades. In late May Sabah Fest is centred on Kota Kinabalu and culminating in a harvest festival, this week-long fiesta involves food, drink, indigenous crafts, dance and music. The Dragon Boat Festival inJune/July is a series of colourful races involving boats designed to look like dragons, taking place in Melaka, Penang and Kota Kinabalu. Diwali in October or November is the fabulous Hindu ‘Festival of Lights’, with lanterns lit outside homes and offerings given at all Hindu temples. Independence Day on 31 August 31 marks the founding of the state of Malaysia, when it gained independence from Great Britain in 1957. There is also a national day – 'Malaysia Day' – on 16 September to mark the establishment of the federation of Malaysia in 1963.
- Parent Category: Destinations