Sunday, 4 May 2008

A Place in the Sun : by John Foster

Growing up in the rainy city of Manchester in the UK, the idea of a place in the sun was always a holiday in Spain.

However having travelled the world many times, I have found a place that truly live up to the name, a place in the sun.

That place is Malaysia. It is located in the heart of Southeast Asia. Consisting of 127,000 sq. miles (330,200 sq. km), Malaysia is divided into two main regions: Peninsular Malaysia, which lies just south of Thailand, and East Malaysia, which can be found north of Indonesia on the island of Borneo. These two regions are divided into thirteen states and federal territories. Although East Malaysia occupies the larger portion of Malaysia's total area, it is primarily comprised of undeveloped land and jungles.

Malaysia is a land of fascinating sights and attractions. Rich in colour and contrasts, her multi-faceted charm provides intriguing images that leave visitors to the country in awe. The natural warmth of Malaysians is legendary; wherever one goes, the friendliness and hospitality of the people would prove to be a very special experience. Malaysia is paradise. Its sun-drenched beaches, enchanting islands, diverse flora and fauna, forest retreats and magnificent mountains are among the best in this region. Many visitors have discovered Malaysia's other attractions: a shopping haven, a versatile conference venue, an incentive destination, an adventure land and much more.

WEATHER CONDITIONS
With temperature that fluctuates little throughout the year, travel in Malaysia is a pleasure. Average temperature is between 21 to 32 degree Celsius. Humidity is high. Rain tends to occur between November to February on the east coast of Peninsular Malaysia, on western Sarawak, and north-eastern Saba. On the west coast of Peninsular Malaysia the rainy seasons is April to May and October to November.

PEOPLE AND CULTURE

Malaysia has a combined population of over 18 million people. Because of its central location, between the Indian Ocean and the South China Sea, Malaysia has traditionally been a meeting point for traders and travelers from both the East and West. As a result, Malaysia has a multicultural and multiracial population consisting of Malays, Chinese, Indians and numerous indigenous peoples. Although Malay is the official language, English is widely spoken, especially in business, and the English language is a compulsory subject in all schools. With such a varying ethnic composition, it is no surprise that a great diversity of religions is prevalent throughout Malaysia. Although the official religion is Islam, freedom of worship is practiced. As a result, it is a common to see temples, mosques and churches within the same area.
Ethnic Groups: 59% Malay and other indigenous, 32% Chinese and 9% Indian.

Languages: Malay (official), English, Chinese dialects, Mandarin, Hakka dialects, Cantonese, Tamil and numerous tribal languages.

Religion: Muslim (primarily Malays), Buddhism (Chinese), Hindu (Indian), Christianity, Confucianism, Taoism and tribal religions.

LOCAL CUSTOMS
General:
When visiting Malaysia, the visitor should observe local customs and practices. Some common courtesies and customs are as follow:-

Although handshakes generally suffice for both men and women, some Muslim ladies may acknowledge an introduction with a gentleman with a nod of her head and smile. A handshake is only to be reciprocated if the lady offers her hand first. The traditional greeting of "salam" resembles a handshake with both hands but without the grasp. The man offers both hands, lightly touches his friend's outstretched hands, then brings his hands to his chest to mean, " I greet you from my heart". The visitor should reciprocate the "salam".

It is polite to call before visiting a home

Shoes must be removed when entering a Malaysian home. It is also customary to do so upon entering a mosque or an Indian temple.

The right hand is always used when eating with one's hand or when giving and receiving objects The right forefinger is not used to point at places, objects or persons. Instead, the thumb of the right hand with the four fingers, folden under is preferred usage.

Toasting is not a common practice in Malaysia. The country's large Muslim population does not drink alcoholic bevergaes.

THINGS TO KNOW

Population: 20 million
Capital: Kuala Lumpur

Flag: Fourteen equal horizontal stripes of red (top) alternating with white (bottom); there is a blue rectangle in the upper hoist-side corner bearing a yellow crescent and a yellow fourteen-pointed star; the crescent and star are traditional symbols of Islam; the design was based on the U.S. flag.

Shop Hours: Department stores and supermarkets are usually open from 10am to 10pm and shops from 9:30am to 7pm. In Kuala Lumpur, as well as in most major towns, there are several 24-hour stores.

Bank Hours:
Most states:

Mon-Fri: 9:30am-4.00pm
Sat : 9:30am-11:30am
Sun : Closed
Kelantan and Terengganu:

Sat-Wed: 9:30am-4.00pm
Thur : 9:30am-11.30am
Fri : Closed

VISAS AND PASSPORT
Visitors must be in possession of a current passport or other internationally recognized travel document. They must be endorsed for traveling to Malaysia and have a period of validity of at least six months beyond the time of stay allowed in Malaysia. No visas are required for citizens of British Commonwealth countries (except India), British Protected persons, and citizens of the Republic of Ireland, Liechtenstein, the Netherlands, San Marino, Switzerland and the United States (for social, business or academic purposes only). No visas are required for stays not exceeding three months for citizens of: Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Italy, Japan, Luxemburg, Norway, South Korea, Sweden, Tunesia, U.S.A. , France and Germany (except for local employment).

CUSTOMS REGULATIONS
Duty-Free Items: Items such as cameras, watches, pens, portable radio-cassette players, perfume, cosmetics and lighters are duty-free in Malaysia. Visitors bringing in dutiable goods may have to pay a deposit for temporary importation, refundable on departure - usually 50% of the value (carry receipt of purchase and obtain an official receipt for any tax or deposit paid).

I was here in the 70s while in the navy and never forgot the people and the hospitality they showed to all who visit, and here we are 2008 and i have been living here now 2 years and love every waking second of it.

Yes i have found my place in the sun and i truly hope you will find yours.


For more information about living and visiting Malaysia pop over the the guys and girls at http://www.mm2h.com/
they are very helpful and informative.

Recommended Read : Malaysia and Singapore (Eyewitness Travel Guide) By Ron Emmons


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