Malaysia and Borneo: Introduction
About Malaysia and Borneo
Malaysia is one of the most vibrant destinations in modern Southeast Asia, offering experiences as contrasting as its multi-ethnic population is diverse. Pristine beaches, jungle-draped hills and mountains, cities holding a wealth of exotic architecture, craft traditions and wonderfully eclectic cuisines – all can be sampled in even a relatively short tour.
Created in 1963 from a patchwork of erstwhile colonial kingdoms, Malaysia is divided into two distinct regions separated by the South China Sea: the Malay Peninsula in the west; and the states of Sabah and Sarawak on the island of Borneo to the east. Between the Peninsula and neighbouring Sumatra stretch one of the world’s busiest seaways, the Straits of Malacca.
From the early 15th century onwards, European powers jostled for control over the lucrative trade in spices and other valuables from the Far East which passed through the Straits. The Portuguese, Dutch and British all established colonies here at one time, adding their influence to the rich mix of Malay, Chinese and Indian which had already taken root.
Today, it’s precisely this same blend that makes this such a fascinating part of the world to explore. Wander through the atmospheric backstreets of Georgetown, with its wood-shuttered shopfronts, Chinese temples, evocative colonial-era buildings and stalls selling flavour-packed Tamil street food; or soak up the headlong modernity of Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia’s great melting pot, whose skyscrapers and shopping malls remind you that you’re at the heart of a booming Asian-tiger economy.
At the other extreme lie the remote, interior jungles of Borneo, which you can experience from the comfort of a luxury river cruiser, or the great mountain of Kinabulu overlooking the coast of Sabah, whose pale-grey granite summit soars above a tract of rainforest where Orangutans still roam free.
Whether you’re looking to be pampered in a boutique beach hideaway, sample the faded charms of former Dutch and British outposts, escape to the cool of a tea plantation in the Cameron Highlands, snorkel off remote coral archipelagos, lose yourself in the hypnotic rhythms of live gamelan, or concoct a tour that combines all of these, and more, TransIndus has a Malaysian itinerary to suit you.
Capital: Kuala Lumpur
Area: 329,750 sq km
Population: 25.3 million
Religion: 60% Muslim, 19% Buddhist, 9% Christian, 6% Hindu, 6% Others
Languages: Bahasa Melayu, though English is widely understood in all but the remote areas
Time difference: + 8 hours (GMT)
When to go
Malaysia is a year-round destination, although April–October is the driest period. Peak season falls in the summer school holidays, in July and August. During the monsoons, from October to March, travel may be disrupted on occasions and diving is suspended in most of the resorts.
Getting to Malaysia
Malaysian Airlines fly direct from the UK to Kuala Lumpur with a flight time of 12-13 hours. Indirect flights are also available on airlines such as Singapore Airlines, Thai and Emirates.
Malaysia has a very efficient air network and most of the popular tourist destinations, including the beach resorts, are well connected by air.
A good and reasonably comfortable rail system exists with trains running to Singapore and Thailand. The Eastern and Oriental Express, a luxury train service modelled after the famous Orient Express is also available.
Ferries run between the mainland and islands such as Langkawi, Perhentian Islands and Redang. River journeys are also available in Borneo.
Road travel is recommended as much of Malaysia has excellent roads. Private road travel is by car or minivan. The car used is generally a spacious Toyota sedan, seating three plus the driver comfortably. For parties of 3 or 4 a bigger vehicle is used, usually the Hi Ace Van, which can seat five plus the driver.
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This is the third time you have organised a holiday for us and as always it was excellent. The hotels you use and your local guides in every country cannot be faulted.Mr & Mrs Reece, Tailor-made Malaysia & Borneo read more comments