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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.
The rainforests of Borneo are the last stronghold of the Orangutan ape, but virtually the only place you’re guaranteed to encounter one is the wonderful Sepilok Rehabilitation Centre.
The full gamut of Malaysia’s ethnic diversity is crammed into Georgetown’s hotch-potch of antique and modern streets, whose charismatic buildings, markets and restaurants make this one of the Southeast Asia’s most enjoyable destinations.