10 Fascinating Facts About Malaysia
Did you know that Malaysia has 3 main ethnic groups? Or that the impressive city of Kuala Lumpur has 560 different shopping malls? Deepen your knowledge about this beautiful country with 10 fascinating facts about Malaysia that are sure to surprise you.
Interesting things to know before visiting Malaysia
1. Bag drinks
Who needs cups? If you grab a drink to go, don’t be surprised if they come packaged in a distinctive Malaysian “to-go” style! In Malaysia, it is common practice for street food stalls and street eateries, known to the locals as “mamaks”, toss their ice cold drink into a plastic bag, tie it at one end, and add a straw to draw out the other.
If you were wondering what kind of drinks these to-go bags hold, some Malaysian favorites include:
Milo ais (an iced chocolate drink)
Teh tarik (Malaysian milk tea)
All great options for cooling off from the summer heat all year long and a convenient option for a refreshing snack on the go.
Street food, commonly known as “mamaks”, is a defining attribute of Malaysian street food culture. Nasi lemak, roti canai, char koay teow, mee goreng, beef rendang – these are just a few of the foods you should try when you visit. The mamaks can be extremely hectic and the local favorites are often always packed, especially on weekends; you may have to wait a long time in line before it’s your turn to eat.
Jalan Alor is a very popular street in the KL food scene. Just a stone’s throw from the KL Petronas Twin Towers, there is a whole street of Mamaks selling seafood and hawker stalls. There are lots of fun things to see on this street, including a man selling Turkish ice cream and playing pranks on passers-by.
For local Indian food, go for lunch at a classic Indian Banana leaf, where your food is served on a large banana leaf rather than on a plate. A lead plantain rice meal includes a variety of rice, curry, vegetables and side dishes. Feel free to eat with your hands!
Good to Know: It’s common etiquette to eat with the right hand. The left hand is considered dirty and therefore must be kept under the table during a meal.
3. National Holidays
Malaysia is famous for its multiracial population consisting of 3 main ethnic groups:
The best thing about a multicultural country is that everyone living in Malaysia needs to celebrate their own holiday! And boy do they celebrate it. From Hari Raya to Diwali, Christmas, Chinese New Year, Thaipusam, Easter etc. You name it, and there’s almost certainly a holiday for it. Not to mention, additional national holidays are added in the year like Malaysia Day, Sultan of Selangor’s birthday, Sultan of Perak’s birthday, Sultan of Kelantan’s birthday.
4. Hari Raya Buka Puasa
On the topic of celebrations, the most important celebration of all in Malaysia is Hari Raya, which is the day that signals the end of the Ramadan Holy month of fasting. On Hari Raya, there is Buka Puasa which has the literal translation of “to break the fast”. Many Malaysians either host or go to open houses, which are events where families open their houses to relatives, friends and neighbors for a massive feast.
“Massive” doesn’t even begin to cover the spread of traditional Malay dishes and delicacies laid out on the table during this celebration.
If you’ve ever been to an all-you-can-eat restaurant, you’ll have a good idea of how it feels to have a “food hangover” after buka puasa. During Hari Raya, many restaurants and hotels also have special buka puasa buffets and menus to accommodate those who prefer to dine out during this festivity.
5. Large-scale shopping malls
Malaysia is well known for its abundance of luxury shopping malls; in fact, there are a total of 560 of them in the country! Large shopping malls may be the norm for countries in Asia or the Middle East, but the shopping experience in Malaysia is definitely unlike any European city.
These malls are not just for shopping for clothes, but also great entertainment venues, many of which have…
movie theaters, bowling alleys, ice rinks, arcades, laser tag, karaoke rooms, even mini “theme parks” in the mall to keep the kids entertained. Don’t be surprised if you see an indoor slide that can take you 10 stories down to the top floor of the mall. That being said, there can never be a dull day of shopping in this country.
6. Sky-Rise Everything
Kuala Lumpur is arguably one of the best cities to look down on. The city takes advantage of its beautiful skyline with many elevated vantage points: rooftop bars, sky lounges, and restaurants that can be up to 57 stories high. There’s even ‘Dinner in the Sky’, a dining concept where you are strapped to seats at a table and lifted into the air by a crane. This city is not made for those who have a faint heart when it comes to heights. If you’re lucky enough to be in Kuala Lumpur on New Year’s Eve, you can watch the entire sky light up with a magnificent fireworks display.
And for those who prefer nature to skyscrapers…
Kuala Lumpur Forest Eco Park is a preserved forest in Kuala Lumpur where you can enjoy the natural heights by taking a walk through the forest canopy right in the center of the city.
7. Pasar Malam Night Markets
The direct translation of Pasar Malam is “night market”. Pasar Malams is a different kind of nightlife experience, especially for those who want to get away from the commercial areas of the city and instead experience Malaysia from a truly local perspective.
Unsurprisingly, this includes a long street of lined stalls selling locally made food and goods such as textiles, handicrafts and a whole range of other items for relatively cheap… that is, if you’ve honed your skills for the negotiation.
A stall selling “Blu-ray” CDs or DVDs is a recognizable staple in any pasar malam. People flock to these night markets around 5 p.m. m., and the bustle can continue until just before midnight. Like Mamaks, Pasar Malams can be hectic, but the kind of hectic you come to appreciate as part of the culture when you visit Malaysia.
Speakeasy bars have been a big craze in Kuala Lumpur nightlife for the past 10 years. For those who don’t know what a Speakeasy is, it is a type of bar that originated in the United States during the Prohibition era (1920-1933), when alcohol was not allowed to be made or sold. At this time, illegal drinking establishments, known as “speakeasies”, began to spring up, where people could enjoy their illegal drinks.
In Kuala Lumpur, there are plenty of these bars tucked away in the most unexpected nooks, corners, and crannies of the city.
Many of them have “secret entrances” that you’ll need to look for behind shop stands, vending machines, and deserted bookcases. Other bars even require an “access code” to enter.
These speakeasies are a fun twist on the regular bar as they are often hard to find and have a theme, some being oriental, creepy, prohibition-era, Game of Thrones, etc.
9. Taman Negara Rainforest
At some point, the bustle of city life becomes too much and it’s not uncommon to long for a retreat in nature. Thanks to the tropical climate, Malaysia is full of natural wonders, being home to some of the most beautiful rainforests in the world.
Taman Negara National Park has one of the oldest rainforests in the world, dating back 130 million years when dinosaurs were still alive. The thriving ecosystem of this nature reserve makes this the most popular walking trail in Malaysia. Walking through the rainforest is very hot and humid, so bring a good pair of comfortable, waterproof walking shoes, and don’t forget your mosquito repellent, as you’ll need it a lot.
10. Mount Kinabalu
In the state of Sabah, near the city of Kota Kinabalu, is Mount Kinabalu: the highest mountain in Southeast Asia, with a staggering height of 4,095 meters.
If you dare to take on the challenge of climbing this behemoth, you will be amazed at the breathtaking views from above: a land mass covered in dense Malaysian rainforest. Better yet, if you start hiking first thing in the morning, you’ll be able to reach the top just in time for sunrise.