Enjoy the mix of tradition and modernity
Malaysia is steadily undergoing rapid urban development, but that doesn’t mean the old is out. Hindu and Buddhist temples and old Chinese architecture are prominent in some parts of the country, especially Penang, Melaka and Old Kuala Lumpur. They have kept the urban landscape imbued with history. The incorporation of Malay and Islamic design in new architecture - such as star motifs - has also added to the preservation of Malaysia’s tradition. Take a look around the main town areas; most shop lots along the roads are re-purposed or renovated buildings from the 1950s.
The KL City Gallery is a particularly good example - an old colonial administration building restored to a mini-museum and modern tourist center. The KFC outlet along Jalan Larut on Penang Island is also a fascinating salvage project, housed in one of the countless old mansions from the 1800s.
Local Malaysian food
Malaysia’s food scene has been called one of the world’s most diverse. While the mother roots of these many different cultures are still strongly present, the close proximity and long history they share as Malaysians have brought change and additions to the cuisine often quite subtle ways, blending each seemingly familiar dish to create something absolutely new and inconsistent. A bowl of laksa can be spicy closer to the Thai border to the north and progressively become more sourish in taste moving down south. The result is a fascinating insight into how even the most basic of ingredients travel and are used differently depending on the area and population, giving each part of Malaysia a personal distinctiveness.
In conversations between true blue Malaysians, expect two or more languages to be used in a normal conversation, regardless of the speakers’ mother tongue. Commonly, phrases from other languages are mixed, especially when people from different cultural heritages converse. With exposure to the national language Malay and the necessity of learning English, almost every Malaysian is naturally bilingual or even trilingual. It’s always interesting to find new ways of expressing familiar feelings, and Malaysians seem to like doing so.
The history is everywhere
With so many cultures and traditions shaping Malaysia, there’s a lot of history to discover. Learn about how the Nyonya Peranakan people were formed through a blend of Malay and Chinese cultures, and how traditions passed down from ancestors in other lands took on new life in this multicultural sphere. Many sites survive from the pre-Independence era, especially places like Malacca, Penang and Kuala Lumpur. Some historical buildings reflect cultural and religious pride, such as the Blue Mansion, the Sri Mahamariamman Temple and the majestic Crystal Mosque.
Cultural festivals all year round
Many days of the year are dedicated to religious and cultural celebrations in Malaysia. Hindu celebrations like Thaipusam; boisterous and lively Chinese New Year festivals; the nationally observed month of Ramadan, where breaking the fast at food markets is a favorite activity; the elaborate Christmas decorations in the malls: all of these are celebrated vivaciously in Malaysia.