BORNEO – The Rainforest Kingdom An overview of Malaysia Malaysian Culture Malaysian People Rainforests Mount Kinabalu – information Crocker Range - information Travel Tips Index Overview of Malaysia It would be difficult to overstate the attraction of Malaysia for anyone who appreciates the natural world. Its primal forests, ranging from shoreline mangrove to mountaintop oak, are of the sort that most of the world now knows only in myth. Although Malaysia's size is similar to that of Norway, natural trees and forests cover almost three quarters of the land, an area equivalent to almost the entire United Kingdom. One can walk for hundreds of miles in Malaysia under a continuous canopy of green, marvelling at an abundance of plant and animal species equalled by no other location in the entire world. This endlessly varied environment shelters a host of the world's rarest and most remarkable animals: the Sumatran Rhinoceros, the Clouded Leopard and Malaysian Tiger, the Sun Bear, the Monitor Lizard, and the Orang-utan, or "man of the forest," are just a few examples. Malaysia's forests are also home to Southeast Asia's highest peak, as well as to the world's most extensive natural caverns. The forest itself is one of the most ancient on the planet, far older than the equatorial forests of the Amazon or the Congo. It has for tens of thousands of years been the home of nomadic forest peoples, and ancient civilizations have flourished as well as disappeared in its vastness. Legends abound, and archaeologists have only just begun their efforts here. In order to safeguard its precious natural heritage, Malaysia has set aside many areas as parks and wildlife reserves. Together with natural forest management, conservation of wildlife, birds and marine life, nature reserves have been established through a network of protected areas. Almost one and a half million hectares of conservation areas are protected by legislation. Besides the many splendid sights in Malaysia's National Parks, visitors can enjoy an exhaustive tour of thrills and spills during their visit--boating through swirling rapids or between emerald green islands, stalking big game and fly-fishing for giant carp, bird-watching , spelunking, swimming in placid river waters, or camping amidst giant tropical trees and of course mountain climbing, the particular activity for some of our Adventure Alternative Expeditions. Malaysian culture More than fifteen hundred years ago a Malay kingdom in Bujang Valley welcomed traders from China and India. With the arrival of gold and silks, Buddhism and Hinduism also came to Malaysia. A thousand years later, Arab traders arrived in Malacca and brought with them the principles and practices of Islam. By the time the Portuguese arrived in Malaysia, the empire that they encountered was more cosmopolitan than their own. Malaysia's cultural mosaic is marked by many differences, but several in particular have had especially lasting influence on the country. Chief among these is the ancient Malay culture, and the cultures of Malaysia's two most prominent trading partners throughout history--the Chinese, and the Indians. These three groups are joined by a dizzying array of indigenous tribes, many of which live in the forests and coastal areas of Borneo. Although each of these cultures has vigorously maintained its traditions and community structures, they have also blended together to create contemporary Malaysia's uniquely diverse heritage. One example of the complexity with which Malaysia's immigrant populations have contributed to the nation's culture as a whole is the history of Chinese immigrants. The first Chinese to settle in the straits, primarily in and around Malacca, gradually adopted elements of Malaysian culture and intermarried with the Malaysian community. Known as babas and nonyas, they eventually produced a synthetic set of practices, beliefs, and arts, combining Malay and Chinese traditions in such a way as to create a new culture. Later Chinese, coming to exploit the tin and rubber booms, have preserved their culture much more meticulously. A city like Penang, for example, can often give one the impression of being in China rather than in Malaysia. Another example of Malaysia's extraordinary cultural exchange the Malay wedding ceremony, which incorporates elements of the Hindu traditions of southern India; the bride and groom dress in gorgeous brocades, sit in state, and feed each other yellow rice with hands painted with henna. Muslims have adapted the Chinese custom of giving little red packets of money (ang pau) at festivals to their own needs; the packets given on Muslim holidays are green and have Arab writing on them. You can go from a Malaysian kampung to a rubber plantation worked by Indians to Penang's Chinese kongsi and feel you've travelled through three nations. But in cities like Kuala Lumpur, you'll find everyone in a grand melange. In one house, a Chinese opera will be playing on the radio; in another they're preparing for Muslim prayers; in the next, the daughter of the household readies herself for classical Indian dance lessons. A bit about Malaysians The Malay are Malaysia's largest ethnic group, accounting for over half the population and the national language. With the oldest indigenous peoples they form a group called bumiputera, which translates as "sons" or "princes of the soil." Almost all Malays are Muslims, though Islam here is less extreme than in the Middle East. Traditional Malay culture centres around the kampung, or village, though today one is just as likely to find Malays in the cities. The Chinese traded with Malaysia for centuries, then settled in number during the 19th century when word of riches in the Nanyang, or "South Seas," spread across China. Though perhaps a stereotype, the Chinese are regarded as Malaysia's businessmen, having succeeded in many industries. When they first arrived, however, Chinese often worked the most grueling jobs like tin mining and railway construction. Most Chinese are Tao Buddhist and retain strong ties to their ancestral homeland. They form about 35 percent of the population. The oldest inhabitants of Malaysia are its tribal peoples. They account for about 5 percent of the total population, and represent a majority in Sarawak and Sabah. Though Malaysia's tribal people prefer to be categorized by their individual tribes, peninsular Malaysia blankets them under the term Orang Asli, or "Original People." In Sarawak, the dominant tribal groups are the Dayak, who typically live in longhouses and are either Iban (Sea Dayak) or Bidayuh (land Dayak). In Sabah, most tribes fall under the term Kadazan. All of Malaysia's tribal people generally share a strong spiritual tie to the rain forest. Rainforests Compared to the rest of the world's rain forests, Malaysia's is a grandmother. During the Ice Ages, much of the Earth was covered by immense glaciers that kept the global climate cool. Consequently, many of the planet's tropical rain forests had to wait until the glaciers receded before they could evolve. Malaysia's forest, however, was blessed with a location far enough away from the ice that it developed 130 million years ago far earlier than those of Africa and Latin America Mount Kinabalu 4903 m Mount Kinabalu is the highest mountain in south-east asia and offers a unique climb from tropical luxuriance through montane oak forest to the rocky sub-alpine summit plateau. The climb starts from Mount Kinabalu Park Headquarters, only a couple of hours drive but already more than 1500m above Kota Kinabalu on the coast. Here is ample accommodation from dormitories to comfortable two person cottages. The climb is usually done in two days from here. The use of an authorised guide is compulsory while a porter is an optional luxury. Many of the trees and flowers are unique or extremely rare but to the uninitiated novice in matters botanical there is no doubt that the pitcher plants steal the show. Even the most casual observer cannot fail to notice these impressive insect guzzling monsters with up to a pint of liquid waiting to lure and drown the passing fly or mosquito. Just above the tree line at 3350m is a comfortable rest house where most parties spend the night. Before dawn next morning everybody is up and climbing by torchlight towards the summit. A steep rock step is aided by a fixed rope which, when we were there, continued all the way to the summit even where the way became quite flat. Many people have been lost on the mountain in the past, some never to be seen again. The rope and the compulsory guide make this now extremely unlikely even in the thickest mist. Nevertheless the early start is a good idea to enjoy the views before the regular mist descends on the summit. It is not a good idea to climb too quickly as the wait for sunrise at the summit is exceedingly cold. The arrival of daylight reveals the remarkable summit plateau of the mountain, a vast expanse of smooth rock with a weird assortment of rocky pinnacles rising from it. By good fortune for the peak bagger the highest pinnacle, Lows Peak, is also one of the easiest. On the way down you can take a glimpse into the dizzy gash of Lows Gully which splits the eastern side of the mountain. With the early start the descent to Park Headquarters is easily done in one day, now with the glow of satisfaction of having climbed one of the world's most spectacular and interesting mountains. Kinabalu National Park One hundred and thirty eight kilometers from Kota Kinabalu, the capital of the Malaysian state of Sabah, rises the majestic Mount Kinabalu, the highest mountain in South-East Asia. This distinction has earned it considerable attention in myth and legend as well as in geography, and the mountain has for most of history been revered as a sacred spot. The hundreds of square kilometers encompassed by its slopes, from sea level to the jagged stone edge marking its summit, form the Kinabalu National Park. Within this area is found some of the richest flora in the world, ranging from lowland dipterocarp forest to the montain oak, rhododendron, and conifer forests of the middle altitudes and eventually to the alpine meadows and stunted, windswept bushes of the summit. The climb up Kinabalu is one reason why many visitors come. Despite its intimidating size, Kinabalu is one of the easiest mountains in the world to climb. No special skills or equipment are needed, and each year thousands of visitors undertake the expedition, which takes two to three days. Accommodation is available all along the climb, the highest lodging being the Sayat Hut at 12,500 feet. Those with high blood pressure or heart problems should not make the climb because of the high altitude involved. Though the Kinabalu Park is famous largely for the climb, the climb is in turn as famous for the beauty of its route as for the view from the top. Kinabalu's slopes possess a wealth of plant growth and a large variety of birds, and much of the climb's interest and beauty lies in tracing the transitions from one ecosystem to the next as one reaches ever higher altitude. For visitors with more time to spend in Kinabalu, there are graded paths leading through rich lowland forest to mountain rivers, waterfalls, and tumbled bat caves. The Poring Hot Springs, located nearby, are another prime attraction. The springs were developed first by the Japanese during W.W.II. Today the springs are piped into several open air, Japanese-style baths. The hot springs contain sulfur water, which has curative properties for skin diseases The Park at a Glance: Size: 4,343sq.km Highest Point: Mount Kinabalu(4,101meters) Flora Fauna: One of the largest flowers in the world grows here. Its giant red blossom, the Rafflesia can grow to over 170 cm in diameter. Several bird varieties including the Mountain Bush Warbler, Kinabalu friendly Warbler, pale-faced Bilbul and Mountain Blackeyes. More than 250 bird varieties have been recorded. Small mammals which inhabit the mountain include mountain squirrels, tree shrew sandbats. Activities: Mountain climbing, photography, jungle walks. The prime attraction here is the Hot Springs, first developed by the Japanese during World War II and now piped into several open-air Japanese style baths. For visitors with more time there are graded paths leading through rich lowland forest to mountain rivers, waterfalls and the tumbled bat caves. Getting There: The park is about ninety kilometers from Kota Kinabalu. The journey takes about two hours. Mini buses depart daily from Kota Kinabalu to Ranau, from 6.00am to 3.00pm and stop at Kinabalu Park along the way.. Crocker range Located south of Kota Kinabalu in Sabah, there are currently no tourist facilities at this park, although there are plans to build an office and renovate some existing forestry facilities such as the Park headquarters. The Crocker Range is densely populated with wildlife and is a trekker's paradise. Primates such as orangutans, gibbons, tarsiers, longtailed and pigtailed macaques, along with porcupines, bears, civet cats, marbled cats, and wild pigs roam the park freely. Hornbills, pheasants and partridges can also be seen, as well as the renowned Rafflesia, the world's largest flower. The park consists mostly of dipterocarps forest with a small percentage of montaine forest. Travel Tips Once you have overcome your jet-lag fatigue, step into the real heart of Malaysia--the citizens of the country. You would be pleasantly surprised at the warmth of Malaysians. For deeply entrenched within each of the different races is the engaging charm and traditional hospitality for which Malaysia is renowned. Malaysians enjoy meeting people from other lands. So, do go right ahead and strike up a conversation. After all, the whole point of travelling is to know other cultures. When greeting a Muslim, offer your right hand then bring it towards you, fingertips lightly touching your heart. This is the traditional Salam or 'greeting of acceptance'. Hindus greet with a Namaste (in Hindi) or Vanakam (Tamil). Both palms are brought together as in prayer at mid-chest level. With a Chinese, you may shake hands. If you are really unsure about all the different forms of greetings, just smile and nod your head slightly when introduced. Entry Formalities Passport/Travel Documents Visitors to Malaysia must be in possession of valid passport/travel documents with a minimum validity of six months beyond the period of intended stay. In the case of a national passport not recognised by the Malaysian Government, the holder must be in possession of a document in lieu of passport obtainable at the nearest Malaysian Mission abroad. The national passport must also ensure his re-entry into the country of his citizenship. Every visitor to Malaysia has to fill in a Disembarkation Card (IMM. 26). The card has to be handed over to the Immigration Officer on arrival together with the national passport or other internationally recognized travel document endorsed for travel into Malaysia. A passport/travel document is also necessary for travel between Sabah and Sarawak. Visitor passes issued for entry into Peninsular Malaysia are not valid for entry into Sarawak. Fresh visit passes must be obtained on arrival at the point of entry in Sarawak. However, subject to conditions stipulated, visit passes issued by the Immigration Authorities in Sabah and Sarawak are valid for any part of Malaysia. Visa Requirements: Commonwealth Citizens (except Bangladesh/India, Pakistan and Sri Lanka), British Protected Persons or Citizens of the Republic of Ireland and Citizens of Switzerland, Netherlands, San Marino and Liechtenstein do not need a visa to enter Malaysia. A visitor intending to visit any part of Malaysia is required to be in possession of only one visa to travel direct from one part of the nation to another. Tourist Police Lost your way? Need help? Look for a tourist police officer. Tourist police officers are recognized by their checkered hat bands, dark blue shirts and trousers, and the letter "I" (for information) on a red and blue badge on their breast pocket. Public Holidays With its multi-ethnic population, it is not surprising that almost every month sees a different festival. Some of these are declared as Public Holidays. As festivals vary from year to year, it is best to check the dates with the nearest Tourism Malaysia Office before you plan your trip. School Holidays There are five term breaks in the year for schools throughout Malaysia. The term breaks vary slightly from state to state. However, they fall roughly during the later part of the months of January (1 week), March (2 week), May (3 weeks), August (1 week), October (4 weeks). Water It is generally safe to drink water straight from the tap. Bottled mineral water, however, is easily available in shops and supermarkets. Electrical Supply Electric supply is on a 240-volt 50-cycle system. Newspapers English Language newspapers are available i.e. The New Straits Times, The Star, Business Times, Malay Mail, Daily Express, Sabah Daily News and Sarawak Tribune. International newspapers can be obtained at most bookshops and newsstands. Several dailies in other languages include Utusan Melayu, Berita Harian, Nanyang Siang Pan, Sin Chew Wit Poh and Tamil Nesan. There are also weeklies, such as the Leader and Straits Shipper. Radio Radio services are in Bahasa Melayu, English, Chinese, and Tamil. Television There are 4 television stations with TV 1 and TV 2 being government networks while the other two are privately run. Health Services In the event you need medical care, there are private clinics in most towns. It is a good idea to take out a medical insurance before you travel as Malaysia does not have reciprocal health service agreements with other nations. For over-the-counter prescriptions, there are pharmacies and 'Chinese medical halls'. Health Regulations No vaccination is required for cholera and smallpox. Climate With a temperature that fluctuates little throughout the year, travel in Malaysia is a pleasure. Average temperature is between 21 C and 32 C. Humidity is high. Rain tends to occur between November to February on the east coast of Peninsular Malaysia, on western Sarawak, and north-eastern Sabah. On the west coast of Peninsular Malaysia the rainy season is April to May and October to November. Click here for the current four-day weather forecast in Kuala Lumpur. Clothing As Malaysia's climate is sunny almost year round, light clothing is ideal. It is advisable for ladies, when entering mosques and temples, to wear long sleeves and loose pants or long skirts. Time Malaysia is 8 hours ahead of Greenwich Mean Time (GMT) and 16 hours ahead of United States Pacific Standard Time. Etiquette To avoid "cultural offenses," here are some tips: Remove shoes when entering homes and places of worship. Dress neatly in a suitable attire which covers arms and legs when visiting places of worship. Handle food with your right hand. Do not point your foot at someone. When giving or receiving money gifts to/from a Malaysian, do so with your right hand.
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