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Monday 27th March
Malaysia Information - Page 1
Geography
Malaysia, located in Southeast Asia, consists of the Malaysian Peninsula and the States of Sabah and Sarawak on the island of Borneo. (Borneo is shared with Brunei and Indonesia). The Peninsula is bordered by Thailand in the north; the island of Singapore lies to the south. Singapore is linked to Johor, in Malaysia, by a causeway.

Kuala Lumpur, known as KL, is the capital of Malaysia.

Much of Malaysia is still heavily forested, despite its major timber industry. A mountain range running down the centre of the peninsula divides east from west. The rubber plantations which make Malaysia the world's largest rubber producer cover much of the coastal plains and hills of the west.

The climate is hot and humid, although it is cooler in the highlands.

Environment
The jungles of Malaysia are said to be the oldest in the world. They cover more than two thirds of the country and play a vital role in both its economic life and its climate.

The forests stretch from the mangrove swamps of the west coast, through freshwater swamps to lowland hardwood forests, heath forests and mountain forest. There are believed to be around 8,500 species of flowering plants and ferns and 2,500 species of trees, in Malaysia's forests.

Around 450 species of birds are native to Malaysia and many migrating species winter there. Among the most famous are the hornbills, native to Sarawak. Other species of birds include egrets, herons, kingfishers, kites, mynahs, and pheasants.

One of the world's most endangered animals is also unique to this part of the world - the orang utan, found only in Sumatra and Borneo, is the only great ape living naturally outside Africa.

Other animal species of Malaysia include bears, crocodiles, elephants, leopards, monkeys, panthers and rhinoceroses. Borneo has over 160 species of snakes, including the venomous cobras, kraits and sea-snakes. All seven known species of turtles, including the giant leatherback, lay their eggs on Malaysia's beaches.

Malaysia is a major world exporter of timber. In recent years concern has grown about the rate of timber extraction. New forest management policies are being implemented to ensure the preservation of the forests. River pollution has also been the subject of recent control measures.

A system of National Parks has been established to help preserve the country's flora and fauna and their habitats. Gunung Mulu National Park and Kinabalu Park are World Heritage sites. Malaysia's marine environment is also in need of protection. Coral reefs and other fragile marine ecosystems are protected by the system of designated Marine Parks.

Architecture
The best known traditional architectural style of Malaysia is the long-house, found particularly along the rivers of Sarawak. Families live together (though they have their own private space) in one long building, raised on stilts, sharing the open verandah which runs the whole length of the building.

Also raised on stilts are the wooden houses of the other parts of rural Malaysia. These stilt-houses are around two metres off the ground to protect against floods and wild animals, while providing extra ventilation and also shelter for the family's domestic animals. The style of the houses varies from region to region, the most famous being the saddle-shaped roofs which rise up into what are known as "buffalo horns".

A third style of home common in Malaysia is the Chinese "shop-house" where the ground floor is a shop, with the family living above.

European colonial style buildings can be found in every major town, especially on the west coast. Most are British in origin but some Dutch and Portuguese architecture remains. Malaysia's religious diversity shows in its architecture. Mosques and minarets show the Islamic heritage in one particularly famous mosque, now more than two hundred years old and built in hardwood, without the use of nails, by craftsmen from Java. There are also many Buddhist and Hindu temples, some of them built in Malaysia's limestone caves.

The increasing wealth of the country is seen in the many modern buildings, in dramatic styles, going up in the major cities. Perhaps the most outstanding are the twin Petronas towers, among the tallest buildings in the world.

Population
The population of Malaysia was estimated at 25,274,132 in 2008.

Languages
The language of Malaysia is Bahasa Melayu. Chinese dialects and Tamil are spoken by the respective ethnic groups. English is the language of business.

Religion
Malaysia's multicultural society is reflected in its religious communities: Buddhists/Taoists/Confucianists, Hindus, Muslims, a minority of Sikhs and some Christians. The aborigines retain their Animist religion, believing that there is a spirit in everything.

Food
Rice is the staple food in Malaysian cuisine. It is often eaten at breakfast with coconut milk, anchovies and boiled egg. Noodles are also popular.

Malaysian recipes often include coconut, shrimp paste, satay, fish or meat. Nonya food is a combination of Chinese ingredients with Malaysian herbs and spices.

The regional variations of Chinese cooking are available, as well as the food of the other ethnic and religious groups.

In Malaysia a popular way of eating is to buy food from the hawker stalls in the street which offer a wide variety of different foods.

Fresh fruits include durian, mangoes, jack fruit, star fruit, papaya, pineapple and pomelo.

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