Focus: Destination Malaysia

In an effort to highlight places of interest in countries across the world, their varied culture, economy and history, The…

Focus: Destination Malaysia

(Photo: Getty Images)

In an effort to highlight places of interest in countries across the world, their varied culture, economy and history, The Statesman brings to you a Weekly Focus on countries with which India shares diplomatic ties and friendship. This week’s focus is on Malaysia. Know all about the country.

Capital: Kuala Lumpur, Currency: Malaysian ringgit, Language: Bahasa Malaysia (official), English, Chinese (Cantonese, Mandarin, Hokkien, Hakka, Hainan, Foochow), Tamil, Telugu, Malayalam, Panjabi and Thai. Religion: Muslim (official) 61.3 per cent, Buddhist 19.8, Christian 9.2, Hindu 6.3, Confucianism, Taoism, other traditional Chinese religions 1.3, other 0.4, none 0.8, unspecified 1 (2010 est.) Ethnic groups: Malay 50.1 per cent, Chinese 22.6 per cent, indigenous 11.8, Indian 6.7, other 0.7, non-citizens 8.2 (2010 est.)



The country is affected by the South-West Monsoon from May to September and the North-East Monsoon from November to March. Different parts of the country have their dry and wet seasons at different times of year. On the west coast, the wettest months are May-October, while on the east coast, the wettest months are September-December. The best times to visit in dry weather are June-July on the east coast, January-February on the west coast, April in Sabah and June-July in Sarawak.


About 170 weekly flights connect various destinations in India and Malaysia. British Airways, Air India, Asiana Airlines, Etihad Airways, Emirates, Singapore Airlines, AirAsia, Jet Airways and Malaysia Airlines fly between the two countries. There are two types of visas, eNTRI and eVisa. Malaysian eVisa is valid for 90 days and must be used within three months from the date of the eVisa issuance. eVisa allows maximum stay of 30 days inside Malaysia. The Malaysia eNTRI allows stays for a maximum of 15 days. Both visas are valid only for single entry (you need to re-apply each time you want to visit Malaysia). Documents required are passport, photograph, copy of passport main page, travel itinerary, return flight ticket with e-ticket number (Indian nationals who want to apply online), hotel reservation or invitation letter from your host, birth certificate for minors (if applicable).

A paradise for foodies

Malaysia is not just a melting pot, it is a cooking pot, blending culinary influences from as far away as Europe, China and India. The national cuisine shares obvious similarities with Thai and Indonesian food, but Malaysian cooking has its own unique specialities, based on exotic spices, chilli, ginger, lemongrass, lime leaves, coconut milk and peanuts. Many dishes are extremely spicy, but rice is served with almost everything, and a cup of sweet tehtarik will help cool things down. Be sure to sample mamak cuisine, imported to Malaysia by Tamil Muslims. Traditionally served at street stalls, mamak dishes can be sampled at nasi kendar (rice and curry) canteens across the country. Although Malaysia is predominantly Islamic, bars and restaurants in larger cities serve beer, wine and spirits. Some of the specialities are char kway teow, nasi goreng, roti canai and rendang daging.

India’s third largest trading partner

Malaysia is India’s third largest trading partner in ASEAN and India is the largest trading partner for Malaysia from among the countries of the South, excluding China. As per latest statistics, bilateral trade during January-September 2016 stood at $8.71 billion. Trade is significantly biased in favour of Malaysia. As per official figures (DIPP), Malaysia is currently the 25th largest investor in India with FDI inflows of $827.88 million from April 2000 to September 2016. The highest investment proposals have been in telecommunications, followed by power, oil refining and roads & highways. Malaysian construction companies’ largest presence outside Malaysia is in India. There has been a surge in Malaysian private sector initiatives in India, particularly in infrastructure. There are about 87 Malaysian companies including joint venture companies operating in India which includes prominent entities like IJM (India) Infrastructure Ltd and GMR Hyderabad International Airport Ltd.

Large Indian presence

There are over 130,000 Indian expats legally employed in Malaysia in skilled and semi-skilled category. Malaysia has one of the largest communities of Persons of Indian Origin in the world, close to 2 million (7-8 per cent of Malaysia’s population). The overwhelming numbers of PIOs are Tamil speaking. The Malaysian Indian Congress is the dominant political organisation of the PIOs since pre-independence, and is a member of the ruling coalition since independence. There is also significant PIO support to two Opposition parties ~ the PKR and DAP ~ which has more Indian origin MPs in the Lower House than Malaysian Indian Congress.


Langkawi: Langkawi is an archipelago made up of 99 islands in the Andaman Sea on Malaysia’s west coast. Eagle Square, Underwater World Langkawi and Pregnant Maiden Lake are some of the highlights. Other things to do are Island Hop-ping at Dayang Bunting, diving at Pulau Payar Marine Park, ride the steepest cable car at Gunung Mat Ching-cang, Mangrove River Cruise, Mahsuri Maus-oleum, Crocodile Farm, Laman Padi, Handicraft Complex.

Penang: This big island on the west coast of Malaysia is one that the country is proud of. George Town is a Unesco World Heritage city, the place where you can see a unique architecture and culture. Some highlights are Penang Hill, Snake Temple, Kek Lok Si Temple, Dhammikarma Burmese Temple, War Chaiyanabgalaram, Batu Feringgi and Gurney Drive. Penang is also well known as a foodie paradise.

Malacca: The Peranakan city of Malacca is locally spelled as Melaka. Malacca city is a Unesco World Heritage site. The state of Malacca is one of the smaller states in Malaysia, rich with history and tourist attractions. Some attractions include Christ Church, the Stadthuys, St. Paul’s Hill, Dutch Fort, Portuguese Settlement.

Kuala Lumpur: The beautiful skyline, adorned by Menara KL Tower and Petronas Tower, is a must-see. Other highlights include Perdana Lake Gardens, Thean Hou Temple, Batu Caves and Berjaya Times Square.

Other attractions include Perhentian Islands, Tioman Island, Taman Negara (oldest national park in Malaysia, and one of the world’s oldest tropical rainforests), Cameron Highland, Malaysian Borneo (third largest island in the world), Putrajaya (Federal Administrative Center of Malaysia), Mount Kinabalu and Gunung Mulu National Park.

Compiled by Kunal Jain (kunaljain@thestatesman.com)