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Cornell Student Articles on Topical Affairs

Experiencing the Cultural Uniqueness of Malaysia

Having just stepped onto the land of Malaysia, many visitors often very quickly realize how culturally diverse the country is, and in fact, Malaysia stands out as one of the most diverse countries on Earth. The diversity is observable in the physical characteristics of Malaysians and many aspects of their day-to-day lives, including the variety of food they eat, the ways the people clothe themselves, the spoken languages and the various religions that share the continent. Regardless of these varying ways of living and outward appearances, these people are Malaysians, descendants of the early settlers who came to this nation seeking a better life, alongside the aborigines of the land.

The population today comprises of Orang Asli, Malays, Indians, Chinese and Europeans. Orang Asli arrived sometime around 45,000 years old. Only a few thousand still retain their culture and practice their traditions, pushing their practices to the brink of extinction. Malays started moving to the country around 2,500 years ago, looking for farming and trading opportunities. This race has been the largest single ethnic group, and more than half of the population today is made up of Malays. Some Indians migrated to the country as police officers, railway workers, or merchants while the largest group was brought in to work on tea and rubber plantations. This race has existed in the country for more than 2,000 years, and approximately 7 percent of Malaysians today are Indians. 

Intending to return back to China as wealthy men, a large amount of Chinese men travelled to Malaysia roughly in the middle to late 19th century to work in tin mines. However, many married the local Malays and decided to remain in the country. Today, a quarter of Malaysians are Chinese. Being principally drawn by trading opportunities, the British, Dutch and Portuguese, centuries ago, established colonial settlements in the country. Although many of the colonials left upon the announcement of the Malaysia’s independence, their long-lasting presence had instilled European cultures into the Malaysian society. The language can be heard almost everywhere today and their architecture is still present in the country. 

Hence, Malaysia is built from the works of this multicultural society, having a wide range of historic buildings and areas that are substantially evocative of the past, offering various heritage attractions of different cultural significance. Such differing cultures have significantly impacted the built environment and Malaysian cuisines. In terms of climate and geology, Malaysia is hot and humid throughout the year, having comparatively high temperatures and humidity levels and heavy rainfall during the monsoon seasons. Tropical rainforest covers more than half of the land surface of the country, hosting a substantial diversity of plant and animal species. Recently, the Malaysian government has implemented a tourism-related campaign that focuses on promoting ecotourism, arts and diverse cultures that the country offers.

On the 9th of May 2018, Najib Razak, a former prime minister of Malaysia and president of UMNO that is one Malaysia’s biggest political parties, was dethroned by one of his predecessors, Mahathir Mohamad, the news of which reverberated beyond the border of Malaysia. Until that day since 1957 in which Malaysia gained independence, no former prime minister had ever successfully attempted to unseat his selected successor and the UMNO-led coalition had never been defeated. Having taken over the ruling of the country, the Mahathir-led government has put in place a plethora of programmes and allocated a substantial amount of fund to the tourism industry by increasing the number of tourists visiting the country being the intention. 

The Malaysian government has recently announced that the government is allocating RM1.1 billion to the Ministry of Tourism for the implementation of a tourist-attracting campaign, known as Visit Malaysia 2020, on top of a sum of RM100 million that was allocated to improving the tourism industry in 2018. Visit Malaysia 2020, formed on the country’s ecotourism, arts and varying cultures, is designed to assist Malaysia in achieving 30 million tourist arrivals and RM100 billion in tourist receipts in the year of 2020. In addition, the government has also allowed new investments in international theme parks to be exempted from certain income taxes and is planning to review the implementation of visa-on-arrival (VoA) for Indian and Chinese tourists so as to increase the number of visitors to the country. Speaking of which, the existing e-visa application system has just been revamped and is now available for 10 countries. The president of the Malaysian Inbound Tourism Association has proposed that VoA should be free to tourists and that the government shall review regulations in relation to the tourism industry to ensure the smooth provision of new services, such as lodging and e-hailing, to tourists. In addition, the US embassy in Malaysia have announced that they would work together with the Malaysia government on the development and implementation of a new visa waiver programme, under which a Malaysian citizen can travel to and reside in the US for up to 90 days without a visa. 

It is just a matter of time before Malaysia becomes one of the most popular tourist attractions given the government’s continuous effort to improve the country’s tourism industry, the cultural uniqueness of the country that one can experience and the improved e-visa application system where most foreigners will be able to have their tourist visas approved and issued in just a matter of hours. If you are interested in travelling to Malaysia, you can now start planning for your trip and subsequently get your Malaysia visa online. It is always better to start early than late to ensure a worth-remembering journey both to and in the country.

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