The lofty Petronas Towers are seen as the key symbol of Malaysia and they are indeed a splendid sight, as you will discover with Kesari Tours. However, if you were to look for a truer symbol of this wonderful country’s spirit and essence, look no further than its streets – Malay, Indian, Chinese and other ethnic groups, breathing, mixing, working, living together in complete harmony.
The roots behind this cultural fusion lie in the chequered history of the Malay states. Control over them passed through various groups, from the Srivijayan Empire which founded the Malacca sultanate, to the British who first entered in 1786 and went on to gain control, to the Japanese who occupied the states temporarily during the Second World War. The states on Peninsular Malaysia, known as Malaya, were first unified as the Malayan Union in 1946. It was restructured as the Federation of Malaya in 1948 and achieved independence on August 31, 1957. In 1963, Malaya united with Sabah, Sarawak, and Singapore with ‘si’ being added to give the new country the name Malaysia. Singapore exited in 1965 and today Malaysia consists of 13 states and three federal territories, a true melting pot of races, cultures and religions.
CultureIntegration of cultures has occurred seamlessly over the centuries. Traces of Indian influences from the 7th century still exist in words used in the Malay language. The Malaysian people follow traditional beliefs and a social system known as Adat, which encourages collective responsibility and harmonious existence. While Islam is the official religion, religious freedom is assured under the Federal Constitution and religious intolerance is actively discouraged. Huge skyscrapers exist happily alongside small wooden houses built on stilts, while sandy beaches rub shoulders with tropical mangroves. The intermingling is everywhere!
FoodKnown as a food paradise in South East Asia, Malaysian cuisine offers immense variety and diverse tastes. The Indian influence on the culture of the Malays is more than evident in the delicious curries and Roti Canai, a common breakfast meal for almost all Malaysians, no matter their race. From China came the popular Hainanese Chicken Rice which was popular in Singpaore and has now further evolved to suit local tastes in its avatar as Roasted Chicken Rice.
FestivalsEach race with its unique identity adds individual colour to the country’s culture with a plethora of festivals, which you can witness with Kesari Tours. The Kadazandusun of Sabah continue to celebrate their ancient festival of Kaamatan, the Harvest Festival, with great feeling at the end of June. Indians will celebrate Thaipusam by climbing the 272 steps of Batu Caves. Depavali, Chinese New Year and Hari Raya Adil Fitri are almost national festivals, when the different communities warmly welcome all visitors into their homes to join in the celebration. Open House and Open Heart, too!