42 Interesting Facts About Malaysia to Acquaint the Curious Traveller in You

A country that offers sunshine, seashores and scenic views in equal measure, Malaysia also comes with many interesting facts, which surprisingly is quite unknown among the common crowd. Read on to find out more about these fun facts about Malaysia that make up for the country's history and pride that has shaped it into the wonderful place we know of today.  

1. When the Federation of Malaya replaced the Malayan Union, a contest was held to design the flag. The Malaysian flag was designed by Mohamad Hamzah, a 29-year-old architect who won the contest in 1963. 

2. The ethnic Malays make up only half of Malaysia's population of over 31 million people. The rest comprises of other groups including the Chinese, Indians and other indigenous people. 

3. Malaysia follows a unique rotating monarchy system, according to which nine ethnic Malay state rulers take turns to become the king for a term of five years. 

4. The national currency of Malaysia, Ringgit means 'jagged' in the Malay language; and refers to the serrated edges of the Spanish silver dollars that were used in the 16th and 17th centuries.  

5. One of the old names of Malaysia, Aurea Chersonesus, means 'peninsula of gold'. This name was given by Greco-Roman geographer Ptolemy in his book Geographia, which he wrote around 150 AD. 
Malaysia
A bird's eye view of KL city (Source)
6. Till 2004, the Petronas Towers of Kuala Lumpur, standing 1,483 feet high with 88 storeys, was the tallest building in the world. Till date, the Petronas Towers are the tallest twin buildings in the world and are joined by a sky bridge at levels 41 and 42, which are 558 feet off the ground. 

7. The highest point in Malaysia is Mount Kinabulu, on Borneo Island, at the height of 13,435 feet. UNESCO has even recognized this peak to be a World Heritage Site.

8. Malaysia is home to four UNESCO designated World Heritage Sites, including the Gunung Mulu National Park, the Kinabalu Park, the significant cities of Melaka and George Town, and the Lenggong Valley, which is an important archaeological heritage site.

9. The largest cave chamber in the world, the Sarawak Cave Chamber, is located in Gunung Mulu National Park on the Borneo Island. This cave chamber is so vast that according to rough mathematics, it can accommodate 40 Boeing 747s without the planes even having to overlap their wings to fit in. 

The Petronas Towers
The Petronas Towers (Source)
10. In terms of land area, Malaysia covers roughly the same size as New Mexico!

11. Malaysia is the only country in the world to include territory on the mainland of Southeast Asia as well as on the islands that stretch between Asia and Oceania. 

12. Borneo is the third-largest island in the whole world, after Greenland and New Guinea. The island is shared by three countries: Indonesia, Malaysia and the Independent Sultanate of Brunei. 

13. Malaysia has 65,877 kilometres of highway roads in all, which is even greater than the circumference of the Earth (40,075 kilometres). 

14. Putrajaya is home to the biggest roundabout in the world, with a total diameter of 3.5 kilometres. 

15. Penang, or Georgetown as it is often called, is the food capital of the country

16. Established in AD 1136 on the Malay Peninsula, the Sultanate of Kedah is one of the oldest sultanates in the world

Penang, Malaysia
Penang, the food capital (Source)
17. Malaysian law permits caning as a form of punishment. The maximum number of strokes which can be ordered is 24; and women and boys under the age of 10 or men over 50 years of age cannot be caned, except when charged with rape. 

18. Between 1963 and 1965, Singapore was also a part of the fourteen states that together made up Malaysia. However, on 9 August, Singapore was expelled due to riots over economic and political matters between different cultural groups. Since then, Singapore became a city-state of its own. One theory among other facts about Malaysia, states that the 'si' in Malaysia actually refers to Singapore, though the name has not changed after the separation. 

19. The Malaysian state of Kelantan ordered in 1997 that lights would no longer be switched off in movie cinemas, to prevent people from cuddling and kissing. 

20. Malaysia's Kinabalu National Park is home to the parasitic Rafflesia arnoldii or corpse flower. This flower is known for embedding itself completely into the host flower, so much so that the only part visible is the flower. The flower blooms to be 3 feet wide and weighs around 7 kilograms. 

21. Malaysia is also home to its own unique species of a striped huge orange cat, known as the Malayan Tiger. These tigers are found on the Malay Peninsula and have also been sighted in Kelantan, Pahang, and Johor. Unfortunately, this species is now critically endangered, and only 350 of these tigers now exist on the whole planet. 

22. The Bingator trees, which are found only on Sarawak, are believed to have properties that can actually cure AIDS.

23. Malaysia is the third-largest natural rubber producer in the world and the world's largest supplier of rubber gloves. 

24. Malaysia is home to one of the world's largest populations of king cobras

25. Malaysia is home to one of the tallest tropical trees of the world, the Tualang, which has a base diameter of over 10 feet and grows up to 262 feet in height. 

Tualang
Tualang or the Mengris tree (Source)
26. The famous shoe designer Jimmy Choo was born in Penang in Malaysia and this also happens to be one of the lesser-known facts about Malaysia. A favourite of Princess Diana, he was also awarded the Order of the British Empire in 2003 by Queen Elizabeth II.

27. Pomelo, the most abundant citrus fruit in the world, is an indigenous fruit from Malaysia. The fruit can weigh anything between 1 and 3 kilograms, and can ever reach the size of a small football. 

28. . The national dish of Malaysia is Nasi Lemak, a dish comprising of fragrant rice cooked in coconut milk and served wrapped in a banana leaf.

Teh Tarik, Malaysia
Teh Tarik (Source)
29. Teh tarik, which means pulled tea, is Malaysia's national drink. Tea is thrown from a height of about 1 meter from one cup to another without any spillages by trained Mamak men. Though the original concept behind this was to let the tea cool down so that customers could have it, it has become a Malaysian art form of late.  

30. The English word ketchup is believed to have been derived from the Hokkien word' ke-tsiap', which refers to a dish of fermented sauce. This sauce was actually brought to Melaka by the Chinese traders, and this is where the Europeans first came across it.  

31. Kuala Lumpur has recorded 200 rainy days in a single year, while Kuching in Sarawak holds the record of 253 rainy days in a year. 

32The 'Sidek Serve' in badminton was invented by the Malaysian Sidek brothers somewhere in the 1980s. Since this kind of serve confused both opponents and officials, it was banned by the International Badminton Association. 

33. In 2009, Malaysia was the ninth most visited country in the world, with over 23.6 million visitors; according to the World Tourism Organization (WTO). 

34. Since the states of Sabah and Sarawak have their own immigration laws, even Malaysians need a passport when travelling between East and Peninsular Malaysia

A Malaysian Bride
A Malaysian Bride (Source)
35. Malay brides wear their wedding rings on the fourth finger of their right hand, and this ring is placed on this finger by a senior female relative of the groom, instead of being placed by the groom himself. 

36. Chinese Malays are known for visiting graveyards in the dead of night, bearing offerings for the dead in the hope of receiving lucky lottery numbers from them. 

37. The Iban community of the Sarawak province calls a newborn baby as 'ulat', which means a worm, till the baby is named. When a baby is to be named, it must be after the name of a deceased relative, since it is believed that naming a newborn baby after a living relative may shorten the baby's life. When a few names have been shortlisted, rice balls representing a name each are prepared, and the first rice ball that the fighting cock pecks at decides the name. 

38Don't be surprised if you do not find the fourth floor in some of the buildings in Malaysia, but a floor called 3A instead. This is because the sound of four bears a resemblance to the sound of death in Chinese. 

39Traditionally, pregnant Malay women are not supposed to tie or kill anything, since it might cause the birth of a baby who is deformed or has birthmarks. They should also refrain from seeing anything ugly or scary during their pregnancy. 

40. The richest unrecovered treasure from a sunken ship lies on the seafloor in the Strait of Malacca in Malaysia. In December 1511, the Portuguese ship Flora de la mar was returning to its home carrying the largest treasure that the Portuguese navy had collected when, unfortunately, the ship sank. Today, the area is patrolled by modern-day pirates. 

41. Perak Man, found in 1991, is the oldest and the only complete human skeleton to have been found in all of Peninsular Malaysia. 

Headhunting in Malaysia
A trophy skull of the Borneo tribe in Sabah (Source)
42. Even till the 20th century, headhunting was common among the Dayak tribe of Malaysia. These skulls were considered to be trophies of manhood, and this headhunting is still celebrated ceremonially. In many cases, nowadays coconut shells wrapped in leaves are used as a substitute for freshly annihilated heads. 

Now that you have a hang of the facts about Malaysia and its various facets make new friends and strike up conversations on your Malay vacation!

This post was published by Muskan Ahuja

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