The country of Malaysia comprises Peninsular Malaysia (part of the southeast Asian mainland), as well as two states (Sabah and Sarawak) on the northern part of Borneo. Malaysia has a warm tropical climate, with coastal plains enjoying an average temperature of 28ºC, inland areas averaging 26ºC and high mountainous areas enjoying a pleasant 23ºC average temperature. Humidity in Malaysia is high, hovering between 70 and 90 percent. Malaysia has a dry season (June to September) and a rainy one (December to March). The areas which are hardest hit by the rain are the west and north. Flooding is not uncommon in this otherwise paradisiacal country – July to November is peak season for floods and typhoons.
Malaysia is a famed tourist destination for various reasons – its excellent sunny weather, endless beaches and burgeoning cities. Its capital, Kuala Lumpur, is home to amazing exponents of architecture, including the Petronas Twin Towers, which soar to an impressive height of 451.9 metres and boast no less than 88 storeys. Malaysia is also known for its pristine white sand beaches and clear waters, as well as for the Formula One Malaysia Grand Prix in Sepang (launched in 1999). Malaysia is also an oasis for nature lovers, with lofty mountain ranges, lush rainforests and an impressive variety of flora and fauna.
The earliest settlers of Malaysia are thought to have been the Orang Asli, who migrated down from southwestern China. In 1405, Chinese admiral, Cheng Ho, arrived in the area to protect it against attacking Siamese in the north. ‘Malacca’ (as the area was known then) enjoyed great prosperity, and was soon taken over by the Portuguese, Dutch and British. In the late 19th century, the British were requested to restore order following civil war between the Malays, and increasing piracy in the west. The areas of Perak, Selangor, Pahang and Negeri Sembilan joined together to form The Federated Malay States, governed by a British general. During World War II, Malaysia was occupied by the Japanese, until the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. From 1948 to 1960, Malaya suffered an intense jungle war, won by the British and Malay soldiers against Malayan communists. In 1957, Malaya became independent from Britain and in 1963, The Federation of Malaysia was born.
Malaysia is home to over a thousand different animal species. Some of its best known animals include orangutans, panthers, tigers, monkeys, crocodiles, sun bears and tapirs. Snakes, lizards and hundreds of bird species can also be seen. Trees and plants abound, with over 8,000 species of flowering plants, approximately 2,000 tree species and hundreds of orchid and an array of palm species. Malaysia is known for being one of the few places of the world where you can spot the rafflesi: this plant produces the largest flower in the world and can weigh a hefty 10 kg! The exotic rafflesia can be found in only a handful of other countries – namely, Sumatra, Borneo, the Philippines and Thailand. The bloom only lasts for a few days, with most buds dying before opening. The species is struggling to survive, because the flower has only a few days to successfully mate with a nearby flower of the opposite sex. The problem is that the flowers are so rare that this process can be a real feat!
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