Malaysia is situated in Southeast Asia and is both a peninsular and an island nation. The central part of the country is located on a long, thin peninsula, bordering Thailand; this part of the country contains the capital, Kuala Lumpur, and the main industrial and agricultural enterprises. At the tip of the country, across the straits, is the island city-state of Singapore. The second part of the country, often referred to as East Malaysia, is across the South China Sea on the island of Borneo, an island which Malaysia shares with Indonesia, and Brunei. East Malaysia comprises the areas known as Sabah and Sarawak, which form 60 percent of the total area of the country.
Peninsular Malaysia is bordered in the North by Thailand and is separated from Indonesia in the East by the Strait of Malacca. This strait is one of the busiest shipping areas in the world and historically was the gateway to the "spice islands;" thus it has long been the home of pirates as well.
As is true of much of Southeast Asia, Malaysia enjoys a tropical climate with both Southwest and Northeast monsoons, which keep the country wet for much of the year from April to February. These rains help to account for the excellent agriculture and forestry which make up a large part of the country's economy. The island part of the country has coastal plains with high interior mountains, the highest point being Gunung Kinabalu at 13, 450 feet.
Malaysia has untapped rainforests, with mature trees covering 2/3's of the land in the island of Borneo. These forests are home to rare species of animals such as the Sumatran rhinoceros, the Clouded Leopard, and the Sun Bear. At the same time that Malaysia preserves its wilderness areas, it has grown to be one of the more powerful economies in Southeast Asia with its emphasis on exporting electronic goods and petroleum produces. The country also produces great quantities of rubber, palm oil and timber. The agricultural sector also produces exports of rice and cocoa.
Malaysia has a well-developed domestic and international communication network. The cities and ports are well connected by an extensive rail and road network. In addition to being the capital, Kuala Lumpur is the commercial and transportation hub, although many port cities, such as Malacca, are also important in the international trade network.
The world's tallest building, the Petronas twin towers, is in Kuala Lumpur.
While most Southeast Asian countries are home to a variety of peoples, Malaysia more than most, is a polyglot nation. The largest ethnic group are the Malays who comprise just over half of the population. A large overseas Chinese community and a large overseas Indian community, comprise another 40 percent of the population. In addition there are a series of tribal peoples who form the majority of inhabitants in Sabah and Sarawak. The existence of large communities of three important groups: the Malays, the Chinese, and the Indians, gives Malaysia a cosmopolitan flavor.
As is to be expected from its ethnic make up, several religions are followed in Malaysia. Most of the ethnic Malays are Sunni Muslims, while the Chinese tend to follow Mahayana Buddhism or Daoism and the Indian community generally follows Hinduism. The tribal peoples follow a variety of shamanistic and animistic practices. Thus, Malaysia is a haven of religious tolerance and acceptance.
The official language is Bahasa Melayu which is written using the Roman alphabet. English is the common language of business, while a variety of Chinese and Indian dialects are also spoken by those groups.
For an excellent, printable map, visit Mapquest Atlas