Malaysia, which celebrated 50 years of independence in 2007, is one of the rising stars of South-East Asian tourism, a nation looking to the future while cherishing the ways of the past. Centuries of trade combined with a vibrant mix of Malay, Chinese, Indian and tribal influence have created a mix of peoples and culture that make it a colourful and intriguing place to visit.
Tropical island resorts and endless white, sandy beaches offer a taste of paradise, while beneath warm coral seas, world-class divesites await exploration. Orang-utans, the oldest rainforest in the world, city skyscrapersand majestic mosques and temples, plus a gorgeous coastline, are enough to tempt even the most jaded visitor. And if that were not enough, Malaysia's culinary credentials are among Asia's finest.
The British were relatively late arrivals to the region in the late 18th century, following Portuguese and later Dutch settlement, but they played a key role following the European wars of the 1790s and, in particular, the defeat of the Netherlands by France in 1795. TheFederated Malay States were created in 1895, and remained under British colonial control until the Japanese invasion of 1942.
After Japanese defeat in 1945, the 11 states were once again incorporated as British Protectorates and, in 1948, became the Federation of Malaya. In 1963, the Federation of Malaya merged with Singapore and the former British colonies of Sarawak and Sabah, on north Borneo, to form modern Malaysia. Singapore seceded to become an independent state in its own right in 1965, leaving Malaysia in its present form.
Its convoluted history highlights why Malaysia is so ethnically and culturally diverse. Even better, the magnificent landscape is no less fascinating - dense jungles, soaring peaks and lush tropical rainforests harbour abundant and exotic flora and fauna.