The peninsula of Malaysia hangs from the southern edge of Thailand, between the Strait of Malacca and the South China Sea. Across the sea, on the island of Borneo (which is mainly occupied by Indonesia), lies East Malaysia. This is a country with one foot in the jungle and the other on the sidewalk.
Malaysia’s cities are whirring engines of modern industry, its villages reflect the languorous pace of earlier times, and its rainforests put the ‘wild’ in wilderness. In Malaysia’s capital, Kuala Lumpur, the Petronas Towers jut arrogantly from the horizon, trumpeting their status as the world’s tallest twin towers. The city of Penang has an extensive Chinatown area that seems frozen in an era that ended half a century ago. On Borneo, the East Malaysian region of Sabah is home to one of the world’s few orangutan sanctuaries, and in Sarawak’s Gunung Mulu National Park the world’s largest flower (Rafflesia) blooms and the world’s largest rock chamber, Deer Cave, makes a cosy home for over one million bats. Kuala Terengganu’s Central Market sells a large selection of native crafts – brass, textiles and baskets among them. Many come here to spend their time baking on the beaches, or snorkeling under waters warmed by the tropical sun.