With over 2,400 miles of coastline, ancient rainforests and vibrant cities with jaw-dropping 21st-century skyscrapers, Malaysia is on most people’s holiday bucket list. It’s one of the few places in the world where you can spot Malaysian tigers, orangutans and the largest flower in the world too. Located in Southeast Asia, just north of the equator, the country is actually made up of 874 islands. Its capital, Kuala Lumpur, is home to the tallest twin tower skyscrapers in the world, as well as one of the world’s most important Hindu shrines outside of India. Part of the British Empire, Malaysia gained independence in 1963. Piqued your interest in this fascinating country? Here are a few more interesting facts about Malaysia you might not know.
Interesting facts about Malaysia
1. It has a rotating monarchy
Malaysia follows a unique rotating monarchy system. There are nine ethnic Malay state rulers who take it in turns to become king for a five-year term. The current king or ‘Yang di-Pertuan Agong’, which translates as ‘he who was made lord’ is Sultan Abdullah Sultan Ahmad Shah. He slipped on the crown in 2019, following a controversial two-year term from his predecessor Sultan Muhammad V. While there’s an established order, the Sultans of each family still have to vote on who the next one should be.
The country’s government system is largely similar to the UK’s, with a constitutional monarch and power with parliament. Malaysia has used the rotating monarchy system since 1957 when Britain returned control of the colony to the royal family and the new parliament.
2. It could be home to the richest undiscovered treasure trove
In December 1511, the Portuguese ship Flora de la Mar (Flower of the Sea) sunk on its return home to Portugal. The navy had loaded it up with their largest ever treasure hall, including an impressive tribute from the Kind of Siam. When it was constructed, the ship was one of the largest and most beautiful carracks of its day.
Modern-day pirates are known to patrol the Malaysia strait. Whilst some of the treasure could have sunk to the bottom of the sea, it’s a zero visibility diving area, with a muddy bottom and high currents. Several attempts have been made over the years to try and find the treasure but no one has come close. In 1992, a treasure hunter called Bob Marx announced this discovery of the ship, but the project never got going.
3. The country is split into two
Malaysia is divided into two landmasses, the Peninsular Malaysia and Malaysian Borneo, separated by 650 kilometres of the South China Sea. Malaysia in its current form dates back only to the 1960s. At one point, Singapore was part of Malaysia. Between 1963 and 1965 it was one of Malaysia’s 14 states. It separated following economic, political and racial disagreements. From that point onward, Singapore has been a city-state.
Borneo is the third-largest island in the world, after Greenland and New Guinea. Indonesia, Malaysia and the Independent Sultanate of Brunei each have a stake in the island. Malaysia claims around 26 per cent of the island. Sabah and Sarawak are Malaysian and combine to roughly the same size as the Czech Republic.
4. It’s home to the world’s largest cave
Sarawak Cave Chamber is the largest cave chamber in the world. It’s located in a maze of around 295-kilometres (183-miles) of caverns and chasms in Sarawak Gunung Mulu National Park in Borneo. The largest known cave chamber on the planet, it can accommodate as many as 40 Boeing 747s without the planes having to overlap wings.
Three British cavers, Andy Eavis, Dave Checkley and Tony White discovered the cave in 1981 during the Mulu’80 Expedition. They had previously found Deer Cave, also in the national park. Until then it was a record for its size, measuring nearly 150 metres (500-foot) high, home to a mammoth colony of bats.
5. …as well as a UNESCO listed mountain
Mount Kinabalu is the tallest mountain in the country, reaching heights of 13,435 foot (4,095 metres). It’s one of the world’s highest peaks but at a sprightly 15 million years old, it’s actually one of the world’s youngest non-volcanic mountains. Unesco describes it as ‘the highest mountain between the Himalayas and New Guinea’.
The landscape is wildly varied, ranging from tropical lowland and hill rainforest to sub-alpine forests towards the top. There are more than 5,000 species of plants on the mountain – more than Europe and North America (minus Mexico) combined. It’s a dream for animal enthusiasts too, with 326 different bird species and 100 mammals inhabiting it.
There are two summit trails – Ranau Trail and Kota Belud Trail. These trail routes start from the Panalaban area and wind up to the Summit.
6. It’s diverse
Malaysia has a large population of around 31 million people, but only half of this head-count is Malay. Islam is the predominant religion amongst Malay people Other significant groups include Chinese and Indian.
Indigenous tribal groups account for around 11.8% of the population. These groups tend to live in less urbanised regions of East Malaysia, with their own traditional languages, religions and customs. The largest indigenous group in Malaysia is the Iban, with a population of around 600,000. This community lives on a side of Malaysia that has hardly changed for centuries. Other smaller groups include Bidayuhs, Kadazan and Negritos.
7. You can stay at the world’s largest hotel
The First World Hotel in the Genting Highlands is the largest hotel in the world, with 7,351 rooms split between two colourful towers. It lost its title in 2008 to the Venetian in Las Vegas but managed to win it back in 2015 after adding on an extra 1,233 rooms. It now appears in the Guinness World Records.
Inside, there’s a 50,000 square foot (4,645 square metres) plaza, with a huge mall, casinos, cafés, bars, and a jungle-themed lobby. There are a dozen pools, golf courses, a replica of Time Square featuring a mock Statue of Liberty and a theme park featuring Asia’s first free-fall simulator too.
Prices start from just £21 (around $30).