One of the most interesting countries to visit in South East Asia is Malaysia. It’s a blend of Malay, Chinese and Indian ethnicity,and each brings something different that people that come to Malaysia will enjoy.
We recently spent ten days in the capital – Kuala Lumpur at the start of August. We also spent about two weeks in the country back in 2011 on another backpacking trip.
Anyone that’s visited Malaysia will tell you that it differs a lot when compared to the likes of its neighbour Thailand for example.
While we enjoyed our time there, we didn’t find it as enjoyable as we would have liked. That’s not to say we hated it or anything. I guess it’s just because when you compare it to Thailand, it can’t really match it, as a country on the whole in my opinion.
While there on this trip, I did some research as to what a few of the local traditions consisted of and which ones you should try and experience if at all possible. Unfortunately, the only thing we got to witness while in Kuala Lumpur this time was this guy:
There are 5 Malaysian traditions that if you ever got the chance to experience, then you should.
Visiting the Iban
A popular activity is a visit to an Iban village which usually involves a river journey and an overnight stay in a campsite or in home stay type of accommodation.
The village welcomes the visitors with traditional songs of greeting and a ceremony. A meal awaits the visitors and it’s good manners to provide the villagers with a small gift as a thank you. The guides that arrange the travel and accompany you will help you understand each stage of the Iban welcome and how to respond appropriately.
When visiting any of the many historic mosques it is important to remember that they are places of worship.
It is important that all parts of the body are covered, and a respectful attitude is shown. The Malaysian people are proud of these important buildings and allow visitors to see them to show the history of Islam in Malaysia.
You’ll rarely see any women around these spots with their shoulders uncovered, wearing shorts, or any sort of clothing that doesn’t cover as much of the body as possible.
It’s definitely important to remember their culture in this regard, as you don’t want to cause offence.
The villages that cater to home stay visitors have a range of traditional performances that entertain visitors and show some of their cultural heritage. Wayang kulit is a performance of a play using a cloth and puppets to form shadows that the audience views.
There is a range of traditional stories that are molded by the storyteller and enhanced by music to make each show a unique experience.
Malaysian Martial Arts
Pencak silat is a Malaysian martial art that is displayed as part of many important events, gatherings and ceremonies.
The practitioners perform a dance like combination of high energy moves that are exciting to watch.
A great way to experience a Malay culture is to take part in a wedding ceremony. The many stages in a traditional Malay wedding ceremony and the mix of interesting rituals are an experience that should not be missed. These ceremonies are put on for visitors but are authentic and carried out in the same fashion as a real wedding.
The wedding starts with the signing of the marriage contract and the provision of the dowry to the bride. One of the interesting ceremonies that take place are where guests shower the bride and groom with colored rice and scented water to bless their marriage.
A feast is arranged to celebrate the wedding called the makan beradab. There are many traditional dishes and the bride and groom feed each other, which sets a humorous and heart-warming edge to the happy occasion.
If you’re looking for a good crazy party with loads of booze, then I don’t think Malaysia in general is the best country to visit. On the other hand, if you’re looking for a diverse culture, sprinkled with rich history, then it’s definitely one of the better countries to visit.