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Malaysia Travel Guide


About Malaysia   Johor   Kedah   Kelantan   Kuala Lumpur   Labuan   Melaka   N. Sembilan Pahang   Penang   Perak   Perlis   Putrajaya   Sabah   Sarawak   Selangor   Terengganu


The People 



Malaysia’s population is now about 22.8 million. The people of Malaysia come from a number of different ethnic groups mainly – Malays, Chinese, Indians, with the indigenous Eurasians and the indigenous Orang Asli of the peninsula and the various tribes of Sabah and Sarawak making up the remaining population. Approximately 85% of the population lives in Peninsular Malaysia and the remaining 15% in Sabah and Sarawak.  


The Malays

The Malays are Malaysia's largest ethnic group, accounting for over half the population and the national language. With the oldest indigenous peoples they form a group called bumiputera, which translates as "sons" or "princes of the soil. "Almost all Malays are Muslims, though Islam here is less extreme than in the Middle East. Traditional Malay culture centers around the kampung, or village, though today one is likely to find Malays in the business and in pubic sectors.


The Chinese

The Chinese traded with Malaysia for centuries, then settled in number during the 19th century when word of riches in the Nanyang, or "South Seas," spread across China. Though perhaps a stereotype, the Chinese are regarded as Malaysia's businessmen, having succeeded in many industries. When they first arrived, however, Chinese often worked the most grueling jobs like tin mining and railway construction. Most Chinese are Tao Buddhist and retain strong ties to their ancestral homeland. They form about 35 percent of the population.


The Indians                 

Indians had been visiting Malaysia for over 2,000 years, but did not settle en masse until the 19th century. Most came from South India, fleeing a poor economy. Arriving in Malaysia, many worked as rubber tappers, while others built the infrastructure or worked as administrators and small businessmen. Today ten percent of Malaysia is Indian. Their culture with it's exquisite Hindu temples, cuisine, and colorful garments is visible throughout the land.


The Orang Asli

There are still small scattered groups of Orang Asli to be found in peninsular Malaysia. Although most have given up their nomadic and shifting agriculture techniques and have been absorbed into modern society, a few groups still live in the forest.


The People of East Malaysia



Dayak is the term used for the indigenous people of Borneo. It is estimated there are more than 200 Dayak tribes on Borneo, the most important being the Iban and Bidayuh in Sarawak and the Kadazan in Sabah. Other small groups include the Kenyah, Kayan and Penan, whose way of life and habitat are rapidly disappearing. The main indigenous tribe of Sarawak is the Iban', who number 395,000. They are largely longhouse dwellers and live along the Rejang River and Baram River. The Bidayuh (107,000) are concentrated on Sarawak's Skrang River. The Orang Asli (80,000) live in small scattered groups in Peninsular Malaysia. Traditionally nomadic agriculturists, many have been absorbed into modern Malaysia.



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