Global Traveler: As a gateway to Asia, Malaysia offers the long-haul business traveler a strong arena for business, but also boasts beautiful landscapes in which to relax and recharge. Where would you recommend a business traveler coming into Kuala Lumpur go for a weekend of relaxation?
Dato Kamaruddin Siaraf: With excellent infrastructure, transport facilities and road systems throughout Malaysia, it is very easy to get away from Kuala Lumpur any weekend. Historical Malacca is about two hours’ drive outside Kuala Lumpur. You can walk around the city and view the antiquated buildings left by the Portuguese and Dutch, shop for antiques and crafts and enjoy the cuisines of the Baba Nyonya and other ethnic communities.
An hour away by car, Genting Highlands is an integrated vacation destination with hotels, theme parks, a casino and entertainment outlets. About three hours away, Cameron Highlands is ideal for those who wish to escape the warm weather in the city. It is cool, fresh and peaceful with tea plantations, vegetable farms, flower nurseries and a golf course.
Many cities in Malaysia are easily accessible by air and take less than an hour to reach by flight. For beaches and islands, Langkawi, Tioman and Perhentian are top favorites. Penang is a bustling island that boasts good food, a proud heritage and history and beautiful architecture. The east-coast states of Kelantan and Terengganu are rich in culture and tradition and offer glimpses of rustic village life.
GT: With more than 200 golf courses from which to choose, please tell us your preferred golf spots in Malaysia. What courses would you suggest for a business traveler with limited time?
DKS: Golfers can enjoy 205 different courses (164 in Peninsular Malaysia and 31 in East Malaysia), found in a variety of settings around the country. There are courses near big cities, by the sea, on hill resorts and islands. Some courses were designed by renowned golfers such as Jack Nicklaus and Greg Norman. With beautiful and well-designed courses available, and year-round good weather, Malaysia is a golfer’s paradise. For those in Kuala Lumpur with little time to spare, you’ll easily find excellent golf courses in and around the city to test your skill and satisfy your need for a challenge without having to venture too far away.
GT: Flying into Kuala Lumpur recently, the pilot of my plane announced that eating is like an Olympic sport in Malaysia, considering all the delicacies the country has to offer. How do you define Malaysian cuisine?
DKS: Malaysian cuisine is a reflection of the richness and diversity of its cosmopolitan population. Being a multiracial country, Malaysia offers cuisine of varied origins — Malay, Chinese and Indian being the most common. However, as the races have intermingled over the centuries, so too has the cuisine of Malaysia developed a unique flavor that reflects the influences of the different ethnic groups.
International cuisine is also readily available in Malaysia. In the big cities, comfortable restaurants serving Japanese, Italian, Korean, Middle Eastern and Western food are easily found.
A unique dining concept in Malaysia is the experience of eating at street stalls. Many of these outlets are simply carts or kiosks with several tables and chairs spread out on the pavement where food is served. Offerings like noodles and fried rice are very affordable. Many of these stalls operate 24 hours a day and are a popular spot for locals to hang out for supper or a late-night drink with friends.
With so many food choices available at any time of the day, Malaysia is indeed a food haven. Whether you are looking for a quick meal or an elaborate dining experience, table service or eat-all-you-can buffet spreads, local dishes or international fare, at noon or at midnight, you will never go hungry in Malaysia!
GT: Tourism Malaysia promotes “Malaysia Truly Asia.” Tell us what you believe makes Malaysia unique in Asia.
DKS: For the past few years, Malaysia has positioned itself as a nation that is truly Asian, using the “Malaysia Truly Asia” tag line. If you analyze it very carefully, the brand positioning of “Malaysia Truly Asia” hinges on one very important factor: our people. Malaysia is composed of five major ethnic groups — Malay, Chinese, Indian, Iban and Kadazandusun — plus a host of minor communities including Arabs, Gujeratis, Siamese, Portuguese, Bugis, Achinese, Dutch and Eurasians. Just like the colorful Malaysian batik, with intricate motifs and themes, Malaysian society in its true sense is actually a deftly woven fabric of several communities. Nowhere in the world can one find a more truly united multiracial society.
To really know Malaysia, one would have to know and understand more about our people. Once you get to know the people of Malaysia, only then will you understand how a nation of so many exotic cultures and traditions can come together as one. And because of the close proximity with all the countries of the region, we have an assimilation of all the other ethnic groups and other races. For example, Malaysians of Thai origin, Malaysians of Indian origin, Malaysians of Chinese origin, Malaysians of Indonesian origin — all make Malaysia their home. In addition, since we were once part of the British colony, many Europeans have made Malaysia their home as well. Nowhere else in this part of the world can you see an amalgam of all the races of Asia except in Malaysia.
Despite differing cultural and traditional backgrounds, the people of Malaysia have been able to coexist peacefully in unity and harmony. The Malaysian leaders’ realistic and pragmatic approach to the formulation of the country’s policies has enabled Malaysia to overcome problems of imbalance that usually exist in any plural society.
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