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Contrasts in races, culture and geography have shaped Malaysia and the country that it is today. Here, one can shop, admire high technology and skyscrapers in one day and relax on the beach or trek in dense jungles on the other. Soaring skyscrapers look down upon stilt houses, while five-star resorts sit a few meters away from prehistoric reefs. The mainland Peninsular Malaysia dons the big city lifestyle while Malaysian Borneo offers untouched nature and adventures.
Malaysia's sphere of influence goes beyond its self-promotion as being “Truly Asia.” The first Malaysians might be the ancestors of Asia's Malay race, but through generations of trade and colonialism, the country has now become a concoction of Malay, Indian, Thai and Chinese characteristics with a pat of western influence. Its prevailing religion, in fact, is Islam, which is of Arab origin. Such multiculturalism has made Malaysia not only a gastronomical hub, but also a home to hundreds of colorful festivals like Hari Raya Puasa or Aidilfitri, the Muslim equivalent of Christmas.
Mixture of old and new
Geographically, Malaysia is as varied as its culture. The South China Sea slices the country into two regions: Peninsular Malaysia and East Malaysia or Malaysian Borneo. Peninsular Malaysia contains the new Malaysia via the shopping districts and the modern buildings of the country's capital, Kuala Lumpur or KL, home to the 88-storey Petronas Towers, the world's tallest skyscrapers. Old Malaysia, meanwhile, is represented by Malaysian Borneo's primitive rainforests, which cover 59 percent of Malaysia. Such rainforests are said to be the oldest in the world, even predating those in Africa and Latin America.