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Pulau Bohey Dulang, die Insel gehört zum malaysischen Teil Borneos, Bild: Nokuro / shutterstock

Malaysia – to headhunters and orangutans in the rainforest

The rivers of Malaysia are said to be as clear as gin. This may well be a somewhat glorified depiction, because here and there the floods in the mysterious jungle are rather murky. But if you glide through this green wonderland in the longboat of the locals, you feel like you’re in paradise and tend to dream.

The country, which affords an elective monarchy and in which the king rules for only five years at a time, is spread with its thirteen states on the Malay Peninsula and parts of the island of Borneo – separated by the South China Sea. Deep forests dominate the scenery north of Singapore as well as in Sarawak, where the last nomads of Southeast Asia live. This region is considered the far and wild east of the state.

Malaysia Kuala Lumpur
Malaysia’s capital Kuala Lumpur, Image: Patrick Photo / shutterstock

If you choose a trip to Sarawak for your holiday, you are embarking on a journey through time. Because in the middle of the rainforest with its many colorful butterflies, wild boars and isolated clouded leopards live the descendants of Borneo’s notorious headhunters. Many a tourist is haunted by a strange feeling when he sees a bundle of wire with skeletonized skulls under the ceiling of the longhouses of the people of the Iban tribe in Sarawak.

They are the gruesome remains of Japanese soldiers who fell victim to headhunters during their invasion of Borneo during World War II. Since that time, the manhunt has been banned in Malaysia.

There are only a few roads on the third largest island in the world, and if you turn your back on the metropolis of Kuching, you will end up in the jungle after a few meters. The rainforest still exists – despite the state-ordered and apparently lucrative tree clearance. In Gunung Mulu National Park on the border with the oil-rich neighboring state of Brunei, boat trips and hikes lead to the famous caves. 67 species of mammals and over 260 different species of bird life are at home in the jungles of Malaysia. But also 74 species of frogs, tree monkeys, bearded pigs, honey bears and rhinoceros birds.

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Malacca in southwestern Malaysia, Image: Leonid Andronov / shutterstock

It is an unforgettable experience to listen to the sounds of the forest after dark and to enjoy the lovemaking of the fireflies. The Semenggoh Wildlife Centre was founded in 1975 and is a breeding and reintroduction station for orangutans. The animals are fed twice a day, and a guide explains where the orphaned or maltreated creatures were caught and how they want to nurse them back to health in the rehabilitation center. Many orangutans previously lived in captivity of private owners.

The contrast to a visit to the Malaysian part of Borneo is a round trip across the peninsula. Many holidaymakers start in Singapore or fly directly to the capital Kuala Lumpur with its skyscrapers and the Bangunan Sultan Abdul Samad Palace, the longest of all buildings. Behind the impressive backdrop resides the country’s Supreme Court. The Petronas Towers tower over the city and were the tallest buildings in the world until 2004. The Observation Deck on the 86th floor connects the two towers. The KL City Gallery is a museum and conveys impressions of the becoming and being of the city. In the Bukit Bintang district, all those who want to shop in a big city will get their money’s worth. This also applies to Chinatown on Petaling Street with a colorful spectacle every evening.

The kingdom on the Strait of Malacca delights visitors on a round trip but also with wonderful beaches. On the South China Sea, the word Perhentian can be translated as “place to linger” in the north. The colorful fishing boats bob in the small harbor, and turtles lay their eggs on the beach at night. The island of Tioman with its fine sandy beach is not only a popular destination for backpackers.

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And Langkawi is the collective name of a group of around a hundred limestone islands on the border with Thailand. Penang is a melting pot of cultures and something like the epitome of the diversity of peoples of this interesting country in Southeast Asia.

Travel information Malaysia

Capital Kuala Lumpur
Form of government Federal, parliamentary electoral monarchy
Currency Ringgit (MYR)
Area approx. 330,290 km²
Population approx. 31,164,000 (2017 est.)
Languages Malaysian
Electricity grid 230/240 volts, 50 Hz
Area code +60
Time zone UTC+8