As you may or may not have heard, at the end of the month is Malaysia’s National Independence Day. On August 31st each year, this super diverse country comes together for some good old fashioned flag-waving, traditional garb-donning, firework -shooting fun. Our way of saying Selamat Hari Merdeka (or Happy Independence Day) is to put together a list of incredible facts. So here we have it: from freaky fruit to tall trees and even taller towers – these are Kenwood Travel’s most amazing things to know about Malaysia.
- Larger than (wild)life: Malaysia is home to both the world’s largest tropical tree and the world’s largest flower. The yellow meranti can be found in Borneo, the largest of its kind reaching a whopping 330 feet. Meanwhile, the Rafflesia Arnoldi (affectionately known as the corpse lily because of its putrid smell) can also be found in Borneo. Far from a delicate wallflower, this giant bloom can grow to around 3 feet in diameter.
- Freaky fruit: The national fruit of Malaysia is the Durian fruit, which is known for its spiky husk, custardy texture and potent smell. Nicknamed the ‘king of fruits’, durian can be found flavouring soft drinks, chocolate, and ice cream. However pungent, Malaysia is proud of their king, even appointing a compatible queen (the mangosteen) to rule alongside the durian. With a deep reddish-purple exterior, the mangosteen is not only beautiful but is thought to have a cooling effect once ingested. All hail!
- City dwellers: Whilst Malaysia’s natural spaces are teeming with fascinating exotic species, urban centres are not without their own animals. In the quieter areas of Kuala Lumpur, for example, it’s common to see Macaque monkeys mingling with locals. Cruising the skies, you may also spot bats and colourful birds, whilst in the city parks you stand a good chance of running into a monitor lizard or two. For accommodation near the Lake Gardens, plus the Bird and Butterfly Parks, we recommend The Majestic Hotel Kuala Lumpur.
- Love nest: Fascinatingly, nests of the mountain swallow have had a special place in Malaysian cuisine for over a thousand years. The nest, made from the bird’s saliva, is thought to be of high nutritional value with strong aphrodisiac properties. Due to their rarity this love nest is also one of the priciest types of gourmet ingredient, sometimes fetching an eye-watering $3,000 per pound.
- Standing tall: It’s not just Malaysia’s trees that are reaching atmospheric heights. The Petronas Towers in Kuala Lumpur stand at an incredible 1,483 feet with a mind-blowing 88 storeys. Though the towers are no longer the world’s tallest buildings, these imposing structures still remain the world’s tallest twin buildings. Don’t miss your chance to scale this landmark on your trip to Malaysia, and pay a trip to the Skybridge connecting the two towers. Traders Hotel is based just across the road.
- Food for thought: Malaysia’s national dish is Nasi Lemak: fragrant rice steamed with coconut milk inside a pandan leaf. Often eaten for breakfast, Nasi Lemak is usually paired with crispy anchovies, spicy sambal, sliced cucumber, water spinach, and a boiled egg. Meanwhile, the country’s national drink is a hot milky tea called Teh Tari, which is traditionally thrown from cup to cup, allowing the drink to cool down.
- Jungle fever: Malaysia’s Taman Negara, which literally translates into ‘national park’, is one of the most ancient rainforests in the whole world at approximately 130,000 million years old. This rather incredible environment is home to over 150,000 species of insect, 10,000 species of plants, 1,000 types of butterflies, 350 bird species, and 100 kinds of snake.
- In the dark: The Sarawak Chamber in the Gunung Mulu National Park, Borneo, is renowned as the world’s largest underground cave chamber by area. Discovered on a 1981 expedition, the Sarawak Chamber measures roughly 700 metres by 400 metres and has a staggering approximate height of 70 metres. The entrance to the chamber is unnervingly named ‘Good Luck Cave’. You can reach this attraction from the Shangri-La Rasa Ria.
- Monkeying around: Whilst most people will have seen images of Borneo’s favourite red-haired resident, the Orangutan, they might still be surprised to find out how similar they are to human beings. The Orangutan, meaning ‘man of the forest’ shares around 98% of the same DNA as human beings. These affable creatures also have some famous fans, with Dame Judi Dench recently adopting three. Visit the Sepilok Orangutan Rehabilitation Center on the Really Wild Malaysia Tour.