If you want a multicultural travel experience, there is no better destination than the states and territories of Malaysia. Malaysia consists of thirteen states and three federal territories and is a bustling melting pot of races and religions, where you will find Malays, Indians, Chinese and many other ethnic groups all living together in one of the most peaceful multicultural regions in the world. The multiculturalism of Malaysia has made it a food lover's paradise and has also made it home to hundreds of colorful festivals that celebrate the warm, friendly and laid back Malaysian lifestyle. The area is attractive to many travelers for its contrasting architecture of huge skyscrapers next to small wooden houses built on stilts and its majestic sandy beaches and humid mangroves among other attractions. It is clear that Malaysia has a lot to offer and is an interesting place with unique people and a diverse background.

Photo Credit: MM

Malaysia has its origins in the Malay Kingdoms present in the area, which became subject to the British Empire in the 18th century. The first British territories were known as the Straits Settlements and the other states formed protectorates. The states on Peninsular Malaysia were originally known as Malaya and were first unified as the Malayan Union in 1946. Malaya was restructured as the Federation of Malaya in 1948 and achieved independence on August 31, 1957. Malaya united with Sabah, Sarawak, and Singapore on September 16, 1963, with "si" being added to give the new country the name Malaysia. Malaysia has had one of the best economic records in Asia since independence, with the GDP growing an average 6.5% for almost 50 years.

The first evidence of human habitation in Malaysia dates back 40,000 years, with the first inhabitants thought to be Negritos. Control of the nation states has been passed around among many different groups throughout Malaysia's history. In the early 15th century, Parameswara, a prince of the former Srivijayan Empire, founded the Malacca Sultanate, which is commonly considered to be the first independent state in the Malay Peninsula. The British first entered Malaya in 1786 when the sultan of Kedah leased Penang to the British East India Company. By 1826 the British directly controlled Penang, Malacca, Singapore, and the island of Labuan, which they established as the crown colony of the Straits Settlements. By the 20th century, the Federated Malay States had British residents appointed to advise the Malay rulers and the remaining five states in the peninsula, known as the Unfederated Malay States, while not directly under British rule, also accepted British advisors around the turn of the 20th century.

The Japanese army invaded and subsequently occupied the states of Malaya, Sabah, Sarawak, and Singapore for over three years during the Second World War, causing nationalism to grow. Post-war, the British planed to unite the administration of Malaya under a single crown colony called the Malayan Union, but it was met with strong opposition from the Malays, who opposed the weakening of the Malay rulers and the granting of citizenship to the ethnic Chinese. The Malayan Union was established in 1946 and consisted of all the British possessions in the Malay Peninsula with the exception of Singapore, but was quickly dissolved and replaced by the Federation of Malaya, which restored the autonomy of the rulers of the Malay states under British protection.

In 1963, Malaya, along with the then British crown colonies of Sabah, Sarawak, and Singapore, federated to form Malaysia. Independence brought increased tensions including a conflict with Indonesia over the formation of Malaysia, the exit of Singapore in 1965, and racial strife, which caused the May 13 race riots in 1969. The riots led to a declaration of a state of national emergency and suspension of Parliament by the Malaysian government, while the National Operations Council was established to temporarily govern the country between 1969 and 1971. The country has since maintained a delicate ethno-political balance. It operates with a system of government that has attempted to combine overall economic development with political and economic policies that promote equitable participation of all races.