Malaysia's wow factor is its diversity. Malay Muslims, Chinese Taoists and Buddhists, Indian Hindus, a large number of indigenous people, plus an assortment of Peranakans, Eurasians, and other races and religions all call themselves Malaysian, and each contributes to the fabric of this surprisingly colorful nation. Its long history is the story of how original Malays have accepted newcomers from Arabia, India, China, Thailand, Indonesia, and Europe, and fused their cultures into a hodgepodge of a national identity. Malaysia has survived colonial rule of the Portuguese, Dutch, and English, plus the Japanese Occupation. Today the country manages to hold it together, albeit sometimes by a hair.

Diversity is also present in the landscape of Malaysia's cities and towns, where colonial heritage mixes with modern development and an underlying attitude of kampung (village) friendliness. Many visitors delight in the chaos of Kuala Lumpur. Its twisty narrow roads, sweltering traffic jams, haphazard development, and back-alley shops and food stalls represent an Asia that is still a little bit untamed, even as the marvelous futuristic-Moorish Petronas Twin Towers loom overhead. Meanwhile, in places like Georgetown, Melaka, and Kuching, the past is everywhere you turn.

Not far from Malaysia's cities and towns, you'll find rainforests and mountains, beaches and idyllic tropical islands, blue seas and coral reefs, and an abundance of peculiar flora and fauna, all so accessible it's a wonder these places aren't overwhelmed by tourists.

Accessibility is perhaps the best thing about Malaysia. Infrastructure is of good quality, communications are up-to-date, travel operators are very organized, and accommodations and airports are some of the best in Southeast Asia. Better still, many Malaysians are comfortable speaking English, which opens up enormous possibilities for visitors to connect with local people in a very meaningful way.

Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.