Malaysia's territory covers peninsular Malaysia -- bordering Thailand in the north and across a strait from Singapore in the south -- and two states on the island of Borneo, Sabah and Sarawak, approximately 240km (149 miles) east across the South China Sea. All of its 13 states and 3 federal territories total 329,749 sq. km (128,602 sq. miles) of land.
Peninsular Malaysia makes up about 132,149 sq. km (51,538 sq. miles) and contains 11 of Malaysia's 13 states: Kedah, Perlis, Penang, and Perak are in the northwest; Kelantan and Terengganu are in the northeast; Selangor, Negeri Sembilan, and Melaka are about midway down the peninsula on the western side; Pahang, along the east coast, sprawls inward to cover most of the central area (which is mostly forest preserve); and Johor covers the entire southern tip from east to west, with two vehicular causeways linking it to Singapore, just over the Straits of Johor. Surrounded by the Straits of Malacca to the west and the South China Sea to the east, the peninsula is edged by coastal plains and mangrove swamps. The interior of the peninsula is mainly forested, with a number of mountain ranges that run from north to south.
The Western Peninsula
The states of Perlis, Kedah, Penang, Perak, Selangor, Negeri Sembilan, Melaka, and Johor make up the peninsula's west coast, from north to south. Early traders were attracted to trading posts in Melaka and Penang, where today you'll still find colonial influences. To this day, the cities and towns along the west coast are the nation's most developed. The corridor between Melaka, Kuala Lumpur, Penang, and Langkawi sees the highest number of international visitors each year
Kuala Lumpur & Surrounds
The most developed part of the country is the federal territory of Kuala Lumpur, the nation's capital, and the state of Selangor, which surrounds it. Selangor is home to KL's residential suburbs, as well as the country's biggest port, Port Klang. Kuala Lumpur is the commercial base of Malaysia, while Putrajaya, south of KL, is Malaysia's base for government operations. Selangor is Malaysia's most populated state, with about a million and a half residents, with Kuala Lumpur following close behind.
The Eastern Peninsula
The east coast is made up of the states of Kelantan, Terengganu, Pahang, and Johor, listed from north to south. The east coast has seen less industrialization than the west coast, which makes the local culture more laid back and traditional in culture. Kelantan and Terengganu, along with the northwest states of Perlis and Kedah, are the most conservative states in Malaysia. Pahang, the Peninsula's largest state, counts most of the peninsula's mountainous interior, including Taman Negara, the most significant national forest on the peninsula, within its borders.
Just over 20 percent of Malaysia's population lives in two states on the island of Borneo: Sabah and Sarawak. Borneo is the third-largest island in the world -- Malaysia occupies about a quarter of its total land mass of 743,330 sq. km (287,000 sq. miles). The rest of Borneo is divided between Indonesia and the tiny oil-rich sultanate of Brunei. Almost half of Sarawak's population is non-Malay indigenous people, many of whom still live in the state's low-lying plains, along forested river systems, and in the state's northeastern plateaus. Sabah, occupying the north of Borneo, is covered mostly in mountainous forest, with Mt. Kinabalu, Southeast Asia's third-highest peak, standing at 4,095m (13,436 ft.). Sixty percent of Sabahans belong to non-Malay indigenous groups.