As well as an incredibly rich natural landscape, Malaysia boasts a wealth of man-made attractions. Civilization in this part of the world goes back tens of thousands of years, with successive settlers leaving their mark behind. So when it comes to tracking down evidence of historic development, here are some of the country's most renowned historic sites.
Gua Niah, Miri Sarawak
This is not just one of the foremost archaeological sites in Malaysia, it happens to be one of the most important anywhere in the world. It contains evidence of human habitation from at least 40,000 years ago. A visit here is truly humbling, as it places our own existence in the perspective of an ongoing human story that has been evolving for such an incredible length of time.
Lembah Bujang, Kedah
Civilization here can be dated anything between the 4th and 14th centuries. Throughout these periods Malaysia was a focal point where many disparate ethnic groups collided. Sometimes the nature of their contact was benign – for instance, successive Chinese Emperors sought to reach out and embrace their Far Eastern neighbours as trading partners. At other times the only way these different peoples seemed to be able to communicate was by waging war on one another. The most fascinating aspect of Lembah Bujang is the way it tells this story of Malaysia's earliest experience of becoming a melting pot for peoples and tribes from a vast array of differing backgrounds.
St Paul Historical Complex, Melacca
While this part of the Far East has seen many Asian civilizations interacting, it has also been a fertile stomping ground for European travellers. Trade between the continents has been going on for centuries. Britain, France, Holland, Germany and Portugal have all reached out to the east at various times. The Portuguese, at one point, had many settlements in this neck of the woods. While Portugal's influence as a colonial power waned some time ago, their part in Malaysia's rich back story can be witnessed here. Much of the architecture in this complex reflects that small European power's once large influence.
Kuala Pak Amat
While much of the turbulent history that has affected Malaysia occurred centuries ago, there is ample evidence of more recent traumas. Here is evidence of what was, in the 1940s, a large landing point for the Japanese Army. This marks the point where the war in the Pacific got under way. There are expert guides who can explain how Malaysia was affected during the Japanese campaign of expansion, and the subsequent attempts by the American, British and Australian allies in liberating Borneo and mainland Malaysia.
Datran Merdeka, Kuala Lumpur
Malaysia's capital is a perfect place to catch up on the country's vast historical heritage. In this location you can see some stunning examples of art, covering a wide variety of influences. If you happen to be visiting at the right time of year, you can witness one of the most fundamental examples of Malaysian history unfolding before your eyes – the annual parade and celebrations that commemorate Malaysian Independence Day.