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December 13, 2006

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WHERE'S JOHNNY JET?                   MALAYSIA

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Selamat from Malaysia! Last week we flew from Stockholm to Kuala Lumpur in a smooth 10 hours and 47 minutes on Malaysia Airlines (here’s the link to the archives). This is my first time in. Malaysia. If you’re interested in learning about this fascinating country, hop aboard – we’re about to take the KLIA express train from the airport into the capital city of Kuala Lumpur. If you're in a hurry or have ADD, don't worry; there's a 2-minute Johnny Jet video at the end of this week's story. Also: My cousin Arty visited his neighboring town of Long Beach, California to find out what the city offers vacationers and locals (click here to check out part 1 of his story).

As I admitted last week, I was a bit nervous coming here. For starters, some of my Fox News Channel-loving friends put the fear of God in me when they said I was crazy to travel here. They made me think I would be killed in an anti-American rally, or framed – then hung – for smuggling drugs. This was on top of all my others concerns: How would my asthma hold up in the pollution? Were there huge poisonous snakes? And would I contract malaria or other diseases because I did not take the vaccinations my doctor recommended? (Huge sigh.) Obviously, the media plays a huge role in these perceptions, although frankly, I did not see any Malaysia commercials or magazine advertising until recently. I understand that in the past Malaysia has not been the most welcoming country. But that’s no longer true -- and as you will see over the next few weeks (with lots of pictures and videos), Malaysia is a fantastic, safe country to visit.

Malaysia is located in Southeast Asia (here’s a map). It is comprised of two parts. West (or peninsula) Malaysia is situated between Thailand and Singapore. The South China Sea is on one side, with the Strait of Malacca on the other. East Malaysia lies across the South China Sea on the island of Borneo, which it shares with Indonesia and Brunei. Because of Malaysia’s prime geographical location -- between China and the Middle East – from the 10th century on it has been an important trading port. Some of the most popular exports over the years have been natural rubber, tin, palm oil, cocoa, pepper, pineapple, tobacco, porcelain, and -- most recently --semiconductors.

I will just touch upon the history of Malaysia; otherwise this newsletter would go on forever (for a detailed description click here). Because of Malaysia’s location and natural resources, it has been envied by many nations. In 1511 the port of Malacca (on the west coast of the Malay Peninsula) was conquered by Portugal; in 1641 the Dutch took over. In 1786 Britain established its first colony in Malaysia before taking complete power in 1919. During World War II the Japanese were in control, but when the war ended in 1945 the British got it back. A decade later, after a series of Malay uprisings, Malaysia regained its independence. On August 31, 1957 it became an independent country.

When the British had control they brought in Chinese and Indian workers to tend the plantations and mines. Although most later returned to their countries, some remained and settled permanently. Today Malaysia is a multiethnic, multicultural and multilingual society. The official language is Bahasa Melayu, but everyone speaks English. Chinese (Cantonese, Mandarin, Hokkien, Hakka, Hainan, Foochow), Tamil, Telugu, Malayalam, Panjabi and Thai are other commonly spoken languages. Malaysia’s population of 24.3 million is comprised of 50% Malay, 24% Chinese, 11% indigenous and 7% Indian, with the remaining 8% from a variety of ethnic groups. Under Malaysian law, one must be Muslim to legally be considered Malay, but only 60% of the country practices Islam. (My ignorant friends had me thinking it would be 99.9% -- though I guess I’m the ignorant one for listening to them, and not doing my own research). The majority of the other 40% of the population practices Buddhism (20%), Christianity (9%) and Hindu (6%). I had no idea the country is so diverse, so I was surprised when I drove by Christian churches. A taxi driver told me that he loves living here because everyone gets along, there’s no serious crime (just purse snatchers), and because of the diverse population Malaysia might have the most public holidays of any country.

2007 will be Malaysia’s coming-out party. That’s because next year marks Malaysia's 50th year of independence from Britain, and the government is spending tons of money on a "Visit Malaysia Year 2007" campaign. They hope to attract over 20 million foreign visitors. Kuala Lumpur’s mayor, Ruslin Hassan, has announced efforts to clean up the streets and public toilets. They’re adding more security, repainting old structures, adding flowers, trees and sculptures, and building six tourist information kiosks around the capital city. Who says Malaysia doesn’t welcome foreigners?

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Copyright 2006 JohnnyJet, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Pictures From

The Trip


VIP Service


VIP Counter


Train To City


Malaysia Ringgits


Escort To Driver


Malaysian License Plate


Drive To Hotel


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