A Year of Celebration

Malaysia honors 50 years of independence

By: Devin Galaudet

Malaysia sent the Union Jack packing on Aug. 31, 1957, and the Malaysian flag waved for the first time to the calls of merdeka (independence). This coming Aug. 31 will mark Malaysia’s 50th anniversary and there are numerous celebrations slated to impress visitors under the catch phrase “Celebrating 50 years of Nationhood.”

As Michael Tay of Malaysia Tourism puts it: “The Malaysians are, by nature, willing to celebrate for the slightest reasons.”

This year there is a great reason, and agents can expect clients will find a celebratory atmosphere year-round.

Malaysia has already scheduled numerous events throughout the year leading up to Merdeka Day. Here are just a few of the special events to compliment Malaysia’s first 50 years:

Le Tour de Langkawi is one of cycling’s biggest events. The race is scheduled from Feb. 2-11, starting in Langkawi and ending in Kuala Lumpur.

Bargain hunters will appreciate the month-long Malaysia Mega Sale Carnival, which offers the best buying opportunities for the year scheduled July 21-Sept. 2. The event takes place at shopping malls and stores throughout the nation and offers unbelievable prices.

The Colors and Flavors of Malaysia highlights culture and cuisine. Playful agents may recommend clients sample the dreaded durian fruit. Its noxious fumes may pulverize visitors, but locals swear by it. Visitors can expect great food and musical performances featuring traditional dance held countrywide with its super parade held July 7 in Kuala Lumpur.

Later in July, the Rainforest World Music Festival appears at the Sarawak Cultural Village in Damai, taking place from July 13-15.

Citrawarna Malaysia (the Colors of Malaysia) takes place annually on Merdeka Day and invites more than 4,500 performers to present the best in cultural dances and music from each of Malaysia’s 13 states and many thousands more to dance in the streets around Independence Square in Kuala Lumpur. Everyone is welcome, and it is regularly attended by the king and queen of Malaysia and the deputy prime minister creating a media frenzy. Beyond the traditional dancing there are fireworks, high-tech lighting and enthusiastic pride behind the presentation of this spectacular parade.

At the 2006 event, I stood with throngs of observers milling around together like a peaceful ant colony against a warm evening breeze eagerly awaiting the arrival of the dignitaries. Then, the colony turned on itself, jostling and swaying, jockeying for position, to catch a glimpse of the notable names and faces, before an explosion of flash photography erupted. However, not everyone crowded around the red carpet. Most of the thousands in attendance gathered to watch the festivities from picnic blankets with their families. Even more watched the nationally televised event from their homes.

After the King and Queen ceremoniously exited and colored confetti still swirled in the air, I left Independence Square and considered how familiar a young country with 13 states and so much to offer might look in the future. It will be hard to imagine how Citrawarna Malaysia could top this for the 50th celebration, but it will.

Clients will find Malaysia, as I did, safe and one of the most unique and unusual destinations in the world with a surprising amount of luxury accommodations, attractions, a diverse ethnic culture, flora and fauna, as well as an excellent blend of rich spicy food and culture from a blended society including Malay, Indian, and Chinese influences. For more adventurous experiences, agents might suggest Kota Bharu and Terrengganu in the north or Sabah and Sarawak in Malaysian Borneo.

If there is one downside, the 17-hour plane ride across the Pacific from LAX might be a little long for some. However, for those who prevail, this fantastic destination is well worth the schlep.


The Colors and Flavors of Malaysia
Merdeka Day Parade

Le Tour de Langkawi

Malaysia Mega Sale Carnival

Rainforest World Music Festival