Malaysia’s national day commemorates the Federation of Malaya’s declaration of independence from the British in 1957. To celebrate the country’s 61st Merdeka celebration, we look at interesting facts about each of Malaysia’s 13 states.
Peninsular or West Malaysia
Johor is the southernmost state of Peninsular Malaysia and the only one to have a border with Singapore. It is also the only state with its own military force. The Royal Johor Military Force was set up in 1886 by Sultan Abu Bakar.
Malacca or Melaka takes its name from its ancient capital, which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site famous for its Dutch red buildings of the Stadthuys and clock tower. It has been ruled by a Sumatran sultanate, the Portuguese, Dutch, British and is home of the Merdeka Museum.
Selangor has two Malaysian federal territories within its borders which are not part of the state, Putrajaya and Kuala Lumpur, once capital of Selangor and still the Malaysian capital. Selangor’s state capital is Shah Alam and its royal capital is Klang.
Penang state is an island and a slice of mainland Malaysia known as Seberang Perai. Sometimes referred to by its former name of Province Wellesley, it was named after Richard Wellesley, brother of the Duke of Wellington and great-great-grandfather of Queen Elizabeth II.
Perlis is the northernmost state of Malaysia and one of four that border Thailand. It is also the smallest state. Perlis has no commercial airport, the nearest is at Alor Setar in Kedah.
Kelantan has a rich history going back to the ancient Srivijaya Empire and the later Thai kingdom of Ayutthaya. Kelantanese or Baso Kelate is not always understood by standard Malay speakers. It is only spoken in Kelantan, Southern Thailand and northern Terengganu.
Pahang, the largest state of Peninsular Malaysia, borders five other states: Terengganu, Johor, Perak, Selangor and Negeri Sembilan. Visitors from Kuala Lumpur who go to Genting Highlands are actually visiting Pahang.
Sabah’s Kinabalu National Park is the first national park in Malaysia, the first UNESCO World Heritage Site in Malaysia, and home to 4,500 species of flora and fauna living in a tropical rainforest that is 130 million years old, the oldest in the world.
Sarawak is one of four states that do not have a sultan or raja or Yang di-Pertuan Besar, Penang, Malacca and Sabah are the other three. However, from 1841 until 1946 it did have a White Rajah of Sarawak. British adventurer, James Brooke, was given Sarawak by the Brunei sultan in return for suppressing a rebellion.
We hope you have enjoyed this short tour around the states of Malaysia, full of surprising facts. Happy 61st Merdeka, Malaysia!