Malaysia - About

Welcome to Malaysia, a country of two halves that are incredibly different in many ways, but share an outstanding beauty of both natural and man-made varieties. If there's one word to describe this paradise, it's 'diversity'. With a multicultural society that trickles down into everything from architecture to cuisine, Malaysia really is the melting pot of Southeast Asia.

The country shares its borders with Indonesia, Thailand and Brunei, although these are spread across two different landmasses and nearby is Vietnam

The busiest port in Malaysia is Kuala Lumpur International Airport, plus you can also fly direct to destinations like Penang & Langkawi.

Kuala Lumpur is located in the state of Selangor, the Federal Territory of Kuala Lumpur and Malaysia's capital. It’s 1.5 million residents predominately include a mix of Malays, Chinese and Indians.

The northern region and the island of Penang, also known as 'The Pearl of the Orient' is located in the north, and it's one of the country's premier tourist destinations. It's not especially large, covering an area of just 290 square kilometres. It offers a plethora of different activities, as well as one of Malaysia's most intriguing, artistic and beautiful cities - George Town.

If you're looking for a more relaxed atmosphere than the busy cities of the central region, Then Langkawi is the place for you. Known for its beaches, diving and snorkeling, You’re sure to find a resort to suit.

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Malaysia - Customs

Malaysia is very welcoming to visitors but it is worth keeping in mind, though, that the culture is more conservative than you may be used to. Accordingly, you'll want to dress appropriately with clothing that covers bare skin, and women should avoid figure-hugging outfits.

It's also important to avoid overt public displays of affection, and drinking alcohol outside of a bar is not permitted. As in other Asian cultures, touching of the head is seen as disrespectful, and of course you'll need to be quiet and considerate when visiting places of worship.

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Malaysia - General Health

Like nearby countries such as Thailand and Vietnam, Malaysia has excellent healthcare services in the big cities, and visitors won't require vaccinations unless they're planning on spending large amounts of time in rural areas. To be fully protected, travel insurance is always recommended, and you should discuss risks with your doctor before you depart.

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Malaysia - Shopping

Kuala Lumpur offers you everything from high end fashion in the Bukit Bintang and LKCC areas to upmarket malls such as Pavilion KL and Suria KLCC. Whereas shopping centres like Berjaya Times Square and Low Yat Plaza provide a wide range of tech products and independent fashion brands. And if you love street markets, head to Petaling Street and the handicraft emporium of Central Market.

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Malaysia - When To Go

One of the great things about Malaysia is its fairly constant temperature. Things never get too far below 30 degrees Celsius during the day, with accompanying humidity. One thing worth keeping in mind is the rain season, which spans from November to February - so if you want clear, blue skies, aim to visit between March and early October. If you're visiting early in the year, be sure to keep an eye out for festivals like Chinese New Year, which are always a great way to get immersed in local culture and customs.

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Malaysia - What To Pack

While the temperatures may be high during the day, the mercury can plunge when the sun goes down, so make sure to be prepared with a warm jacket if you're planning on hitting the town. You never know when you may be visiting a temple or sacred site, so it's always best to dress conservatively.

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Philippines - About

Welcome to the Philippines. Discover this diverse country with its irresistible combination of breathtaking natural beauty, renowned hospitality, wonderful mix of international cuisines, superb beaches, unparalleled shopping experiences and thriving cities.

The main gateway to the Philippines is the national capital, Manila. From here it is easy to radiate out to the main tourist destinations within the county's many islands. Flying is the most efficient and quickest way to get around this nation of over 7000 islands. Manila is served from Sydney and Melbourne by Philippine Airlines several times a week. Other major Asian carriers also offer access via their home ports, including Singapore Airlines, Cathay Pacific and Thai International. Domestic routes are generally served by Philippine Airlines or some of the "low cost" carriers including Air Philippines and Cebu Air. These carriers generally have different baggage allowance limits so it is advisable to check these details when making your booking. The main holiday resort islands of Cebu, Boracay and Bohol can be accessed using the services of Philippine Airlines. Manila's Ninoy Aquino International Airport is located 7km from the city centre while the domestic terminal is 1km from the International Terminal. All Philippine Airlines flights arrive and depart from the same terminal making flight connections quick and easy.

The second major international gateway is Cebu, known as the "second capital" and gateway to the south. The airport is located on Mactan Island which is connected to Cebu Island, where Cebu City is located, by two bridges. Most of the major resorts are set along the palm fringed beaches of Mactan Island. Cebu is served by frequent daily domestic flights from Manila and other major domestic cities. There are several International airlines flying into Cebu from Asia cities including Singapore and Hong Kong making access to the Philippines even more convenient.

Philippines is 8 hours ahead of Greenwich Mean Time.

The exuberant capital of Manila is a fast-paced, ever-changing city, full of local culture and traditions offering a wide variety of hotels, restaurants, clubs, bar, casinos and excellent shopping.

Cebu city is the historic birthplace of the Philippines. Magellan set foot here in 1521 and much of its early history is still in evidence. Mactan Island, which is connected to Cebu Island by dual bridges, is home to many wonderful resorts and offers a tranquil pace, balmy weather and sparkling clear waters. An ideal destination for the whole family!

White Beach, Boracay is recognized as one of the best beaches in the world, with its talcum fine sand and crystalline waters.

Bohol is the main island of Bohol Province which also includes approximately 75 other surrounding islands. Bohol’s most well-known tourist attraction is the famous Chocolate Hills – more than 1,268 grass-covered limestone domes that are almost identical in shape and height.

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Philippines - Customs

The Filipino is basically of Malay stock with a sprinkling of Chinese, American, Spanish, and Arab heritage and are extremely hospitable.

English is the most widely spoken next to Filipino/Tagalog, the national language. The Philippines is currently the third-largest English speaking country in the world.

At least 83% of the population are Roman Catholics with others being of Protestants, Islam Philippine Independent Church and Iglesia ni Cristo faiths.

The most common way travel around locally is by jeepney, tricycle, or pedicab. However, if you take public transport have loose change ready, and take note of the timetable.

Tipping is expected for most services. The standard practice is 10% of the total bill. Tipping is optional on bills that already include a 10% service charge.

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Philippines - General Health

As in most countries, vaccination certificates are not required for people unless coming from or passing through a designated contaminated area. Hospitals in the country are equipped with modern facilities to meet any medical need. In some remote towns and cities, clinics and health centres provide emergency medical attention. Most hotels and resorts provide medical assistance. Water supply in Metro Manila and in all the other major cities is considered safe for drinking. Bottled purified water, spring water or mineral water is often supplied by hotels and resorts, and sold in all grocery stores.. Discuss vaccinations and risks with your doctor before you go. Travel Insurance is highly recommended.

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Philippines - Shopping

The Philippines boasts three of the world’s top ten largest malls, SM Mall of Asia in the Bay area the Ayala in Glorietta or Greenbelt Square shopping malls in Makati.

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Philippines - When To Go

November to February is cool, while March to May is hot and dry. June to October is rainy, with the months between July and September subject to tropical storms. Average temperature is 25 degrees C; average humidity is 77%. Some parts of the country such as Cebu, are warm and comfortable in all seasons and can be visited throughout the year.

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Philippines - What To Pack

Never leave home without your rain gear, umbrella, and heavy clothing during the rainy months from June to October as well as when setting out to the mountainous areas.

Otherwise light, casual clothes are recommended. Warmer garments are needed for mountain regions. Casual clothing is acceptable inside churches, however shorts and scanty clothing should be avoided. Dining establishments and hotels impose no dress code but shorts and slippers are deemed improper. Formal occasions require dinner jackets and ties (or the Philippine barong tagalong) for men and cocktail dresses or long gowns for women.

Don’t forget the hat, suncream and insect repellent for outdoor adventures.

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Vietnam - About

Welcome to the Socialist Republic of Vietnam from the Mekong Delta and the stunning coastline of central Vietnam to the rugged mountains of the north and Halong Bay.

Its cities are diverse with frenetic Ho Chi Minh City (formerly Saigon) in the south, the colonial and French elegance of Hanoi in the north, Hoi An; The town of tailors on the central coast and the former imperial city of Hue.

In addition, Vietnam has over 2000 km of coastline and some magnificent beaches and scenery. The Vietnamese are warm and hospitable and rightly proud of their culture which has embraced outside influences, while maintaining its own identity. Whatever you choose to do in Vietnam you are sure to be captivated by this wonderful country.

There are 2 main ports of entry to Vietnam, Hanoi in the north and Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon) in the south. Both these cities are serviced daily from Bangkok in Thailand flying Thai International Airways and direct connections may be possible with flights from the major east coast cities in Australia. Connections are also possible from many other main Asian ports including Singapore, Hong Kong and Manila.

Vietnam is 7 hours ahead of Greenwich Mean Time ((GMT +7).

Hanoi is the cultural capital in the North with a mix of colonial and French elegance. The Old Quarter, near Hoan Kiem Lake, still retains its original street layout and architecture.

Halong Bay’s 3000 islands in emerald waters is one of the most spectacularly scenic places in Vietnam. Explore the breathtaking beauty of this World Heritage by boat cruises from Hanoi.

The 3,000-year-old Imperial city of Hue lies on the banks of the Perfume River. Explore by foot, cycle rickshaw or city tour the Citadel, the Forbidden Purple City, the Imperial Tombs of the Nguyen Kings, Pagodas, Temples and the local market.

Hoi An, a newly designated World Heritage site has charming narrow streets and ancient Chinese shop houses filled with delightful art galleries, craft shops, tailors, cafes, bars and restaurants as well as several historic sights including the Japanese covered bridge.

Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon), is a fast developing metropolis that offers the visitor a wide range of experiences from bustling markets, magnificent architecture and nightlife.

From Ho Chi Minh you can easily access to the Mekong Delta, flat, green, and Vietnam’s fruit bowl. Explore the floating markets on the Mekong River, visiting island orchards or the bonsai gardens.

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Vietnam - Customs

Vietnam dates from around 2700 years ago (250BC) and has had many 'masters' all of whom left their legacy in the culture, architecture and foods. The Chinese have had significant influence and are easily recognized in its major religions, food and many of its festivals and temples. The French also had a major influence in the country's architecture, cuisine, trading partners and to a lesser degree religion. The Western (American) influences are particularly visible with the younger generation and the growing spread of English as the second language.

Vietnam religion includes Confucianism, Taoism, Buddhism, Christianity, and Tam Giao (literally 'triple religion'), which is a blend of Taoism, popular Chinese beliefs, and ancient Vietnamese animism. Over 70% of Vietnamese are Buddhist of some sort with Catholicism, Protestantism, Islam and Hinduism making up the rest.

The Vietnamese people are very gracious, friendly and generous. While males are generally very open and approachable, females tend towards shyness. Polite behavior is highly valued.

To earn the respect of the locals in this strong hierarchal culture, we suggest you adhere to the following. Avoid public displays of affection and do not touch someone's head as it’s revered as the highest part of the body. Always pass items with both hands and do not use your finger to point. Do not stand with your hands on your hips or cross your arms on your chest.

Visitors to religious shrines should always dress neatly, no sleeveless shirts or shorts as bare legs are considered offensive, shoes should be removed before entering a temple of chapel, Buddha images of any size, age or condition are regarded as sacred and must be respected as such.

It is customary to tip hotel personnel who have given good personal service. A service charge is normally included in most restaurants and bars; however, an additional 10% tip is appreciated where service has been exceptional or a service charge has not been included.

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Vietnam - General Health

As in most countries, vaccination certificates are not required for people unless coming from or passing through a designated contaminated area. Some border areas of Vietnam are malarial and appropriate precautions should be taken if visiting there. The major cities and resorts have excellent medical facilities and most hotels have doctors on 24-hour call. Tap water is clean but drinking from it directly should be avoided. Bottled water is recommended. Discuss vaccinations and risks with your doctor before you go. Travel Insurance is highly recommended.

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Vietnam - Shopping

Bartering is common practice in Vietnam except in department stores.

Hanoi is the place for quality textiles, clothes and handicrafts. Ho Chi Minh City is a great place to shop silks and hand-woven fabrics handicrafts, ceramics and lacquer. Hoi An is the town of tailors!

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Vietnam - When To Go

The best time to travel in Vietnam is when there is a reduced chance of rain; during April - May and October - November.

In the South (Saigon) the temperature ranges from 25 to 35 degrees all year round. In the North (Hanoi) the daytime temperature ranges from as low as 12 degrees (Jan), through to 30 degrees (May - Sept). If you are heading into the far North (Sapa) or Central Highlands areas, allow for cooler weather.

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Vietnam - What To Pack

Vietnam does have different seasons throughout the year. These can range from very hot to mild/hot and also a wet or monsoon season. If you are travelling to Vietnam in December or January it can be rather cool, especially in the evenings in the northern areas of the country, so a thin jacket or pullover may be required. The rest of the year though is quite hot throughout the day and night so one should pack accordingly.

Make sure you pack sunscreen, hat, sunglasses and insect repellent if you are heading out to the country areas, Halong Bay or the Mekong Delta region.

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