Malaysia offers a ton of special events and holidays in which to participate. Hari Merdeka, for one, or Independence Day, involves the entire country, from Kota Kinabalu to Langkawi, and takes place every August 31. The de facto national day commemorates the formal dissolution of British colonial rule and establishment of a true Malaysian state.
Merdeka Square – Photo credit
Muslim holidays, of course, form a big part of the annual calendar, from Hari Raya Puasa, which marks the end of Ramadan, to Hari Raya Haji. Other important holidays in eclectic, multi-cultural Malaysia include Chinese New Year, Duanwu, Mid-Autumn Moon Festival, Diwali, Thaipusam, Vaisakhi and Wesak. Suffice to say that young residents of Malaysia receive a deep cultural education, practically by osmosis, by virtue of the diverse cultural, religious and secular holidays that populate the calendar.
KLCC Park – Photo credit
One relative newcomer on the holiday scene in Malaysia is Federal Territory Day. Commemorated every February 1, Federal Territory Day marks the formation of the Kuala Lumpur Federal Territory in 1974. The holiday has since grown in scope, most notably since the inclusion of Labuan (in 1984) and Putrajaya (in 2001) under official federal authority.
Putra Mosque, Putrajaya – Photo credit
The roles of the three special regions remain indelibly distinct. Kuala Lumpur is, of course, the premier metropolis in Malaysia and a major global city. Dynamic KL is the irrefutable backbone of the nation and, with a metro population of 7.2 million, a principal financial nerve in Southeast Asia. Putrajaya, on the other hand, is a recent incarnation on the map. The purpose-built federal administrative centre of Malaysia is a handsome new capital, however, with many fine new landmarks to admire. Labuan, meanwhile, is an island off the coast of Borneo, or more specifically, Brunei and Sabah, Malaysia. The Federal Territory distinction encompasses not only the 75 km2 island of Labuan but, also, six smaller islands. Together, these mini-tropical enclaves provide ample holiday fodder for tens of thousands of annual tourists, what with an abundance of first-class dive sites, pristine beaches and the warm waters of the South China Sea. Labuan’s telltale claim to fame, however, is as a lucrative offshore hub, where the omnipotent Labuan International Business and Financial Centre holds sway. Over 6,500 offshore multi-nationals and, indeed, some of the most powerful banks in the world, now operate out of the Labuan capital, Victoria, or Bandar Labuan.
Putrajaya Palace of Justice – Photo credit
It is in this spirit of national pride that KL, Putrajaya and Labuan celebrate Federal Territory Day every February 1. This year will be especially prosperous, as the Federal Territory and Urban Wellbeing Ministry has set aside RM5.67 million for the civic holiday. Minister Datuk Raja Nong Chik Raja Zainal Abidin, who oversees the budget allocation for Federal Territory Day, has upped the ante for 2011. As a result, numerous freebies are being offered to the general public – and tourists too – such as rebates on the rental of sports venues, multipurpose halls and community centres for the month of February. In addition, free membership to the Kuala Lumpur Library is up for grabs – a wonderful idea for any visitors in the city this February – and admission to the KL Bird Park, Taman Tasik Perdana, is half the usual price on Tuesdays. Finally, the ‘KL Hop On Hop Off’ is free for residents on Tuesdays this February and 50% off for foreigners. All in all, a pretty good way to celebrate Federal Territory Day.
Labuan sunset – Photo credit
This is all just the tip of the iceberg, however. While both Putrajaya and Labuan will follow suit with similar deals, the most conspicuous signs of Federal Territory Day are the parades, pyrotechnic display, cultural shows and special exhibits in all three regions. As of February 1 and throughout the month, tourists to KL, Putrajaya and Labuan will be in for a vivid array of street performances and multi-media events. Although the obvious focus will hinge on colossal KL and Kuala Lumpur City Centre in particular – book your KLCC hotels now – the whole country will be in on the act. Without question, Malaysia is a fabulous place to be this February.
Labuan coast – Photo credit