Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Malaysia and Australia Relations

Australia is the nearest "western" country to Malaysia and it seems the earliest significant connection date back to the 19th century when Malays were a part of the pearling industry off the northern coast of Australia. In fact, William Light, the son of Francis Light who acquired Penang in 1786, was the one who planned Adelaide city in 1837, and the two cities have become sister city to commemorate that early relationship. Australia’s third-largest trading partner in ASEAN and the eleventh-largest partner overall is Malaysia, with total trade in 2006 of $11.61 billion. Sir William McKell, a former Governor-General of Australia, helped draft the Malaysian Constitution.

Because of its proximity and because Malaysia still have a large population of people who speak English, Australia is a popular destination for students seeking matriculation as well as tertiary education. In fact, both my daughters got their degree from Australian universities. One of my son-in-law too got his law degree from an Australian university, and by sheer coincidence studied in the same faculty as one of the daughters of my sister who migrated there. I have 2 nieces and a nephew currently studying in Sydney. Many Malaysians have also migrated to Australia, especially in the 70's. My sister and her family migrated there during that period. A colleague of mine migrated to Perth with his family. Practically all those we know have some kind of connections with Australia. During the Malaya Emergency and the Second World War , Australian troops fought alongside the Malaysian military and police and contributed to the protection of Malaysia when Indonesia declared Confrontation against the formation of Malaysia between 1963 to 1966. In fact, a reader of my blog contacted me saying he served in Malaysia during the emergency (and also enquired about possible changes in the weather in Malaysia. He also asked if I have noticed the weather changing, saying it is freezing in Queensland. I replied that when I was young, I had to sleep under a blanket, but now I sleep topless minus the fan. And it was supposed to be dry season then, but we are getting daily afternoon showers.

In view of this proximity and the relationship, it is no surprise to see many direct flights between the Malaysian and the Australian cities, and Malaysians traveling to Australia, a sizable number are families going there to witness the graduation ceremony of their children. 157,100 Malaysians visited Australia for the year to 30 June 2007, while 277,125 Australians visited Malaysia in 2006,

The nearest Australian city is Perth and that is where that colleague migrated to. Perth's attractions include King's Park from where you can get a spectacular view of Perth skyline, Perth Zoo, Burswood Casino (shouldn't count this as an attraction), the world's oldest mint - Perth Mint which is still operating from its original premises, Adventure World, AQWA (Aquarium of Western Australia), Pioneer Village (35 minutes from Perth), many museums, Perth Institute of Contemporary Art. If I am ever going to visit Perth, I am not going to do what I did while traveling around Europe in the 70's when there was no such thing as the Internet. I will likely book my accommodation ahead of arrival and online via sites like Perth Hotels.

Sydney is where my nieces and nephew are currently studying and is also an interesting city to visit. There is the Opera House with its unique shell roofs which I understand took much expenses to construct, plus the Sydney Harbor Bridge (fondly called the coat hanger). You can climb the bridge to 134 meters above Sydney Harbor and get a spectacular view of Sydney skyline. I can't squat in my nieces and nephew cramped apartment, so looks like I will have to depend on Sydney Accommodation.

Adelaide, the city sister of our very own Pearl of the Orient (Penang), is the capital city of South Australia. Adelaide is often referred as a city of culture as it host many festivals like the Adelaide Festival of Arts, Fringe Festival, Adelaide Film Festival, Adelaide Festival of Ideas, Adelaide Writers' Week, etc. Adelaide Festival Centre, a multi-purpose art centre, is Adelaide's answer to Sydney's Opera House, and reputed to have superior acoustic plus being constructed at much lower cost. I have no relatives or colleagues in Adelaide, so I will need to seek accommodation via Adelaide Hotels.

Ayes Rock or Uluru
Photo by B. Riley (some rights reserved)

A very interested place to visit is Ayers Rock (Uluru), a large monolithic sandstone rock formation in the Northern Territory. It is listed as a World Heritage Site. It is not an easy place to visit for the nearest large town is Alice Spring, is 335 km away. But you can also fly directly to the Ayers Rock/Yulara airport from some of the major cities in Australia. All of the hotels, cabins, and campgrounds are run by a single company which has a single website at www.ayersrockresort.com.au.

At Ayers Rock Hotels, I can see only 2 hotels listed (that may change when you visit that site as things are not static). Then there is the weather. I understand it is pretty hot there. If you plan to visit Ayers Rock, June is good time to visit. The Dry season has begun but everything is still green while the daytime temperatures are warm but not hot though nights can be quite cold.

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