Living in Singapore you soon come to realize that there is a special relationship between the city-state and its much larger neighbor to the North. One that can be prickly and even condescending. Being on the tip of the Malay Peninsula, Singapore is physically connected to the mainland via a causeway across the Johor Straits. But the real connection goes far deeper.
Malaysia and Singapore share a joint history under British rule. In 1826 Singapore, together with Malacca and Kuala Lumpur, the two British settlements in the Malay Peninsula, became the Straits Settlements, under the control of British India with Singapore the center of government. After WWII the Straits Settlements was dissolved and Singapore became a Crown Colony on its own while Kuala Lumpur and Malacca became part of the Malayan Union in 1946, and later the Federation of Malaya in 1948.
On 27 May 1961, the Malayan Prime Minister, Tunku Abdul Rahman, proposed closer political and economic co-operation and after much discussion and a national referendum, Malaysia was formed in 1963 and consisted of the Federation of Malaya, Singapore, Sarawak and North Borneo (now Sabah) but the merger would prove to be short-lived. Singapore was separated from the rest of Malaysia on 9 August 1965, and independent city-state. In 1969, deadly racial riots broke out between Malays and Chinese in several cities, and the country was placed under emergency rule.
When the state of emergency was lifted in 1971, the government promulgated the New Economic Policy (NEP), giving Malays (officially called Bumiputera) preferential treatment in all spheres of public life. Senior positions in the civil service were reserved for Malays. Special schools were established for them exclusively. This policy still exists today, but it has not stopped the Chinese minority from achieving a certain level of prosperity.
No one realizes how beautiful it is to travel until he comes home and rests his head on his old, familiar pillow.Lin Yutang
Like siblings, each is sensitive to perceived slights from the other such as the mirrored criticisms where Malaysia accuses Singapore of marginalizing its Malaysian minority who in turn decry the other nation’s affirmative action policy as being discriminatory against its Chinese minority. The Singaporean’s view of its Northern neighbor as lazy or corrupt is answered by denigrating talk of Singapore trading its soul in pursuit of the mighty dollar. Like any biting remark there is some truth in both side’s arguments and what is apparent to this traveler is that the natures of both countries represent in the broadest terms the character of their people. What is also apparent is that Singapore cannot match the natural beauty of Malaysia.
Traveling up from Singapore to Kuala Lumpur the country seems strangely underpopulated, not at all what you would expect from the Asian mainland. The capital is quite modern with a population approaching 2 million residents Kuala Lumpur is known for its wide variety of restaurants and other eateries. Prominent in the city's skyline is the famous Petronas Towers and was the world's tallest building from 1998 to 2004.