Malaysia’s ancient heritage, in common with many of the countries of Southeast Asia, shows the influence of the mighty Khmer empire, whose centre of gravity was at Angkor in modern day Cambodia.

Though none of the sites discovered on the Malay Peninsula are of the same architectural magnitude as those found in Thailand and Cambodia, many significant Hindu sites have been discovered, the most prominent of which is the UNESCO World Heritage Site at Bujang Valley, Kedah, home to some 50 structures, many of which sadly exhibit deliberate damage from the early period of the country’s gradual Islamisation.

The Portuguese takeover of the country in 1511 would initiate the arrival of the European styles and is particularly evident at Malacca, also a UNESCO World Heritage site.

The A’ Famosa Fortress and later Dutch and British structures still characterise the city's historic heart, such as the Stadthuys, Perankan Houses and shopfronts, St. Pauls Church and St. John’s Fort. Malacca’s Cheng Hoon Teng temple also shows the Chinese influence of the period. Malacca's maritime history is explored at the museum of Flora de Lamar, which features a replica Portuguese vessel.

The main focus of British attention however became Penang. Another UNESCO site, Georgetown, features many British buildings, such as Fort Cornwallis and City hall, nestled together with several Chinese Clan houses, the most famous of which is the remarkable and ornate Khoo Kongsi.

The Cameron Highlands were developed by the British as a tea growing region, and its temperate climate at 1,500m evoked a nostalgia for home, exemplified by the many English country houses and cottages that still remain.

In the Capital, Kuala Lumpur, the old Railway Station, and Sultan Abdul Samad Building are splendid examples of British designed buildings that also reflect the harmonic absorption of indigenous Islamic architecture.

The oldest surviving mosque is the eighteenth century Kampung Laut, at Tumpat in Kelatan, close to Kota Bharu, built around 1730 on an older site dating to the 15th century. Ubadiah Mosque, built in 1913 at Kuala Kangsor and designed by a British architect is regarded as the finest of the early mosques.

Since achieving independence in 1957, Malaysia has embarked upon many ambitious constructions and stunning ultra-modernist mosques inspired by the new Arabic styles which now abound throughout the land.