Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
Kuala Lumpur has had an interesting voyage through recent history and this is evident in its wealth of interesting sites and abundant attractions. Prior to the 1850s what is now a bustling and cosmopolitan metropolis was a small hamlet of a few shacks at the meeting point of the Gombak and Klang rivers. A town evolved when a local chieftain decided to mine for tin in the locality of Ampang. The hamlet was the nearest point to Ampang which could be reached by boat.
Due to its position in the supply chain for the tin mines, Kualu Lumpur grew significantly and Malaya’s colonial rulers named it the Selangor state capital in 1880. During the next 30 or 40 years, the British were responsible for the construction of the many architectural gems that still dot the cityscape. The Sultan Abdul Samad Building is the best known, but there are many more still in existence.
Kuala Lumpur prospered until the Japanese Imperial Army invaded in 1942. The military ruled with an iron fist until the end of WWII in 1945. Britain resumed control after the end of the war, but this was only for 12 years. In 1957, Kuala Lumpur became the capital of the newly independent Federation of Malaya.
Kuala Lumpur is home to people of different ethnic backgrounds and has few venues for cultural performances. The best ways of gaining insights into its cultural identity is with a dinner and show or exploring older neighbourhoods. Temple and museum visits or attending one of the annual festivals staged in the city and its environs are recommended too.
Several restaurants in central Kuala Lumpur offer nightly shows in which casts of performers dressed in traditional clothes give dance and music shows based on routine practiced during the heyday of the royal sultans. Recommended neighbourhoods to visit are Bukit Bintang, Chinatown and Jalan Petaling, Kampung Baru and Brickfields.
Brickfields is known to local residents as the Divine Spot due to a profusion of temples and other religious buildings. The buildings are a testament to the city’s multi-ethnicity and include the Buddhist Maha Vihara Temple, the beautiful Sri Kandaswamy Ceylonese-style temple, the Lutheran Zion Church and a Chinese temple with a quirky name that translates as Three Teachings.
Other notable religious buildings in Kuala Lumpur are Guan Di Temple in Chinatown, the National Mosque, Jamek Masjid Mosque and St John's Cathedral. Merdeka Square is a lasting epitaph to British rule and is flanked by the Royal Selangor Club in addition to the Sultan Abdul Samad Building.
A colossal statue of Lord Murugan guards access to the 272-step flight of stairs leading to the Cathedral Chamber at Batu Caves. Hindu shrines are plentiful in this cavern as well as two smaller ones at the bottom of the stairs. Batu is the venue for an extravaganza of Hindu tradition every year, the festival of Thaipusam.
The Islamic Arts Museum Malaysia, the National Museum, the Royal Malaysian Police Museum, the National Textile Museum and the Royal Museum are the flagships of Kuala Lumpur’s museums. All five are home to exhibits tracing Kuala Lumpur’s participation in its particular themed genre. The Royal Museum was the royal palace until 2011 and its chambers and apartments have been preserved for posterity.