My adventure to Malaysia was only a couple of days, so I didn’t venture very far from Kuala Lumpur or KL. This is the capital city of Malaysia, but it isn’t very old, less than 200 years old.
Honestly, I didn’t know much about this city before going. As chance would have it, I came across “Mud,” a musical production telling the story of KL. As I was wondering around Merdeka Square in the center of town, I saw the old theater and banners for the production. I bought a ticket for the last night of its three-year run. It was a fun show.
I learned about the tin mining past of Kuala Lumpur. In the early 1900s, a fire destroyed the city followed by flooding. That didn’t stop the people from persevering and rebuilding. This time, though, they did it with bricks. Some of those buildings are still standing today. The most historic are those surrounding Merdeka Square.
The most recognizable building at the square has a magnificent clock tower overlooking the former cricket pitch. This square is where the formal ceremony ending British rule over Malaysia took place. At one end of the square is a big flag pole. On all sides are historic buildings—government buildings, museums, and a church.
When I was there, some major construction was underway as well. They are currently, working to revitalize the downtown area by creating a destination river walk. It will go by the historic Jamek Mosque next to the Sultan Abdul Samad Building, the one with the clock tower.
This neighborhood of KL has a fine assortment of traditional style wood homes. It has a very different feel from the downtown areas of Chinatown or the areas around the Petronas Twin Towers. I only got a short time wandering these streets because the afternoon thunderstorm came a little early.
Thean Hou Temple
Thean Hou Temple is a large Buddhist temple on a hill in KL. It isn’t very old or historic, but it is lovely and is a good insight into Chinese culture in Malaysia. The architecture is more of the southern style than that of the Ming style of Beijing. Spectacular colored tile dragons and phoenixes crown the eaves and rows of lanterns cast shadow pearls on the courtyard.
By the front entrance is a small garden of the Chinese zodiac animals and a statue diorama of Buddha. Up the hill behind the temple is a fascinating statuary walk highlighting several points of filial piety as found in Confucianism. Some of the scenarios are downright disturbing, and in today’s society would be considered abuse.
Islamic Art Museum of Malaysia
With the rain, I wanted to find an indoor activity, so I ended up at the Islamic Art Museum of Malaysia. The museum has a nice collection of artifacts and paraphernalia. However, I think the Museum of Islamic Art in Doha was much better put together and presented. My favorite gallery of this museum has a collection of models. These models are of famous mosques and unique Islamic architecture from around the world.
Masjid Jamek – National Mosque
Across the street from the Islamic Art Museum of Malaysia is the National Mosque. It is an interesting piece of architecture being very modern in style. For the most part it is a large raised pavilion with the main prayer hall in the center. I had to wait to go in since you have to be properly attired. I was in shorts, and therefore, not appropriately dressed. I had to wait for a loaner robe from another visitor when he or she left. I didn’t want to wait around though when a busload of Chinese tourists showed up. I pulled out a piece of fabric I bought at the museum and wrapped it around as a sarong.
National Textile Museum
My last stop before heading back to the airport was the National Textile Museum. Located in one of the historic buildings near Merdeka Square, this free museum give a fantastic insight into the textiles of Malaysia including its famous batik dying techniques.
One gallery on the first floor has displays of how various textiles are made. The other galleries house beautiful collections of many of these textiles highlighting specific regions and their peculiarities.
Sin Sze Si Ya Temple
On my way back to the hotel to get my stuff, I popped into this old Taoist temple of KL. It is one of the oldest buildings in the city.
Overall, KL is a lovely city worth visiting. The architecture is fantastic and the culture a brilliant mix of Chinese, Indian, and Malay. Food is delicious, and transport around the city simple.