City Guide

Kuala Lumpur

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The history of Kuala Lumpur began in the late 1860’s when a group of miners and traders arrived at the confluence of both the Klang River and Gombak River . Commonly known as K.L, the literal translation of the Malay name Kuala Lumpur means “muddy confluence”. However, the name does not in any way reflect this blossoming city and over the past 150 years, Kuala Lumpur has grown from a shanty tin mine to a modern and lively city. Originally starting off as mining settlement, K.L rapidly grew with the help of its appointed Chinese Captain, Yap Ah Loy, who was also the founder of Kuala Lumpur ’s very own Chinatown . To honour him, a street in the heart of Chinatown has been aptly named Jalan Yap Ah Loy. Though aimed as a respect for him, the street carries with a sense of simplicity that is unlike his contributions.

In 1881, the entire mining town was destroyed by a devastating fire and a subsequent flood. Nevertheless, it paved the way to lay down a brand new platform and thus began a building boom. Shabby huts with attap roofs were replaced by modern structures made of bricks and stone. With the arrival of British settlers, buildings were built with a blend of Moorish and Edwardian architectural styles. Till this day, many of Kuala Lumpur ’s historical landmarks still remain and it gives the city a touch of history amidst its more contemporary structures. Some of the oldest buildings around town include the Sultan Abdul Samad Building , Masjid Jamek, Cathedral of Virgin St. Mary, the Kuala Lumpur Railway Station and the Malayan Railway Administration Building . These landmarks were built during the early 1900’s and still retain its original structure. Preserved for their historical value and significance, it is common to see these buildings dwarfed by the many modern skyscrapers that grace the city’s skyline today.

Kuala Lumpur gained its independence on August 31 st 1957 when the first Malayan flag was raised on the grounds of what is now known as Merdeka Square . At that time, K.L was the state capital of Selangor but the city has grown to become the nation’s beloved capital. Since then, there has been no stop to its growth and K.L is now the nation’s commercial and industrial hub. Many multi-national corporations such as Citibank, GE, Microsoft, Leo Burnett, Allianz and many more have graced the city over the past few years. It is with their help that Kuala Lumpur has prospered and has since been voted by Asiaweek magazine as one of Asia ’s top 10 cities.

Taking advantage of the Asian Economic Boom in early 1990’s, Kuala Lumpur advanced to become a full fledged city. Skyscrapers and large buildings emerged from the ground and highways were built to accommodate the arrival of many Malaysians from other states seeking to experience city life. The city’s first skyscraper, the Dayabumi building is now overshadowed by the Petronas Twin Towers . Introduced in 1997, they were formally the world’s tallest towers. The introduction of these two magnificent towers definitely elevated Kuala Lumpur ’s status on the world map. Other notable skyscrapers include Menara Telekom, Menara K.L, Empire Tower , Tabung Haji Building and Menara Maybank.

Kuala Lumpur has had its share of modernisation but it still retains its colourful cultural heritage and history. It is a potpourri of languages, religions and customs. The core community consists of Malays, Chinese and Indians but because of its increasing popularity, there has been an in flux of foreigners which adds more colour to this cosmopolitan city. The architecture, cuisine and culture is mostly Asian with a hint of Western influence. Being a multiracial society, the people of Kuala Lumpur celebrate a multitude of festivals including Hari Raya, Chinese New Year, Deepavali, Christmas and Vesak Day. There’s also the Malaysia Mega Sales Carnival that usually takes place from mid July till early September.

Needless to say, Kuala Lumpur has come a long way from being just a tiny mining town. After surviving a devastating fire, a flood, riots and the Japanese Occupation, K.L has persevered and emerged as a vibrant and modern city that is rich in culture and history.