Kuala Lumpur: A Jewel of the East

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Ruchira takes us on a tour of Kuala Lumpur, the capital of Malaysia. She discovers many interesting aspects of the remarkable city, in the weekly column. A Different Truths exclusive.

Right from my childhood whenever I read about the east-Asian city Kuala Lumpur (KL) in geography or general knowledge books, I was not impressed. The name sounded a bit mysterious and weird.  Nonetheless, many decades later, my wanderlust took me to this fabulous city. Contrary to the usual din and bustle of any national capital it is the serenity and subdued ambience of the place that hits you instantly! So, on  that  warm October day when I alighted  from my flight from Colombo, a  neat, colourful, well  planned  megalopolis greeted me. It was a mélange of profuse tropical greenery with European, Islamic, Malay and Mughal architecture.

Being the capital of an Islamic nation, one would naturally assume that that a conservative ambience would prevail. I was both surprised and delighted to find youngsters in Western clothing hanging around (read dating) freely, everywhere. Of course there seemed to be a rider: most of the young females wore headscarves and long sleeved tops coordinated with western apparel. Good idea, I thought.

My hotel was bang in the middle of the business district; so I was virtually surrounded by plush malls and rows of shops selling a medley of merchandise. All the reputed global brands were all there, as were the popular food chains e.g., Mc Donald’s, KFC, et al.

In course of my rambling around town, that evening, I discovered KL to be pretty safe. Many women walked home unescorted even though the streets lanes and by-lanes were fairly desolate. The traffic too was fairly disciplined, rash driving and jumping red lights at crossings were conspicuous by their absence. To someone accustomed to traffic snarls and rash, erratic driving on Delhi’s roads, this was such a relief!

Kuala Lumpur ‘s star attraction happens to be the Petronas Twin  Towers, which reigned supreme as the tallest  architectural  structures in the world  till they were pipped to the second place by the Burj Khalifa located in Dubai, UAE, a few years ago. One of the towers houses all the offices of the Malaysian State Oil Co. (Petnonas), while the other accommodates a bevy of multinational companies. The enthusiastic tourists can ride up to the causeway – for a price of course – to catch a mind boggling view of KL. But this treat is not for heart patients or those suffering from acrophobia, please!

The Twin Towers’ complex also has an Art Gallery, a convention as well as a science centre. Tourists cannot miss the pretty, well-landscaped KLCC Park with many recreational features. The Towers are a veritable photographers’ delight!  Even an amateurish lens person like me was so engrossed in clicking snapshots that I failed to notice that the tourist bus had left without me. I rang up the tour operators to bring the bus back, but that is another story….

Although there are a host of interesting museums in Kuala Lumpur, yet the most outstanding one is the National Museum-a brilliant kaleidoscope of the country’s history, art architecture and indigenous culture. The items on display include puppets, weaponry, traditional instruments among many others. At a stone’s throw from the museum, is the National Monument, which was built to honour the valiant soldiers, who died fighting for Malayasia’s independence from colonial rule.  This historic sculpture finds mention in the Guinness Book of World Records as the tallest freestanding bronze sculpture.

One must also visit the splendid Masjid Jamek that stands overlooking the Klang River, in picturesque surroundings, providing ample photo opportunities. Built in 1907, by a British architect named Arthur Benison Hubback, the mosque was the main centre of prayers till the Masjid Negara (National Mosque) was thrown open to public in 1965. The mosque’s architecture is a fine blend of ancient Moorish and Islamic styles.

One must not forget to visit the famous Hibiscus Park, while touring KL. The neatly manicured, spacious garden presents a colourful extravaganza of Hibiscus (shoe flower) in nearly every possible shade and hue. Hibiscus enjoys such pride of place because it is the national flower of Malaysia.

While in Kuala Lumpur treat yourself to the best of Malaysian cuisine that is abundantly available everywhere. The tourists may also opt for Continental as well as fast food according to their budget. The city is also a shoppers’ paradise. So shop till you drop. But don’t forget to include the country’s fabled Batik printed, bric a brac, fabrics or other objets d’art among your purchases!

©Ruchira Adhikari Ghosh

Photos from the Internet

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Born in Guwahati Assam, Ruchira grew up in Delhi and Punjab. A product of Sacred Heart Convent, Ludhiana, she holds a Master’s degree in English Literature from Punjab University, Chandigarh. Armed with a P.G diploma in journalism in Journalism, she has been a pen-pusher for nearly 25 years. Her chequered career encompasses print, web, as well as television. She has metamorphosed as a feature writer, her forte being women’s issues, food, travel and literature.