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An Exploration of Kuala Lumpur’s Heritage

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Travel blogger Lily Riani shares with us what she loves about the older parts of Malaysia’s capital city

There is plenty to see in Kuala Lumpur - also known as KL, the metropolitan heartbeat of the nation. The many worthwhile attractions here, from lush greeneries around the city, indoor and outdoor artistic venues, and historical iconic spots, are all within walking distance. If you’re interested in exploring Kuala Lumpur on foot, one interesting route to take would be the stretch from Dataran Merdeka - where the country celebrated its independence, to Masjid Jamek - the very point where Kuala Lumpur was built on, and lastly to Petaling Street, where the city grew from. Kuala Lumpur is a place where you wander and wonder. Nothing is too far nor too expensive, making this city ideal for both leisure and business travellers. Put on your best walking shoes and let’s go for a walk with me to discover Kuala Lumpur.

Hi There, Merdeka Square
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Sultan Abdul Samad building, Merdeka Square

We all know the expression “killing two birds with one stone”. In this case, it’s actually four: Surrounded by iconic historic buildings - the Sultan Abdul Samad Building and Royal Selangor Club, the Merdeka Square or Independence Square (Dataran Merdeka in Malay) is where the Malaysian flag was hoisted for the first time on 31 August 1957. Adjacent to the Sultan Abdul Samad Building is the National Textile Museum, where you get to immerse yourself in the textures and colours of Malaysia. This is where you’ll get to see the (en)canting batik print, learn how tenun songket reflects the interweave of traditional Malay craft, and where dreams are being imprinted into motifs and symbols in Sarawak’s Pua Kumbu.

Writer’s Favourite

For photography: Sultan Abdul Samad Building

For heritage: National Textile Museum

River of Life : The Confluence of Two Rivers
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Night scene of River of Life

The Sultan Abdul Samad Jamek Mosque was erected in 1909 at the confluence of the Klang and Gombak rivers where the early settlers and miners built their home. The architecture was inspired by the Indian Muslim Mogul architecture of India and designed by Arthur Benison Hubbock. Tourists are welcome here, with robes and headscarves available at the mosque’s entrance to be worn before entering the premises. After visiting the mosque, within walking distance from here is the “River of Life” - a project to transform the Klang River into a more vibrant waterfront attraction. With interesting street art and murals, it is a popular Instagram spot for avid photographers and travellers alike. Taking a stroll by the river will lead you to Central Market, the best place to buy Malaysian souvenirs such as batik, pewters, handcrafts as well as enjoying local delicacies.

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River of Life mural
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Masjid Jamek

Writer’s Favourite

For photography: City murals

For heritage: Masjid Jamek

From Starch Mill Street to the Little Ghost Lane

Most of the Chinese settlers that came to Malaysia in the early 1960s worked in the tapioca mill, hence the street leading to the mill is named the Starch Mill Street, now known as the popular Petaling Street. Meanwhile, Kwai Chai Hong, or Little Ghost Lane, is the old name for Jalan Panggung, so given because of the kids back in the olden days who loved to play pranks on the elders while their parents went to work at the mill. The kids were often scolded as they were ‘as naughty as ghosts’. These days, it is one of the must-visit places in KL for an authentic, off-thebeaten-path of view of the city.

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Little ghost lane (Photo: Javier Chor)
Writer’s Favourite

For photography: Kwai Chai Hong

For heritage: Petaling Street (Chinatown)

Café Hopping in Chinatown
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Da Bao cafe

Café hopping has become a trend amongst travelers, where cafes these days are not just a place for one to sample creatively concocted food but also as content for social media and travel blogs. Many thematic cafes have mushroomed around the Kwai Chai Hong area and are fast becoming the ‘must-go-to’ cafes in town, mostly due to their unique food and décor.

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Ali, Muthu & Ah Hock Kopitiam

Café hopping has become a trend amongst travelers, where cafes these days are not just a place for one to sample creatively concocted food but also as content for social media and travel blogs. Many thematic cafes have mushroomed around the Kwai Chai Hong area and are fast becoming the ‘must-go-to’ cafes in town, mostly due to their unique food and décor.

Writer’s Favourite

For photography: Bubble Bee Café

For food : Ali, Muthu & Ah Hock Kopitiam, Merchant’s Lane

100 Year-old Chan She Shu Yuen Clan Temple
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Chan She Shu Yuen Clan Temple

The Chan She Shu Yuen Clan Temple, built in 1908, is known for its 100-year-old pottery imported from southern China decorating its façade. Built to assist the Chinese settlers from the Chan and Tan Clan, it is one of the oldest surviving Buddhist temples in KL and is now open to all as a Buddhist place of worship. The temple architecture is well preserved and was declared by the Malaysian Government as a protected heritage building of national importance in 2006.

Writer’s Favourite

For photography: The intricate carvings on its roof and eaves

Experiencing the older parts of Kuala Lumpur is fairly easy. It all can be done on foot and will probably cost you next to nothing. A pair of good walking shoes, a warm and personable attitude, and an open mind are all that you need. I promise you, there is more than enough to charm you.

Selamat Datang ke Kuala Lumpur! Welcome to Kuala Lumpur!

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All photos by Lily Riani.

Lily Riani is an award-winning travel blogger who writes about her backpacking travels on her blog at lilyrianitravelholic.blogspot.com and Instagram at lilyriani_travelholic

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