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The Multi Cultural Mix of Kuala Lumpur

Kuala Lumpur is the capital of Malaysia, and a crucible of Malay, Chinese, and Indian cultures. But it is also a showcase of the modern Malaysian state. It is therefore full of modern skyscrapers, including the Petronas Towers, not so long ago the highest in the world. Finally, the city also features a number of colonial buildings. Enough to explore, I'd say.

Sultan Abdul Samad Building in Kuala Lumpur

The night train to KL, as Kuala Lumpur is often called, leaves more or less on time. But just before KL we stop for a long time, and see the sun rise. We end up having 2 hours delay. We get out at KL Sentral, the hypermodern new train station of Kuala Lumpur. A girl we met on the train leads us to the subway, and before we know it we are in the middle of Chinatown. Here are a lot of backpacker hostels, all with small rooms, but cosy. We choose Golden Plaza hostel, run by a decisive Indian woman.


Mosque surrounded by skyscrapers in Kuala Lumpur, MalaysiaAfter a rest we head out for a walk through the colonial part of KL. But after watching the mosque near the river, big drops fall from the sky, so we take shelter on a roofed terrace. Here we witness a beautiful lightning show between the high buildings and the flagpole on Merdeka square, the highest in the world. It has been dry for a long time here, so everybody welcomes the rain.

When the lightning is gone, but the rain isn't, we enter the central market building. Here are a lot of souvenir stalls with woodcuttings, paintings and other articles. We wonder around for a while, but everything is more expensive compared to other Southeast Asian countries. Instead, we take a tasty Indian dish at the food stalls.

Colonial KL

Old Moorish train station in Kuala LumpurOur colonial tour is postponed to the following day. First we pass the "old" train station of KL. The beautiful building in Moorish style is not old at all, and did just fine. Yet, a prestigious new station needed to be built, although it took a long time to complete after the crisis years of the nineties. Progress or waste of money?

Behind the train station is the new national mosque. An enormous modern building with a big octagonal dome. It is time for prayer, so we are not allowed to go inside. So we walk on to Lake Gardens, a huge park created in the colonial days. In the park are a bird park, butterfly park, deer park, and flower gardens, all with huge entrance fees. We decide to watch the birds in the wild, and promptly see a stork. The orchid and hibiscus gardens are reasonably prices and very nice. Finally, we arrive at the National Monument before we leave Lake Gardens.

National Monument Kuala LumpurOn our way back we visit Merdeka (freedom) Square. It is surrounded by beautiful buildings, gardens, and fountains. Some of the buildings feature exclusive clubs founded in the colonial days. Others, like Abdoul Mohammed building, still serve an administrative task. Finally, there are some museums, which we do not visit.


Back in Chinatown we are overwhelmed by the crowds. There is a market every evening and the street opposite to our hotel is packed with stalls. A lot of illegal music, video, and software CDs, T-shirts, watches, and small electronics are on sale. Once in a while the police pays a visit, confiscating the illegal products. But one day later, the vendors are back with new stuff. We hold ourselves back and buy nothing.

There is also a south Indian Hindu temple situated in Chinatown. The entrance is a high tower decorated with many statues of the different gods in bright colors. Modestly, we stay outside but see Indian people inside performing rituals. Outside is an older Indian man performing other, drunken rituals. His prayers do not seem to be heard.

Modern KL

We try to visit Petronas twin towers on Monday. But unfortunately, they are closed. Nevertheless, the towers are impressive watching from the ground. And we get to visit an other high building, from which we can overlook Kuala Lumpur. From the sky, it doesn't seem very large, and a smog cloud is covering the city.

Petronas Twin Towers in Kuala LumpurThe modern part of KL is called the Golden Triangle. It is full of large, luxurious malls. We visit one of them and admire particularly the electronics. A little cheaper than in Holland, but not much. The toilets, by the way, are the same old Asian squat ones, so much for luxury. We decide not to stay long, much of the same things everywhere.

Kuala Lumpur is an interesting, multicultural city. Crowded Chinatown is flanked by the beautiful colonial part on one side, and the Golden Triangle on the other. The city is not very Malay, there are many more Chinese and Indian people. The very few Malaysian words we learned (Terimah Kassih Banyak) aren't understood by most of the locals. English is more widely accepted in the multi cultural mix of Kuala Lumpur.

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