Kuala Lumpur is a buzzing, humming,
metropolis where one can find anything and everything under the sun at
any time of the day. Shops are open till 10pm seven days a week.
Restaurants close very late at night. Some medical practices and clinics
are still open 24 hours.
Thanks to careful city planning and
attention to details, one can also enjoy main streets lined with
tropical topiary. This "manicured" aspect of Kuala Lumpur makes it a
very comfortable place to work and live in, quite unlike other major
capitals that have forsaken the important and crucial addition of
greenery in urban landscaping. K.L. seems packed with the latest of
everything that is "just been done" somewhere else. The brand new
Bintang Walk has shops, sidewalk cafes and restaurants offering a
variety of fast foods and local delicacies. Huge "air-conditioning" mist
fans allow patrons to linger, gossip, and lounge around in the usual 33
degree Celcius heat without a hint of discomfort. At night, the Walk is
lit with miniature lights sparkling over the streets and palm trees.
The city, with a population of a million
and a half, looks and feels much bigger. Its 94 sq. miles are spread out
with large pockets of lush green areas like the Lake Gardens, a popular
weakened place for families, which is safely watched over by mounted
police. Yet a few "mini" jungles have managed to survive in between the
city's highways and buzy overhead bridges, complete with monkeys and
snakes trying desperately to avoid the ever-growing traffic.
Kuala Lumpur has been growing since its
creation as a capital city for the Federated Malay States in 1896. It is
under construction day and night with thousands of hardhat workers
toiling under harsh sunlight and neon lights. Labor is cheap and land is
becoming expensive and rare. Large real estate, construction and civil
engineering companies vie to buy prime land to build luxurious condos,
malls and office buildings. They are only briefly halted by the economic
slowdowns that have affected the region during the late 90s/
Although the graceful Masjid Jamek mosque
built in 1909 is overshadowed and hidden by tall buildings, this small
patch of land nestled between the Gombak and Klang rivers is still a
delightful and restful place where one can gaze at the bustling city on
the opposite shores. On the other side of the road across from the
mosque, the Masjid India area retains its "time-capsule" charm for
lovers of all things traditional: textiles, knick-knacks, flowers,
intricate jewellery, traditional outfits. Hawkers sell everything and
anything, some worth buying only for their true exotic appeal.
Chinatown's Petaling street is another example of the "old" K.L.
fighting for breathing space. It is well worth a visit for the joy of
haggling with hawkers and its exquisite Chinese shophouses. All over
Kuala Lumpur you will find huge, modern malls filled with branded
shoplots selling products from all over the world. Japanese, French,
German, British, American, Australian, Indian, Indonesian, Malaysian,
you name it, they are there.
The latest constructions in Kuala Lumpur
are sometimes overpowering like the Petronas Twin Towers. When seen from
the massive base, only one word comes to mind - wow ! Many a tourist
brings out his camera with a sense of urgency to shoot them as if the
towers are going to walk away. The Kuala Lumpur telecommunications
Tower, yet another landmark dominating the city skyliner, is a real
success in terms of attracting tourists. Its revolving restaurant and
observation platform give a wonderful bird's view of K.L. The town
planners have tried their best to adapt modern architecture to
Malaysia's multi-cultural heritage. From the 1970s National Mosque to
the 1990s National Art Gallery and Theatre, modern Malaysian
architecture have been inspired by the more traditional architecture of
the land, giving them a unique exotic feel and look. Most new luxury
hotels have also been carefully planned to blend traditional designs
with contemporary architecture.
From the kitsch of Sri Maha Mariamman and
Thean Hou Temples to the perfect modernistic lines of the Telekom
Building and Petronas Towers, the city boasts an interesting combination
of Indian, Malay, Chinese and British colonial architecture with
hyper-modern constructions. For those who want to know more about a city
shaped over the years into a metropolis born out of multi-cultural
influences, Kuala Lumpur is most certainly a real treat.
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