Kuala Lumpur is a blessed city. It is younger than Singapore and Jakarta but it is home to three important races in the South East Asia region. As a result, you can see historical mosques and listen to the call to prayer of the muezzin in the same block where an Indian man pays respect to Hindu’s many god and goddess. But that’s not all. The small city square is also the place where you can feast on the many authentic Asian cuisines – from ones tailored to foreign tongue by chefs in air conditioned restaurant right to ones on the street where you are forced to eat with your fingers. To learn more about these races, read on.
The Malays are the natives of the country. But despite being the natives, they agreed to co-operate with the other immigrants and the conquerer of the land. Walk around Kuala Lumpur and you see that there are more temples than mosques in the city area. While in Kuala Lumpur, take some time to see how the muslims pray in the Masjid Jamek, a British built mosque with an open air pavillion, at the meeting point of the Sungai Kelang. Then go to Kampung Baru, once a Malay squatter village and see how the poor Malays once lived before the government made an affirmative effort to make them competitive enough to rival the Chinese. During your visit here, make sure you try some Malay cuisines like nasi lemak and sate.
The Malays are also the brainchild behind the KLCC. This area not only houses the world’s tallest twin towers but serves as a symbol of the country’s resilience. Not many foreigners know this, but the towers were built during the Asian Economic Crisis, where Malaysia was nearly bankrupt when it’s currency was attacked by currency speculators.
The Indians used to be immigrants imported from India by the British. But during independence, the Indians and Chinese were granted citizenships despite many not being able to speak Malay. The Indian culture permeates throughout Kuala Lumpur. You can see this in the colorful Hindu temples and shops selling Bollywood movies right to the many Indian Muslim restaurants that open 24 hours a day.
If you are really keen at learning about the Indian culture, take the train to Brickfields. This area used to house British bricks factories that help support the many British buildings in Kuala Lumpur. In Brickfield, you will see, taste and smell the colors of India in full force. If you come during Thaipusam (around February), you will see Hindu devotees walk in trance and barefooted from the middle of the city to 16 km away and scale the Batu Caves stairs in order to give thanks to the Hindu God.
The Chinese in this city are quite powerful with their financial influence. They owns the shops, malls, hotels as well as the historical buildings dotting the city. If you want to see the influence of Chinese culture here, go and see the Jalan Sultan. It is the place where the Chinese overlord and first Kapitan called Yap Ah Loy built his fortunes. In fact, the style at which the shops are built are made to mimic the ones in China, with shops in the ground floor and living quarters on the second floors. There are also a few clan houses and temples in the Chinatown area. These very important temples are not only places of worship but are also treasured as Kuala Lumpur’s historicals buildings. Chinese food is also the reason why KL is famous. You can choose to dine under the stars in Jalan Alor and Chinatown or try them in the many air-conditioned Chinese restaurants in the city’s posh malls. And despite Malaysia being an Islamic country, liquor and pork are eaten in public without much restrictions.
Kuala Lumpur is a blessed city. Not only the three races managed to work together, sensibility of the Muslim rulers ensure than the cultures of these races help uplift the city further. Kuala Lumpur is not an old city with histories like Jakarta, but it is still a fascinating summary of Asia. Next time you go to this city, opens up your eyes. Kuala Lumpur will probably change the way you think.
If you are planning to visit Kuala Lumpur, you can take a look at JomJalan.com for accommodation and the official tourism board offer plenty of great information on Malyasian tourism. Make sure also to read our article about being insured for Asian travel.