We slept really well, not waking until our alarm went off at 7.30 a.m. despite the five hour time difference from Qatar. Breakfast was served in the large, airy restaurant on the first floor, a little too airy perhaps as on future mornings I planned to wear a cardigan! There was a large variety of both Western and Asian dishes to choose from and I opted for the latter sampling some noodles with butternut squash and aubergines which tasted delicious. Coffee was from a self service machine and although the cappuccino tasted reasonable it lacked its usual frothiness.
On returning to our room we applied sun cream and insect repellent before heading outdoors, making use of the free GO KL bus service towards the civic district of the capital.
We started our tour at Merdeka Square (Independence Square) as it was here that the Union flag was lowered and the Malaysian flag hoisted for the first time at midnight on 31st August 1957 on a 311 feet (95m) flagpole, said to be one of the tallest in the world. Surrounding the square are many buildings of historical interest, one of which being the Sultan Abdul Samad building now used as government offices.
Opposite, lies the Royal Selangor Club which was founded in 1884 as a meeting place for high ranking members of the British colonial society with its cricket pitch still evident.
To the north of the square stands St. Mary’s Anglican Cathedral where we were able to look inside with a helpful guide pointing out two commemorative plaques of visits by Her Majesty, Queen Elizabeth II. The first of which was in 1989 during the Commonwealth Heads of Government meeting and more recently in 1998 when the Queen attended the official opening of the 16th Commonwealth Games in Kuala Lumpur.
Leaving the church we made our way to the southern corner of the square to take a look in the Kuala Lumpur City Gallery which is free to enter and over two floors relates the story of Kuala Lumpur past and present through scale models of the city. Outside is the iconic ‘I love KL’ sign which had long queues of people waiting their turn to be photographed beside it. By this time, we were feeling very hot and thirsty so we bought some bottles of water outside the gallery and sat in the shade for a few minutes to drink them.
Feeling ready to move on, we crossed the square to visit the National Textile Museum housed in the former headquarters of the Federated Malay States Railway. Since 2010 this historic building has been home to the Textile Museum. Admission is free of charge and its four galleries explore the rich diversity of Malaysia with displays of textiles, accessories, clothing and weaving techniques.
After completing our tour of the museum we followed signs to the first phase of the newly constructed River of Life boardwalk. This colonial walk along the banks of the Gombak and Klang rivers has made the area more accessible and features attractive cafes and seating.
The river walk leads past some of the most significant buildings constructed during British rule, the pathways taking us past the Old Post Office, the Straits Trading Building and the rear of the Sultan Abdul Saman building which looked much more attractive from this side. It was at the confluence of these two rivers, the point where the two meet that the first settlements of the city sprang up as Kuala Lumpur actually means ‘muddy estuary’ in the Malay language.
Continuing, we crossed a wooden footbridge over the Gombok River leading to the High Court. This elegant building boasts distinctive cupola topped towers on each of its four corners. Twice an hour thousands of jets along the boardwalk spray water into the rivers creating a fountain extravaganza for all to see.
A little further along and we had reached the Majid Janek mosque, the oldest in Kuala Lumpur which looked stunning with its pink and white domes and minarets. Visitors are welcome to explore the grounds of the mosque after being requested to cover themselves in the long gowns provided. I was handed a long purple gown with a hood which I thought I had put on correctly but was advised that my ankles were still visible and I needed to fasten the lower buttons. My son was kitted out with a long checked skirt in which he looked rather fetching as the colour co-ordinated well with his polo shirt.
We enjoyed our stroll through the mosque gardens and to be able to view the prayer rooms but I felt extremely hot wearing the additional clothing in the midday heat and was glad to remove it.
The River of Life trail ended at the Central Market, an Art Deco style building which until the 1980’s functioned as a wet market. Nowadays it’s a warren of handicraft and souvenir stalls popular with tourists.
Just steps away from the market lies Petaling Street, the heart of Kuala Lumpur’s Chinatown. It’s a covered street with a canopy of red and gold lanterns under which are dozens of Chinese shops and food stalls selling anything and everything.
It was then time for a rest so we popped into an air conditioned cafe for some cold drinks before taking the MRT to the Muzium Negara MRT station so that we could visit the National Museum of Malaysia. The large museum which opened in 1963 charges a nominal MYR 5 (92p) admission fee and aims to provide visitors with an overview of Malaysian history and culture.
The various galleries each have their own theme starting on the ground floor with displays of the geography and natural history of the Malay peninsula from the Stone Age to recent times. Other galleries are dedicated to the colonial history leading all the way to independence. At the rear of the museum are a number of transport exhibits including a steam locomotive and a Melaka bullock cart.
A series of outdoor escalators lead from the museum up to the entrance of the Perdana Lake Botanical Gardens which are free to enter. The gardens are very large and after a lengthy walk around the lake and through the deer park we visited the Orchid Garden.
This garden has free admittance during the week but charges a small fee RYM 1 (9p) at weekends. Perhaps we had arrived at the wrong time of year to view orchids in Malaysia as there was little to see. Even the cafe was closed which was a pity as we were ready for another cold drink or ice cream.
It had been a busy day covering the main sights in this part of the city, but on leaving the gardens we still had one more place we wanted to visit and that was the Royal Malaysia Police Museum located nearby.
We stopped briefly to check the exact location of the museum on our phone and a taxi driver opposite asked us where we were looking for. He kindly offered to take us free as he was heading in that direction which was extremely kind of him and it gave our legs a short well earned rest.
We were the only visitors exploring the Police Museum during the late afternoon but I recommend a visit as admission is free and it is extremely interesting. The museum showcases the history of the Malaysian police force and includes exhibits on its history from its origins under British colonial rule until the 1970’s. There are a fascinating collection of artefacts which include uniforms, weapons and vehicles. Photography is not allowed indoors but is possible in the grounds where a police train, boat, plane and tank are among the exhibits.
From the museum, it was thankfully just a short downhill walk to the colonial old Kuala Lumpur railway station. Outside its front entrance we took advantage of the free bus service to KL Sentral, the city’s main railway station so that we could take the monorail back to the hotel.
Back in the hotel we couldn’t wait to take our shoes off but after a few cups of tea and a little rest we raised the energy to wander along to Jalan Alor where we enjoyed a tasty meal and some glasses of Tiger beer. The end of another fascinating day spent exploring Kuala Lumpur.
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