Kuala Lumpur has a pretty quirky name. In Malay, Kuala refers to the spot where two rivers meet, and Lumpur means mud, so KL literally means ‘muddy confluence’. Not exactly classy, if you compare it to places like San Francisco (Spanish for Saint Francis) or Singapore (Lion City in Sanskrit). No matter though – KL remains my beloved city. I grew up on its fringes, and going to the city always evokes a sense of adventure and excitement. There’s so much to see and do (and eat!) here.
The heart of the city is where the two rivers – the Gombak River and the Klang River – meet. From a bird’s eye view, the point is a clear Y shape that comes together near Masjid Jamek, the 100-year-old mosque at the very centre of KL. It was said that in the old days, coconut and mango trees lined the banks, and the faithful would go down to the river to get water for ablution. A far cry from what it is in modern times: concrete, glass, steel, dammed on the sides to make a monsoon drain (although this was a necessary evil to prevent flooding, which was very frequent in KL before). With modernisation came unscrupulousness; it seemed that ‘progress’ only made people take a step back from civility. One finds all sorts of contaminants and garbage in the river’s polluted waters: plastic bags, bicycles, dead bodies…
A couple of years ago, the city hall came up with an ambitious plan to implement a billion-dollar project called the River of Life. The idea was that rivers are the ‘nadi’, or the pulse, of a place, and a national heritage that should be taken care of. The beautification project, dubbed River of Life and Blue Pool, was unveiled in late August 2017, to cover the stretch from Masjid Jamek to Daya Bumi. The idea was not just to clean up the river, but to make it a tourist attraction. Lights and wind machines were installed all along the banks, and new pedestrian walkways/bridges were set up so that visitors can stroll at a leisurely pace while enjoying the beautiful sights.
After the project was launched, S and I took the LRT downtown to check it out for ourselves. We alighted at the Masjid Jamek station, which is just a 2 minute walk from the riverbanks. The mosque was lit up for prayers during our visit and the overall picture was a pretty sight, with the building illuminated in blue lights. Water spurted out from little inlets throughout the sides of the riverbank.
The stretch covered about one kilometre. We walked from one end to the other, passing by the back portion of the Sultan Abdul Samad Building. The best place to take pix would probably be from this point on the bridge (pictured). You can see both sides of the bank, the Y shape of the confluence and the mosque in the centre.
They also built a bridge crossing from the area near the Panggung DBKL over to the mosque, so you don’t have to walk all the way to the bend. The place was actually much prettier than the shitty photos I took on my camera, so I suggest a visit if you’re in the area. Be prepared though because the river still has an odd smell. Guess it takes years to really clean it up. I hope people can be more civic minded when it comes to caring for our rivers !
PS: I lost my Touch N Go card while walking around. Cries.
Parking is limited, so it’s best to take the LRT (Kelana Jaya line) and alight at Masjid Jamek. There are adequate signs pointing you to Masjid Jamek, just follow the path and you’ll come to this area in no time.