Visiting Tugu Negara, The National Monument of Malaysia

One thing I love about Kuala Lumpur is that despite being a vibrant (and sometimes chaotic) metropolis, there are still vast pockets of green that act as oases of calm and tranquility, offering an escape from the hustle and bustle of city life.

One such place is Plaza Tugu Negara, perched on a hill overlooking the Perdana Botanical Gardens. This large and well kept park is home to Malaysia’s National Monument, a giant bronze sculpture dedicated to local heroes who fought and died for our homeland.

The Hubs and I came here to get some fresh air after an afternoon wandering a nearby museum. It was around 5pm so it was not too crowded, with a few families enjoying picnics on the grass. There were also a couple of kiosks selling snacks and finger food.

Before you get close to the monument, there’s a park at the base of the hill that is worth exploring, called the ASEAN Sculpture Garden. Not only is it nicely landscaped, with nicely-laid out paths and walkways, it also offers a cool respite from the sweltering Malaysian heat. There are ponds filled with small fish and water lilies, as well as art sculptures from ASEAN artists that make for good photos.

As you make your way up to the main plaza, you’ll pass by streams of water flowing down to the ponds below. Because the park is just next to a forest reserve, there’s plenty of small fauna too – we spotted a few squirrels scurrying up the tree branches. If you close your eyes and listen to the cool gurgling of water, interspersed by the chirping of birds, it’s almost easy to block out the distant sounds of traffic, and the city.

From this vantage point you can see the now (in)famous(?) Merdeka 118 tower . There were recently two incidences involving Youtubers trespassing to climb up the yet-to-be opened building, which is at this point (678m) is the tallest in Southeast Asia. Which begs the question of how they were able to get up there in the first place and bypass security, not once, but twice. lol . Or maybe it’s all an elaborate marketing stunt. Who knows?

Once you get up to the main plaza, you’ll be greeted by this giant cenotaph, ie the Kuala Lumpur Cenotaph. Originally located at Jalan Raja, this piece was the predecessor to the bronze sculpture we know today, and was built to commemorate fallen soldiers during WWI (1914-1918). Two more inscriptions were added later, for British Malayan soldiers who died in WWII (1939 – 1945), and the Malayan emergency (1948 – 1960). The cenotaph was moved to its present location in 1964.

Just across the cenotaph is a pavilion topped by a large dome. It’s unique structure and beautiful motifs make it a popular place for wedding photography.

The pavilion flanks the back of the monument, and there’s a pool/fountain surrounded by metal sculptures of floating water lilies. The pool’s deep, sapphire blue tiling contrasts nicely against the grey, white, and green of the plaza’s surroundings.

Front view of the sculpture.

So how did the National Monument come to be? Our first Prime Minister, Tunku Abdul Rahman, was inspired to have a monument of our own after visiting the Marine Corps War Memorial in the US, in 1960. Subsequently, he reached out to Austrian-born sculptor Felix de Weldon in order to build the Tugu Negara sculpture. Commissioned in 1963, it was completed in 1966, with the park opening to the public soon after.

Compared to the cenotaph, this sculpture is a more concrete/visual representation of the patriots who died fighting the Japanese in WWII, and the communists during the Malayan emergency.

It features seven soldiers, five of whom represent the victorious allied forces (holding the Malaysian flag, armed with rifle and bayonet, armed with machine gun, tending to a wounded compatriot); the other two representing defeated enemy forces. At 15-metres high, it is the tallest bronze freestanding sculpture grouping in the world.

If you’re looking for a quick respite, Tugu Negara and the surrounding park offers a slice of greenery in the heart of the city. Come in the morning and evenings when it’s cooler, and set up a nice little picnic! It’s also close to other attractions such as the Perdana Botanical Gardens, Tunku Abdul Rahman Memorial, and the Bank Negara Museum.


Jln Parlimen, City Centre, 50480 Kuala Lumpur

Opening hours: 7am – 6pm

Getting there: Tugu Negara is a bit further away from the central areas that most buses ply, but you can take the KL Hop-On Hop-Off Bus and alight at Perdana Botanical Gardens, make your way towards the northern entrance, and follow the signs to Tugu Negara which is a 10-15 minute walk away.

Entry: Free


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