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Photowalk: Things to See and Do Around Dataran Merdeka, Kuala Lumpur

How often do you play tourist in your homeland?

Pre-COVID, I always wanted to ‘discover’ new places and experiences – but this pandemic has made me realise that these things can be had, even in our own backyard: it’s all a matter of how you ‘frame’ it. Even something like grocery shopping can be an adventure!

The hubs finally arrived in Malaysia over Christmas, and while dropping off supplies at his quarantine hotel near Dataran Merdeka in Kuala Lumpur, I took the chance to do some sightseeing – and was pleasantly surprised at how much there is to explore within this small but historically-rich area.

Video below. Subscribe if you haven’t already! 🙂

Video has some extra portions that include Bukit Bintang.

DATARAN MERDEKA

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There’s something very powerful and moving about being in places where history was written – you get a sense of being separated only by time, and not by space. Dataran Merdeka, or Merdeka Square, is one such place. It was where Malaya declared its independence from British colonists, where the Union Jack flag was lowered and the Malaysian flag hoisted in its place, and where our forefathers basically laid the foundations of our country.

The field was not purpose-built for this; rather, it was formerly used as a cricket field for the adjacent Royal Selangor Club, which was a country club for wealthy British and government officials. Fitting, then, that it was repurposed – I find the idea of taking something that stood for colonisation and reclaiming it as our own quite poetic.

Standing underneath the giant flag pole facing the green, it’s easy to visualise how this place would have looked like years ago – minus the modern skyscrapers – and marvel at how far we have come as a nation.

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At 95m high, the flagpole at Dataran Merdeka is one of the tallest flagpoles in the world!

SULTAN ABDUL SAMAD BUILDING

Even if you’re not a history buff, there are many beautiful historical buildings around Dataran Merdeka that make for great photos, such as the Sultan Abdul Samad building. Completed in 1897, it was used to house British government offices, and then the Malaysian Courts, post-independence. It is currently home to offices of the Ministry of Communications and Multimedia, as well as the Ministry of Tourism and Culture.

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Spanning two floors, the building is an eclectic mix of architectural styles, such as Indo-Saracenic and Neo-Mughal, which were popular in British colonies such as India, Sri Lanka, and Malaya. The arched windows are distinctively Moorish, and the towers are topped with copper domes, which are common elements in Muslim architecture. One of the building’s highlights is the clocktower, which was designed to mimic London’s Big Ben. It first chimed at the building’s completion, and has continued to do so ever since.

ROYAL SELANGOR CLUB

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As mentioned earlier, the field that is now Dataran Merdeka formerly belonged to the Selangor Club (now the Royal Selangor Club) – a clubhouse founded by the British administration as a place for British elites to gather and socialise. The club still stands, boasting Mock Tudor design and the style’s distinctive ‘striped’ look (which is meant to mimic historical homes with half-timbering effects).

Access is for members only, where they can enjoy facilities such as football fields, pool and billiards rooms, squash courts, tennis courts, as well as bars, lounges and restaurants. Pre-pandemic, there were tours that the public could join for a glimpse inside the exclusive clubhouse.

OLD CHARTERED BANK BUILDING / MUSIC MUSEUM

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Sporting similar Mughal architecture as the Sultan Abdul Samad Building across the road, the old Chartered Bank building was the very first bank to open in Kuala Lumpur. Aside from scalloped windows and a signature arched entrance, the building also has four large domes on each of the roof’s corners. An interesting story: as the buildings here are close to the river, the area was prone to massive floods before KL upgraded its flood and drainage systems. In 1926, a severe flood caused damage to millions worth of bank notes in the bank’s vault. So they took them out and laid them on the field to dry in the sun. It must have been quite a sight!

The building now hosts a Music Museum (I visited back in 2016), which chronicles the history and diversity of traditional and modern music in Malaysia, with displays of instruments and more.

KUALA LUMPUR CITY GALLERY

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Just next door is another historical building: the former Government Printing Office building, which was responsible for printing all government reports, publications and other media. Today, it houses the Kuala Lumpur City Gallery, a tourist hub with its own museum, souvenir shop and cafe. There is also an iconic “I Love KL” sign outside the building, which is popular with tourists. The building’s Jacobean facade is a nice contrast to the other Mughal-inspired buildings in the area, and features details such as oriel windows (windows that jut out from the wall). Fun fact: as electricity was not available at the time (the building dates back to the 1900s), the building was designed with lots of windows so that workers at the press could work better with natural sunlight.

I wanted to pop in for a visit, but unfortunately they were closed for cleaning. KL suffered a bad flood in December, and the KL City Gallery was also affected.

KUALA LUMPUR LIBRARY

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Bibliophiles will want to stop by the Kuala Lumpur Library (Perpustakaan Kuala Lumpur), which has an extensive collection of physical books as well as audio visual materials. You have to register as a member to enter, though, but the process should be quick and easy. Bags need to be placed in lockers. The library is open in the afternoon on Mondays, from 10am – 6.45pm from Tuesdays to Fridays, and 10am to 5pm on weekends. It is closed on the first Saturday and Sunday of each month.

RIVER OF LIFE MASJID JAMEK

A short walk away from Dataran Merdeka is the confluence where two rivers meet; namely the Gombak River and the Klang River. They come together in a Y-shape in front of Masjid Jamek — the oldest mosque in Kuala Lumpur — which was built in 1909 and was designed by (surprise!) a British architect. Although opinions might differ, I like to consider this place the true ‘heart’ of Kuala Lumpur, as opposed to the Petronas Twin Towers or even the Golden Triangle of Bukit Bintang. This is where KL got its name, as the Gombak River was once known as ‘Sungai Lumpur’ (literally ‘muddy river’), and Kuala Lumpur itself means “Muddy Confluence”.

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There are two bridges spanning the river, one located right in front of the mosque, which is the perfect spot for photos. You’ll also get to see the Kuala Lumpur Tower and Petronas Twin Towers in the distance. The walkway between the River and the back portion of the Sultan Abdul Samad building is nicely paved, and lined with greenery.

If you come at night, you’ll get to see a wonderful light show! This is part of the River of Life project, a river beautification and clean-up project by the government.
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Back portion of Sultan Abdul Samad Building.
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Morocco vibes
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View from the bridge near Masjid Jamek.
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Masjid Jamek compound.

If you’re interested in visiting the mosque, it is open to visitors — but non-Muslims would have to wear a robe or scarf to cover up. If you’re a man and wearing shorts, they have sarongs on hand too.

Dataran Merdeka is also quite close to Petaling Street (Chinatown), but I’ll detail that in another post. The area is central and easily accessible via public transport, including the LRT (Masjid Jamek stop). From there, Dataran Merdeka is a five minute walk away.

And there you have it! I hope this mini-guide has been helpful. If you liked this post, please consider supporting my blog via Patreon, so I can make more. Or buy me a cup of coffee on Paypal @erisgoesto.

Sunway Putra Hotel Kuala Lumpur Launches “Stay-Kawtim, Makan Unlimited!” Package

Staycations don’t have to be pricey affairs.

If you’re keen to explore the city over the weekend, book a stay for you and the whole family at Sunway Putra Hotel Kuala Lumpur, which has just recently launched its new “Stay Kaw-tim, Makan Unlimited!” package, offering unbeatable value at an affordable price. Priced at just RM238 nett per room per night, the package combines:

Superior King Room

  • A 2D1N stay in a Superior Room for two (2) adults and two (2) children (under 12 years old), inclusive of breakfast.
  • An 8-hour eat-all-you-can spree of a la carte orders with over 25 specialties to choose from including Malay, Chinese, Indian, Western and vegetarian favourites and appetising selections for children starting from 12.00pm at the Coffee House.
  • A minimum of RM100.00 in redeemable cash vouchers from participating tenants plus amazing discounts and offers at the adjacent Sunway Putra Mall, which is directly linked to the hotel.

*Terms &Conditions apply.

Chicken Chop

eat all you can on ala carte orders! 

The all-inclusive staycation package is perfect for families and friends who want to take the opportunity to explore Kuala Lumpur’s Diamond Triangle and rediscover the city’s many hidden gems. The package is available for stays on Fridays, Saturdays, Sundays and on Public Holidays, while bookings are to be made from now until 31 August 2020, for a stay period from 14 August to 27 December 2020. While the check-in time is at 3PM, guests can arrive from 12pm onwards to start their 8-hour Makan Unlimited. Make bookings now at www.sunwayhotels.com/sunway-putra/offers/stay-kawtim-makan-unlimited. or call +603 40409888 / email spkl.reservations@sunwayhotels.com.

4 REASONS TO STAY AT SUNWAY PUTRA HOTEL KUALA LUMPUR

Convenient Location

Sunway Putra Hotel Reception

The 5-star, 650-room hotel is nestled in the heart of KL’s Diamond Triangle – known for its vibrant streets lined with trendy cafes and bars, bustling markets and landmarks – making Sunway Putra a great base for your exploration of the city. Aside from being close to hotspots like KL Sentral, Publika, Mont Kiara and Bangsar, the hotel is also conveniently linked to the PWTC LRT station, so you can hop on and get to the KL city centre in Bukit Bintang in under 10 minutes. You can also opt for a semi-guided tour of KL via the Hop-On Hop-Off double decker tour bus.

In short, SPHKL is close to the action, but away from the crowds.

State of the art Facilities 

Fitness Centre

Swimming Pool

Spacious, comfy rooms with top notch amenities, a swimming pool with gorgeous views of the city, a gym where you can work up a sweat (in air conditioned comfort!) – the hotel has got it all. You can indulge in delicious food at the Coffee House as well.

There’s an award-winning mall just steps away 

Sunway Putra Hotel Mall Link

The hotel is part of an integrated development and is direclty linked to Sunway Putra Mall, a shopping haven with eight floors that host over 300 international and local brands. Shop to your hearts content, enjoy the recreational and entertainment facilities such as cinema, indoor children’s playground and karaoke centre, and tuck into delicious food from over 80 renowned F&B outlets and specialty restaurants.

Safety is of the utmost priority 

Regular Sanitisation in key hotel areas

Let’s not kid ourselves – we are in the middle of a pandemic. But given that everyone adheres to SOPs and hygiene practices, there’s no reason why we can’t go for holidays to help boost the local economy. To ensure complete guest safety, the hoel has implemented new normal standard operating procedures (SOPS) and enhanced is hygiene practices and procotols. The Sunway Safe Stay programme, which is implemented at all Sunway brand hotels, incorporates five pillars of safety and hygiene comprising over 30 protocols of heightened cleaning practices – so you can check in and stay with peace of mind.

DID YOU KNOW? 

With the resumption of interstate travel within Malaysia, Malaysians can take advantage of the personal income tax relief of RM1,000 on expenditure related to domestic tourism and hotel accommodation – more reason to enjoy holidays locally. The period for claiming the income tax relief has been extended to 31 December 2021.

Also announced as part of the National Economic Recovery Plan by the Government of Malaysia in June 2020, a service tax exemption on accommodation and related services has been extended to 30 June 2021. Hotel rates are now quoted nett in Ringgit Malaysia (RM) inclusive of a 0% service tax. Additionally, an exemption of tourism tax (TTx) will be given to all foreign tourists staying at any accommodation in Malaysia until 30 June 2021.

SUNWAY PUTRA HOTEL 

100 Jalan Putra, 50350 Kuala Lumpur

General inquiries: +603 4040 9888 or email spkl.enquiry@sunwayhotels.com

 

*Photos courtesy of Sunway Putra Hotel Kuala Lumpur

Domestic Travel Is Allowed Again in Malaysia

Late last year, Malaysia announced this huge Visit Malaysia 2020 campaign, aimed at drawing international and regional tourists to the country. This had to take a backseat due to the coronavirus pandemic, which decimated the tourism industry. Empty hotel rooms and high costs resulted in the closure of several prominent hotels, including Four Points Sandakan, G Tower Kuala Lumpur, Parkroyal KL and Ramada Plaza Melaka.

While I laud the efforts of the Tourism Ministry, the tagline is just plain stupid. Sorry. lol.

Our Prime Minister recently announced that Malaysia is ready to go into the ‘recovery’ phase, and a lot of rules have been relaxed – chief among them that interstate travel is finally allowed (it was previously banned during the Movement Control Order, which started on March 18). While international travel is still off-limits, domestic tourism is encouraged to help revive the economy.

While domestic travel to revive the economy is a good measure (the number of unemployed has already reached 600,000, and the rate is expected to go up to 5.5 pc – the highest in a decade) I do hope that people realise that this coronavirus thing isn’t going away anytime soon, so they should still practice caution even if they’re on a holiday, because we don’t want another wave of infections. Personally, I’m waiting until I feel safer to do so.

In line with the government’s call to promote domestic tourism, Tourism Malaysia released a promotional video on their Youtube channel, which I think was originally slotted for earlier but they can only do it now after the PM’s announcement. Kudos to the team as well as their creative agency, as I think it is really cool and highlights the amazing things that our country has to offer.

Dubbed ‘Discover Breathtaking Malaysia’, the video has a fun and engaging vibe that is aimed at the younger Insta-travel generation, so it’s quite different from the usual promo vids that we’ve been getting for decades, lol. It also won Silver at the Telly Awards 2020 for the Travel/Tourism category, beating 12,000 other entries. Some have been hating on the vid saying that it doesn’t embody the essence of Malaysia due to the K-pop-esque music, but I think it works for the audience it is intended for, and you can’t be a dinosaur yelling ‘tradition!’ all the time when the world is leaving you behind.

Are you ready to travel again? Which place are you intending to travel to once travel restrictions are lifted? Share your thoughts with me in the comments below! 🙂