Travel with me #110 : Kuala Lumpur by day and by night!
Dear Steemit Friends:
Today we will explore together the National Mosque (Masjid Negara), as well as many more of the colourful and cultural sights of Kuala Lumpur. The capital of Malaysia, Kuala Lumpur is the largest city in the country, with a population of around 2 million. It is one of the fastest growing cities in the world and is considered the financial, economic but also cultural centre of the country. As a result, it is a unique blend of modern and classic styles, colour and simple metalics, practical financial buildings and ornate cultural ones.
Kuala Lumpur's airport is one of the busiest in the world, recently ranking 23rd for total passenger traffic with over 58 million travellers passing through the airport in 2017. It is a hub for travel to, through and around South East Asia, making it a melting pot for different peoples and cultures. Today we will see some of the fascinating different cultures that have found their homes in this diverse city.
National Mosque (Masjid Negara)
The National Mosque has a capacity for 15,000 people to attend and worship at the same time and has been an important place of worship, culture and tourism since opening in 1965.
The National Mosque is an important centre for Muslims in Malaysia and its size reflects its importance as a central religious centre for the country and for the world. It has a capacity for 15,000 people to attend and worship at the same time and has been an important place of worship, culture and tourism since opening in 1965. In 1987 it underwent major renovations and improvements and its unique and modern design still continues to encapsulate Kuala Lumpur's growth into a modern super power and centre of culture.
The minaret of the mosque rises 73 metres into the sky, making it an impressive building to look at from miles around. The roof itself is a modern architectural marvel, being a 16 pointed star shape. This roof was originally an orange concrete roof but was replaced with more modern looking blue tiles during the renovations of 1987. The star shape was apparently partly inspired by an open umbrella with the shape of the minaret being inspired by the look of a closed umbrella.
The most important thing to remember about Masjid Negara National Mosque is that it is first and foremost an active and functioning mosque for worship. There are visiting times but these are set around the times for prayer. As you can see, the building is quite unique and blends traditional styles with more modern styles and this represents the Kuala Lumpur's role of blending tradition and modernism in this fast growing world.
The colours of the building are very simple - beautiful pure white mixed with the blue of the tiled roof. The elegance is found in the shapes of the building. The building itself was designed in collaboration between three renowned architects, one British and two Malaysian. Perhaps this also helped bring together a lot of different styles from East and West to make this quite unique building.
It is of course also very important to wear appropriate clothing that is respectful of the significance of the mosque as a place of worship. The mosque is very good because it will supply you with clothing to wear that is appropriate to your visit there, so you do not have to worry about if your clothing is respectful for the situation.
Here you see a better view of the blue tiled roof with its iconic 16 pointed star shape. This marks the central area of the mosque and is very impressive. The shapes have also been copied in other areas around the mosque, as you can see, to keep the styles cohesive and give the building a really recognisable and interesting identity. Who would have thought such simple shapes could be so distinctive. I think this is a real testament to the architectural design and skill.
Many of the halls and walkways of the National Mosque are open to the air, reflecting both the climate of the region but also the desire to situate the mosque within the natural world. Set within 13 acres of garden, the buildings of the National Mosque transition seamlessly between inside and outside and the area is dotted both with green plants and trees as well as ponds and fountains making this a very tranquil and special place to visit.
As you can see the insides of the building is extremely bright with sunlight. The white paint lets all of the sunshine bounce around the inside space and the high ceilings give the impression of grandeur without having to become over the top with the design and decoration. You are aware that this is a place of significance just by the size, the uniformity and the open spaces, in a city where space is at a premium. The large pools of water also help cool the space while giving you a feeling of being outside, while still being covered by the unique roof work.
I really enjoyed just exploring these inter-connecting hallways and pools that ran around the mosque's central prayer hall. There were plenty of little benches to sit on and I imagine these would normally be full around prayer time with men meeting with each other to talk before and after their prayer time in the prayer halls.
The main prayer hall sits underneath the 16 pointed star shaped roof, the inside being gilded in gold. As you can see the space is huge and the style is much more traditional than some of the outer connecting hallways and buildings. This is much more the 'feel' of other mosques that I've visited, but the roof's height and shape give a really impressive feel of something a bit different and special.
The angles of the roof above make the sounds in this hall quite amazing. They make the sounds of people's voices echo around the hall, never bouncing straight back at you. I imagine that at prayer the height of the roof and the angles of its vault must make the sound echo and amplify to fill the entire space, immersing you in your time at the building. Such a beautiful place to be able to come and worship and even when only filled with tourists you could feel the special significance of the building just hanging in the air, with just a few hushed voices admiring the grandeur and special-feel of the prayer hall I stood in.
The Sultan Abdul Samad Building
Having spent a lovely morning in the National Mosque of Malaysia I had been put in the mood for culture! The city of Kuala Lumpur is such a distinctive mix of hyper-modern glass skyscrapers and more traditional cultural areas, and today I wanted to search out more of these cultural buildings and pursuits. I think sometimes the best way to understand a city is to just start walking and exploring the area on your own two feet and seeing what you can find!
I knew that there was an amazing architectural wonder to be seen that was quite different to the modern building I had just seen, called the Sultan Abdul Samad Building that I really wanted to see. So off I went searching for it! As you can see in the photos above, I saw lots of other sights on my way to find the building I wanted, and they were all quite spectacular in their own right! But wait until you see the Sultan Abdul Samad Building next.
The building has two main stories and is 137 metres long and 41 metres high, making it the largest building in Malaya at the time of building. The main clock tower was designed to echo the look and feel of Big Ben in London.
And here it is! The Sultan Abdul Samad Building was first built in 1897 and is really quite impressive and beautiful to look at. The traditional styling reflects it being one of the older buildings in Kuala Lumpur, which is so dominated by its growth in recent years. The design for this building is actually quite unique and blends many different styles. It has been described as Neo-Mughal, Moorish or Indo-Saracenic. When looking at a glace you feel like you know the style of the building, but the longer you look the more you see different styles all over.
The building has two main stories and is 137 metres long and 41 metres high, making it the largest building in Malaya at the time of building. The main clock tower was designed to echo the look and feel of Big Ben in London but in the unique style of the building. Apparently the construction of the building used over 4 million bricks!
The building has been mostly used as government buildings since it was first built and would have been just known as the Government Offices for many years, during the British administration of Kuala Lumpur. It has also been home to the various courts, such as the High Court and Supreme Court - I'm sure you'll agree that this building reflects the grandeur of its office over the years! Now it houses the offices for the Ministry of Communications and the Ministry of Tourism and Culture of Malaysia.
The two towers the flank the central clock tower house massive spiral staircases and their design is very impressive. As you can see they are topped with copper plating that shines in the sunlight and gives a very unique colour and accent to the building. Though the buildings around Kuala Lumpur are getting taller and more impressive, and the Sultan Abdul Samad Building is being slowly surrounded by sky scrapers, it still remains one of the most often visited buildings in the city.
You can see why it is so popular with its traditional charm and look, while still remaining impressively large even when compared to some of the buildings of glass and steel that surround it. It is still a central backdrop for Malaysia's Independence Day parades that are held every year to mark their independence from the British in 1957. I spent much time here, exploring the different angles and views of the building and the surrounding buildings. It was nice just being able to see and walk around these buildings on your own without having to pay to enter the area to view it, as you often do with such beautiful cultural buildings as this. The building stands as a working part of the city's central district and I'm sure many locals of Kuala Lumpur who walk past it every single day get used to the sight of it! But I just couldn't get enough as you'll see from my next few photos.
Exploring the Cultural Streets of KL
Having torn myself away from the Sultan Abdul Samad Building I continued my exploration of KL city on foot, and was amazed by how many different and beautiful sights, sounds and buildings there were to see. I found this amazingly colourful street market just by accident which felt like a real hub for the local community. There were people everywhere enjoying the food and smells of the market, with many people sat together socialising and watching the city go past.
Down each street of KL City I felt like I was finding a different culture from the last. Sometimes I felt like I was walking down an old city block in San Francisco and at other times it felt like I was exploring the local buildings of South East Asia. The thing you notice most is the colour and sound that is everywhere in this big and bustling city. And then you look up and you notice all of the towering buildings that surround you. As you can see here, through a gap in the more local city streets, you catch glimpses of the 420m tall Kuala Lumpur Tower which is in stark contrast to the normal daily life and markets of the area I was exploring.
Sri Maha Mariamman Temple
Next on my exploration was Sri Maha Miriamman Temple situated just on the edge of China Town. This temple was founded in 1873 in Jalan Bandar. The structure you see here was built in 1968 and its front entrance has become iconic in the area in its traditional South Indian style. It is the oldest still-used Hindu temple in Malaysia. The Raja Gopuram tower on this front entrance is to signify the threshold between the material world and the spiritual world. There are 228 Hindu idols in different scenes on the five tiers of the tower and they depict stories from early Hinduism.
This traditional and ornate tower at the front of the temple is called a gopuram and features many different figures from the Hindu religion. It was absolutely amazing to look at and I spent quite a long time just looking at all of the different depictions, all so brightly painted. This is typical of Kuala Lumpur - I have just walked from the Mosque, past the old colonial government buildings of the British Empire, through a market and American looking city street, to find a Hindu temple situated right next China Town.
Such a central hub for Asia, all cultures meet and co-exist together here in a beautiful mash of different styles, religions and peoples. I absolutely love that at every different turn of your head you will see new people, different places and cultures from all around the world. It's almost impossible to take it all in but I was really trying my best to experience everything in such a place of diversity!
From the outside of the temple, the tower is very impressive but it does not look like it will be a large space inside. In fact, when you get inside the temple is extensive and it runs backwards and outwards to spread over quite a large area. As soon as you enter, you enter a world of quiet privacy and respect. The sounds of the street outside, the cars and the people, all fade and you feel in a different world.
Inside, the statues are just as ornate as outside, and you can see many of them much closer up. The colour and the carvings are very impressive and are a real contrast to the National Mosque. In this post you can see the transition from the plain white walls of the mosque to the ornate statues and bright colours of the Hindu temple of Sri Maha Miriamman. It is amazing to see the different ways that humans express their faith, culture and artistic nature and I'm sure you can agree that everything you've seen today with me has been spectacular in its own very unique way.
The Sri Maha Miriamman Temple houses the Silver Chariot which is a chariot that features prominently during the annual festival of Thaipusam. The chariot apparently is built with 350 kilograms of silver! Of course, it is not available for the public to view when the festival is not on because it is so precious. It was first used in 1893 so it is a really important historical relic and must be looked after very carefully.
As you can see, I couldn't stop taking pictures of this amazing building. The colours were so much to take in and because of all of the different figures and stories told in the stone work and the painting, it was hard to look at everything. I wanted to be able to look back at my photos and really study them to see the different characters depicted in the stone work and to admire the hours of work that it must have taken to create them for this temple.
The paint work throughout was bright and vibrant and it must take regular retouches to keep it looking so fresh. I wondered how many people it must take to care for this temple? It is clearly well looked after and that reflects its importance as a functioning, well visited Hindu place of worship. What an honour to be able to visit such a special place and spend time exploring and viewing all of its wonders.
Within just a few hundreds feet, you find China Town or Petaling Street. There are dozens of restaurants and shops, selling many of the traditional foods and wares that you'd expect to find in China Towns all over the world. It serves as a little piece of home for the thousands of Chinese people living abroad in Kuala Lumpur as well as a great place for tourists to explore and experience different cultures and foods.
The street is not large, but packed into this small space is every single different sight, sound and smell of China. There's traditional restaurants and market stalls, shops to buy designer bags, shops to buy traditional clothes and dress, souvenir stalls and so much more. To think I had just been in the quiet, incense filled air of the Hindu temple just five minutes ago and now I was in the crowded, noisy, food scented Petaling Street! I will leave you now to just enjoy the sights and colours of my next photos because they tell you the story of this lovely little piece of China better than my words every could. For anyone who has ever been to a similar place, I think the photos will bring back every sight and smell that you once experienced!
After a very long day of sightseeing, I was ready to relax in the evening, rest my feet and enjoy some food and drink. I chose the Sky Bar at Traders Hotel opposite the Petronas Towers which you'd have discovered from reading my earlier post this year!
The Sky Bar is definitely one of the coolest places to hang out in the evening in Kuala Lumpur. It's a bit of a local institution, and is located on the 33rd floor of Traders Hotel. You get amazing views over the city and they have a range of amazing, fashionable food and drink. At the centre of the bar is the pool, surrounded by private 'cabanas' that you can book to spend your evening in with sofas and other rattan style chairs and tables. You feel like you're at a cool beach bar except you're hundreds of meters in the sky!
The look of these cocktails speak for themselves - elegant, cool and tasting as good as they look. The rooftop bar has a great atmosphere, and the roof over the pool is actually open to the sky so while I was sat in my private cabana enjoying I suddenly realised it had started raining! The seating areas were under-cover but the pool was not so the rain drops started to splash down into the water making a lovely sound and a beautiful view to look at. What a unique place to enjoy a cocktail!
I, of course, also got food which was most delightfully served. A really social place, they specialise in sharing foods and finger foods so I got loads of different things to try! The fruit served on sticks in the ice bucket was a real favourite. The fruit was fresh and juicy and the colours were amazing. I felt like I was picking flowers as I picked up each different colourful piece of fruit to try from the ice bucket!
Seemit friends, I feel tired just remembering all of the walking I did on this day. My brain was bursting with the different sights, sounds and smells that I had managed to pack in to just one day. Being able to explore all of these difference places mostly on foot was a real treat and I think it shows how amazing Kuala Lumpur is that you can see all of these different sights and cultures all in one place and all in one day.
I can't pick any one favourite about my day exploring the culture of the city. My favourite bit was seeing all of the different cultures working side by side with each other. To see Muslim places of worship next to government buildings next to commercial shopping areas next to Hindu places of worship, and for that to all be part of the same new and growing culture of Kuala Lumpur as one united culture was really special. I encourage you all to go and experience it for yourselves if you can! If not, I really hope you've enjoyed learning about it with me as I explored it with you.
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