Posted by: danguard | June 30, 2009

Days 19-21 – A tour of KL

The weekend was my chance to play tourist and take in KL’s cultural attractions, and I sure took advantage of that. Here’s my summary of some of its main sights:

Kuala Lumpur Railway Station

Kuala Lumpur Railway Station

The National Art Museum – Located in to the north of KL centre, you have to get the monorail to ‘Titiwangsa’, preferrably without giggling like an immature schoolboy, with another 25mins walk down smog-filled dual-carriageways. This really isn’t a pedestrian’s city, but I was on a personal crusade to deprive these money-grubbing taxi drivers of my hard-earned ringits, which filled me with a sense of smug satisfaction which offset any personal discomfort. The museum itself predominantly held contemporary work, focused on Malaysian and Asian artists as one would expect. One exhibition I found of particular personal interest in a poscolonial/postmodern sense. It explored the occidental eye, and how cultural perceptions are shaped by colonial/commercial interactions. The work challenges your assumptions regarding its author, for quite often you feel you are viewing an original older piece of indigenous/tribal art, though in fact it is a contemporary immitation. Similarly, pictures of tribal scenes and of ‘natives’ invoke the sense one is viewing them through the occidental, or western, eye, that they are the product and are representative of imperial constructions of the native. These colonial ‘imaginings’ have, however, in this case been appropriated by indigenous artists to challenge our preconceptions, to raise questions as to the nature of modern identity particularly within plural societies such as Malaysia, and to highlight the fluidity of cultural interactions in a globalised world.

Masjid Negara

Masjid Negara

Islamic Arts Museum – Despite the quite grand design of the contemporary building which houses it, the collection inside was actually rather limited. I found the weapons and armour section quite cool (the artistry of some of these pieces was quite stunning, ironic considering their use. The islamic architecture section was interesting, just because i’m into that sort of thing, but it was essentially little more than a collection of pictures and models of Mecca, the Taj Mahal, etc. To be honest, I only visited in order to cool down after my long walk and kill time before the National Mosque was open to the public, and I certainly didn’t need much more than an hour there.

The Masjid Negara (National Mosque) – Another fairly contemporary building, with some nice features such as the minaret, and the 18-point star roof, but you have to get into the grounds of the building to really get a good view of the latter. Tourists can do this between the hours of 3-4 and 5.30-6.30, though they’re not allowed in the main hall, only to peer in from the outside. Once you’re in, it’s not as grand and opulent as you might expect, and so whether you find it worth going depends on if you’re in the area at the correct time or whether you’re going out of your way especially. Luckily there are plenty of other attractions in the vicinity.

Engravings from Chan See Shu Yuen Temple

Engravings from Chan See Shu Yuen Temple

Sin Sze Sin-Ya Temple – Oldest Chinese temple in KL, shrouded in the scent of burning incense, it has some interesting decorated beams, doors and carvings. Worth calling in if you’e walking around chinatown as it’s on the main street, you’ll find it set back at a strange angle behind the main gates for reasons of feng shui, but beware the beggars congregated at it’s steps.

Chan See Shu Yuen Temple – Another chinese temple about 10-15mins walk away. Not as old but more grand, with some beautifically intricate carvings adorning the front of the building, and a courtyard at the centre which really highlights the building’s symmetry and classic Chinese design. Definately worth a trip, perhaps more so than Sin Sze Sin-Ya. 

Kuala Lumpur railway station – built by the British in 1910, it posses the distinctive ‘Moorish’ architectural stylings synonymous with British colonial Asia. Not much to admire other than the asthetics from outside, it offers some nice photo opportunites, particularly coupled with the grand KTM railway administration building located opposite and is built in a similar style, though both have clearly seen better days.

Batu Caves

Batu Caves

Batu Caves – Hindu shrine 13km to the north of the city and place of pilgramage for many Malaysian Hindus, the caves lie at the top of 272 steps ascending behind a large golden statue o Murugan, the Hindu God of war and patron deity of the Tamils, the largest ethnic Indian group in Malaysia. Though the caves themselves, complete with resident mokeys, are quite a natural wonder, and a couple of the temples are nice, the place is very touristy now, and the caves themselves are littered with rubbish that the monkeys have collected and hoarded. The place isn’t very well looked after, and that reverence you expect to encounter was somewhat lacking, unless you worship the God of consumerism that is.

I’ve saved my summary of the National Museum for the next post, as it ties in with some harsh criticisms I have to level at the Malaysian state, so if you want controversy, watch this space…



  1. “Titiwangsa” tee hee hee

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