By Gaya Traveller on September 16, 2016
The tagline for Tourism Malaysia’s domestic campaign “Dekat Je” really hits home this time. We’ve been bogged down with work that it was almost impossible to go for an overnight getaway. The mind needs a rest and a refresher, so we thought why not explore our beloved Kuala Lumpur, affectionately known as KL?
The light rapid transit (LRT) service – which is part of the Klang Valley public transport infrastructure called RapidKL – has started plying the route close to our home and connecting us more conveniently to KL by rail since 30 June 2016. We also notice that our friends have been sharing their commuting experience on their social media accounts. After enduring almost two years of bad traffic due to the construction of the rail lines, we feel that we should have a go at it. Since the closest station from our home is less than a kilometre away, we foresee that we will be using the LRT more frequently now.
Since the theme of this issue is being a tourist in Klang Valley, we have decided to explore the heart of Kuala Lumpur like a tourist: by using public transport! We ditched our car at the LRT station one Saturday morning and hopped onto the next train heading towards the capital city. We honestly cannot remember the last time we boarded the LRT, it must have been a quite few years.
We decided to explore Dataran Merdeka since it holds special importance to the history of Malaysia. As a matter of fact, whenever we travel to other cities in the world, we are bound to visit its historical places to understand how the past shapes the present. We love visiting old towns and museums, and the beautiful buildings on Dataran Merdeka are definitely not to be missed when travellers are in Kuala Lumpur.
We alighted the train at Masjid Jamek stop, and walked to the famous mosque for a quick visit. The vicinity is currently under construction, thus poses a bit of a challenge if travellers want to explore the mosque with ease. We then continued our walk to Dataran Merdeka. It did not take long at all to reach this glorified square. Dataran Merdeka is always our favourite landmark in the city.
Lucky for us, the major road in front of the iconic Sultan Abdul Samad Building was closed on that very Saturday since there was an event scheduled to be held there that night, allowing us to enjoy a leisurely stroll right in front of the building, which would have been otherwise crowded with vehicular traffic. Besides, we also slow down everytime we drive pass the Sultan Abdul Samad building because it is such a sight to behold.
The first building we encountered was what is now Panggung Bandaraya (City Theatre), built in 1901 to house the first Kuala Lumpur Sanitary Board. This building has seen Kuala Lumpur since its infancy to what it is today. Panggung Bandaraya now runs a must-see “MUD (Our Story of Kuala Lumpur) – The Musical”. The 60-minute show runs twice daily at 3:00 p.m. and 8:30 p.m. The show depicts Kuala Lumpur 100 years before Malaysia’s independence, and brings us on a journey of its development and transition into becoming the nation’s capital.
After Panggung Bandaraya, we proceeded to the field facing the Sultan Abdul Samad Building. Honestly we initially did not know whether we are permitted to walk on the grass, because it is so nicely manicured. But when we saw several dustbins (for the event that evening) are placed on the lawn and fellow tourists were walking on it, we figured that we can just walk on it after all.
We spent quite some time sitting on the grass admiring the iconic structures surrounding the square; the Sultan Abdul Samad Building, the Royal Selangor Club, Bukit Aman, Menara Dayabumi and of course the giant flag pole. It was such a nice and sunny day that maybe next time we will come back and bring along a picnic basket!
Well, since we did not bring any picnic basket with us and it was already time for lunch, we headed to Muzium Tekstil Negara (National Textile Museum), located just next to Sultan Abdul Samad Building. W e wanted to say hello to Chef Adu, the proprietor of The Canteen by Chef Adu. Since Chef Adu – a celebrity chef – is a juror of MasterChef Malaysia, the food served by an establishment that carries his name would definitely go beyond delicious! The Canteen by Chef Adu is truly a hidden gem. Tucked at a quiet corner at the back of the museum, one probably would have missed it. It was our first time at the quaint restaurant, but we felt right at home as soon as we stepped inside. The restaurant’s interior sports a smart eclectic blend of nostalgic antiques and contemporary furnishings that appeal to the well travelled and sophisticated.
The star of the restaurant’s menu is of course Laksa Johor. Being fellow Johoreans ourselves, we are pleased that we have discovered a good Laksa Johor here! Other dishes like Mee Bandung, Nasi Lemak, and Nasi Kerabu Salad are equally lip-smacking. For dessert, we recommend the restaurant’s signature Smoked Banana Brownies. Finally, a nice place we could bring our foreign friends who visit KL!
After lunch we continued to visit the rest of the National Textile Museum. There are some beautiful antique clothings and textiles on display. The museum explores the rich diversity of the people in Malaysia. We could learn about the development and trend of textiles that characterise and shape the lifestyles of the people in Malaysia as early as the prehistoric era right up to the modern times. There are four galleries to be explored which showcase the process and technology of textiles, an exquisite collection of textiles, accessories and costumes of Malaysia. Admission is free.
Just across the street from National Textile Museum is the Music Museum. Being a multiracial country that we are, the diversity of the Malaysian culture as a whole is impressive. Like the textile, music is also a huge part of our culture and heritage. Various musical instruments are on display here, including instruments previously owned by local music legends. Admission is also free.
We then proceeded to the Kuala Lumpur City Gallery, which is located just next door. You cannot miss this building because it has a huge I *LOVE* KL sign up front, making it the place for a fantastic photo opportunity! This gallery is run by ARCH, the company that specialises in the making of unique laser engraved wood veneer souvenir items. Inside the gallery is an information centre of the history, present and future of Kuala Lumpur, including ARCH workshop and gift shop. ARCH also publishes the Kuala Lumpur Walks & Tours map that travellers can use as guide when exploring the city. There is a RM5 fee to enter the gallery.
We really took our time going around Dataran Merdeka and enjoy what this historic area has to offer. There are a lot of other things to discover here, so we will definitely return and probably join in the free heritage, cultural and nature guided walks organised by the Kuala Lumpur Tourism Bureau. Please call+6 03 2698 0332 or e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org to book your participation in any of those walks. There are four trails to choose from and each lasts up to 2.5 hours: Kuala Lumpur Heritage Trail; Old KL & Nature Walk; Jalan-jalan at Kampong Bharu; and the newly introduced Kuala Lumpur Heritage Guided Night Walk that brings travellers to experience Kuala Lumpur’s historical area at night and absorb the raw energy of the city’s streets along the way. The Kuala Lumpur Heritage Guided Night Walk runs every Saturday starting at 7:00 p.m. in front of the Arch Cafe, Old Market Square.
Despite having stuffed ourselves silly at The Canteen by Chef Adu during lunch, we felt hungry again since it was time for tea. So off we went to Rebung, a restaurant owned by Chef Ismail, another celebrity chef, located not too far from Dataran Merdeka. Specifically, it is at Taman Botani Perdana on Jalan Tanglin. Chef Ismail is well known for his authentic Malay dishes, and Rebung serves up reasonably priced High Tea buffet in the afternoon. We ordered deep fried goodies like banana fritters, keropok lekor (traditional Peninsular Malaysia East Coast fish fritter) and cucur bawang (onion fritters) – the perfect way to end a lovely Saturday!
Of course, there are many interesting places to visit and do in Kuala Lumpur when we look beyond the shopping malls. Many places of interests are not only meant to be visited by foreign tourists, but locals too. MyKAD holders are entitled to great discounts on admission fees, so let’s take the opportunity to become a tourist in our own city. In conclusion, it was indeed fun for us to explore our beloved Kuala Lumpur like tourists and we are sure that our fellow KL-ites and Malaysians will experience the same!