Before the two towers

Kuala Lumpur is a relatively young city compared to many others. Even on regional scale, the city, established only in mid-19th century, is far younger than Singapore, Bangkok, Jakarta and Manila. That however does not prevent Kuala Lumpur from having landmarks.

Nowadays, ask any local of the question, what is the landmark of Kuala Lumpur, chances are, the answer would be the Petronas Twin Towers. But long before the towers stood there by Jalan Ampang, what was the landmark of the city?

When I was far younger, when life was much simpler than now, I think I could only remember the Sultan Abdul Samad Building. Along with the building is the Royal Selangor Club, standing just across the Padang. Oh yes. It was called the Padang before somebody renamed it the Merdeka Square. This was the center of Kuala Lumpur. Every new year, every national day, these buildings were always the silent witnesses as the city step farther into the future. For better or for worse, the center of the city is now where the Petronas Twin Towers are.

The Sultan Abdul Samad Building

Then, the Maybank Tower was the tallest building in the city and in the country. And of course, it was called the Malayan Banking in the slower yesteryears. So tall, I told myself for so many times. These days, foreigners would look up toward the pinnacles of the Petronas Twin Towers and muttered, “it ain’t that tall”. Hell.

Maybank Tower

For those going north, the Parliament is prominent. Its facade is something hard to miss amid the trees that grow extensively in this area. A shinny white building designed by the Public Works Department. I’ve been inside once or twice and I was awed-struck at the magnificence of the Dewan Rakyat when I first got in, though many MPs were absent. Once long ago, I remember Jamaluddin Jarjis speaking on something related to Endau-Rompin forest complex. He was fishing there, he said, and witness some illegal activities, if I recall correctly. (I’m going to celebrate a belated Earth Day there next week!) Alas, these days, the institution befits a zoo of primates instead of an august hall of respectful representatives of the people.

The Parliament

Back to the city center, along Jalan Sultan Hishamuddin sit two structures of Moorish design. Yes, they are part of the old railway station. Once busy with life, now at best left alone, at worst, abandoned. KL Sentral has taken over what the these two buildings once were to the city. The best way to marvel at the buildings is to walk the stretch of busy street that separates the compound of the two buildings. Sadly though, like so many historic buildings in the city, both seem to receive insufficient care, with stubborn weed could be found here and there.

The Old Railway Station

Nearby is another building designed by the PWD. It is the National Mosque. I could remember that the mosque would chance its dome color every now and then. It’s sharp minaret seemingly trying to poke the sky, from my perspective way down on the ground below.

National Mosque

Along the same stretch of road is the Dayabumi building.


A smaller mosque but no less grandiose is the Jamek Mosque. Along with the Sultan Abdul Samad Building and the old railway station, the mosque is probably the only structures with Moorish influence. These buildings, standing side by side with coconut trees give the city a distinct feeling. A sort of cognitive dissonance with modern skyline in the background. Blissful cognitive dissonance if I might add.

Jamek Mosque

As the 1990s roared, a number of modern structures started to creep up. And gone are the olden, simpler, more rational days, when megaprojects wasn’t a buzz word. Taste was more refined then.

4 Comments so far

  1. plonkwonk (unregistered) on April 24th, 2007 @ 12:25 am

    Hey Hafiz, thanks for a good walk down memory lane. Don’t forget the Old Clock Tower and the Central Market too.

    Fyi, KL is officially 150 years old this year, founded 1857!

  2. Hafiz (unregistered) on April 24th, 2007 @ 2:32 pm

    How could I forgotten Central Market!

    Yeah, should have put that in.

    But clock tower? Which one? the one right by lebuh pasar?

  3. plonkwonk (unregistered) on April 25th, 2007 @ 12:17 am

    Yeah! That’s the one.

    A landmark of sorts till today as its where newspapers are still distributed to vendors due to the fact that the old Straits Times office was located next to it.

    Also of course most people did not have wristwatches in the old days.

    Sigh. KL is quite a beaut of a city.

  4. Umair Salam (unregistered) on April 26th, 2007 @ 8:22 am

    Beautiful photos of a beautiful city. I lived in KL before the Petronas Towers…so this is more like the KL I remember. I remember hanging out with friends near the Maybank building…I did see the Towers when they were almost completed ;)
    Thanks for posting this!

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