If you are a resident of Kuala Lumpur and are asked where the historical attractions are, what would you say?
And if you have watched the popular reality series, The Amazing Race Asia, did you recognize the places in KL that the show featured?
Many KL residents admit that they have never taken a photo of the Petronas Twin Towers, even though they often see tourists do so. Those walking or running around with their cameras under the hot KL sun are usually foreign tourists who are enamored by the beauty of Malaysia’s capital city.
For the city’s residents, KL is where they work, shop, and eat. Rarely do we find a group of KL residents strolling around the city just enjoying the sights, let alone capturing images of its attractions. The few odd residents that we see doing so are usually taking time out to spend with their children or relatives.
Therefore, when a 400-strong crowd, mostly KL residents, was given the challenge to track down the location of the 1Malaysia heritage sites across a 15-kilometer-long path, many were a little “lost”.
However, the journey opened their eyes to the beauty and rich heritage of KL.
They walked, ran, and danced at the golden triangle and around KL during the 1Malaysia Kuala Lumpur Heritage Explorace 2011. The program was held recently for the first time at the KL Tower.
The event was jointly organized by the Kuala Lumpur City Hall and the Information Communication and Culture Ministry.
The Bukit Nanas area was the first location to be explored by participants. One of the venues was the KL Forest Eco Park, which used to be the Fortress the Mandailing people built using pineapple plants to ward off attacks by the Bugis. Today, the area is known as the Bukit Nanas Reserve Forest.
1MALAYSIA TRADITIONAL HERITAGE
The Sultan Abdul Samad building in KL is Malaysia’s equivalent of London’s Big Ben. The building, inspired by Moghul-style architecture, is now the office of the Information Communication and Culture Ministry.
The participants recalled the role the building’s big clock played in Malaysia’s first Independence Day celebrations.
Under the scorching sun, Explorace participants rolled around coconuts on a former vegetable farm that later became a police marching field. This was the location where the Union Jack was lowered and the Malayan flag raised on August 31, 1957. Now, the venue is proudly known as Dataran Merdeka.
Dataran Merdeka was also the venue for the Chingay event during the race. Chingay is a traditional Chinese activity that is popular in Penang. During the event, colourful triangular flags are tied to 12-meter poles and balanced by on the head or forehead of participants until they reach the finish line.
This is a particularly difficult challenge, as participants have to work against strong winds in Dataran Merdeka.
It was indeed a difficult task, but if it were not for the event, it is unlikely that KL residents would ever experience perching a Chingay on their forehead in the middle of Dataran Merdeka!
When one is shopping along Jalan Masjid India it is easy to be drawn to the colorful Malai flowers being sold there. Normally, stopping by the stalls to do more than just stare – say to join in the fun of making flower arrangements – might be out of the question.
However, during the Explorace, participants were challenged to make Malai garlands using jasmines. Malai garlands are used by Indians for religious rituals, weddings, and to garland dignitaries as a sign of respect. Making Malai garlands requires meticulousness and utmost patience. The degree of complexity is high.
The Masjid India area is also historically significant. Did you know that Wisma Yakin, which is popular for its “baju Melayu”, “songket”, “sampin”, “songkok” and other apparel synonymous with the Malay community, is actually standing on what was a paddy field hundreds of years ago?
Today, the roads leading in from of it, Jalan Masjid India and Jalan Melayu, are the busiest trade areas in KL. Still standing, along the roads are shop-houses built before the war. These humble buildings can be found wedged between the modern buildings that tower proudly above them.
1MALAYSIA HERITAGE BUILDINGS
The new Malaysian era, on its way to Vision 2020, offers a variety of telecommunication facilities for the public.
However, there is a place for the old at the Telekom Museum in KL. In it are displayed telecommunication artifacts and the history behind their evolution through the years.
Located near Bukit Nanas, the Grecian-inspired building stores the central battery type of the manual telephone exchange. A row of eight Ionian poles is one of the classical features that adds to the uniqueness of the building.
Where was the headquarters of the national petroleum company located before the Twin Towers came into being? Participants were brought to the Daya Bumi Complex, Petronas’s old headquarters, and asked to complete a jigsaw puzzle of an image related to the 1Malaysia heritage.
The Kuala Lumpur City Hall building also became a race venue, as participants were asked to answer several questions about the agency and KL.
There is an 80-year-old mansion in Jalan Doraisamy that used to be a place of residence before the war. Participants visited the Heritage Mansion and in the spirit of 1Malaysia were asked to collect peanuts using chopsticks.
This proved to be difficult for some Malay and Indian participants, but at least they took the first step in acquiring the Chinese skill of picking up food using chopsticks.
Many know where the current Parliament building is, but few knew that the first Parliamentary sitting actually took place at the Tunku Abdul Rahman Hall in Jalan Ampang. It is now known as MATIC, or the Malaysian Tourism Center. The information centre operating under the Tourism Ministry provides tourists with information and help when they visit Malaysia.
1MALAYSIA TRADITIONAL ACTIVITIES
Participants also got to try their hand at another traditional activity at MATIC — gasing-spinning. Gasing is a Malaysian top, and gasing-spinning is a popular past time of paddy farmers after the harvest season. MATIC has a gasing-spinning court open to those who would like to learn more about the traditional game.
Meanwhile, what can city folk shoot at through a blowpipe in the middle of KL? Balloons.
Although the skill of shooting through a blowpipe cannot be mastered in a few attempts, there were a number of participants who could be called “sharp shooters”.
Besides the games, the traditional dances also posed a challenge to the participants. This included the Ngajat dance, danced by the Iban people during the harvest festival (Gawai Day), and the Lion Dance that is performed in celebration of the Chinese New Year. Participants seemed to do reasonably well in this challenge.
Going back to the KL Tower from MATIC to finish the race proved to be more challenging than expected. However, participants had the stamina and spirit to make it through.
From the KL Tower they viewed the city in a new light. The tiredness they felt from the five-hour race evaporated as they soaked in the beauty of the city. Everything they now know sets it apart from other cities.