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Published: February 14th 2023
We are off to Kuala Lumpur today. The official name of Kuala Lumpur is the Federal Territory of Kuala Lumpur. It is the national capital and largest city in Malaysia. It is commonly and fondly known as KL. The residents of KL are KLites.
Malay is the official language of Malaysia. In the Malay language, Kuala Lumpur means “muddy estuary”. The city sits on the confluence of the Sungai Gombak and Sungai Klang rivers, which is how it got its name. The muddy waters of these rivers quite often flood the city during heavy rains. A tunnel has been built to divert flood water. But. Of course most of the time it is empty of water, so the tunnel is used as a relief road and only closed to traffic after heavy rain.
Kuala Lumpur is home to the tallest twin buildings in the world – the Petronas Towers – which are symbols of Malaysian development. Argentinian architect, Cesar Pelli, designed the complex, which took six years to build. At 452 meters each, the towers were, from 1998 to 2004, not only the tallest twin towers in the world but the world’s tallest buildings.
We are on a Cunard trip to Kuala Lumpur and the Petronas towers. The coach is going to take 60-90 minutes to get into the city. Initially the road passes low buildings with considerable greenery, but inevitably as we get nearer the capital the buildings soar in height.
Once in KL proper the first stop is at the war memorial which covers WWI, WWII and the Communist Insurgency. The first monument is a cenotaph almost identical to that in London and covers the dates of all three conflicts. The memorial specifically for WWII is by the artist who did the Iwo Jima (the Marines raising Old Glory according to Ian) monument in the US. The Malaysian Memorial is similar in that it is composed of seven giant figures in heroic poses. All this is in landscaped gardens.
The second stop is the home of the second PM of Malaysia. A strange building with a central atrium that provides access to all the rooms of the house. It means the house is relatively cool. In fact only a few rooms are fully enclosed.
The final stop before the Petronas Towers is the City Square. It was originally a cricket pitch and still has the pavilions that were built by the colonial British. These face directly onto the Sultan’s Palace. The cricket. Pitch is now used for state social events rather than sport, but one of the pavilions is still known to the locals as “The Spotted Dog” as it was used as a pub by the British.
Finally (inevitably) we arrive at the Petronas Towers and their accompanying shopping mall. We have a while to go and get a drink. All the international brands are there and we end up in Starbucks. While the drinks are the same as home, some of the cakes / pastries are different. While I stick to the blueberry muffin,Ian goes for the chicken curry and basil danish, although he did consider the chicken curry donut.
At the appointed hour we ascend to the 43 floor to walk on the sky bridge (176m above ground level) which links the two towers. The views are amazing. However we are all a little taken aback when the guide indicates a recessed niche which runs around the wall where the bridge meets the tower. He happily informs us that the bridge is not actually firmly attached to the towers at either end to allow for expansion and movement in the wind. It is held up by four supporting spars linking the middle of the bridge to the towers.
Then it is up two further lifts to the observation floor at level 89. The views are even better if a little unnerving. We take our pictures and eventually return to the mall for another opportunity to shop. (Ian - wonderful.)
Malaysia and KL have been interesting. The ultra modern, glass and shining steel, with glimpses of the colonial period with low rise buildings built in the style of the 19 / early 20th century, some decayed and others renovated. In between are a great many functional buildings that could be almost anywhere in the world. Because of the climate anything left for a while starts to sprout bushes and trees. Even where buildings are clearly in use and maintained the concrete is frequently marked by mold and algae where the water runs off so regularly. It ages things.
Despite the heat and the endless sun solar panels are almost entirely absent from any of the buildings. Indeed we see only one house with a grand total of 2 panels and one commercial building so equipped, and we could see a great many roofs from the PetronasTowers.
A final observation. Language. Almost everyone speaks English. The guide explains that there are a very large number of languages spoken in Malaysia, various Malay languages, including different forms of Chinese, Indian languages etc. So in her case she speaks Cantonese and her husband a Malay language. They don’t understand each other’s native language but they do both speak English. The result is that English is the primary language in her home and the one the children are best at. When you then consider siblings from any one family can marry partners from any other language groups it becomes clear why English has become the lingua franca, especially when families meet aunts, uncles, sisters in law etc.
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