Jul 282011

For my second day of Kuala Lumpur tourism I followed the Lonely Planet’s other walking tour, covering the Colonial District and Little India.

Just like Georgetown, KL really is a city of many faces. You might expect that after having already witnessed Malaysia’s diversity I wouldn’t have been surprised by the stark difference between Merdaka Square, the focal point of colonial KL, and Chinatown just a few blocks away. But I was. It’s hard not to be.

The cramped, smelly alleys lined with dilapidated old buildings were gone, replaced by a huge grassy cricket field and magnificent museum-like architecture.

In fact, the area around Merdaka Square is absolutely surrounded by interesting (and spotless) attractions: KL Memorial Library, the Royal Selangor Club, St. Mary’s Cathedral, the Natural History Museum, the Sessions & Magistrates Courts, even the enormous flagpole where the Malaysian flag was first raised in 1957.

Suddenly KL felt as clean, modern, and pleasant as anywhere I’d ever been – and my image of the city changed almost completely.

…That is, until the effect was interrupted as I sat to jot down some blog notes. The moment I did, a guy sat down next to me and started pestering for cash. I was typing and had headphones in, so he actually had to tap me to get my attention. He claimed he’d just been let out of prison and needed a bus ticket back home. I told him I only had a few bucks and needed it for lunch (which was true). He continued to push. I told him I was in the middle of something, and to please ask someone else. He wouldn’t leave. “See, this is why it’s so hard to turn things around,” he said. “Sometimes I think I should just go back to mugging people as nobody’s willing to help. It’s the only way I can get money. Yeah, I should just mug people…”

Nice thinly-veiled threat there, buddy. I gave him like 3 ringgit just to get out of my face :roll:

(One thing I’ve noticed is that people often do seem a bit more pushy with their begging here than in Thailand; perhaps it’s because they speak such fluent English and know they can communicate easily with foreigners. It’s unfortunate that such a pestering half-threat would dampen the vibe of an otherwise great afternoon. But whatever. I finished my blog notes and was on my way soon enough.)

After concluding a round of the old colonial buildings in Merdaka, the tour took me back past Masjid Jamek and into Little India.

Though quite a bit larger than Georgetown’s, I did find this Little India to be noticeably less atmospheric – there were far more non-Indians wandering about, and many were dressed in pretty typical Western attire.

But perhaps more noticeable was the absence of Bollywood music blasting through the streets. Ambient music always does wonders to add feeling to a scene – and I guess the inverse is equally true 🙂

From here I spent a fair amount of time exploring some shopping malls – which is extremely unlike me – but considering this was my first big city in a month I did have a few things to replace.

KL may be far from my favorite stop of the trip, I will say this: it sure is convenient to be able to pop into a store and find whatever you need, from a new hard drive to a stick of Western deodorant 🙂

The tour concluded at Asian Heritage Row – an oddly named street that’s really all about upmarket restaurants and trendy bars and clubs.

As this was just minutes from the City Center I figured it’d be the perfect chance to head back to the Petronas Towers for one last attempt at some long-exposure nightshots.

…And voila! The park was still opened and the shots came out great.

I was now just one “must-see attraction” away from being able to leave KL with a clean conscience…

A panorama from the Petronas skybridge 🙂

Note: These posts are behind realtime; the above took place on Tuesday, January 25th.

  9 Responses to “The Colonial District & Little India”

  1. I think Merdaka Square was where one of the episodes of Amazing Race started/ended 🙂

    You really have seemed to cover a lot of masjids down there 😛

  2. How threatening was the beggar? I would have probably done the same as you (given him something just to go away) but would have been tempted to beg back, “I’m an american lost here in KL, can you spare something to help me find my way home?” All I have is this computer and headphones and these fists trained by Chuck Norris 😉

  3. @P: Haha a lot of masjids? Just the one! 😛

    @Allyn: He wasn’t that threatening, but I didn’t want to risk it either. It was just really, really obnoxious that he saw I was clearly in the middle of something, came over and TAPPED me so I’d take out my headphones, and then just sat there refusing to leave. If only I had the fists of Chuck Norris…I probably could’ve sent him home crying with little more than a semi-annoyed glance! 😆

  4. Masjid = mosque 😛

  5. Great photos.
    I completely agree about the music- it completely sets the tone. Despite it often being annoying in many scenarios (like Mariachi music), it still makes it what it is. which can also rock.

    Your interaction with the ex-con is interesting. I currently work with ex-cons and addicts, and there is a time when his statement is true, and there is another time when they really need to get some crack. I won’t go off on a huge tangent about my opinions on homelessness and drug addicts- and while I absolutely love my job and have great compassion with my clients (85% of the time)- it has made me hyper sensitive to thinking everyone I see on the street like that is never trustworthy.

  6. @P: Duh…

    @Rachel: Re: “it has made me hyper sensitive to thinking everyone I see on the street like that is never trustworthy.” Likewise, but even more than that, I just think there’s a big difference between someone who’s actually trying to do something (i.e. playing music, selling trinkets, etc) or someone who genuinely can’t work (i.e. crippled by a horrible accident) versus those who just feel like you should hand them some money simply because they ask for it. And then if you don’t, they feel like it’s OK to continue to pester you. That’s just completely inappropriate.

  7. that begger was a punk!

  8. I’d probably have done the same as you, but in a dream world where I’m not frightened of potential stab wounds, I would have thrown the coins on the floor and told him to fetch.

    nice long exposure pics!

  9. Haha in a dream world where I’m not frightened of potential stab wounds, I probably would’ve just told him more forcefully to get out of my face (rather than *pay* him to do so) 😛

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