Friday, December 02, 2011

Heritage Walking Tour of Kuala Lumpur

I have been to Kuala Lumpur (KL) umpteen times but usually these trips were for business which mean hotel-meetings-hotel or to eat/shop/visit relatives. This is the first time I've done a Heritage Walk and this was the highlight of my recent trip. This walking tour took 1.5 hours and led us through the meandering streets and alleys of KL city around the Central Market which is where the tour started.

The first photos is of an old Chinese/Hainanese restaurant which still operates today. However in the colonial days, it used to be an upmarket restaurant for the British who used to work in the government building across from this old dame. Today it serves traditional Hainanese fare like chicken rice and pork chop rice. I would have loved to have eaten my lunch there but unfortunately did not get the chance to.

This old shop has a concrete bell on the roof top. The story is fascinating. In the olden days when most people were illiterate, they could not read the signboards of the shops. As such, the clever folks devised symbols for the common folks to associate trades with. A bell makes a "dong dong" or "dang dang" sound (depending if you say it in Cantonese or Mandarin) and this is a homonym for "pawn". Hence the shop is trading as a pawnshop. Is this clever or what?

This mosque "Masjid Jemek" is the oldest mosque in KL and showcases Moorish architecture. It is gorgeous and very serene.

This is another old building, built in 1914. According to the tour guide, Malaysia has not passed laws on conservation of these old heritage buildings. As such, this is left to the responsibility and whims of individual building owners. Many of them have sold their property to developers who have bulldozed these old beauties to build modern, spanking structures to maximise the use of the land.

I hope that these lovely old dames receive the rightful protection and love they deserve. Heritage is something we need to protect, we all have our memories of the past and they give us our identity. Collective memory gives us a national identity. Hopefully, the conservation laws won't come too late for these lovely old buildings.

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