Kuala Lumpur

Short history

Kuala Lumpur, established in 1857 by a group of miners led by Raja Abdullah, initially emerged as a central point for the tin mining industry. Its strategic significance was recognized early on, leading to it becoming the capital of Selangor. Through the early 1900s, under British colonial rule, it served as the capital of the Federated Malay States, witnessing urban development and modern infrastructure projects. The construction of key colonial-era buildings, such as the Sultan Abdul Samad Building in 1897 and the Kuala Lumpur Railway Station in 1910, underscore the city’s rapid growth and its central role in the British imperial economy. The mid-20th century brought about dramatic changes with the Japanese occupation during World War II, followed by the struggle for and attainment of Malaysia’s independence in 1957. This period catalyzed Kuala Lumpur’s transformation into the political and economic nucleus of a newly independent Malaysia. In the decades that followed, the city continued to expand and diversify, setting the stage for its current status as a major global city in the 21st century.

Geography

Kuala Lumpur is situated within the heart of Peninsular Malaysia, characterized by a hilly terrain with valleys and rivers. The city has a tropical rainforest climate, ensuring hot, humid weather year-round with copious rainfall, especially during the monsoon season from October to March. The temperature rarely drops below 20°C, even in the coldest month of January, while the hottest period spans from March to September, with temperatures often climbing above 33°C.

The urban layout of Kuala Lumpur is a reflection of its growth from a mining town to a busy metropolis. It features a modern city center surrounded by residential and commercial areas, integrated with green spaces. 

Kuala Lumpur serves as the national capital of Malaysia, holding a paramount position in the country’s administrative and political hierarchy. It operates as a federal territory, separate from the surrounding state of Selangor.

Population

Kuala Lumpur has a population of 2,163,000 as of 2022. This metropolis is a melting pot of cultures, ethnicities, religions, and languages. The city’s demographic composition is predominantly Malay, followed by large Chinese and Indian communities, as well as other ethnic groups. Such diversity is mirrored in the religious practices within Kuala Lumpur, with Islam being the predominant religion, alongside Buddhism, Hinduism, Christianity, and other beliefs coexisting peacefully.

The cultural identity of Kuala Lumpur is also evident in the variety of languages spoken. Bahasa Malaysia is the official language, serving as the primary medium of communication. However, due to the multicultural nature of the city, languages such as English, Mandarin, Tamil, and various Chinese dialects like Cantonese and Hokkien, are widely spoken. This blend of cultures, religions, and languages makes Kuala Lumpur harmonious urban center in Southeastern Asia.

Main sights

  • Petronas Twin Towers: These skyscrapers, standing at 451.9 meters, were once the tallest buildings in the world. They remain a symbol of Kuala Lumpur’s rapid development and are a must-visit for their sky bridge and observation deck.
  • Menara Kuala Lumpur (KL Tower): This communications tower also serves as a tourist attraction, featuring a revolving restaurant and an observation deck that provides one of the best vantage points for city skyline views.
  • Batu Caves: Situated on the outskirts of Kuala Lumpur, this Hindu temple complex is famous for its large golden statue of Lord Murugan and the 272-step climb leading to caves filled with Hindu art and shrines.
  • Central Market: A cultural heritage site with a market atmosphere, variety of crafts, artworks, and souvenirs alongside performances and cultural demonstrations.
  • Chinatown on Petaling Street: Known for its market, this area retains a historical atmosphere and is ideal for experiencing Kuala Lumpur’s street life.
  • The Islamic Arts Museum Malaysia: Houses one of Southeast Asia’s largest collections of Islamic decorative arts, including textiles, jewelry, and calligraphy pieces. 
  • KLCC Park: Located at the foot of the Petronas Towers, this 50-acre park features jogging paths, a children’s playground, a symphony fountain, and beautifully landscaped gardens.

Food

  • Nasi Lemak: Often considered the national dish of Malaysia, Nasi Lemak is a rice dish cooked in coconut milk and pandan leaf, traditionally served with fried crispy anchovies, peanuts, hard-boiled egg, cucumber slices, and sambal (spicy chili paste).
  • Roti Canai: A type of Indian-influenced flatbread that’s crispy on the outside and soft on the inside. It’s typically served with dhal (lentil curry) or other types of curry for dipping.
  • Satay: These are skewers of marinated chicken, beef, or lamb that are grilled to perfection and usually served with a spicy peanut sauce on the side.
  • Char Kuey Teow: A popular noodle dish in Kuala Lumpur, it features flat rice noodles stir-fried with shrimp, bloody cockles, Chinese lap cheong (sausage), eggs, bean sprouts, and chives in a mix of soy sauce.
  • Bak Kut Teh: A flavorful herbal soup that translates to ‘meat bone tea’, it’s made with pork ribs simmered in a broth of herbs and spices.
  • Durian: Known as the ‘King of Fruits’, this controversial fruit is beloved by locals for its creamy texture and unique taste, despite its strong odor.

Fun facts

  • Kuala Lumpur means “Muddy Confluence” in Malay, which reflects its origins at the meeting point of the Klang and Gombak rivers.
  • The Petronas Towers in Kuala Lumpur were once the tallest buildings in the world from 1998 to 2004 and remain the tallest twin structures worldwide.
  • Home to the globe-trotting Formula E and previously the Formula 1 Malaysian Grand Prix, Kuala Lumpur demonstrates its love for motorsports with these international events.
  • Kuala Lumpur was awarded the status of World Book Capital in 2020 by UNESCO, becoming a center of literary excellence and cultural appreciation in Asia.
  • Kuala Lumpur’s rapid development is reflected in its transportation advancements, notably its Klang Valley Integrated Transit System, enabling seamless connectivity across various modes of transport.