Kuala Lumpur was a frontier city which emerged in the 1850s from exploitation of tin resources and Chinese gangsters fighting each other to control production. Only as the gang’s warfare crippled the production, the British, who ruled the Federation of malaya at that time, “elected” the more favorable of the Chinese warlords to take control of the city. Diseases, floods, fires, economic turbulence, communist insurgents, Japanese occupation, ethnic conflicts and corrupted governing clans shaped Kuala Lumpur, like many other South East Asian cities, that constantly had to fight the odds. After independence from Britain in 1957 Kuala Lumpur remained the capital of Malaysia and gained the status of a “city” in 1972. Still you meet adventurous exporters of palm oil to West Africa here and beside the modern scenes and shopping malls it hosts guests which appear to be only made for this flair of dubious shades, like the haute volée of modern terrorism which undertook part of its planning of the September 11 attacks here in the year 2000.
Kuala Lumpur is not a beauty, but its blend of colonial and modern architecture together with the lively streets and the mix of Muslim and Hindu cultural influences gives it an interesting character. The city is not designed to be walkable, but still it is possible and interesting to take a day and explore the diversity by foot: from the little streets, the old train station (see above), Chinatown up to the Islamic Art Museum and the National Mosque.
A few hours by public bus to the North from Kuala Lumpur you reach Georgetown, which is a very charming city with a lot of remaining colonial architecture and became the first full municipality outside Singapore in 1857. It was founded in 1786 as the base for the British East India Company in the Malay States. Today the city centre is a UNESCO cultural world heritage site and with its cultural offerings it is a place to come back and explore more.