Kuala Lumpur offers a mix of historic, natural sites

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KUALA LUMPUR -- From its modest beginnings as a small settlement at the confluence of the Klang and Gombak rivers, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia's capital, has evolved into a bustling metropolis and is the country's top tourist destination.

The city boasts a fascinating skyline of old and new buildings, yet retains the ambience of a garden city with its attractive landscaping, lush green spaces and public parks.

The best way to gain an insight into the city's past and present is to take a walking tour, beginning at its most famous landmark, the Sultan Abdul Samad Building, which overlooks the Dataran Merdeka, or Merdeka Square.

The Dataran Merdeka is a significant historical site unto itself, as it was here the British Union Jack was lowered for the last time when Malaysia gained its independence on Aug. 31, 1957.

A 300-foot-high flagpole, one of the tallest in the world, marks the historic spot.

The following sites and attractions are well worth a visit.

  • The Sultan Abdul Samad Building was constructed in 1897 to house the various administrative departments of the British government. The Moorish-style building houses the Supreme and High courts and Infokraf, a center for Malaysian handicrafts.
  • Enabling visitors to discover the wealth of Malaysia's historical heritage is the National Museum of History, which is situated in a former commercial bank building dating back to 1910.
  • Exhibits include an eight-sided coin dating to the 15th century, a 520 million-year-old metamorphic sandstone and a 40,000-year-old human skull.

  • Even if you don't have to hop a train, the Kuala Lumpur Railway Station is worth a visit. Built in 1910, the Moorish-influenced building was restored to its original grandeur in 1986. The building houses the Heritage Hotel, which recreates the ambience of pre-independence Malaysia.
  • The Textile Museum showcases the rich heritage of Malaysia's arts and crafts. It is located at the junction of Jalan Sultan Hishamuddin and Lebuh Pasar Besar, a short walk from the Dataran Merdeka.
  • Among the exhibits are those on the art of batik making and textiles of historical significance.

  • Located along Jalan Tun HS Lee, the Sri Mahamariaman Temple is one of the most elaborate Hindu temples in the country, with hundreds of intricate carvings of Hindu deities.
  • Built in 1873, Italian and Spanish tile cover the walls of the interior. Lucky visitors might catch a glimpse of a traditional Hindu wedding or pooja (prayer ritual).

  • Created in the 1880s, the Taman Tasik Perdana, or the Lake Gardens, is the city's most popular park.
  • It features a children's playground, jogging trails, exercise stations and rowing. The Panggung Anniversari, set in a secluded valley within the park, is the venue for musical and cultural performances.

  • Located at the fringe of the Taman Tasik Perdana along Jalan Travers is the National Museum.
  • Designed to resemble a Malay palace, the building's facade features two large murals, each reflecting a scene of Malaysian history and crafts.

    The museum houses several galleries containing collections of paintings, crafts, weapons, local fauna and flora, and old currencies. Outdoor exhibits include vintage locomotives and replicas of ancient Malay palaces.

  • The Thean Hou Temple, located on a hill overlooking Jalan Syed Putra, is considered one of the largest Chinese temples outside China.
  • The temple has interesting architecture composed of celestial dragons and other mythical creatures.

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