Founded around the middle of the 19th century, Kuala Lumpur has grown into a multi-million inhabitant city, and continues to expand fast. Its population is a mix of diverse Asian nationalities, and this reflects in the city. One of the most interesting areas for the visitor is Chinatown. When I got off at the Maharajalela monorail station, I did not have to walk far for my first stop: the Guan Yin temple right next door. A small temple, there are some interesting artifacts outside its walls, like old, red decorated vases, and scenes sculpted on the wall. Crossing the street took me to the much bigger, and more interesting, Chan She Shu Yuen temple. Its outside walls are decorated with scenes sculpted and painted out of stone. Unfortunately, I did not know exactly what story they had to tell, but it surely made for a great sight. Once inside, it turned out that the temple was under reconstruction, and the central area was off limits. The rear area of the temple was accessible. But for the visitor, the most attractive part of the temple is its exterior.
Walking north, I arrived at the beginning of the main thoroughfare of Chinatown in Kuala Lumpur: Jalan Petaling. Here, at its southern point, it is still a quiet street, with some crumbling old buildings where the Chinese characters sculpted in stone are a clue as to their origins. When I reached the start of the busier section of Petaling Street, I turned right, saw some more old buildings, and walked north along a shopping street. Most shops here were traditional, small Chinese shops, side by side with more flashy, modern joints, and a few street stalls. When I reached a crossroads where the street market spilled onto the street I was walking on, I turned left. I had arrived at the bustling heart of Chinatown. A market where you can not only buy vegetables and fruits, but where you can also find clothes, and a lot of fake Made in China stuff. But I was not in a shopping mood, and did not want to be in this noisy part of Chinatown, so I walked on, and out of the shopping streets. At once, it was quiet around me.
When I reached a bigger street, it was impossible to miss the Sri Maha Mariamman temple, with its typical, tall tower, or gopuram, completely covered in brightly painted sculptures of Hindu gods - some with musical instruments, or riding white horses. I crossed the street, left my shoes at a counter, and walked around the premises barefoot. This is the oldest, and supposedly also richest, Hindu temple in Malaysia; it was remarkably empty when I visited. I followed the road to the north, dropped into Guandi temple, passing some more older buildings and houses, until I reached the Sin Sze Si Ya, or Sze Ya, temple, tucked away in a small courtyard, and squeezed in between modern buildings. A perfume of incense reached my nose, coming from small, stone incense burners, and large incense incense hanging from the ceiling. While small in size, it is one of the oldest temples of Kuala Lumpur, and was founded in 1864. Inside, it appears stuffed with flowers, candles, wooden sticks in wooden containers, altars, paper lanterns, statues of the patron deities Sin Zhe Ya and Si Zhe Ya; the colours red and gold dominate. Rays of sunlight were filtering through the shutters in the ceiling, spreading delicate light over all the religious objects and the few people inside. I stayed in a corner, to have a break from the city, to have a moment of retreat, to find serenity, to observe. It was an appropriate way to end my exploration of Chinatown.
Around the World in 80 Clicks
Personal travel impressions both in words and images from Kuala Lumpur Chinatown (Malaysia). Clicking on the pictures enlarges them and enables you to send the picture as a free e-card or download it for personal use, for instance, on your weblog. Or click on the map above to visit more places close to Kuala Lumpur Chinatown. Read more about this site.