After I got off the train, I walked south towards Merdeka Square. It was my first day since a very long time in the Malaysian capital, and I wondered why I saw Malaysian flags on all buildings - even the skyscrapers had giant flags running down the buildings. I walked past a tiny park with a most curious sculpture of a meat-eating pitcherplant, and reached the northern side of Merdeka Square. I had come here for the colonial buildings; I had a vague memory of seeing them on my last visit, just after the start of the new millennium. What in my memory had seemed to be big buildings, are now dwarfed by skyscraper after skyscraper. I am quite sure most of them must have been built since my last visit.
Once housing government department during the British colonial rule, the building was designed in the late 19th century by Norman. He had lived in Africa, been to India, and got inspired by the Moorish style of buildings; which is obvious as soon as you see the building. The celebrations of independence a few days before had left their traces: a stand was still standing on the square, and there was a roof to protect the spectators from the afternoon tropical rains. I walked to the southern side of the square, where I found the Queen Victoria fountain. The middle of the square is a rectangular grass field, and was once the cricket grounds of the Selangor club. The flagpole, 95 metres tall, once had the Union Jack attached to it, until that flag was changed to the Malaysian one on Malaysia's independence in 1957. In fact, Merdeka Square translate as Independence Square.
Walking around the flagpole, I arrived at the other side of Merdeka Square, lined by Tudor-style houses. Once built for the hotshots of British colonial society, and still used for the elite, but nowadays for Malaysians, they look odd in the tropical climate of almost-equatorial Kuala Lumpur. From here, you get a good view of the square; and with a little more distance, the Sultan Abdul Samad building looks like a small building compared to the modern highrise just behind it. At the far side of the square, a small, whitewashed church is the Anglican cathedral of St. Mary. While I could hear the call to prayer coming from the minarets of the Masjid Jamek just behind the Merdaka Square, and I overlooked the square with its monumental buildings that had once been the centre of British presence, I could not help but realize how the world had changed, and how far Malaysia had moved away from those colonial days.
Around the World in 80 Clicks
Personal travel impressions both in words and images from Merdeka Square (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 Merdeka Square. Read more about this site.