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Malaysia: Merdeka Square

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Merdeka Square | Malaysia | Asia

[Visited: January 2000, September 2013]

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.

Picture of Merdeka Square (Malaysia): Mogul-style Sultan Abdul Samad building with towers is the most remarkable building on Merdeka Square

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.

Picture of Merdeka Square (Malaysia): Women crossing the street at the southeastern side of Merdeka Square with Mahkamah Perusahaan building

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.

Picture of Merdeka Square (Malaysia): Detail of a colonial building, once housing the High Court, at the northern side of Merdeka Square
Picture of Merdeka Square (Malaysia): Sultan Abdul Samad building seen from across Merdeka Square
Picture of Merdeka Square (Malaysia): Queen Victoria Fountain with flagpole and Merdeka Square
Picture of Merdeka Square (Malaysia): Detail of the Ministry of Communications, Information, and Culture, north of Merdeka Square
Picture of Merdeka Square (Malaysia): The Royal Selangor Club, opposite the Sultan Abdul Samad building across Merdeka Square, built in Tudor style
Picture of Merdeka Square (Malaysia): Afternoon sun shining on the facade of the Sultan Abdul Samad building on Merdeka Square
Picture of Merdeka Square (Malaysia): White-washed St. Mary Cathedral on the northwestern side of Merdeka Square
Picture of Merdeka Square (Malaysia): One of the towers of the Sultan Abdul Samad building on Merdeka Square
Picture of Merdeka Square (Malaysia): Close-up of one of the towers of the Mugal style Sultan Abdul Samad Building on Merdeka Square

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