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Friday, March 03, 2006

KUALA LUMPUR: THE GARDEN CITY OF LIGHT


Two more weeks and we're off to the Garden City of Light, Kuala Lumpur. I feel like Dorothy about to embark on her magical journey to Oz. Trip plans are all coming together and I just spent some time browsing an interesting Malaysian website, gleaning lots of background info and other goodies as I prepare for the trip, part of which will be a travel writing 'assignment'.

So here's some historical background about the fabulous Garden City of Light, K.L.

The population of Kuala Lumpur is 1.4 million (yr 2000 stats). It rose from nothing to a bustling modern city that began when 87 Chinese men in search of tin came up the River Klang and landed at a murky intersection between the Klang and Gombak Rivers. The name "Kuala Lumpur" means "muddy confluence."

The would-be miners found their fortune several miles East in a place now known as Ampang. However when the mines began to thrive, merchants brought supplies up the Klang River could only go as far as this muddy intersection so a town developed which is now Kuala Lumpur.

More than half those 87 pioneers died of malaria, but more prospectors came to K.L. and soon clans emerged leading to rivalries and claim disputes. (Sound like the Klondike?) In 1868 a man named Yap Ah Loy was elected "Kapitan China", leader of the Chinese community. He is popularly known as the founding father of Kuala Lumpur.

When a rift developed between Selangor's royal family over tin-mining profits, the British were asked to intervene. Under British rule, K.L. expanded and became the capital of Selangor in 1880 and in 1896 was made capital of the British protectorate Federated Malay States. The first town plan of K.L. was drawn up by Sir Frank Swettenham, a British resident. Some successful miners and merchants began to build bungalows along Jalan Ampay and when construction on the K.L.- Port Klang Railway began, the city never looked back.

Malaysia gained independance from the British on August 31, 1957 and K.L. was named the country's capital. K.L. is a cultural, racial and national melting pot. In 1998 it became the first Asian city to host the Commonwealth Games.

Because of it's beautiful parks, gardens and brilliantly lit ultra modern buildings it is known as the Garden City of Lights.

Next: social customs and other interesting facts about Malaysia.

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