The Dataran Merdeka (formerly
the Selangor Club Padang) was once the focal point, and cricket green,
of the British colonial presence in Malaysia. Like the surviving Dutch
buildings in Malacca, the structures edging
the Dataran Merdeka are startling testimony to colonial residents' desire
to recreate the physical environment of their native land. Situated on
one corner of the square is the Selangor Club, which once served as the
social centre for British residents. Although its membership today reflects
Malaysia's remarkable cultural diversity, the building itself is plucked
from the merry old England of the Tudors. Close by is St Mary's Cathedral,
a neo-Gothic church more than a hundred years old.
Appropriately enough, it was on the
Dataran Merdeka that at 12:01 am on August 31, 1957, the Union Jack
was lowered and the Malayan flag hoisted, signaling Malaysia's independence
as a nation. A 100-meter flagpole, one of the tallest in the world,
marks the spot. Beneath the Dataran Merdeka is the Plaza Putra, an
underground food, leisure, and entertainment complex, which houses
the Putra Indoor Golf Centre, the first Par-T-Golf in the city.
Sultan Abdul Samad
gleaming copper domes and 130-meter clock tower of the Sultan Abdul
Samad Building are by far the most impressive architectural feature
of the Dataran Merdeka. This elaborate edifice is a fantastic blend
of Moghul, Moorish, Arab, and British neoclassical architecture, a
style far more expressive of the British colonial imagination than
of Malay culture. Designed by architects Norman and Bidwell, the building
took more than two years to build and was completed in 1897. It served
initially as the center of British colonial administration in Malaysia.
Today, it houses the Judicial Department on one end and Infokraf, a
centre for Malaysian handicrafts, on the other.
Perched on a hilltop overlooking
the Lake Gardens is Carcosa Seri Negara, a pair of nineteenth-century
British colonial mansions. The Carcosa Seri Negara was the residence
of the British Governor and British High Commissioners. Today, it has
been converted into an exclusive hotel.
Standing on elevated ground
commanding a panoramic view of the Lake Gardens is the modern Parliament
House. The main building and its adjoining tower block accommodate
the two houses of Parliament, a banquet hall, library, various offices
and committee rooms. Visitors may view Parliamentary sessions by prior
arrangement with the authorities, who will advise on protocol and dress
The official residence of
the Yang Di-Pertuan Agong (The King), located on a hillock at Jalan
Istana. The palace is surrounded by green lawns, ponds and trees. On
ceremonial occasions, the palace and its grounds are gaily lit-up.
The massive white modern
complex of the famously expensive Dayabumi Complex was designed to
blend in with the pervading Moorish and Byzantine atmosphere of the
structures that surround it. The complex houses a shopping arcade,
City Point, offices and the General Post Office.
Pak Ali's House
Located at the 10 km mark
along Jalan Gombak. Designed in a unique blend of Sumatran and Persk
architecture, the house was built early in this century by Haji Abbas
bin Haji Abu Bakar, a headman of the Gombak village. The house is divided
in to five main sections according to the traditional lifestyle of
village folks. Open daily: 9am-5pm