Kuala Lumpur

The second part of my trip to Malaysia’s fantastic capital in 2011 had me visiting the engrossing Islamic Arts Museum.

Masjid Negara (National Mosque) in Kuala Lumpur

Masjid Negara (National Mosque) in Kuala Lumpur

Having already spent a couple of days in KL, I opted for a change of pace. It was a Wednesday morning when I headed towards KL Sentral to visit the suburb of Federal Hill. I visited the Masjid Negara (National Mosque), a contemporary white and blue tiled structure which was designed to be a modern take on the Grand Mosque in Makkah (Mecca), Saudi Arabia.

Masjid Negara (National Mosque) at Kuala Lumpur

Masjid Negara (National Mosque) at Kuala Lumpur

Continuing the theme, just up the road is the Islamic Arts Museum Malaysia, one of Malaysia’s attempts to become a cultural leader and political representative for Muslims in the modern world.

The Islamic Arts Museum, Kuala Lumpur

The Islamic Arts Museum, Kuala Lumpur

I got free entry to the museum (good) because it was children’s day at the museum (bad). I sat there for thirty minutes waiting for the longest glass of water ever, during which time someone raced into the café and asked me if I was representing the Australian High Commission. As tempted as I was to say yes, I declined, rounding out one of the week’s weirder moments.

A Chinese Muslim scroll at the Islamic Arts Museum, Kuala Lumpur

A Chinese Muslim scroll at the Islamic Arts Museum, Kuala Lumpur

I spent the next two hours wandering around the finest collection of art and architecture I’ve ever seen in one place. The exquisite ceramic pieces, scale models of Muslim buildings from around the world (many of which I’ve seen in real life), artefacts and pieces of clothing are all beautifully presented, in a building which itself is designed in a Central Asian style.

An traditional Indonesian or Malaysian room partition (purdah) at the Islamic Arts Museum, Kuala Lumpur

An traditional Indonesian or Malaysian room partition (purdah) at the Islamic Arts Museum, Kuala Lumpur

Later, I was walking through the lush Lake Gardens adjacent to the museum in the late afternoon heat when I heard the azan (call to prayer) emanating from Masjid Negara. Poignantly I wondered, and not for the first time, if Arabs have had a monopoly on global Muslim culture for too long.

Chinese Muslim plates at the Islamic Arts Museum, Kuala Lumpur

Chinese Muslim plates at the Islamic Arts Museum, Kuala Lumpur

This shroud was used to cover the holy Ka'aba in Makkah, Saudi Arabia, in 1964. At the Islamic Arts Museum, Kuala Lumpur

This shroud was used to cover the holy Ka’aba in Makkah, Saudi Arabia, in 1964. At the Islamic Arts Museum, Kuala Lumpur

Adored by many Malaysians, reviled by many Westerners, Malaysia’s ex-Prime Minister Dr Mahatir Mohammed can largely be credited with creating what the country is today. Love his conviction or hate his arrogance, his controversial, no-holds-barred attitude gave birth to Wawasan 2020; a plan that whatever it takes, Malaysia will be a developed first world nation by 2020. So far, they seem to be on track, no easy feat when you consider that a few decades ago Malaysia was a poor agrarian backwater with a reputation for seediness and violence. In fact, in Malay, ‘Kuala Lumpur’ means “muddy confluence” – an appropriate name for the swampy marshland that once existed here. All this has given way to one of the world’s great cities – make no mistake, Malaysia’s capital is no London or Paris, but neither is it a flash in the pan like Dubai could yet prove to be – KL is a world city, and it’s here to stay.

 

One of the ceiling domes at the Islamic Arts Museum, Kuala Lumpur

One of the ceiling domes at the Islamic Arts Museum, Kuala Lumpur

Essential Stats

Culture shock: 5/10

Language difficulty: 6/10

Quality of food: 9/10

Cost: 6/10

Physical demand: 5/10 – Kuala Lumpur is not an ‘active’ destination, but issues such as the transport network, and attractions like the Batu Caves definitely require a bit of energy.

Advice and warnings

Kuala Lumpur is a remarkably safe city. Keep a close eye on your valuables, be aware of pickpockets, especially in crowded places and use common sense, and you should be fine! Remember that although Malaysia is fairly liberal by Asian standards, it’s still a Muslim country and you should take care not to offend.

Check Smart Traveller or the British Foreign Office for more comprehensive warnings.

Visas

Australians may enter Malaysia with a visit permit on arrival valid for stays of up to 90 days. Pakistanis must apply for a visa at the Malaysian High Commission in Islamabad – the process takes around a week and costs PKR 1,450 – the process is much easier if you use a travel agent. Indians can apply through the VFS Global service – the visa costs INR 1,000 and takes around a week to process.

 

Lahore represent! A model of the Badshahi Mosque at the Islamic Arts Museum, Kuala Lumpur

Lahore represent! A model of the Badshahi Mosque at the Islamic Arts Museum, Kuala Lumpur

Getting there and around

From MelbourneSydney and ChennaiMalaysia Airlines flies to Kuala Lumpur directly.

Melbourne (from $724 return)

Sydney (from $739 return)

Chennai (from INR 23,459 return)

From LahorePakistan International flies from Lahore to Kuala Lumpur via Karachi, while the return flight operates directly. Tickets start from PKR 63,988.

Accommodation

We stayed at the luxurious Sheraton Imperial Kuala Lumpur, and then later had a couple of nights at the Le Meridien Kuala Lumpur Sentral, also very lovely! If you’re looking for something a bit easier on the wallet, there are plenty of great budget and economy options available through HostelWorld.com.

Comments (4)

  • Umbreen Gillani Reply

    It is a beautiful place to visit in <3 Thank you for sharing your experiences in an appealing way! <3

    June 25, 2014 at 6:40 pm
    • Tim Blight Reply

      I hope you can make it there one day Umbreen!! Thanks for reading 🙂

      June 27, 2014 at 6:24 pm
  • Katie Reply

    I really like your essential stats! I’m not usually a huge fan of museums, but I did find the room partition to be particularly gorgeous!

    June 27, 2014 at 1:16 am
    • Tim Blight Reply

      Thanks Katie!! I like museums, but I’ve seen so many that it takes a lot for one to stand out nowadays – and this one certainly did! Thanks for reading 🙂

      June 27, 2014 at 6:24 pm

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