Needless to say, my plans during the first day of my Kuala Lumpur tour did not go the way I wanted it to. In my original itinerary, I was already supposed to be sitting quietly in a bus going to Melaka, but there I was, profusely sweating as I made my way to Merdeka Square. And it was the second time when I truly felt like I was in a foreign land.
Historically, the Merdeka Square (or Dataran Merdeka) is where the Union Jack flag was lowered and the Malaysian flag hoisted back in 1957. This place is also well know for two things: the Sultan Abdul Samad Building and the 95-meter flagpole which is believed to be one of the tallest in the world of its kind.
Now if you think this place looks a little bit familiar, it’s because during the first season of the Amazing Race Asia, this was the starting point of all teams! Fun fact right there!
Surrounding the square is the Royal Selangor Club Complex, the National History Museum, and the Memorial Library, St. Mary’s ANglican Cathedral, and the original Kuala Lumpur Railway Station, all of which I didn’t even notice since I was so taken aback with one specific structure.
SULTAN ABDUL SAMAD BUILDING
When I was a kid, all I wanted to be was an architect and build fancy buildings. I got in UST’s Architecture program and all but decided to pursue a newer passion. As I was walking down, I couldn’t help but look at this grandiose building overlooking the square and how marvelous the design is.
Inspired by Indian Moghul architecture, this was designed by A.C. Norman and was completed in 1897 and now houses the Ministry of Heritage, Culture and Arts, and looks rightfully so. Just by looking at it, one could sense that it had a big part in the country’s history and that it has rich cultural relevance as the entire Merdeka Square symbolized British sovereignty. I knew that had I continued my pursuit of Architecture, this would be one of my inspirations. It really was spectacular.
Topped by a shiny copper dome and a clock tower standing 40m high, this place serves as a major landmark in the city, also functioning as a backdrop for several important events. In fact, when I was there, several white tents were being set up at the square. One thing that impressed me the most is how it’s well-kept and looking like it was only built a few years ago. If this was sitting in the middle of Manila, you’d see grime all over the cream walls.
THE 95-METER FLAGPOLE
Across the Sultan Abdul Samad Building is the 95m flag pole found at the southern end of the square. I didn’t believe it at first; from the photos I saw online, it didn’t really seem like it was high enough to be called the tallest flagpole in the world. But that’s the thing about photographs, you can get fooled by one’s actual size and proportion.
When I was standing there with this flagpole towering over me, I became a believer.
It took me one quick sweep of the whole stretch along Merdeka Square before finally giving up and surrendering to the throbbing pain in my legs and feet and the ounces of body liquid that were released by my body due to the exhausting heat of the sun. Too bad because in an ordinary day, I would’ve wanted to stay here a little longer to admire the details of the beautiful architecture standing in front of me.
Next time, I’ll make sure to give justice to this place.
Much love to Airphil Express (which now has Manila to Kuala Lumpur flights three times a week) for making this trip possible together with the Malaysian Tourism Board and Travel Guard Chartis for our travel insurance.