The Garden City of Lights
Kuala Lumpur, the capital of Malaysia, is centrally located on the west coast of Peninsular Malaysia. Covering an area of 243 sq km, it lies approximately 35km from the coast. Kuala Lumpur was conferred city status on February 1, 1972 and declared a Federal Territory 2 years later.
The city started as a mining settlement in the late 1800s with the discovery of tin at the confluence of Klang and Gombak rivers. Although Kuala Lumpur's tin trade has since declined, the growth of the city has remained unabated. Today, with a population of 1.8 million, it is the pulse of the nation. Kuala Lumpur leads the country's fast paced development in trade and commerce, banking and finance, manufacturing, transportation, information technology and tourism.
Kuala Lumpur had its origins in the 1850s when the Malay Chief of Klang sent Chinese migrants upriver to open new and larger tin mines. They landed at the confluence of Sungai Gombak and Sungai Klang and established mines at Ampang and later, Pudu and Batu.
This trading post was a wild frontier town plagued by floods, fires, disease and the Selangor Civil War (1870-73). During this time, Chinese Kapitan Yap Ah Loy emerged as a leader, responsible for the survival and growth of the town. In 1880, Selangor state capital was moved from Klang to Kuala Lumpur in view of its strategic location. Nothing of this earlier period remains today as all structures, made of wood and atap, were destroyed in the fire and subsequent flood of 1881.
Thereafter, the British Resident of Selangor Frank Swettenham required all buildings be constructed of brick and tile. The advent of the railway increased accessibility. The development of buildings intensified in the 1890s so that it warranted the establishment of the Sanitary Board. In 1896, Kuala Lumpur was chosen the capital of the newly formed Federated Malay States.
The multiracial community of this period settled in various sections of the town. Market Square, east of Sungai Klang, became the commercial centre for the whole town. The Chinese congregated around this Square and south into Chinatown. To the north, across Java Street (now Jalan Tun Perak), were the Malays. Nearby, a number of Indian Chettiars (moneylenders), and in later years Indian Muslim trader, set up business. West of the river, the Padang (now Merdeka Square) was the focal point of the British administration.
Kuala Lumpur continued to grow despite two World Wars, the rubber and tin commodity crash and the State of Emergency (1948-60) during which Malaya was preoccupied with the communist insurgency. In 1957, the Federation of Malaya gained its independence from British rule. Kuala Lumpur remained the capital through the formation of Malaysia, achieving city status in 1972, and was established as the Federal Territory in 1974.
Getting to Kuala Lumpur is easy with over 40 international airlines including the national carrier Malaysia Airlines, serving the city's state-of-the-art KL International Airport at Sepang. Domestic routes are served by Air Asia and Pelangi Air, in addition to Malaysia Airlines.
Kuala Lumpur is also easily accessible overland from Thailand in the north and Singapore in the south, while KTM provides easy rail connections to most principal towns in Peninsular Malaysia.
By sea, the main port of call for cruise liners is Port Klang, 41 km from Kuala Lumpur. The city's strategic location at the heart of South East Asia, along with its excellent supporting infrastructure, has made it a popular venue for international events, conventions and exhibitions.