The english translation of Kuala Lumpur is Muddy Confluence, it’s not a typical name for a capital though suggesting that the name derived from something else that has since been forgotten. Kuala Lumpur was founded around 1857 when the Raja of Klang, Raja Abdullah biun Raja Jaafar raised finds to hire Chinese miners from the town of Lukut to open new tin mines. They travelled up a river and set up a mining town Ampang.
As with the Chinese then, the miners formed gangs based on their dialect groups to protect each other and to vie for the best mines. They were mainly Cantonese and Hakka. Bloody battles were fought and many died. To keep these gangs in control, the Malay rulers (and later the colonial leaders) appointed headman known as Kapitan Cina to be in charge of the Chinese community. The most well known of the Kapitan Cina’s in Kuala Lumpur was the third one – Yap Ah Loy. In 1881, a raging fire swept across Kuala Lumpur and burned down the wood and attap houses in town. To prevent such an incident from reoccuring, the Resident of Selangor (Frank Sweetenham) ordered that all buildings in KL be constructed with brick and mortar. Yap Ah Loy bought a plot of land and set up a brick factory (today the Brickfields district in modern KL), stimulating the reconstruction of Kuala Lumpur. Yap would also build the main roads of Petaling, Pudu and Ampang, linked the mines with the town; while at the same time maintain a prison, small claims court and a six man police force.
Funnily enough, there are items at the Singapore Peranakan Museum that were donated by the estate of Yap Ah Loy.
KL soon grew and grew with the Chinese, Indians and Colonials settling in with the Malays. It was chosen as the federal capital of the short-lived federated Malay States in 1896 and has since remained the capital of independent Malaysia.
Malaysia today (source)
Kuala Lumpur was the scene of many momentous occasions in the history of colonial and independent Malaysia, including the memorialised Merdeka declaration.
It was also the site of the May 13 riots of 1969, particularly after the general election that year, when the opposition Democratic Action Party obtained a record number of seats.
The city is today one of the foremost cities in Southeast Asia and the heartbeat of a nation with bucketloads of economic potential. It is not unlike Singapore, in that it is a multiracial city made up of three major races (Malay, Indian, Chinese) and other races in smaller numbers, in terms of demographics the major difference between the two is that Singapore has a Chinese majority, while Kuala Lumpur has a Malay majority.One thing is the same, whether in Singapore or in Kuala Lumpur, the taxi drivers will more than willingly engage you in discussing the politics of the day – the hot topic in Singapore is the coming General Election, while the hot topic in Kuala Lumpur is the 1MDB scandal and the political situation in the country.
Singapore and Malaysia enjoy an abaan-adik (big brother, younger brother) relationship, they are culturally very similar. Although there exists a love of banter and oneupmanship in any and every field. We can lost to eveyrone, but we can’t lose to Malaysia/KL and vice versa.
While Kuala Lumpur of late has been somewhat a tinderbox of tension (including the Low Yat incident as well as the political upheaval going on in Malaysia now) it is a city with bags of potential waiting to be unleashed. Join me on a journey through Kuala Lumpur to explore what makes KL tick.
How to get there