Fully vaccinated? The long weekend is coming up (if you count a leave on Monday, of course), and what better way to celebrate Malaysia’s Independence day than a little tour around the city. With restraint and caution, we can still appreciate the many landmarks that make our nation special. If you can’t decide on where to go for a ‘Merdeka’ celebration, we’ve curated a list that would make it more worthwhile than usual.
1. The Petronas Twin Towers, Kuala Lumpur
This one is a no-brainer. It’s the one landmark that the world knows Malaysia best for: two glittering towers of glass and steel in the middle of the capital, holding the distinction of being the world’s tallest twin towers. Designed by Argentine architect César Pelli and completed in 1996, the Petronas Towers provide office space to anchor tenant Petronas, as well as companies like Bloomberg, Boeing, IBM and Microsoft. Visitors can also visit the two-storey Skybridge that connects the two towers, and the Observation Deck on the 86th floor.
2. George Town, Penang
One of Malaysia’s few Unesco World Heritage sites, the capital city of Penang is famous for its street art and historic buildings. A day’s trip through the city, whether by foot or trishaw, takes the explorer past landmarks such as Fort Cornwallis, St. George’s Church, the Kapitan Keling Mosque, and the Chinese clan jetties off Weld Quay.
3. Sri Mahamariamman Temple, Kuala Lumpur
This is the oldest Hindu temple in Kuala Lumpur. Built in 1873, the temple was originally located near the Kuala Lumpur railway station, but shifted to its present location along Jalan Tun H.S. Lee in 1885. The temple boasts an impressive 75ft five-tier gopuram, or tower, replete with depictions of Hindu gods sculpted by artisans from southern India. Entry to the temple is free, with a minor fee for shoe storage – like many places of worship in Southeast Asia, shoes are not allowed inside the temple.
4. Sultan Abdul Samad Building, Kuala Lumpur
A relic of Kuala Lumpur’s British colonial past, the Sultan Abdul Samad Building sits pretty in the background of countless Merdeka Day parades on Dataran Merdeka, which is directly in front of it. Housing many key government departments during colonial times, the Sultan Abdul Samad Building currently houses the Malaysian Information, Communications and Culture Ministry.
5. Mount Kinabalu
World-renowned as the highest mountain in Malaysia, the 4,095 metre-tall peak provides a not-too-daunting challenge for intrepid mountaineers and hikers to tackle. Classified as a Unesco World Heritage site, the mountain sits in the middle of the Kota Kinabalu national park. The park itself is home to a wide variety of flora that are endemic to the location, or only found there and nowhere else in the world, including over 800 species of orchids and 600 species of ferns, as well as the iconic Nepenthes rajah pitcher plant.
6. Kek Lok Si Temple, Penang
An enormous hilltop temple at Air Itam, Penang, Kek Lok Si is the country’s largest Buddhist temple, visited by thousands of worshippers across South East Asia every year. Completed 115 years ago in 1905, the compound comprises a series of monasteries, prayer halls, a tortoise pond, gift shops and beautifully landscaped gardens. The temple is particularly known for its seven-storey Pagoda of Rama VI, its 30.2m high bronze statue of Kuan Yin, the Goddess of Mercy, and its unparalleled view of the entire island.
7. Cameron Highlands, Pahang
A natural plateau bounded by the Titiwangsa Mountains, Cameron Highlands is famous for its extremely cool weather, which makes it the perfect place for raising tea and other crops – the area being developed by the British in the 1930s for exactly this purpose. The place is a popular tourist attraction today for its tea estates, flower nurseries, strawberry farms and fruit orchards – comparable perhaps to Sri Lanka’s tea plantations.
8. Christ Church, Melaka
No list of Malaysian historical landmarks is complete without the visually distinctive Christ Church. One of the most photographed sites in Malacca, the Dutch-built 18th-century Anglican church is built from pink-red laterite bricks shipped from Zeeland, and its floor is studded with Dutch and Armenian tombstones. Originally painted white, the church and the neighbouring Stadthuys building were painted red in 1911.