Visit Malaysia: Kuala Lumpur – Past and Present (Part 1)

Kuala Lumpur is the capital city of Malaysia. Previously, it was the capital city for the state of Selangor before it was seceded in 1974 to become the first federal territory and subsequently the capital city of the federation of Malaysia. This city was established in 1859 at the confluence of the Gombak and the Klang rivers. Over the years, the city had developed so much that some parts of it are totally different from the past.

Today’s entry is something special. February 1st is the Federal Territory Day in Malaysia and in conjunction with the special day, I am going to show how Kuala Lumpur looked like in its early days as compared to the present day.

I know that a lot of such photos were published in the newspapers as well as in other blogs. However, I listened to LOOTB‘s advice: surprise ourselves by exploring our own backyard. And with that advice in mind, I embarked on a personal project and toured the city on foot.

So sit back and relax. Grab some food and drinks and enjoy the photos below!

1. Gombak Bridge and Town Hall

Gombak Bridge and Townhall c. 1908

The photo above is taken from R.S. Murthi’s website. It shows the Gombak Bridge and the Kuala Lumpur Town Hall building circa 1908. From the photo, it can be seen that Kuala Lumpur was still a sleepy town then. People could walk freely in the middle of the road. The bridge’s architecture is also unique to the period.

The same building and place – 2014

Fast forward to 2014 – the white dome of the Town Hall is now black. The bridge is now a modern 6 lane-road (which is why I couldn’t shoot the photo from the same angle as the photo taken in 1908). The empty skyline is now full with skyscrapers. The biggest difference? The building is not used as a town hall building anymore, instead it is now known as the ‘Panggung Bandaraya’ where theater shows are staged.

2. Train at Kuala Lumpur Railway Station

Steam train at Kuala Lumpur Railway Station c. 1950

This photo of a steam train passing through the Kuala Lumpur Railway Station circa 1950 is also taken from R.S. Murthi’s website. In 1950, steam trains are the most common trains during that era. The Kuala Lumpur Railway Station was also the main terminal for rail network across the Peninsula.

Locomotive train at the Kuala Lumpur Railway Station – 2014

Today, the Kuala Lumpur Railway Station is no longer the main station but intercity trains connecting the Peninsula and the commuter trains still stop at this station. Electric cables powering the commuter trains are also visible. Apart from that, steam trains are no longer operational as petrol-powered locomotive trains are now used for intercity trains.

3. Old Market Square

Old Market Square c. 1960

The Old Market Square is located near the Central Market. In 1960s, cars were allowed to park at this area as there were  a lot of shop houses at this area. One of the most interesting features of this place is the clock tower, which was build around 1937 with an interesting art deco motif. Photo taken from R.S. Murthi’s website.

Medan Pasar – 2014

In 2014, the Old Market Square is known as Medan Pasar. Cars are not allowed to park here and it is now used as a pedestrian walkway. The clock tower is still there at the same place as in the photo taken in 1960. Some of the shop houses survived from being torn down in the name of development, but most of them were not including the building in the backdrop of the old photo which is now the HSBC tower.

4. Kuala Lumpur Railway Station

Kuala Lumpur Railway Station c. 1955

As mentioned earlier, the Kuala Lumpur Railway Station was the main station of the country back in its early days. However, even since the Kuala Lumpur Sentral station completed, most of the old station roles were assumed by the Sentral station. Nevertheless, the design of the old station which was opened in 1886 and rebuilt in 1910 still awed many, especially with the mixture of Eastern and Western designs. The photo above is taken from R.S Murthi’s website.

Kuala Lumpur Railway Station – 2014

Today, the railway station still spot the same design and the same colour (I think, because the old photo is in black and white… LOL). However, if you have sharp eyes, you will realized that apart from not having the roundabout, there is an extension on the right side of the 2014 photo. Yes, the extension of the Kuala Lumpur Railway Station was done in 1986, following the same design of the original building.

5. Confluence of the Rivers

Confluence of the Gombak and Klang rivers with Masjid Jamek at the left part of the photo. c 1950

This circa 1950 photo of the confluence of the 2 rivers taken from R.S. Murthi’s website is where Kuala Lumpur got its name. This confluence (Kuala) used to be muddy (Lumpur) and as such, KL’s forefathers decided to adapt this name. At the background of the photo is Masjid Jamek, one of the oldest mosques in Kuala Lumpur.

Confluence of the rivers – 2014

In 1950, it was still possible to see the clouds when one is facing this area. Now, with all the towering skyscrapers, it is almost impossible. Due to rapid development, concrete slabs were also constructed to support the riverbank. As for Masjid Jamek, thank God the coconut trees are still there, it gives the mosque some rustic feeling when looking at it.

Do you think the differences are a lot?


To Be Continued: Part 2

24 thoughts on “Visit Malaysia: Kuala Lumpur – Past and Present (Part 1)

  1. Great post, one of the best things I’ve read this week on #VMY2014! What fun! I was planning to do this on KL but you beat me to it :-)

    1. Thanks Anis! It was fun… and tiring. Haha. 5 hours of constant walking but I love street photography now! ;)

      I am waiting for your photos too Anis! :)

    1. Thank Kak!

      Memang plan dah lama sejak jumpa gambar2 lama ni tapi tak ada masa. Sekali dah cuti, terus pergi snap snap snap. Hehehe.

      Yeay nanti akak explore okay? Nak tengok jugak!! :D

  2. Love the comparison between the ages. I visited most of those places last time I was in KL. Especially liked the old railway station. While there I saw that part of the building had been turned into a hotel — a hotel which has also been closed down now. I don’t remember the name of the hotel but do you know the one I’m talking about? What’s the story behind it?

    1. Thanks bro. Stay tuned for the next part yeah? Took me several hours just for a single post, so I split it to several parts. :)

      Oh yeah, the Heritage Station Hotel! Actually it was there for so long already and was an integral part of the station. However, I am not sure why, they had closed down several years ago.

      The same goes to the hotel at the Ipoh Railway Station.

      It would be a great stay if they are still open!

  3. Kenangan yang memang menimbulkan nostalgia!
    Benda semua ini ada nilai sejarah.
    Entah kenapa kerajaan nak musnah Penjara Pudu ni.
    Boleh ubahsuai menjadi hotel, restoran, shopping mall ni, kan?!

  4. This is definitely a wonderful entry, and informative too. I didn’t realise there are so many changes between the old KL and the new one, except perhaps all those damn skyscrapers. As for the Old Merdeka Square or Medan Pasar, until last year, cars were still allow to go by it until they decided to turn it into a park. I’m not sure whether to agree with the decision or not but at least it’s not a demolition of the whole area for more tall buildings.

    OK, now move on to part 2.

    1. Haha. Thanks Jeff for the nice compliment. I appreciate it a lot :) Yeah, I was so bored so I decided to do this personal project. Maybe Shah Alam will be next? Haha

      Anyway, yeah, I found one photo where there was a bus stop at Medan Pasar, near the clock tower. Right? I agreed with the decision because it looks nicer, but they should have also provide for alternative carparks, since I saw a lot of business there had to close shop.

      1. Yeah, it was a bus station back then and every morning, I would be there, waiting to catch my ride to work. The bus station is still there, moved up next to HSBC building. Since it was turned into a park, I noticed the roads surrounding the area seems to be in constant traffic jam, especially that junction near HSBC as buses all stop there. Hopefully there’ll be some solutions to that situation.

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