Friday, December 22, 2006

Tourists seek out old buildings, too

From a settlement of Chinese tin miners to the capital Malaysia, Kuala Lumpur has been transformed into an international metropolitan city after a span of more than 150 years.

Many KLites would proudly identify with the city’s modern structures such as the Petronas Twin Towers and the KL Tower. But there’s more to KL than its newer, modern attractions. Its legacy of colonial buildings with their old world charms win tourists over, too.

I LOVE old places and really enjoy looking at old structures,” declared 25-year-old American tourist Tarek Ghalayini, who had spent the past four months holidaying in Asia and the Middle East.

Jordan ... ‘It’s a pity that KL’s old charms are not highlighted in tourist brochures’His one grouse about Malaysia is the limited information on the older streets and buildings in Kuala Lumpur.
“I love old palaces like the Grand Palace in Bangkok, for example. It is interesting to see past and present royal residence. I think the palace’s architecture is simply amazing.

“I’d usually do some research before visiting a place, and that’s how I first discovered that Kuala Lumpur is more known for its modern architecture,” said Ghalayini.

British tourist Paul Jordan, 20, said he could not see the historical side of Kuala Lumpur as most of the buildings were no older than about 40 to 50 years old.

“It’s a pity that the city’s old charms are not highlighted in tourist brochures as much as the newer attractions. In fact, it is hard to tell where the old areas of KL are,” he said.

Jordan said he could easily access information on old buildings, while he was in Paris, Geneva and London but not in Kuala Lumpur.

Many tourists like Jordan and Ghalayini believe a city’s old structures are important tourism products that should be preserved and protected.

Chinese tourist Gao Jian, 31, said someone had recommended that he visit Malacca while in Malaysia because the city was rich in culture and history.

The Bombay Palace Restaurant in Jalan Tun Razak is a good example of a renovated but well-preserved colonial building.“Nothing was mentioned about Kuala Lumpur’s historical attractions,” he said.

Since the demolition of the 77-year-old Bok House in Kuala Lumpur, many city folks and even visitors to Malaysia have expressed their sadness over the destruction of the building, saying that old buildings like Bok House should be preserved.

Bok House was demolished because it was deemed structurally unsafe and unfit for human occupation. It was also said to be of no cultural and historical significance.

However, there many buildings and structures in the city that can still be saved. Under the National Heritage Act 2005, which came into effect in March this year, anyone can nominate any building as a heritage site but it would be up to the Arts, Cultre and Heritage Ministry to decide.

“While KL has retained some portion of its uniqueness in its old pre-war buildings, many of these buildings have undergone subtle changes, at least on the outside and this should be encouraged,” said Indian tourist Rakesh Wahla.

“For example, the old High Court building that was built in 1912 and the Sultan Abdul Samad Building, built in 1897, have been renovated to suit its present functions but their facades remain the same,” he said.

There are many other similar structures in the city that still retain their old world charm although they have been renovated.

The Bombay Palace Restaurant in Jalan Tun Razak is one example.

“Its present tenants are quite adamant about retaining its colonial identity,” said Jane Lincoln a British expat.

“I love the place, it is really charming,” she said.

Indeed it was reported that having spent RM1mil refurbishing the place, its present tenants made sure that 90% of its original structure was retained.

Another pre-war building that has stood the test of time is Syarikat M.S. Ally Sdn Bhd, a pharmacy in Jalan Tun H.S. Lee. The pink three-storey building was built in 1902 have withstood the colonial era and is one of the oldest structures still standing in KL.

Source : STAR
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