Where to go in Kuala Lumpur (KL), Malaysia: Merdeka Square (Dataran Merdeka)

Merdeka Square (Dataran Merdeka)

Dataran Merdeka
Dataran Merdeka (Merdeka Square) is one of te most important historical landmark in Malaysia. In 31st August of 1957, when the British flag came down and the Malayan flag was raised, the area became known as Dataran Merdeka (or Merdeka Square).

Formerly known as the Selangor Turf Club, the Dataran Merdeka (or Independence Square) - the scene of the annual celebration of independence - was once the focal point, and cricket green (incl. hockey, tennis, and rugby matches), of the British colonial presence in Malaysia. Appropriately enough, it was here, in front of the impressive and oft photographed Sultan Abdul Samad building, with its unique Moorish architecture and foreboding clock-tower, where the Union Jack was lowered, the Malayan flag hoisted up for the first time and Tunku Abdul Raman declared the country independent from Britain at 12:01 am on August 31, 1957. In front of thousands of jubilant Malaysians, Tunku Abdul Raman led a famous chant: Merdeka! Merdeka! Merdeka! (Independence!) signaling Malaysia's independence as a nation. A grand parade, in which just about every major Malaysian organization participates, from the local post office to multi-national corporations (and in which outlandish costumes seem to be de rigueur) is held once a year to mark the occasion of the nation's birth. It is appropriately known as Merdeka Day.

A 100-meter flagpole , the tallest in the world, marks that spot with a flat, round black marble plaque. It is located at the southern end of the square majestically flying the national flag. Beneath the newly returfed and attractively laid out Dataran Merdeka is the Plaza Putra, an underground food, leisure and entertainment complex. The Royal Selangor Club, overlooks Merdeka Square. This quasi-Tudor style timber structure was built in 1890 and remains a place to watch a round of cricket on a Sunday afternoon.

Also at Merdeka Square is the Royal Selangor Club, an old colonial bastion where the British elite used to wine and dine. Its Tudor-style exterior is quite a contrast to the Middle Eastern-looking Sultan Abdul Samad government building across the square, but it is nonetheless representative of Malaysia's colonial past. You can sometimes catch a game of cricket being played on the grounds in front of the club, which is still a private hangout for the upper echelons of KL society.

Across the road, the gleaming copper domes and 130-meter clock tower of the Sultan Abdul Samad Building are by far the most impressive architecture feature of the Dataran Merdeka, flanking it from one end to the other. Like the town itself, it incorporates a wide mix of cultural styles in its architecture and in particular, Moorish styles. This elaborate edifice is a fantastic blend of Moghul, Moorish, Arab and British neoclassical architecture. Designed by architects Norman and Bidwell, the building took more than two years to build and was completed in 1897. It served initially as the center of British colonial administration in Malaysia. Today, it houses the Judicial Department (Supreme and High Courts) on one end and Infokraf, a center for Malaysian handicrafts, on the other. At night, the building looks as if it were plucked off the Las Vegas strip, with bright lights running up, down, and around every wall as the whole building is lit up as if it were Christmas, making an excellent photo opportunity


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