Settlements of communities in Kuala Lumpur began a century ago close to the confluence of the Klang River and Gombak River.
Today, this colourful area has diverse communities where a blend of people whose families have roots in Malaysia, India, Indonesia, and China. The area also boasts of traditional trades and local cuisines that have thrived till today.
There are many fascinating streets and lanes that retain century-old colonial buildings, places of worship, and rows of old shophouses.
Jane Rai, who has been a tourist guide for 29 years, said there are many stories of people who played significant roles in shaping the town, resulting in the city’s development from the late 1800s to mid 1900s.
She said 1880 was the year the British decided to move their administration from Klang to Kuala Lumpur.
“They knew the tin industry was booming and I guess they wanted to have a slice of the economic cake. The old Market Square is where they sold goods and it became a trading centre,” said Rai.
The square became the commercial heart of Kuala Lumpur with the main branch of Hongkong and Shanghai Bank (HSBC) located at one end, and Mercantile Bank at the other end and surrounded by the offices. HSBC is still there, but their rather grand building was replaced by a bland modern tower in the 1970s.
Today, the square is surrounded by dilapidated heritage shophouse blocks and modern buildings.
The City Discovery package of Lebuh Ampang Heritage Trail and KL Forest Eco Park expedition by Cosmo Hotel Kuala Lumpur gives insights of the developments that took place in Kuala Lumpur.
The guided-walk starts at the historic Old Market Square located at one end of Lebuh Ampang where the hotel is sited. Situated east of the two rivers, that gave Kuala Lumpur its name, the Old Market Square became a market and later grew into a commercial centre for the town some 160 years ago. Tin miners and traders settled, here, following the discovery of tin mines in the 1850s. Multiracial community settled at various areas of the town.
“Klang River long time ago was just a little stream. Boats used to get stuck in muds. There was Gombak River and Klang River and they had to decide which side the tins were located. Story has it that the east bank of Klang River was the first landing site of tin miners who arrived in 1857. This is part of the embarkment that had received a lot of developments. Government buildings came about on one side of the river and corporate buildings were on the other side.
“Raja Abdullah, a Malay chief of Klang, sent Chinese up the river to open tin mines. They landed at the confluence of Klang River and Gombak River and established mines at Ampang. A Malay chief and a Chinese Kapitan dominated the trade and tin mines. Prominent Chinese and Malays set up their businesses, here, after the Selangor British Resident, Frank Swettenham ordered the dirty market, once managed by a Chinese Kapitan, be cleaned up.
“Rows of beautiful art-deco buildings started to grace the square. In its centre is the 1937 King George V clock tower worth admiring,” said Rai.
Masjid India includes Jalan Melayu, Jalan Masjid India, Lorong Tunku Abdul Rahman (TAR), Medan Bunus and Jalan TAR.
There are a large number of Indian-Muslim traders in Masjid India. However, there are also quite a number of Malay businesses involved in tailoring and selling the songkok.
The Indian Muslim started coming into the area in the early 1900s. Majority of them were Malabari who came from India, Penang and Melaka.
They built their own masjid called Masjid India. This was the first brick built mosque in KL and designed in 1907 in the style of mogul by A.B. Hubback, who also designed many of Kuala Lumpur’s other famous landmarks during that era.
The mosque underwent four major renovations and the last was completed from 1996 to 1997.
Along the heritage trail one will come across the white coloured Gian Singh Building on the corner with Jalan Tun Perak. This was constructed in 1909 on behalf of various owners each according to their individual designs, but with a common facade and roofline. The whole block was occupied by Gian Singh, a textile trading company from the 1920s and which still operates.
As you walk on you will come across LAT structures on Jalan Melaka, which were built in from 2014 to 2105.
“The wooden sculptures are characters from several cartoon books by Malaysia’s top cartoonist. Wisma Lee Rubber is located, here. The City Hall placed various characters in different streets from Jalan Melaka, Jalan Gereja and to Jalan Raja Chulan.
“Jalan Melaka is located on the site of the Malay village called Kampung Rawa, where a large community of Mandalings settled, here. So, one will enjoy visiting this area which is home to many restaurants serving local delicacies,” said Rai.
Cosmo on historical grounds
Cosmo Hotel Kuala Lumpur is located at an old row of shophouses once occupied by Chinese tin miners and traders in the 1870s. Many of these shophouses were used as warehouses to store tin slabs and dried fish.
The four-star hotel opened its doors on December 1 2016.
General manager Susan Carlos said the location is strategic and historical and near to the convergent point of the Klang River and Gombak River.
“We are surrounded by many financial institutions and with easy accessibility to almost every part of the city with the Masjid Jamek Interchange Station located nearby,” she said.
The 347-room hotel is accessible to some of the city’s banking institutions and popular attractions such as Central Market, the historical landmark of Sultan Abdul Samad Building and Merdeka Square, Chinatown, Masjid India and many shopping enclaves.
According to Carlos, there are more than 15 hotels in the Lebuh Ampang area, but Cosmo Hotel is the market leader in terms of rates, quality of product and service and occupancy.
She told NST Property that the hotel is doing well with a 70 per cent occupancy.
For next year and onwards, she is expecting the hotel to do better in terms of room occupancy and revenue.
“My outlook for the hotel is cautiously optimistic for 2019,” Carlos added.
Cosmo Hotel has embarked on selling a Discovery Package that is priced at RM288 nett per room one night.
She said the target audience includes the leisure market, family on holiday, school holiday crowd, and family who does not want to travel far from town and weekend getaway.
“For those who are seeking adventure and want to know the history of Kuala Lumpur, there is an option for the expedition to KL Forest Eco Park which is a mere 10-minute walk, said Carlos.