Exploring Klang’s unique attractions

This article first appeared in City & Country, The Edge Malaysia Weekly, on September 6, 2021 - September 12, 2021.
Exploring Klang’s unique attractions
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One of the oldest towns in Malaysia and the former capital of Selangor, the town is rich in heritage and unlikely charms. Even locals may not know about some of its attractions.

The Royal Klang Town Heritage Trail highlights some historical sites, including clusters of colonial structures, a fire station, a school, royal gallery, and warehouse built by a local Malay chieftain. The following are some of the places not to be missed for any visitor.

1  Sultan Abdul Aziz Royal Gallery

The Sultan Abdul Aziz Royal Gallery was established in 1988 and is housed in the Sultan Suleiman Building along Jalan Stesen in Klang.

After Sultan Sharafuddin Idris Shah ascended the throne in 2001 as the ninth Sultan of Selangor, he decreed that the building be turned into a royal gallery, and officiated it on Oct 19, 2007. The gallery is dedicated in honour of his late father, Sultan Salahuddin Abdul Aziz Shah, according to selangor.travel.

During British colonial rule, the building was used as the land and administration office. The Japanese made it their war headquarters during the Second World War, and subsequently, several local authorities then occupied it until it was turned into the Sultan Abdul Aziz Royal Gallery.

The 2-storey edifice highlights the rich history and family tree of the Selangor Sultanate from the days when they migrated to Klang in the 1700s from Sulawesi, Indonesia. One will get an insight of Sultan Salahuddin Abdul Aziz Shah’s childhood and early years as a crown prince and his career in the military and public offices until his appointment as the eighth Sultan of Selangor in 1960 and as the 11th Yang di-Pertuan Agong in 1999.

The royal collection comprises a range of personal collections of artefacts and gifts covering the period of his reign, as well as the replicas of Selangor’s crown jewels, according to selangor.travel.

2  The former Chartered Bank

The former Chartered Bank building, which is located at the intersection of Jalan Istana and Jalan Dato Hamzah, was established in 1874 and is the first financial institution in Klang. From 1909 to 1957, the first and second floors of the building were used as the British Administration office, according to selangor.travel.

It is characterised as having a Neoclassical style, with two stretches of balcony at the upper level overseeing the roadside, reflecting the influence of colonial architecture. The building’s distinctive features are the Dutch-style gables.

The venue has been renovated and currently houses an Indian boutique shop called Chennai Silk Palace, which offers colourful silk sarees and brassware.

3  Royal Klang Club

The Royal Klang Club was founded in 1901 at its present location in Jalan Istana for the purpose of social and recreational activities for its members, who were mainly British and European civil servants, as well as businessmen.

At the time, the club consisted of the old main building, which had a hall and lounge area, an office, small dining area, bar and billiards room downstairs. There were a few guest rooms, a stage and a small theatre to accommodate about 100 people upstairs. The theatre was used for staging plays, especially during Christmas, according to royalklangclub.com.my.

4   Alam Shah Palace

According to the tour guides, Alam Shah Palace was erected on the site of Astana Mahkota Puri, which was built for the installation of the fifth Sultan of Selangor, Sultan Sir Alaeddin Suleiman Shah.

Completed in 1960, the building is located along Jalan Istana and was extensively renovated for the installation ceremony of Sultan Sharafuddin Idris Shah, the ninth and current Sultan of Selangor, in 2001. The palace’s commanding elevated location overlooks the Sultan Sulaiman Royal Mosque and features interesting downhill steps that lead to manicured gardens.

The crowning glory of the palace is the golden onion dome that is supported by an octagon-shaped pillar, according to selangor.travel.

5  Church of Our Lady of Lourdes

Church of Our Lady of Lourdes is a Catholic church that is among the oldest buildings in Klang. It was opened in 1928 by Bishop Perrichon.

In 2008, the historic landmark underwent a restoration. The building was expanded to provide more facilities and space for worshippers. Wisma Lourdes — a 4-storey formation centre — was added to the church complex to accommodate the increasing number of students and classes for Sunday school.

According to gokayu.com, Father Souhait, who was an architecture student, was required to take care of the spiritual needs of the Catholic residents in Klang and its neighbouring areas such as Kuala Langat and Kuala Selangor. He was in charge of purchasing the land where the church now stands and played a major role in designing the church’s building, getting inspiration from the Basilica of Our Lady of Lourdes in France. 

The church is one of the most photographed landmarks in Selangor due to its impressive design and beautiful rose windows.

6  Klang Convent School

According to the tour guides, the school was a branch of Convent Bukit Nanas and was managed by the Holy Infant Jesus Convent in Kuala Lumpur. Construction started in 1924 and the school comprised classrooms, a hall and a large compound and was ready to cater for an increasing number of students.

Officially opened in January 1928 by the Chief Secretary of the British Administration Sir William Peel, the school’s building is symmetrical, with equal bays on each side of a central 2-storey entrance block serving as a porte cochere. The plain pointed arches of the main entrance span the road, giving public access to the central stair hallway.

7  Tengku Kelana Street

Tengku Kelana Street, also known as Little India, is one of several major Indian business districts in the Klang Valley, with the others being Brickfields, Jalan Ampang and Jalan Masjid India in Kuala Lumpur.

It is lined with shops on both sides of the road and has stalls spilling onto sidewalks and back alleys, with fierce competition among traders making the place a haven for bargain hunters, as well as those who love street food.

According to visitselangor.com, the shops and stalls here sell almost everything, from traditional clothing, textiles, jewellery and accessories to home décor items and scrumptious Indian delicacies. During Deepavali, the street is transformed into a colourful spectacle of light and sound, and the electrifying atmosphere as festive shoppers and revellers throng the street makes shopping here a unique experience.

8  Klang Fire Station

Constructed by the British colonial government to safeguard the town from fires, this vividly red-and-white-striped fire station has occupied the same Victorian-style building since the 1890s and is located in Jalan Gedung Raja Abdullah. It was put under the monitoring and supervision of the district police until the 1950s, according to nst.com.my. Despite the renovations, it has maintained its original structure and architectural design and now also houses a small museum dedicated to the history of the fire service in Klang. There, one would be able to look at the exhibits, including a wind-up siren, historic fire extinguishers, uniforms, hoses and nozzles.

9  Gedung Raja Abdullah

The 2-storey heritage building was originally used as a warehouse by Raja Abdullah Raja Jaafar, the first Malay tin-mining pioneer, who lived upstairs with his family while his tin ore and other goods were stored on the ground floor.

In 1867, there was a conflict between Raja Abdullah and his rival, Raja Mahdi, the grandson of Sultan Muhammad Shah, the third Sultan of Selangor, and the warehouse thus had to be fortified. The spreading unrest caused by this dispute gave the British an opportunity to spread their influence into Selangor and a British Resident was appointed to oversee state affairs.

According to Malaysia-traveller.com, the warehouse became a government office and was later used as police headquarters in the 1880s. Iron grille doors were added to various rooms, which became cells. It functioned as a police station for nearly 100 years until the new headquarters was constructed next door in the 1970s.

During this time, the building was recognised as a national monument and converted into a tin museum. The museum, however, was closed after the Sultan Alam Shah Museum in Shah Alam was opened in 1989 and many of the tin-related exhibits were transferred there.