S Puvaneswary embarks on a virtual heritage walking tour in the old parts of Kuala Lumpur to explore fragments of the city's past as a nationwide lockdown puts a halt to physical tours and sight-seeing activities.
With plenty of idle time on my hands amid the ongoing nationwide lockdown, I found myself considering a virtual vacation to satisfy my pent-up wanderlust. Upon hearing that a new, virtual 360-degree tour of Old Kuala Lumpur, hosted by seasoned guide Jane Rai, was drawing considerable domestic and foreign attention, my interest was piqued.
The tour, dubbed Old Kuala Lumpur East-West Connection, gives a glimpse of the city’s history, dating back to its tin mining past in the 19th century, through a jaunt along the older parts of Kuala Lumpur.
The term “East-West Connection” references early settlements, trade and structural developments that took place close to the confluence of two rivers (the Klang River and the Gombak River) that ran through the city.
The title also alludes to the relationship and co-existence of the diverse communities who settled at the east and west banks of the two rivers. Legacies left behind by the early migrant settlers, pioneers and British colonisers are still very much visible today in modern Kuala Lumpur.
During the 90-minute interactive tour, Jane regaled me with tales of former leaders who had contributed to the city’s growth and family-run businesses that have stood the test of time, and are operated by descendants of the early founders in their original buildings.
The virtual tour is an adaptation of the physical 1km heritage walking tour that Jane ran prior to the lockdown.
To simulate the physical tour, she partnered with a local travel technology company which had the expertise to take aerial shots and street images with 360-degree views of the entire route in high-resolution.
On the virtual tour, a pre-recorded video of present-day old Kuala Lumpur was juxtaposed with painstakingly-sourced pictures of the place in historic times. Staring at the steady stream of old images evoked in me a sense of nostalgia, and I found myself wistful for a bygone era when life was much simpler and people were less caught up in materialistic pursuits.
Photos of people riding on pushcarts and sampans, then the main mode of transportation near the Malay village and Java Street, now renamed as Jalan Tun Perak, is a hark back to the good old days.
A virtual 360-degree tour meant I was able to revisit certain places along the touring route and zoom in for a close-up look at places and objects that intrigued me.
For example, I could zoom in to read the writings on the ceiling inside the Kuala Lumpur City Gallery’s Hall of History – something which had escaped my eyes during my previous visits to the gallery.
I loved this highly interactive, one-on-one tour as I was given Jane’s undivided attention and could shoot as many questions as I fancied at her, without fear of holding others up. The greatest perk to virtual touring is that we could hop from one spot to another, retrace our steps to revisit a place, or skip areas along the walking path – all at the click of a button. Jane matches her commentary based on where we chose to venture, and her in-depth storytelling brought those places to vibrant life. Those who appreciate a deep dive into the country’s cultural heritage, architecture and history will find this virtual jaunt back in time to be right up their alley.
Rate: RM50 (US$12) per person
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