Prior to the invasion of the shopping malls, which KL today has in abundance, Jalan (‘street’) Tuanku Abdul Rahman was the city’s top retail thoroughfare.
As high-rise development encroached, Jalan TAR, as the younger generation refer to it, retained its low-rise, colonial-architectured character, and stores and stalls offering a conventional range of merchandise ranging from boutique fashion wear, imported silks, saris and leather goods, to antiques from China and carpets from the Middle East. But Jalan Tuanku Abdul Rahman also boasts a quite unconventional history.
Initially established in the 1930s as a path through rice fields and coconut estates to the mining settlement of Batu village, Jalan TAR (formerly known as Batu Road) grew with the burgeoning capital to become one of the city’s most prominent and busiest streets. The name change from Batu Road occurred in 1960, to honour and commemorate Malaysia’s first Agong, or King, Tuanku Abdul Rahman, also the then Ruler of Negeri Sembilan.
Today it is as busy as ever. Of course, the odd shopping mall has infringed on its character, but it remains essentially its older self. The imperial charm is evident, and a number of the buildings are notable for their engaging facades.
An important landmark along the road is The Coliseum, one of KL’s oldest cinemas. Nearby, is the Coliseum Cafe & Hotel. Established in 1921, The Colly, so called by habitués and old timers, is a classic example of a colonial establishment pub-and-café style. In its day a popular upmarket rendezvous, it is now sadly rundown, but still worth a visit. On both sides of Jalan TAR, old-fashioned arcaded walkways take you past a wide variety of shops and eating places, and it’s difficult not to be taken back to a more leisurely pace of life.
Jalan TAR’s immediate surrounding areas offer real and interesting contrast. For example, a short stroll down one of several narrow – and stall stuffed side-streets – is ‘Little India’. Living up to its name, and squeezed into a relatively small area, its compelling mixture of unique sounds, smells, colour and confusion delivers up a microcosm of sub-continental culture. Not to mention a wide variety of great shopping opportunities.