(Its a mini travel guide on Putrajaya; in August 2019 Issue of Going Places, MAS in-flight magazine; edited version below ).
GP Aug’19 MY
Guide Head: Smart City
Standfirst: From administrative centre with architectural masterpieces to a vibrant neighbourhood of strong cultural and recreational activities, Putrajaya promises a spectrum of experiences only a smart city could provide.
Words: Husna Kassim
“I would like to think that a century from now people would know they are in Putrajaya because of the uniqueness of the city architecturally.”
These are the words of Malaysian Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad when he first unveiled Putrajaya, his brain-child and the country’s federal administrative centre, in 1999. Today, Putrajaya is a beautiful city, where 37 percent of the land comprise of parks and open spaces with man-made wetlands and lakes.
Persiaran Sultan Salahuddin Abdul Aziz Shah is the main thoroughfare in Putrajaya. Known as the world’s largest roundabout with a diameter of 3.5 kilometres, it is named after the eleventh king of Malaysia. Located on a hill within the roundabout is Istana Melawati, the second royal palace of the Yang di-Pertuan Agong, also known as the Supreme Head or the King of Malaysia.
Opposite the palace is the 93 hectare tropical botanical garden, Taman Botani, where more than 700 species of plants from over 90 countries vie for space along with cycling trails. Entrance to the park is free. Within the garden is the Moroccan Pavilion, a replica of a palace in Marrakesh in Morocco, and a popular spot for pre-wedding photography. With its Islamic calligraphy and intricate carvings, it reportedly took 80 artisans from Morocco more than eight months to build the Pavilion as a cultural exchange between the two countries.
If you drive further along the roundabout and take a slip road, you would arrive at Dataran Putra. The majestic green-domed Perdana Putra, the Prime Minister’s office, is located at the edge of the area. A few minutes’ walk away is the iconic Putra Mosque, which takes inspiration from Middle Eastern, Malay and indigenous architectural aspects in its design. Its pink dome is made with rose coloured granite and the prayer hall can accommodate 15,000 worshipers. The mosque sits on the edge of the scenic Putrajaya Lake, and would make a charming picture postcard at sunset.
The nearby Putrajaya Boulevard links Perdana Putra to other government buildings, and is distinctive in its design modelled after the Champs-Elysees in Paris. This boulevard measures 100 meters wide and four kilometers long and links five core precincts and passes through four squares, including the majestic Palace of Justice and the three-tiered Iranian-inspired Putra Bridge. The 435-metre concrete bridge with four minaret-type piers and observation decks overlooks the Putrajaya Lake.
FUN AND FESTIVITIES
Like everywhere else in Malaysia, festivals in Putrajaya are a celebration of diversity. The Festival of Light and Motion Putrajaya (LAMPU), one of the biggest events in Putrajaya, held annually at the end of the year showcases concerts by local artistes and New Year countdown traditionally attended by the Prime Minister. The event’s crowd-puller is the Projection Mapping show, where the façade of the grand Palace of Justice is transformed into a colossal background for the display of lively multimedia effects. Entrance is free and it is advisable to bring a portable chair. The Royal Floria Putrajaya is Malaysia’s annual flower and garden festival. The theme this year is Orchid & Bonsai and will be held from 30 August till 8 September. Last year, the festival featured 61 garden lots with 43 international participants from 23 countries.
Putrajaya Lake Cruise is a top tourist attraction and for good reason. You get the perfect opportunity to take photos of the many bridges you pass cruising down the lake. But for thrill seekers, fly-boarding, hovering and dolphin dives at the Marina Putrajaya in Precinct 5 comes highly recommended. The Putrajaya Water Sports Complex in Precinct 6 is probably the best place for those who love the active lifestyle. This complex has been used to host local and international sports events. Alternatively, you can rent a boat and choose from different sets of activities at the lake such as wake-boarding, water skiing and banana boating.
Putrajaya Wetlands Park is the first man-made freshwater wetland in the tropics and a sanctuary for marshland wildlife and water birds. Grab your binoculars and go bird-watching here in the Wetlands, recognised by UNESCO as an eco-hydrology demonstration site. Skyrides Festivals Park, located on the edge of the Perdana Lake, in Precinct 2, offers thrilling experience of hot air balloon rides.
With plenty of greens and beautiful lakes, dedicated cycle paths and fresh, clean air, Putrajaya is a haven for cyclists and joggers. There are plenty of places to stop for a picnic, too. You can bring your own bicycles or rent one from Taman Botani. There are also walking tours in Putrajaya, organised by various companies. There is also the Putrajaya Night Tour and the Symphony Walk which consist of waterfront walks. If you prefer not to work up a sweat, book a tour with Planet Scooters. They offer two and three hour programmes and is the perfect way for families to tour the city together.
SOMETHING FOR THE TUMMY
There are plenty of restaurants and fast food outlets in Alamanda Mall but locals prefer Dataran Putra. If there is one thing in Malaysia you can count on, its hawker food. At Selera Putra Food Court at Dataran Putra, visitors will find a varied spread, from Indian curries, Middle Eastern kebabs, American fast food to the quintessential Malaysian dessert, durian cendol.
There are five types of bus services operating from Putrajaya Sentral in Precinct 7. NadiPutra Bus, a commuter bus service, offers the most comprehensive bus routes coverage within the city.
The KLIA Transit train service from KL Sentral station to the Kuala Lumpur International Airport stops at Putrajaya. It takes about 20 minutes.
Taxis are plentiful though try to avoid flagging one down in front of train stations or bus terminals or be prepared to be ripped off. Alternatively, use ride-hailing service Grab to get around