Few people would consider a federal capital a tourist destination. Yet I remember Washington DC gets frequented by tourists, especially on 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. There’s also the Mall, flanked by numerous museums that are open to the public for free. Even a place as the library – as in the Library of Congress – draws visitors.
In the case of Putrajaya, Malaysia’s federal administrative capital, the main highlights are the parade of government buildings and series of interconnecting bridges. Far from being staid and sterile cookie-cutter style, the government buildings are quite a spectacle. Even more so at night since it’s blindingly sunny on a fair day. When this administrative capital was first mooted in the 90s some people felt that it was rather excessive, given that the then existing government buildings in KL were perfectly function-able. When the Asian ’97 economic crisis struck, such mega projects became even less palatable. Furthermore, development happened on or around a time when Malaysia was going through a phase of building the world’s tallest twin towers, spanking new international airport (that is today, probably the international airport in the world that is furthest from the capital city destination it’s meant to serve) and a whole host of other ambitious projects like Cyberjaya. Needless to say the spurt to spawn mega projects isn’t without controversy.
Yet there is something truly indescribable about colossal endeavours that leave indelible imprints on a tiny spectator’s mind: think of the world’s great marvels like the Great Wall, the Pyramids, Angkor Wat, Taj Mahal – they are no miniatures. And even though they may have been built to serve certain purposes in those days, their construction must have drained tremendous amount of resources then too.
Only time will tell whether Putrajaya will truly blossom into its full purpose: originally planned as the administrative centre to ease the burden of over-crowding and over-congestion in Kuala Lumpur, Putrajaya’s current population consists primarily of civil servants and is still a long way from the targeted 300,000. For now, it’s a former swampland that is now the heart of the nation’s administration, seated with ginormous blocks of unique – and some spectacular – architecture, broad promenades lined by cutting-edge design lamp posts. It hosts the world’s largest roundabout (3.5km in diameter), although there’s hardly any traffic. Come to think of it, it’s the perfect place to explore on bike!