Malaysia's Excess and Coming Out Party: Putrajaya

In 1999, Malaysia transfered its seat of government from its capital city, Kuala Lumpur to Putrajaya, a planned city that currently holds a number of federal administrative buildings of Malaysia. Putrajaya was built from scratch and was transformed into a mammoth city it is today. It has since become one of the three Federal Territories of Malaysia along with Kuala Lumpur and Labuan.


Then Prime Minister Mahathir Mohammad envisioned a city that will served as the nation's center of government in 1995. Its aim is to drive away the congestion experienced in Kuala Lumpur and a vast land where Putrajaya is now located served as the ideal location of the city that ultimately boasts the excess of Malaysia.

The structures around Putrajaya was anything but laid back. The high arching bridges to its massive tiled side walks, architecturally gifted federal buildings and enormous mosques all presents a city that was founded with abundance of wealth. If anything, Putrajaya is Malaysia's way of saying "fuck you, we've made it big" to its neighboring countries in terms of leveling up from a third world country into a developing nation.

Putrajaya was designed to have a mixture of vast open spaces and 38% of the total land space being reserved for "green areas" to emphasize the environment friendliness of the city. Construction of the city itself started in 1995 with budget reaching an oustanding $8.1 billion, making it one of South East Asia's biggest city-wide development project.

My brother and I made a side trip to Putrajaya by taking the KLIA transit from Kuala Lumpur and from the train terminal in Putrajaya, we hired a cab to take us around Putrajaya for a couple of hours which costs us at an equivalent of about 500 pesos. It was a bit expensive, but for two hours riding from one landmark to another in this big city with no public transportation other then scheduled bus, its worth doing so.

We ended up close with a number of intimidating structures like the Palace of Justice which was designed like the Taj Mahal in India, we also strolled along the spacious Putra Square, a 300 meter wide in circular shape surrounded by Putra Mosque and other buildings. It is where the Malaysian National Independence Parade is held annually. 

It was tiring getting out and in of the cab to go from one place to another since the city was so big and we passed by this bridge Seri Wawasan bridge which is highlighted by towering and arching beams that separates a tranquil river that flows smoothly dividing the city in two and on both side of the river you can see other gigantic Mosques and Government buildings.

Putrajaya is still in the process of absorbing a lot of the economic activity of Kuala Lumpur that while we were there we only saw a handful of tourists and wonder if people are already occupying and working inside those buildings.

I heard, there's a Shangrila Hotel inside Putrajaya and a dozen of other towering residential condominiums but according to 2007 estimates, it houses 30,000 residents. Still more room for people tired of the congestion in Kuala Lumpur.

My mind was buzzing with comparisons to the Philippines, I asked myself if we are ready to built a city from scratch and just like that transfer the seat of Government there. It can be done but, realistically not in the next few years.

It was an excessive and ambitious project alright for Malaysia to present Putrajaya as their city of the future. The surrounding infrastructures suggest they have done quite a great job with it and as their economy continues to grow - it seems like everything is possible for Putrajaya to really take off and become one of the world's best.

The spacious sidewalks seems empty and I felt like being inside a post apocalyptic movie where everything turned up deserted. It might be so, but the fact remains that in the near future Putrajaya is ripe for a massive explosion of economic activity.

I look forward to visiting Putrajaya again in the near future when everything has come to its rightful place. It's sending me goosebumps thinking that this city is just starting to grow.