A Brief History of Putrajaya
The country of Malaysia had its origins in the many independent Malay kingdoms, which during the 18th century became subject first to the East India Tea Company and then the British Empire. Occupied by the Japanese during World War II, the Federation of Malaya attained independence from Britain in 1957, then merged with North Borneo, Sarawak, and Singapore to form Malaysia in 1963. Singapore parted ways with Malaysia in 1965 to become an independent city-state. Its departure left a multi-ethnic country with a population of over 30 million, divided among Malays (approximately half the population), ethnic Chinese, Indians, and various indigenous peoples.
Putrajaya itself is a young city. Situated halfway between Kuala Lumpur and the KLIA international airport, its construction was begun in 1995 on marshland formerly dominated by rubber and oil palm plantations. Putrajaya was intended to provide an administrative center for the country, away from the growing congestion and overcrowding in Kuala Lumpur, which remained the national capital. Perhaps in reaction to the dense urban environment of Kuala Lumpur, the city’s planners imagined a “green” city with lakes, parks, and communal gardens.
Today Putrajaya boasts a fine Botanical Garden, which you can explore on a rented bike, an artificial freshwater Wetlands Park, plus a marina and numerous walks around the imposing lake that is the city’s principal natural feature. The Heriot-Watt Malaysia campus is situated on the south end of the lake, with a grass-covered roof crowning the main building, in keeping with the city’s green image.
The most distinctive Putrajaya landmark is the massive Putra Mosque (Masjid Putra), located on the lakeshore and constructed with a distinctive, rose-colored granite. Downtown you will find plenty of government buildings, but also malls and restaurants. One of Malaysia’s great pleasures is in fact its food. Local food is sometimes spicy (though there are always western alternatives in hotels) but for most visitors, local fare is definitely worth a try. Highlights include laksa, a spicy soup which has many regional variations. and rendang, which is a dry, coconut curry made with beef or chicken. Best known is satay—grilled skewers of chicken or beef with a spicy peanut sauce. Other Malaysian dishes of note are nasi lemak, which is a coconut milk rice served with sambal (spicy sauce), peanuts and crispy anchovies, or nasi goreng, which is fried rice with chicken, vegetables and seafood. If you are looking for dessert, then there is an amazing variety of kueh, which are sweet rice, bean and tapioca steamed cakes.
If you want to explore outside Putrajaya, the KLIA Ekspres [sic] train that runs from the Kuala Lumpur International Airport to Kuala Lumpur stops at Putrajaya station. This makes for an easy day trip, either before or after the conference. Other areas to visit on an extended trip would include Penang in the north of the country, Singapore to the south, or the Malaysian Borneo regions of Sabah and Sarawak on the island of Borneo.
1, Jalan Venna P5/2
Wilayah Persekutuan Putrajaya, Malaysia