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KUALA LUMPUR, Feb 23 — It’s literally a bridge that links two sides of Kuala Lumpur.
The beautiful Pintasan Saloma or Saloma Link spans the Klang River to join Kampung Baru to Jalan Ampang, near KLCC.
Once connected by an old narrow bridge across the river in the 1950s, these two parts of the city had for a long time been separated by the six-lane Ampang-Kuala Lumpur Elevated Highway (Akleh).
Now it will just take you seven minutes to walk to the other side, and along the way you will pass the Jalan Ampang Muslim Cemetery where the legendary P. Ramlee and his third wife Saloma are buried.
Since the opening of the Saloma Link (named for Saloma) on February 5, it has already drawn quite a crowd with its unique design — a quick check on social media will show you many pictures of the walkway — and LED displays at night.
The afternoon Malay Mail visited the area, former teacher Lanka Devi was also there. She said the walk across the Saloma Link brought back memories of a time when Kuala Lumpur was easier to get around.
Lanka and her university friends used to hang out in the city on weekends and walk from Central Market to Kampung Baru to eat at the various stalls.
They stopped doing so once rapid development started and the city became more and more congested.
When she heard about the walkway and the access to the cemetery, the avid P. Ramlee fan had to go take a look.
“I love P. Ramlee and have watched all of his movies. His wife Saloma was a beautiful, sexy and talented woman. It’s wonderful that this bridge is named after her,” she said.
“This place looks so different now but I'm glad Kampung Baru has maintained some of its allure. In fact standing on this top platform, you can see the difference between the old KL and the new KL.
“In time, I feel this bridge will benefit the people of Kampung Baru tremendously as more and more people will start using the Kampung Baru LRT to walk across to the city. It's just a short walk compared to driving.
“Once tourists start identifying this bridge as a place to check out, coupled with the ability to visit the graves of P. Ramlee and Saloma, I'm sure there will be more shops selling souvenirs, local arts and craft as well as food popping up, which will be great for the residents here,” she added.
Sabarudin Kasim, 62, a security guard at Saloma Link told Malay Mail an estimated 3,000 people used the bridge on the day it opened.
But the number has been going up steadily since.
“Today's Friday, right? Well, if you guys come at night this place will be packed,” said Sabarudin.
“I'd say from that 3,000 on the first day to around 10,000 now. The public love the colour display at night which is themed. For Deepavali, Hari Raya, Chinese New Year and even Ponggal, they had corresponding colours to mark those occasions.”
Friends Muhd Iskandar Ismail, 16; Muhd Zulizhan, 16, and Muhd Danial Aizat, 20, couldn't wait to get to the bridge after finishing classes at Institute Delta Semarak where they are taking up welding.
They trio saw pictures of the Saloma Link posted online and wanted to see it for themselves. As Friday lessons were only till noon, they hurried to Saloma Link to recce the place before visiting it again later that night with more of their friends.
“When we heard about this place we said we had to come check out the lights,” said Iskandar.
Danial said they would have around 10 friends with them and they planned to take pictures.
“We saw the posts on Instagram and Twitter and we said, ‘Let's see the place!’ I have to say this must be great for the Kampung Baru people. It's very convenient.
“I know about the grave and it's a very well kept one, it looks very clean. I'll come again and maybe we'll put some Insta stories up,” said Zulizhan, referring to P. Ramlee’s grave.
The Saloma Link’s design draws inspiration from the sirih junjung, an essential item at Malay weddings made from betel nut leaves.
The walkway has also widened the lunch options of colleagues Zarahyah Aziz and Nina Abdullah.
“We've never gone to Kampung Baru to buy food before because it wasn't accessible without this bridge, but we decided to give it a try today and we're glad we did. It's beautiful,” said Nina.
Zarahyah added that more and more of her colleagues are getting to know about the bridge and eventually more of them may take the walk to Kampung Baru for food as there are more choices available.
“We could never walk across those streets to get there, always needed to take a drive so no one would even do it. Now I think if people want a cheaper choice or some Malay food, they'll take the walk.
“After all, it's not very far and it's also a pleasant walk,” she added.
For former Kampung Baru resident, Zulkifli Muhammad, 49, the bridge is heaven sent as he can now take an LRT to Kampung Baru and walk to the cemetery to pay respects to his loved ones.
“Last time to get there I took the bus. It would take a while depending on traffic and the time and date. I'd say around 30 to 45 minutes.
“Now it's so convenient and for tourists you can visit two famous places at a time. The kampung and the city and KLCC,” said Zulkifli who now stays in Keramat.
Dentistry student Maldanie Anak Sulaiman makes regular visits to his dentist in Kampung Baru.
Maldanie said he saw pictures of the bridge on Twitter and thought it'd be good to have a look.
“So many people were talking about it, even those at the dentist,” he added.
Safura Damia, 22, loves the design of the bridge in particular. “It's pretty unique and special. It's spacious and a nice and cooling walk with the breeze. I'd recommend people come and see it for themselves and we might come at night to see it again when it's nice and lit.”
However, all these visitors have caused a problem for the Kampung Baru residents. They have caused congestion in the area as they tend to park wherever they can find a spot along the narrow roads nearby.
“People are parking wherever they want and are disturbing the residents and the usual traffic flow here has been disrupted badly.
“One time, I had to circle this area seven times to get into my house as the place was jammed," said Ainon Sahlan who runs a roadside stall called Cherry Corner on the Kampung Baru side of the bridge.
“It gets worse on weekends.”
Ainon said the authorities should place more signages as well as station traffic controllers around the area to ease congestion and provide proper direction for the drivers.
“....because now there are no directional signage pointing to the bridge so people are coming from all directions. That's what's causing the jam,” added Ainon.
“As for my business, it hasn't risen dramatically since I only work the day shift. However the stalls at night are packed with customers.”
Iman Raihana and Iman Balqis are both residents in the area whose homes are close to the bridge.
They've seen a drastic rise in traffic since the bridge opened and it has affected them.
“This place should not be accessible to cars,” said Raihana.
“I urge everyone who wants to come here to take public transport as there is no proper parking here. Since they've started parking everywhere, it's affected the daily lives of the people around here.”
According to Raihana, there used to be a pasar malam in the area which made it impossible for cars to drive in. Since the authorities moved the pasar malam to a new area, it's allowed traffic to flow into the area.
“They should bring back the pasar malam... then people can see the contrast between modern and traditional markets,” said Balqis.
“Not only that, it will also lessen traffic congestion as people from outside Kampung Baru will have to walk here or take public transport instead of driving.”