Malaysia’s colourful capital city, Kuala Lumpur, provides a heady mix of … well, just about everything!
The term ‘melting pot’ could well have been coined for Malaysia’s capital city, Kuala Lumpur, or KL as it is fondly known.
Established in the 1840s as a hub for the burgeoning tin-mining industry, the city has since spread outwards from its origins around the confluence of the Gombak and Klang rivers and today covers an area of 243 square kilometres. The metropolis is surrounded by numerous suburbs and townships, which together form the area known as the Klang Valley.
While the modern KL skyline is dominated by skyscrapers such as the iconic Petronas Twin Towers and KL Tower, the city has retained much of its heritage in colonial era buildings and rustic streets lined by centuries-old shophouses. KL’s 1.8 million populace is as diverse as its architecture with all the major
Malaysian ethnic groups well-represented, along with immigrants from other parts of Southeast Asia as well as large numbers of expatriates.
TOP 5 THINGS TO DO
Petronas Twin Towers: Completed in March 1996, these soaring towers in the heart of KL are now a social media must for visitors. At 451.9 metres and 88 storeys high, it was once the tallest building in the world and still holds the record of tallest twin structure.
Visitors can purchase tickets (log on to www.petronastwintowers.com.my for details) which allow access to the Sky Bridge at level 41 as well the Observation Deck on the 86th floor. Alternatively, a meal at Marini’s On 57 Italian restaurant which is … duh … on the 57th floor will satiate appetites and any hunger for views. The towers are linked to the Suria KLCC mall, which opens out to the lush KLCC Park and its musical fountain.
Aquaria KLCC: Marine-life lovers must not miss this well-conceived aquarium in the basement of the Kuala Lumpur Convention Centre, just a stone’s throw away from Suria KLCC. The 60,000-square foot marine complex features more than 5,000 creature exhibits, highlighted by a 90-metre underwater tunnel where you can see sharks and other deep sea denizens swimming overhead. Operating hours are from 10am to 8pm daily. For more details and ticket prices, log on to www.aquariaklcc.com
KL Tower: Another KL landmark, this 421-metre high structure is the seventh tallest telecommunications tower in the world. Located in the Bukit Nanas Forest Reserve within walking distance of Suria KLCC, the tower is open to visitors who can access the observation deck at the 274-metre point. There is also a revolving restaurant, Atmosphere 360, at 282 metres high. The tower is lit each night with constantly-changing colours, often customised in conjunction with Malaysia’s numerous major celebrations. For ticketing and other details, log on to www.menarakl.com.my
Changkat Bukit Bintang and Jalan Alor: Changkat Bukit Bintang, the famous entertainment district of KL, offers an exciting mix of restaurants, bars and clubs – some of which are licensed to operate till the wee hours should you wish to party the night away. Many outlets feature ‘live’ bands featuring the best local acts around.
If you’re feeling peckish after all that partying, take a short stroll to bustling Jalan Alor (Alor Road), KL’s streetfood hub where you can find hundreds of stalls and restaurants selling everything from satay (barbequed meat on sticks) and wantan (dumpling) noodles to cendol (a coconut milk-based sweet dessert) and the King of Fruits, durian. Many stalls operate through the night till morning, so you’ll never go hungry.
Chinatown & Central Market: KL’s bustling Chinatown is located at Petaling Street, a pedestrian walkway lined by stalls selling just about everything you can think of. Behind the stalls are old shoplots housing rustic coffee shops, boutique hotels, retail outlets and more. There are a number of old Taoist temples in the vicinity.
A brisk five-minute walk will get you to the riverside Central Market (Pasar Seni), which is a convenient place to shop for handicraft, souvenirs and traditional food items.
TOP 5 DINING EXPERIENCES
Jake’s Charbroil Steaks: One of the oldest steak specialists in Malaysia, Jakes Charbroil Steaks has two locations in KL – the original outlet in the Bukit Damansara suburb which has been around since the early 1980s and the second one at the Starhill Gallery mall along Bukit Bintang Road in the heart of the city. Enjoy juicy steaks, tasty sides and steaming soups at reasonable prices, along with no-beef mains such as lamb and seafood.
Songket Restaurant: If you’re looking for authentic Malay cuisine in a cosy setting in KL, you could not do better than Songket. The restaurant occupies a bungalow along Yap Kwan Seng Road and has an extensive menu of local favourites including rendang daging (spicy dry beef curry), sup ekor (aromatic ox-tail soup) and ayam percik (grilled chicken lathered in thick coconut gravy).
Yu by Ruyi: Arguably the best pork-free Chinese restaurant in KL, Yu by Ruyi is located on the ground floor of The Gardens Mall in the Mid Valley complex which is well-connected via rail to the city centre. The intimately-appointed restaurant offers an excellent dim sum selection by day and has an extensive a la carte menu of Cantonese cuisine crafted by award-winning executive chef James Ho.
Passage Thru’ India: One of the best-known Indian eateries in KL, Passage Thru’ India is located along Delima Road not far from the Bukit Bintang area. Established in 1994, the huge, stand-alone restaurant is colourfully adorned with paintings depicting Indian culture and scenery. The food represents the best from the Indian sub-continent and includes an extensive vegetarian selection. A must-try is the flavoursome Prawn Masala, which is their signature dish.
Limapulo: Baba Can Cook: Probably no cuisine is more representative of Malaysia’s rich multi- cultural heritage than ‘Peranakan’ or Straits- born Chinese food. Originating in Melaka where immigrants from south China first settled in the 15th century, Peranakan cuisine merges Chinese, Malay and Indian influences to create a heady mix of spicy and flavourful dishes. Located off Chow Kit Road, Limapulo: Baba Can Cook is generally regarded as one of the best Peranakan restaurants in KL.
WHERE TO STAY
KL offers everything and anything when it comes to accommodation, ranging from five-star-plus to B&B establishments in the heart of the city. For convenience, staying within the greater Bukit Bintang area is recommended as that would put many of the city’s attractions within walking distance or a short rail or road trip.
WHEN TO GO
Malaysia enjoys a tropical climate, so the weather stays hot and humid in general with sporadic rainfall, which makes Kuala Lumpur a year-round destination. Just remember to pack lightweight clothing and keep yourself hydrated.
When the monsoon season rolls around between October and January, it can get pretty wet with welcome showers and rainstorms, so an umbrella or raincoat would come in super handy.
With Malaysia being a multi-cultural, multi-religious nation, there is practically a continuous flow of celebrations, festivals and events happening in and around the city – log on to the Tourism Malaysia website (www.malaysia.travel/en/my) to be in the know.
And if you’re a shopaholic, you’d want to look out for the Malaysia Super Sale, Malaysia Mega Sale Carnival and Malaysia Year End Sale; check www.tourism.gov.my/niche/shopping for the annual campaign periods.
GETTING THERE & AROUND
KLIA and klia2 offers flights to and from almost every major Asian city, with excellent connectivity to Europe and North America as well. From either airport, the best way to the city is via the KLIA Ekspres commuter rail (www.kliaekspres.com) which takes less than half an hour to reach the Kuala Lumpur Sentral transit hub (www.klsentral.com.my).
Another option is to get to the KLIA Bus Terminal where there are various bus services offering transportation to places such as KL Sentral, Genting Highlands, Petaling Jaya, Klang, Ipoh, Sitiawan, Teluk Intan, Melaka and Johor Bahru. Having been given a new look, the bus terminal is now more spacious and clutter-free with new seats for travellers to wait in comfort.
Within KL, the commuter rail system and bus routes connect most of the city while taxis and ride-sharing vehicles are widely available and reasonably-priced. Go KL City Bus (www.gokl.com.my) is a free bus service that connects most of the city’s main attractions.
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