Kuala Lumpur (KL) is a vibrant, dynamic and colourful city which first appeared on the map in the mid-1800s. It is Malaysia’s largest city and the youngest capital in Southeast Asia, reflected by the mix of old colonial-style buildings and modern skyscrapers. There is plenty to do and see in KL, so here are a handful of ideas:
(1) Iconic architecture
At 452m (1,483ft), the Petronas Twin Towers or KLCC are tallest twin buildings in the world. The octagonal buildings, which were opened in 1998, have 88-storeys marking the significance of the Chinese lucky number 8. Although the public can’t visit the top, you can take a free 10-minute tour of the double-decker Skybridge at the 41st floor (170m above street level).Tickets are allocated from 08:30 on a first-come, first-served basis, so you’ll need to get there early to grab one of the 800 time-allocated passes (closed Mondays).
Picture credit: Daniel Berthold
(2) Bird’s eye view
While the Petronas Twin Towers score points for their sheer architectural beauty, you get the best views of the city from the observation deck at the KL Tower, or Menara Kuala Lumpur to use its official title. The KL Tower, which is a telecommunications and broadcasting hub, is 421m tall and appears to be taller than the Petronas Towers, because it is built on a hill. At one point it claimed to house the highest McDonald’s in the world, but if you’re after something a little more upmarket, it contains a revolving restaurant providing diners with stunning views of the city.
(3) Hustle bustle
If you’re on the look out for gifts, crafts, art work and souvenirs, you should visit Central Market in China Town. Housed in an air-conditioned art deco building, the market is located along Jalan Hang Kasturi, a few minutes away from Petaling Street. It has been classified as a heritage site and it is a landmark for Malaysian culture, packed with a wide variety of Malaysian arts and crafts, including textiles, sculptures and handmade jewellery. Keep an eye out for demonstrations and performances, which include martial arts, music and dance performances.
(4) China Town at night
Heighten your senses with a stroll through China town, which is based in Petaling Street – a former tapioca producing suburb. Take an evening stroll through the hive of vibrant activity at the night market, which has an array of colourful sights, stalls, restaurants and no shortage of opportunities to hone your haggling skills. It’s also a great place to sample local fruits and food.
(5) Local tastes
Check out our previous blog on must-try local cuisine, which was compiled with the help of Malaysia Airlines and their Twitter followers. Other recommendations include Restoran Rebung, owned by a celebrity TV chef and Malaysia’s first astronaut (when Malaysia bought Sukhoi jets from Russia, part of the deal was that Russia would put a Malaysian in space). This vibrantly decorated restaurant does very good Malay food and is set in a house in Bangsar, one of KL’s most popular bar and restaurant areas. Another tip is the Crocodile Farm Seafood Village Restaurant, a quirky eatery which is a great choice for Cantonese seafood cuisine. It has a large wooden deck where you can sit overlooking what seems to be a round lake, but is an old open cut tin mine which has filled with water. Although not an actual crocodile farm, you can idle away the hours watching the fish and turtles (including some liberated ex-pets).
(6) KL take-away
For a real taste of local street food, head to one of the many bustling evening hawker stalls. Hang out with the locals on rickety chairs and tables and sample some very affordable dishes. There are around 50,000 stalls so you’ll be spoiled for choice. The recommended food markets, where many are located, are around Jalan Alor (renowned for Chinese dishes); Bangsar Baru Hawker Stalls (good mix); Jalan Masjid India (mainly Indian) and Merdeka Square Hawker Stalls, just behind St Mary’s Cathedral, (a wide variety of Asian food).
(7) A touch of tranquillity
Taman Tasik Perdana or the Lake Gardens Park is a botanical garden at Jalan Perdana which was built in the 1880s. Nestled deep in the city centre, this is a wonderful place to wind down and stretch your legs. Its lush green gardens, undulating hills, bright flowers and fauna make it a favourite spot for city dwellers. You can rent rowing boats and take in highlights including the bird, butterfly and deer parks.
(8) Back to nature
For something a little different, how about a trip to the spectacular limestone Batu Caves? Discovered in the 1890s, and situated seven miles north of Kuala Lumpur, this series of caves and cave temples is a sacred place for Malaysia’s Hindus. But if you are feeling a little jaded after the conference, be warned you need to climb 272 steep steps to access the main Temple cave. Prepare for a little simian attention, as there is a large local monkey population.
Try visiting some of the local mosques and temples. Must sees include the Masjid Jamek mosque, a beautiful pink and cream brick building which is set in a grove of palm trees on the banks of the Klang and Gombak rivers. Also you should go to the Sri Mahamariaman temple which, built in 1873, is the oldest Hindu temple in the country. A few blocks away is the Sze-ya Taoist temple which was built by one of the founding fathers of Kuala Lumpur.
(10) Last-minute shopping
If you need to get that last-minute gift before heading home, KL has some huge shopping malls full of all the well-known global chain and designer stores, as well as housing entertainment venues and many restaurants and bars. Try visiting the Mid Valley Megamall or Berjaya Times Square. If you specifically want a designer label, Starhill Gallery is the place to go. If you’re after electrical goods such as computers and laptops head to either Plaza Low Yat or Imbi Plaza located in the Golden Triangle.