No doubt you’ve seen the towering giants that soar above Malaysia’s capital. But beneath the 452 metre 88-floor Petronas Twin Towers in Kuala Lumpur, there’s a city that is one of Asia’s most vibrant, go-ahead and just downright exciting. Step off your low-cost flight and you’ll notice the year-round tropical warmth that doesn’t drop much below the 20s whenever you visit. You’ll also notice that most people speak English, which makes the tourist’s life a lot easier.
image from flickr
This is a city of three cultures and a colonial past, all of which generates a unique cultural and historical mix, a blend of East and West. Historic temples and mosques stand alongside space-age towers and shopping malls on a grand scale. On top of that, layer the most modern of lifestyles, entertainment and attractions, and you have something very, very special.
A good place to start is the food. No city in Asia can match KL on just about every count: variety, quality and good value.
What you’ll eat reflects the ethnic mix of traditional Malay cooking, a dozen different regional Chinese cuisines and a real variety of Indian dishes too.
Little wonder the locals love to ‘makan’ (eat), sometimes up to seven times a day! Try a breakfast of a roti canai pancake, or nasi lemak, rice steamed in coconut milk with a selection of accompaniments. Wash it down with a sweet, frothy teh tarik (pulled tea). Later in the day, look out for the Nasi Kandar Pelita chain for a taste for typical Indian Muslim cooking. You can get a large dish of rice accompanied by a choice of dozens of fiery curries, all for just £3 or so.
A great place to get an insight into the city’s ethnic mix is at the Central Market. This 1888 building is laid out to show how the Chinese, Malay and Indian each do things their way, making and selling all kinds of handicrafts, art, intricately-patterned songket fabric, traditional kebaya dress/blouse outfit and, of course, batik. The Batik Emporium has wonderful clothes, shoes, bags and home furnishings.
Shopping gets more up-to-date at one of the dozens of big malls in and around the city centre. The Pavillion KL has haute couture, big names and small independent boutiques. The Siria KLCC mall at the base of those soaring twin towers has all the luxury brands, like Gucci, Chanel and Burberry. Try The Curve mall for something a bit more cutting edge.
In general, Chinatown is the best-known shopping area, along Petaling Street. With plenty of shopping centres, three malls and the Central Market, it’s a good mix.
If antiques and ancient relics are more your passion, take yourself off to Jonker Walk and join the bargain hunters and curio curious for a rummage through some fascinating objects from far and wide.
You can escape the haggling, hustle and bustle in the serene surroundings of the Perdana Botanical Gardens on the edge of the city. The oldest and most popular park in Kuala Lumpur is in the area where the British colonials used to live out their pampered lives. There are acres of lush green to explore, all centred on a lake. Visit the aviaries at the Bird and Butterfly Park, stroll through the Deer Park or admire the blooms of the Orchid Garden. You’ll also be conveniently placed to visit the National Monument, Planetarium or Islamic Museum.
Out of town, follow the locals down to the wonderful beaches at Port Dickson, or head up to the cool heights of the Cameron Highlands. Here, you can visit a tea plantation or honey bee farm. The sea-side historic town of Malacca has fascinating traces of its Dutch colonial past to explore.
Enjoy your stay in Kuala Lumpur. We’d love to hear what you enjoyed most, or any tips you have for making a stay special.
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