Spend a few days in Kuala Lumpur, or simply KL, and prepare to be mesmerised by this glitzy metropolis where skyscrapers are as common as traditional temples and mosques. Part cyber city, part historic treasure, there’s something here from all eras as Malaysia has been shaped by the Malay, Chinese, Indian and British colonials.
Get high at the Petronas Twin Towers
At the heart of KL’s Golden Triangle, aka the Central Business District is the city’s most famous landmark, the Petronas Twin Towers. Rising to a height of 452 m, the towers are a curious fusion of Islamic and Art Deco architecture. Opened in 1999 the Petronas Towers were the tallest structures in the world until Taipei 101 opened in 2004. Take the elevator up to the skybridge which connects the 41st and 42nd floors and offers a fantastic view over the city. This is the second highest double storey bridge on earth and isn’t actually attached to the main towers.
Spend time at KL’s Chinatown and explore the numerous traditional temples, mosques and markets. Hindu, Muslim and Chinese Buddhist temples and mosques stand side by side with traditional Malay clan houses. Visit the Chan She Shu Yuen Clan House which is the oldest in the city, visit the oldest Chinese temple, Sze Ya Temple, which was built in 1882 and admire the elaborately intricate Hindu Sri Mahamariamman Temple. Try haggling at the Petaling Street Market which sells everything from textiles, clothes, sweets and jewellery.
Admire the architecture of the Colonial district
For a glimpse into the former British colonial rule, head to Merdeka Square which is where the British flag was lowered for the last time in 1957, giving Malaysia independence. See the British built Sultan Abdul Samad Building and the 40m clock tower. Admire one of the oldest mosques in Kuala Lumpur, the Jamek Mosque which was built in 1909. And take in the heritage within the museums, such as the National Museum which displays exhibits depicting traditional Malay life and the Islamic Arts Museum with modern and traditional Malaysian art on display. Also in the Colonial district is the Istana Negara, the National Palace, which was constructed in 1928 and today is the official residence of Malaysia’s ruler.
Get back to nature at the KL Bird Park
To escape the heat and pace of the city for a few hours, head to the Bird Park which has many Asian birds within a semi-wild habitat. The birds happily get up close and the majority of the park is shaded which offers respite from the fierce heat. Opened in 1991, the park covers 20.9-acre and features Indian Ring-necked Parakeets, Brahminy Kites, flamingos, Bulbuls, Asian Fairy Bluebird, hornbills, parrots and many more.
Explore the Batu Caves
In the northern region of KL lies the Batu Caves which have been used by Hindu priests as their temples since they were uncovered in 1878. Crowds flock at the start of the year to participate in the traditional Hindu Thaipusam festival. Climb the 272 stairs up into the heart of the cave and look out for low flying bats and the light-fingered long-tailed macaques.
The food is cheap, readily available and downright delicious in KL – if you’re a curry lover (like I am) you’ll be in your element. There are plenty of 24 hour curry houses (kedai mamak) dotted around the city and popular dishes include the roti canai (fried filled chapatti), dhal (lentils), nasi lemak (rice and coconut milk) rending curry and bihun noodles.
Discover Little India
Brickfields is KL’s main Indian district which is currently undergoing a renovation. The most popular attraction in the district is, without a doubt. The stunning Thean Hou Temple, which is the biggest and most ornate Chinese temple in the city. Dedicated to The Heavenly Mother, Thean Hou was constructed by the Hainanese and stands six tiers high. The 1894 Buddhist Temple is also worth a look as it’s an important branch of the Theravada Sri Lankan Buddhism.