The buzzing city of Kuala Lumpur more than holds its own against the other Southeast Asian gems of Singapore, Bangkok and Ho Chi Minh City. Better known simply as KL, this is a land of contrasts, where historic temples and mosques sit alongside gleaming skyscrapers. Add in the rich cultural legacies of past settlers, including the Chinese, Indian and British colonials; it’s time to get to know this city better.
Petronas Towers – A must for all first time visitors! Appreciate the uber-modern panorama laid out below you atop the world’s tallest twin towers – your ears will pop on the 41 second lift journey and you’ll feel like you’re swaying within the glass-fronted skybridge!
Central Market – Feel free to haggle your heart out in Kuala Lumpur’s thriving Central Market, a much-loved prominent heritage landmark, stuffed with local arts and crafts, and which wows visitors with its 1930s Art Deco style.
Chinatown – It’s the cultural enclaves that give KL its rich character, and Chinatown in particular is a lively spot, bursting with architectural gems, as well as authentic shopping experiences. Walk along the main Petaling Street and spot numerous heritage buildings, traditional clan houses and ornate temples.
KL Bird Park – Cool off for a few hours in the scenic and serene Perdana Botanical Gardens which is also home to the fascinating Bird Park. Home to over 3,000 different birds spanning 200 species, including hawk eagles, ostriches and Mandarin ducks, all flying freely.
Little India in Brickfields – I’ll let you into a secret; the food, crafts and artwork are to die for in this Little India district! Get here early and watch the stallholders set up, have a go at haggling and sample the delicious cuisine. Opt to stay in Kuala Lumpur hotels nearby and you’ll be in the heart of the action!
Islamic Arts Museum – Also within the Perdana Botanic Gardens is the superb Islamic Art Museum – the largest of its kind in Southeast Asia. Home to some 7,000 artefacts across twelve galleries spanning jewellery, art and pottery, the crowning glory is the impressive model of the Masjid al-Haram in Mecca – one of the largest replicas in the world.
Jalan Alor Gastronomy Trail – So you think you’ve tried authentic Malay cuisine? A visit to the central Jalan Alor district may open your eyes. Arrive at dusk and watch hawkers fire up their woks onboard pop-up stalls, as hungry locals and travellers chow down on the ubiquitous nasi lemak, beef rending and sizzling satay.
Jamek Mosque – designed by British architect Arthur Benison Hubback in 1909, Masjid Jamek is certainly the oldest mosque in KL. Sitting at the confluence of the Gombak and Klang Rivers (where LKL was originally born) the architecture is reminiscent of northern Indian Mongol styles.
Colonial KL – Prior to independence on 31 August 1957, Malaysia was under British rule and buildings dating back to this period can be seen nestling beneath the skyscrapers. Take the walking trail and spot the white Gothic St Mary’s Anglican Cathedral which dates back to 1894, Merdeka (Independence) Square which once served as a cricket pitch and the Moorish-style Sultan Abdul Samad Building.
National Museum – And learn more about both Kuala Lumpur and Malaysia’s place in history at the fascinating National Museum, which houses many exhibits on a rotation system. Don’t miss the bust of Sir Francis Light, who founded Penang and the very first cable car from Penang’s Bukit Bendera. Walk through the serene grounds to glimpse the hardwood Palace of Sultan Zainal Abidin III, who served as the Sultan of Terengganu in 1884.