Kuala Lumpur hotels
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Steamy, retail-mad and teeming with food so flavoursome it stands up and calls your name, Kuala Lumpur draws you in and whirls you about in a quickstep of old meets new. From mosques like Jamek Masjid to monolithic shopping malls like in the Dayabumi Complex, the beat in KL is one of excitement, history and multiculturalism.
In many ways, Kuala Lumpur is stereotyped by the modern, high-rise hub that is Kuala Lumpur City Centre. It’s hard not to be when you’ve got the Petronas Towers dominating the skyline. But it’s what happens on a human level that really makes KL worth visiting. The place is teeming with people who speak Malay, Tamil, Cantonese, Mandarin and English, making it a captivating multicultural melting pot.
Chow Kit is a case in point. Indonesia meets Africa on its crowded streets and in its tourist-attracting day and night markets. It’s symptomatic of the whole city – a hodge-podge of styles that really shouldn’t work but somehow does. Historic Islamic, Buddhist, British and modern influences meet, compete and ultimately get into bed with each other to offer the casual visitor and long-time partner alike delicious, sensual variety with every twist and turn.
What with the shopping, the food, the sights, sounds and smells, your first dance with KL is one that will leave you sweaty, happy, dizzy and maybe just a little bit in love.
Kuala Lumpur’s Top 10
10. Istana Negara Japanese officer’s mess during occupation in WWII and now the official residence of Malaysia’s king. Newer than Buckingham Palace – and cleaner too.
5. Chinatown Temples, food, markets – what’s not to love?
9. Aquaria Fun to visit with kids. The rainforest theme is cute (and appropriate) even with the fake, green foliage.
8. Islamic Arts Museum Home to over 7000 Islamic artefacts, both traditional and modern.
3. Batu Caves Battle up 272 steps to the Hindu cave then feed the loitering monkeys bananas or peanuts while you catch your breath.
7. Suria KLCC Mall KL’s premier shopping experience – go on a shopping bender but be prepared to nurse the hangover (also known as an empty wallet) the next day.
2. Relive history at Merdeka Square, where Malaysia gained independence from the UK in 1957. It’s also home of the highest flagpole in Asia – surely reason enough to visit!
6. National Museum Explore Malaysia’s history and culture in four galleries.
1. Petronas Twin Towers used to be the tallest in the world at 452m. Still worth a visit though.
Kuala Lumpur History
- Thean Hou Temple – A beautiful temple that should be seen at sunset or on the Chinese New Year.
- Rumah Penghulu – A former headman's house that was refurbished into an award-winning historical heritage centre.
- National History Museum – A chance to see Malay history from pre-historical times to the present.
- National Archives of Malyasia – A great place for history buffs or those who love to read books about history.
- Royal Palace – Visitors have the chance to see the palace, art and architecture of royalty.
Kuala Lumpur Art &Culture
- Islamic Arts Museum – Shows beautiful artwork in the tradition of Islam.
- Royal Selangor Pewter Factory – Features tours for visitors to see how the factory creates its lovely pieces.
- Jadi Batik Gallery – Visitors can see how Batik is made and can take one of the gallery’s offered classes in order to make their own.
- Dewan Filharmonik (Malaysian Philharmonic Orchestra) – Visitors can see classic performances, but are required to dress up for the venue.
- Asian Art Museum – This museum showcases artwork from all of Asia and works from prominent artists.
Kuala Lumpur Shopping
- Pavilion Mall – Has shops with moderately priced goods.
- Suria KLCC Mall – Has a wide range of stores, goods and prices.
- Central Market – A chance to get away from the malls for a native flea market treasure hunt.
- Berjaya Times Square – Visitors can go shopping, have fun at the amusement park or enjoy good food.
- Sungai Wang Plaza – If you have mastered the art of bartering, then you can find good deals here.
Kuala Lumpur Gay & Lesbian
- Butik Bintang – Homosexuality is officially illegal, but visitors can find kindred spirits in this area.
- Opera Sunway – Has cosy corners for privacy and a big dance floor for everyone.
- GOSH KL – They have pole dancing for everyone.
- Jungletrack Corner – Camp at this location for amazing views of the local flora and fauna.
- The Curve – A beautifully arranged area for shopping, dining and festival events.
Kuala Lumpur Outdoor
- Batu Caves – This destination has carved temples and is a stop for many Hindu pilgrimages.
- Kuala Lumpur Bird Park – This is the largest bird park in the world.
- Lake Gardens Park – A tranquil garden park with wildlife.
- Butterfly Park – A park for those who love butterflies that features activities for children.
- Orchid Park (Taman Orkid) – A lovely park devoted to orchids.
Kuala Lumpur Sports
- Formula One Racing – Championship races are held at the Sepang International Circuit.
- Bukit Jalil Golf and Country Resort – Is it really a vacation without a round of golf?
- Kelab Golf – A good alternative to the Bukit Jalil course, this an excellent golf course.
- KL Grand Prix CSI 5 – The premier horse-jumping event in Malaysia.
- Malaysia Open Super Series – A championship badminton event.
Kuala Lumpur LocalCity Centre
The City Centre is the traditional heart of KL and includes the former colonial administrative district as well as KL’s old Chinese commercial centre (now known, not particularly originally, as Chinatown).
The Colonial District has architectural variety in spades. There’s the Moorish Sultan Abdul Samad Building, once home to the British administrators and now housing the Supreme and High Courts, the Islamic National Mosque and Masjid Jamek, and the Hindu Sri Mahamariamman Temple.Golden Triangle
Home to shopping centres, luxury hotels and nightspots, the Golden Triangle encompasses Kuala Lumpur City Centre (KLCC) which (confusingly) is not to be confused with the traditional city centre mentioned above.
Shop to your credit limit in the Bukit Bintang area or at Suria KLCC. Stroll over to the KLCC Convention Centre or give the plastic a break at KLCC Park. In the evening, explore Kuala Lumpur’s nightlife at Jalan P. Ramlee – you need an excuse to wear all those new shoes, after all!
BrickfieldsFor a little taste of India, you need not go far. Brickfields is KL’s Little India, located south of the City Centre. Mostly comprising Jalan Tun Sambanthan, which used to be Brickfield Road, the street is peppered with sari shops, Indian grocers and authentic restaurants. Fun and friendly, the welcoming atmosphere belies the fact that Indians are treated as second-class citizens in Malaysia, leading to increasing levels of discontent and occasional outbreaks of violence.
Brickfields is also where you’ll find KL Sentral, the fantastically Moorish main railway station. KL Sentral is the hub of transport to and from the airport, as well as throughout Malaysia and to the Thai border. Trains are impressively modern, unlike some of their rickety cousins in other parts of Southeast Asia. Brickfields is also great for temple-spotting. Thean Hou Temple and Buddhist Temple (The Buddhist Maha Vihara) should be top of the list.Bangsar
Bangsar’s nightlife can be electrifying or laid-back, depending on your preference. Head to Ronnie Q’s if you fancy seeing a traditional Bangsar establishment in the form of an English pub. Avoid it if you have some taste and cultural sensibilities. A better bet is Vintages – wine bar, restaurant and bottle shop all rolled into one. For a dance on the wild side, Absolute Chemistry is a booty-shakin’ institution.
After a big night in Bangsar, recovery is also an option. Both Bangsar Village and the imaginatively named Bangsar Village II have beauty salons and massage parlours (legitimate ones – for the other sort you want the red light district in Chow Kit!) where you can have your hangover kneaded out of you. On Sundays, the whole area transforms into an sensory-arousing night market (Pasar Malam).
Kuala Lumpur Eats
KL’s food is a vital part of its cultural landscape, so make the most of it. Trying nasi lemak (Malaysia’s national food – rice steamed in coconut milk with salty fish, peanuts, cucumbers, hard-boiled eggs, chilli sauce and usually a choice of curries) is a must.
Top Hat Restaurant Now in a new location but still noted for its Sago Gula Melaka dessert and garden setting.
Hakka Republic Wine Bar & Restaurant Popular with business people (which can make it a turn-off for others), it’s Asian-influenced Western menu is innovative and drawing the plaudits.
Enak KL A treat. Traditional, forgotten Malaysian food cooked to family recipes.
Old Town Kopitiam Try the kaya toast, and laska.
One Bangsar One building containing 10 restaurants! You’ve got to like those odds.
La Bodega If you want a break from Malay cuisine, this tapas parlour is a popular alternative.
CoChine Franchised but still delicious Vietnamese, Laotian and Cambodian fare. A good introduction to Asian food.
Little Penang Kafe serves Nyonya cuisine (of the Penang region) at only RM 13.50.
Restoran Nelayan serves a 3-in-1 buffet of Malay cuisine, Steamboat and BBQ. Sounds unusual but tastes delicious.
Lafite at Shangri-La offers a fine dining experience of European fare and international wines.
Kuala Lumpur Events
Chinese New Year also takes place in January or February. Lion dances, dragons and firecrackers abound. Noisy, vibrant and lots of fun.
The Hindu Thaipusam Festival is usually held in February over three days. Best experienced with KL’s Indian residents in Brickfields, it’s a riot of colours, flavours and music.
In March, you can watch Formula 1 racing as Malaysia hosts the Grand Prix.
Spanning over two weeks in May, Malaysia Fest (Colours of Malaysia) displays the traditions and culture of Malaysia through performances and exhibitions.
KL Festival extends throughout July, presenting all facets of Malaysian visual arts and performing arts.
On National Day, Malaysians celebrate their country’s independence. Join in at midnight on 31 August every year at Merdeka Square.
In October or November, Deepavali lights up the city. The Hindu festival celebrates Lakshmi, the goddess of wealth. A must if you’re noticing you’ve over-worked the ol’ credit card – maybe it’ll bring you a windfall!
December brings the KL International Buskers Festival, where street performers show their stuff over nine days.
When To Go
KL is hot and humid 24/7, with temperatures lingering around 25-30°C (77-86°F).
Being equatorial, KL only experiences two seasons: wet and dry. So to avoid daily downpours, visit between November and March.
The stifling humidity hovers around 82%, but the good news is that quite a lot of your time is spent in air-conditioned buildings and vehicles.
Kuala Lumpur characteristically gets 2,266 mm (89.2 in) of rain every year, so the city is no stranger to frequent flooding.
Getting There And Around
When getting around in KL, you can take your pick from public transport or taxis. Taxis cost RM3 for the first 2km, then RM0.90/km. You can take the LRT (Light Rail Transit) from RM1.2 if you’re near a train station. There’s also a public bus network, but the buses are often infrequent. The KL Hop-on Hop-offbus is another option. The free wi-fi bus caters for tourists, who get to visit 42 sightseeing spots for RM38 – and to Facebook about it while doing so. Alternatively, you could discover the city on foot.
What To Miss
Beware of pickpockets. They’re common in crowded areas, and bag-snatchers on motorbikes also operate throughout KL.
Watch out for flooding during the rainy season. Traipsing through the streets knee-deep in water isn’t much fun.
Ladies, don’t wear unnecessarily sexy clothes. KL is largely Muslim, so respect the locals by covering up. This rule especially applies at religious sites.
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