Kuala Lumpur (KL) is in its totality, peripheral townships and all, a fairly large city of over 7 million people and may seem unwieldy to the unaccustomed eye. KL is the proud home of an amazing array of cultural and historical vestiges from a colorful past. It is also home to large Malay, Chinese, Indian communities, a number of lesser-known tribes, and a multitude of languages, religions, customs and quirks.
Malaysia offers an enticing concoction of some of the world's most interesting cultures - quite a deal for the Internet-age traveler looking to experience it all. At the very core of Malaysia, Kuala Lumpur is a kaleidoscope of architecture, lifestyles, tropical flora, percussion, and international cuisines. Step on in and experience its magic!
Kuala Lumpur began as a few square miles of unspectacular landscape that now hosts many of its most important buildings. Once you orient yourself along the lines of modern history, you will never get lost. Look for the
Across the street lies the
The progressive spread of Islam since the 15th century has bequeathed Kuala Lumpur some of the greatest mosques this side of Istanbul.
Lake Gardens Area
The greener side of Kuala Lumpur began as a vegetable and tapioca field. Today
Golden Triangle & Kuala Lumpur City Ccenter (KLCC)
For the city's newest gadgets and gizmos, head for one of the many shopping establishments. Which one? To err on the side of caution, choose the tallest among them: the
Certainly shopkeepers and department stores abounded before
What happened to the tin barons who got rich from the mineral that made Kuala Lumpur? The Ampang enclave hides a precious cache of private residences where the affluent still live. Some of these architectural marvels serve as glimmering veneers of cool and clever enterprises, and conceal several of the city's best-kept secrets, including
The old footpath to the Ampang tin mines evolved into Jalan Ampang, now lavishly adorned with eateries and merry-making stops of a tantalizing variety, seamlessly blending in with the adjacent instruments of commerce: high-rise office blocks, hotels, foreign embassies and political offices. For an unbeatable view of all these and more, head to one of the world's tallest telecommunications towers, the
Other Interesting Districts
For those who want a taste of India, check out Jalan Tunku Abdul Rahman, a mile-long street running north from the
Kuala Lumpur (KL) offers a wide range of hotels from leisure to business to budget, so there is something to meet everyone's requirements. Prices are generally affordable. Apart from the usual price and quality considerations, however, it is important to select a hotel that provides easy access to places you wish to visit, especially since getting stuck in a traffic jam is not on your itinerary, is it?
Most of Kuala Lumpur's best hotels are clustered within the famous Golden Triangle. With the many offices that have gained a foothold here, it shines as the city's prime commercial and banking district. If you came to KL to shop, stay in or near this zone because no other place offers as much to buy. The famous Bintang Walk is also found here, teeming with rows of shopping outlets and outdoor cafes.
At the highest end of the scale you might try the Hotel Imperial Kuala Lumpur at Jalan Sultan Ismail. It ranks among Southeast Asia's finest hotels. Another hotel that needs no introduction, the elegant Shangri-La Hotel, is a city getaway amid lush tropical gardens.
Hotels linked directly to shopping establishments include the JW Marriott Hotel which is joined to the opulent Starhill Gallery. On the west side of the district on Jalan Imbi, the Ritz-Carlton sits next to the upscale Lot 10, one of the oldest shopping malls on this side of town. Concorde Hotel on the other hand houses the famous Hard Rock Cafe. Guests will not only enjoy countless music memorabilia but also a shopping arcade that features some of the world's leading designer names.
Standing pretty much on its own on a five-hectare hillock, the majestic Crowne Plaza Mutiara lies a few minute's walk from the shopping belt. It offers impeccable service with prices to match. Others like the Royale Bintang and the Parkroyal Hotel provide reasonable value, considering their favorable locations in this prime district.
Omit all that luxury and extravagance and discover a range of moderately priced yet decent hotels. A short walk from Jalan Bukit Bintang sits the Allson Genesis Hotel and the Hotel Capitol - business traveler establishments with rooms worth your consideration.
Kuala Lumpur City Centre (KLCC)
The famous KLCC district offers a fair share of hotels. These hotels stand close to the famed Petronas Twin Towers with an upmarket shopping complex, Suria KLCC. Though several internationally renowned hotels are located in this district, the others here provide value-for-money in the heart of KL's most modern commercial hub.
Overlooking the 50-acre landscaped KLCC Park, the five-star Mandarin Oriental Hotel has become a landmark on its own. It connects by a walkway to the 88-story Petronas Twin Towers, Suria KLCC retail center and the Petronas Philharmonic Concert Hall. In the same class is the Corus Hotel, which features a shopping arcade, a magnificent outdoor park and varied entertainment outlets.
Business travelers might want to consider the Dorsett Regency, which nestles in a quiet enclave just a short walk from the majestic Petronas Twin Towers. The Regency and Melia Kuala Lumpur are not too far from commercial plazas in the Golden Triangle.
Putra World Trade Centre
For those who must frequent the Putra World Trade Centre, several hotels lie scattered around the area. Positioned in one of the city's most exciting commercial sections, these are suitably located for business travelers. Located directly above the famous entertainment and shopping complex Mall, is the Legend Hotel. Opposite and next to the Putra World Trade Centre is yet another famous 5-star property—the Pan Pacific Kuala Lumpur. Less lofty choices in the area include the Dynasty Hotel and the Grand Pacific Hotel.
For additional inexpensive lodging away from the city center, try Chinatown. Perfect for bargain hunters, this district lies close to the colonial core's attractions and the Lake Gardens area. The area also houses Hindu and Chinese Temples, such as the Sze Ya Temple and the Sri Mahamariamman Temple plus the Central Market on the west side.
Moderate accommodations in Chinatown include the Swiss Inn at Petaling Street, while at the lower end you might try others like the Hotel Grand Olympic, opposite KL's sports stadiums, and the Hotel Malaya. Basic yet pleasant rooms can be found at Hotel Grand Centrepoint.
Quiet Ampang also offers a range of hotels, starting with the world class Hotel Nikko. Comfortable business class accomidation is found at Hotel Maya while Zon offers short and long term service apartments.
Kuala Lumpur's early history started taking shape when the state of Selangor gained eminence in the 16th century with the discovery of tin deposits, a material Western colonialists needed to build their empire. This brought the Chinese and the Bugis (Malays from Macassar) into the state's economics and politics. There, they established themselves throughout the 18th century forming the Selangor sultanate.
Kuala Lumpur (KL) itself was not built until 1857 when miners and traders came in search of tin and poled upriver to where the Klang and Gombak rivers converge. The Gombak estuary was the highest point upstream that the miners could land their supplies for prospecting tin in Ampang. Others soon arrived, building shelters and opening trading posts. They named the settlement Kuala Lumpur, which means "muddy estuary" in Malay. By the 1860s, the miners' landing place had become a flourishing village. The city's oldest mosque, Jamek Mosque, built in 1908, still overlooks the spot where it all began.
Kuala Lumpur was founded in turbulent times, when fierce rivalries over mining claims and water rights led to civil wars with frequent gang clashes, feuds and murders. Kuala Lumpur was a predominantly Chinese pioneer settlement with a rambunctious handful of brothels, gambling booths and opium dens. The continuous fighting worried the headmen so much they elected a kapitan cina (Chinese captain) named Yap Ah Loy to establish peace and order. He played a major role during the civil wars and continued to direct the affairs of the town until his death in 1885.
In 1881, fire and a flood destroyed the city and by the time of Yap Ah Loy's death, the town was nothing more than wooden huts huddled along narrow lanes. A few eateries, incense shops and medicine shops from the old days remain on Petaling Street. Several temples built between 1873 and 1906 managed to withstand the test of time, including two Chinese temples, Chan See Shu Yuen and Sze Ya Temple, and the highly ornate Sri Mahamariaman Temple. The Central Market and the National Museum shops are great places to buy antiques and artifacts from years past.
In 1882, Frank Swettenham was named Resident (advisor) to Selangor and the settlement began to assume its modern shape as he encouraged local businessmen to build brick houses, in contrast to the largely thatch and board structures that were washed away in the floods. Street by street, the old town was pulled down and reconstructed with wider thoroughfares and stone and brick structures. At the same time, Swettenham also encouraged the growth of the coffee and tobacco industries. During this time the British erected both a railroad and the Sultan Abdul Samad Building and other colonial establishments. These include one of the Malaysia's oldest Anglican churches, the Cathedral of Virgin Saint Mary and the Royal Selangor Club, once the main communal center for colonial society.
The city's oldest railway station, the Kuala Lumpur Railway Station was built in 1910. Though renovated with air-conditioning and restaurants, it still evokes a colonial ambiance with its Moorish and Edwardian architectural styles. Seven years later, in 1917, the Keretapi Tanah Melayu was built in a similar architectural style just opposite it.
Kuala Lumpur's development was rapid from this time onwards. By the end of the century, it was the colonial capital of the newly created Federated Malay States. In 1946, Kuala Lumpur became the headquarters of the Malayan Union, which would become the Federation of Malaya two years later. The city gained historical significance again in 1957 when the Federation of Malaya gained independence from British rule and the first Malayan flag was raised on the grounds of the cricket field, known today as Merdeka Square. In 1974, Kuala Lumpur came of age, formally detaching from its mother state of Selangor and becoming part of the Federal Territory. The federal government of Malaysia directly governs Kuala Lumpur and the two other territories in the Federal Territory. Since 2001 federal administrative and judicial functions have been moved to Putrajaya. Otherwise, Kuala Lumpur remains the central and largest city in Malaysia.
For all its modernity, the atmosphere of British colonialism is still occasionally present in Kuala Lumpur. The Sultan Abdul Samad Building, until recently, housed law courts; the Royal Selangor Club is now filled with food outlets; and on warm evenings, cricketers still play on the cricket field.
Malaysia is a food paradise and Kuala Lumpur offers the country's best selection of foreign and local cuisines. With its many nationalities and different ethnic groups, the country claims such a diverse array of cuisines that some simply visit the country for a food hunt. Such pleasures should certainly be enjoyed while in town.
Eating in Bangsar offers an epicurean delight. With its variety of kopitiams (coffee shops) serving a wide range of international cuisines at steep food prices, this district no doubt serves mainly the upper-class market. This being said, you can be assured of unparalleled food and service.
An all-time favorite here is Alexis, a casual and chic place to dine. For a variety of local favorites, try Champ's. One of the oldest establishments in this area, Bangsar Seafood, is famed for its wide range of fresh and exotic harvest from the water. Or for a choice of Indian, Chinese, or Malaysian food, try Feifei Kopitiam. An entire evening can easily be spent at Bangsar Avenue Bistro where delicious clay pot and traditional Malay dishes are served in a laid back bar-like atmosphere. Enjoy a little bit of Hong Kong ambience and Straits Chinese cuisine at mirror-walled Madame Kwan's. For an exclusively Malay experience of the high life, dress up and head over to Chinois Fusion Palace. Alternatively, if you desire a bit more of a relaxed northern European feel, dip into Finnagan's for a pint of Guiness and some Irish stew.
Kuala Lumpur City Centre (KLCC)
KLCC offers yet another prime spot for good food, and you need not look too far or too hard. Just enter Suria KLCC, the premier shopping complex in this area, and surround yourself with a range of any food you might possibly wish for, foreign and Malaysian, such as the delcacies and Sunday High Tea served in Senja Restaurant.
Check out Café Aseana, a quaint spot located within the famed Petronas Twin Towers specializing in Asian cuisine. It sits within Aseana Gallery, a shop selling ethnic Asian products ranging from rattan mats to designer clothes. For delicious Thai, try Chakri Palace where any meal can be had with pineapple rice. The Emporium Grande Café stands as one of KL's hottest landmarks for hanging out, dining and partying. Everything here spells sophistication, elegance and the good life. For incredible home style Italian food in an elegant setting, dip into Ciao for signature dishes that include squid ink fettuccine. If you are craving Latin American cuisine, head to the Westin to patronise Qba, which doubles as a wine and cigar bar as well. Whether you are looking for a place to start your evening or for a night cap, the aptly-named Skybar offers incredible views from the 33rd floor along with its cocktails.
Who could miss gastronomic indulgence in the Golden Triangle, where food outlets abound? Carmen's is the place with everything under one roof, bestowing on you an array of activities for an evening of fun and entertainment. Taking up half the basement in one of KL's classy shopping centers, Shook! proves popular with the sophisticated crowd with assorted Western and Eastern cuisines. Prices seem rather steep, but the ambiance, food and live jazz make up for it. For a different Western dining treat, try Chalet where Swiss specialties and decor evoke all the charms of Switzerland. For the ultimate dining experience go to Seri Angkasa, a delightful revolving restaurant offering a panoramic city view. Dress smartly and brace yourself for the glorious selection of Western and local delicacies.
For a more authentic local experience, try Seri Melayu with cultural dance shows daily. Or, if you prefer Chinese fare, Toh Lee might satisfy you. Exuding a friendly, classy and almost romantic mood, this high-end restaurant is particularly proud of its dim sum. Or for rooftop views, head for Hakka Republic Wine Bar & Bistro.
Outskirts of Kuala Lumpur
Specializing in authentic Penang Nonya fare on KL's outskirts, the Little Penang Kafé is located at Mid Valley Megamall. The blend of Penang, Chinese and Malay cuisines delivers the usual favourites like Asam Laksa and Nasi Lemak Penang. Janbo has years of experience satisfying customers with fresh Chinese style seafood. Bon appetit!