City Slicker: Kuala Lumpur

view gallery VIEW GALLERY

This dynamic Malaysian city is the place to make a cheap connection to South-east Asia’s other hotspots. Andrew Spooner explains why it’s worth extending your stopover


Why visit?


With the establishment of Kuala Lumpur (KL to the locals) as the regional centre for budget air travel, the Malaysian capital is well on its way to becoming one of the most important hubs and entry points for visitors to South-east Asia. Air Asia is the biggest player, flying to 18 countries and 57 cities from KL's purpose-built LCCT (low-cost carrier terminal).

These routes include major cities such as Bangkok, Perth, Jakarta, Singapore and Hong Kong, but also Phuket, Siem Reap (for Angkor Wat), Bali and Ho Chi Minh City. As for KL itself, over the past few years it has undergone a massive transformation. A huge Manhattan-style mega-city of skyscrapers and futuristic shopping centres has grown up around the stunning Petronas Towers and the KL City Centre (KLCC).

Meanwhile, the city’s diverse ethnic blend is now, quite rightly, being openly celebrated on the streets of Little India and Chinatown. Throw into the mix a stable of world-class hotels – with rooms available at some very low prices – and a couple of days in KL, while en-route elsewhere, makes perfect sense.

Don’t miss...

*The truly breathtaking steel-clad 452m (1,483ft) Petronas Towers.

*The giant National Mosque, spiritual centre of this muslim nation.

*The excellent Islamic Arts Museum, with its superb collection of everything, from illuminated copies of the Koran through to Damascus steel daggers.

*The British-built railway station and offices, a unique mish-mash of onion domes, minarets and Victorian-era gothic splendour.

*Merdaka or Independence Square for further examples of British rule in the shape of the various colonial-era edifices.

*The soothing Lakeside Gardens.

*High tea at the Carcosa Seri Negara hotel, the former residence of the British High Commissioner.

*The Brickfields area, Chinatown and Little India, to experience the best of KL’s ethnic melange.

*The new administrative capital of Putrajaya, 25 miles away (public transport connects to here). Take in its giant boulevards and handsome contemporary buildings.

What’s new

Changkat Bukit Bitang

KL’s most happening street is a short blast of lively eateries, bars and clubs. It attracts a mix of youthful expatriots and more liberal locals and is a great spot to meet, chat and eat. Explore a little further into the surrounding backstreets

and you’ll find more hidden nightspots, including the excellent and unpretentious jazz bar No Black Tie (noblacktie.com.my). There are also numerous tiny boutique guesthouses around here, while the shopping area of Jalan Bukit Bintang is just next door.

Tamarind Hill

Contemporary Thai and Burmese food is served up in one of KL’s newest restaurants. Set in rustic-themed huts and amid lotus-adorned ponds, the vibe here couldn’t be more relaxed, though the jury is still out on whether dishes such as Thai Braised Lamb Shank with Green-Curry Reduction hit the mark. It still makes a fabulous spot

for an intimate date and, after dinner, you can try the attached futuristic Neo bar which is run by the same management.

Details: tamarindrestaurants.com

Sky Bar

With a new open-plan roof and recent refurb, Traders hotel’s very own Sky Bar is still upping the ante for the best bar location in KL. It is sited on the 33rd floor and allows you to sit in comfy, softly furnished, sunken booths, or gather around the bar to sup great cocktails, listen to funky tunes or take in the incredible views of the nearby Petronas Towers. This is one of KL’s most sought after watering holes – luckily they do table bookings should you want to guarantee capturing that picture-perfect night-time view.

Details: skybar.com.my

Aquaria

Keep both adults and kids busy for an afternoon at KL’s impressive Aquaria. Recently expanded to include a giant 2.5 million-litre tank, complete with a 90m-long walk-through tunnel which is filled with tiger sharks, turtles and tropical fish. The Aquaria also houses tarantulas and piranhas. Feeding time for both is particularly popular. For a more bizarre experience, try the attached Aquazone therapy centre where Gurra Rafa fish from Turkey nibble away all the dead skin from your feet.

Details: klaquaria.com

Pavilion

One of KL’s newest shopping centres, set on Julan Pinang road, Pavilion is a multi-level homage to conspicuous consumption. Start at the lower levels in the Gourmet Emporium food court and then work your way up through the endless parade of designer outlets, cinemas and various other bistros, until you reach the Seventh Heaven spa and salon on the top floor. If that’s not enough shopping, you can also try the streets around Bangsar.

Details: pavilion-kl.com

Andrew Spooner is the author of Footprint Books’ Southeast Asia Handbook 2nd edition, out in October, price £16.99 (footprintbooks.com).

Insider’s secret: Caroline Filtzinger-Win Lwin, hotel manager

“At night, Jalan Alor street, just off Changkat Butik Bintang, offers the best spread of street food in Kuala Lumpur. The diversity of Chinese, Indian and Malay tastes is just amazing, the atmosphere is lively and friendly – many of the stalls stay open until 2 or 3am.”

Compact Facts

How to get there

Andrew Spooner flew to South-east Asia with Etihad (0800 731 9384; etihad airways.com), which offers return fares from London Heathrow and Manchester to Kuala Lumpur from £494. Tropical Locations (0845 277 3310; tropical-locations.com) offers three nights in Kuala Lumpur from £798 per person, based on two sharing, including return flights with Etihad via Abu Dhabi, private transfers, B&B at Traders, and a complimentary drink at the Sky Bar. Upgrade to the colonial-era Carcosa Seri Negara hotel for an extra £269 per person.

Further Information

Tourism Malaysia (tourismmalaysia.gov.my)

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Travel
ebookHow to enjoy the perfect short break in 20 great cities
Independent Travel Videos
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Amsterdam
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Giverny
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in St John's
Independent Travel Videos
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Travel

    Recruitment Genius: Membership Sales Advisor - OTE £20,000 Uncapped

    £15000 - £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The fastest growing fitness cha...

    Guru Careers: Marketing Manager / Marketing Communications Manager

    £35-40k (DOE) + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Marketing Communicati...

    Guru Careers: Membership Administrator

    £23K: Guru Careers: We're seeking an experienced Membership Administrator, to ...

    Guru Careers: Dining Room Head Chef

    £32K: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Dining Room Head Chef to work for one of ...

    Day In a Page

    Fifa corruption: The 161-page dossier that exposes the organisation's dark heart

    The 161-page dossier that exposes Fifa's dark heart

    How did a group of corrupt officials turn football’s governing body into what was, in essence, a criminal enterprise? Chris Green and David Connett reveal all
    Mediterranean migrant crisis: 'If Europe thinks bombing boats will stop smuggling, it will not. We will defend ourselves,' says Tripoli PM

    Exclusive interview with Tripoli PM Khalifa al-Ghweil

    'If Europe thinks bombing boats will stop smuggling, it will not. We will defend ourselves'
    Raymond Chandler's Los Angeles: How the author foretold the Californian water crisis

    Raymond Chandler's Los Angeles

    How the author foretold the Californian water crisis
    Chinese artist who posted funny image of President Xi Jinping facing five years in prison as authorities crackdown on dissent in the arts

    Art attack

    Chinese artist who posted funny image of President Xi Jinping facing five years in prison
    Marc Jacobs is putting Cher in the limelight as the face of his latest campaign

    Cher is the new face of Marc Jacobs

    Alexander Fury explains why designers are turning to august stars to front their lines
    Parents of six-year-old who beat leukaemia plan to climb Ben Nevis for cancer charity

    'I'm climbing Ben Nevis for my daughter'

    Karen Attwood's young daughter Yasmin beat cancer. Now her family is about to take on a new challenge - scaling Ben Nevis to help other children
    10 best wedding gift ideas

    It's that time of year again... 10 best wedding gift ideas

    Forget that fancy toaster, we've gone off-list to find memorable gifts that will last a lifetime
    Paul Scholes column: With the Premier League over for another year, here are my end of season awards

    Paul Scholes column

    With the Premier League over for another year, here are my end of season awards
    Heysel disaster 30th anniversary: Liverpool have seen too much tragedy to forget fateful day in Belgium

    Liverpool have seen too much tragedy to forget Heysel

    Thirty years ago, 39 fans waiting to watch a European Cup final died as a result of a fatal cocktail of circumstances. Ian Herbert looks at how a club dealt with this tragedy
    Amir Khan vs Chris Algieri: Khan’s audition for Floyd Mayweather may turn into a no-win situation, says Frank Warren

    Khan’s audition for Mayweather may turn into a no-win situation

    The Bolton fighter could be damned if he dazzles and damned if he doesn’t against Algieri, the man last seen being decked six times by Pacquiao, says Frank Warren
    Blundering Tony Blair quits as Middle East peace envoy – only Israel will miss him

    Blundering Blair quits as Middle East peace envoy – only Israel will miss him

    For Arabs – and for Britons who lost their loved ones in his shambolic war in Iraq – his appointment was an insult, says Robert Fisk
    Fifa corruption arrests: All hail the Feds for riding to football's rescue

    Fifa corruption arrests

    All hail the Feds for riding to football's rescue, says Ian Herbert
    Isis in Syria: The Kurdish enclave still resisting the tyranny of President Assad and militant fighters

    The Kurdish enclave still resisting the tyranny of Assad and Isis

    In Syrian Kurdish cantons along the Turkish border, the progressive aims of the 2011 uprising are being enacted despite the war. Patrick Cockburn returns to Amuda
    How I survived Cambodia's Killing Fields: Acclaimed surgeon SreyRam Kuy celebrates her mother's determination to escape the US

    How I survived Cambodia's Killing Fields

    Acclaimed surgeon SreyRam Kuy celebrates her mother's determination to escape to the US
    Stephen Mangan interview: From posh buffoon to pregnant dad, the actor has quite a range

    How Stephen Mangan got his range

    Posh buffoon, hapless writer, pregnant dad - Mangan is certainly a versatile actor