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
  • Get to the point
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

    Guru Careers: Dining Room Head Chef

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

    Guru Careers: Pastry Sous Chef / Experienced Pastry Chef

    £27K: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Pastry Sous Chef / Experienced Pastry Che...

    Ashdown Group: Technical IT Manager - North London - Growing business

    £40000 - £50000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A growing business that has been ope...

    Recruitment Genius: Technical Supervisor

    £24800 - £29000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: As one of London's leading Muse...

    Day In a Page

    General Election 2015: Ed Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

    Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

    He was meant to be Labour's biggest handicap - but has become almost an asset
    General Election 2015: A guide to the smaller parties, from the the National Health Action Party to the Church of the Militant Elvis Party

    On the margins

    From Militant Elvis to Women's Equality: a guide to the underdogs standing in the election
    Amr Darrag: Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister in exile still believes Egypt's military regime can be replaced with 'moderate' Islamic rule

    'This is the battle of young Egypt for the future of our country'

    Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister Amr Darrag still believes the opposition can rid Egypt of its military regime and replace it with 'moderate' Islamic rule, he tells Robert Fisk
    Why patients must rely less on doctors: Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'

    Why patients must rely less on doctors

    Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'
    Sarah Lucas is the perfect artist to represent Britain at the Venice Biennale

    Flesh in Venice

    Sarah Lucas has filled the British pavilion at the Venice Biennale with slinky cats and casts of her female friends' private parts. It makes you proud to be a woman, says Karen Wright
    11 best anti-ageing day creams

    11 best anti-ageing day creams

    Slow down the ageing process with one of these high-performance, hardworking anti-agers
    Juventus 2 Real Madrid 1: Five things we learnt, including Iker Casillas is past it and Carlos Tevez remains effective

    Juventus vs Real Madrid

    Five things we learnt from the Italian's Champions League first leg win over the Spanish giants
    Ashes 2015: Test series looks a lost cause for England... whoever takes over as ECB director of cricket

    Ashes series looks a lost cause for England...

    Whoever takes over as ECB director of cricket, says Stephen Brenkley
    Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

    Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

    Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
    Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

    Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

    Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
    China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

    China's influence on fashion

    At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
    Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

    The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

    Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
    Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

    Rainbow shades

    It's all bright on the night
    'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

    Bread from heaven

    Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
    Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

    How 'the Axe' helped Labour

    UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power