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)

The Independent travel offers: Discover a world of inspiring destinations

Voices
A Russian hunter at the Medved bear-hunting lodge in Siberia
Save the tigerWildlife charities turn to those who kill animals to help save them
News
Davis says: 'My career has been about filling a niche - there were fewer short actors and fewer roles – but now I'm being offered all kinds of things'
PeopleWarwick Davis on Ricky Gervais, Harry Potter and his perfect role
News
i100
Sport
Frank Lampard will pass Billy Wright and equal Bobby Charton’s caps tally of 106 caps against
sportFormer Chelsea midfielder in Etihad stopgap before New York contract
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
The first film introduced Daniel Radcliffe to our screens, pictured here as he prepares to board the train to Hogwarts for the first time.
booksHow reading Harry Potter helps children grow up to be gay-friendly
Arts and Entertainment
A scene from Aladdin is performed at the Tony Awards in New York in June
theatreBrit producer Lythgoe makes kids' musical comedy a Los Angeles hit
Sport
Usain Bolt of Jamaica smiles and shakes hands with a competitor after Jamaica won their first heat in the men's 4x100m relay
sport
News
Chancellor George Osborne, along with the Prime Minister, have been 'complacently claiming the economy is now fixed', according to shadow Chancellor Ed Balls
i100... which is awkward, because he is their boss, after all
Life and Style
A small bag of the drug Ecstasy
Health
Life and Style
Floral-print swim shorts, £26, by Topman, topman.com; sunglasses, £215, by Paul Smith, mpaulsmith.co.uk
FashionBag yourself the perfect pair
News
news
Travel
ebookHow to enjoy the perfect short break in 20 great cities
News
Netherlands' goalkeeper Tim Krul fails to make a save from Costa Rica's midfielder Celso Borges during a penalty shoot-out in the quarter-final between Netherlands and Costa Rica during the 2014 FIFA World Cup
newsGoalkeepers suffer from 'gambler’s fallacy' during shoot-outs
News
people
Arts and Entertainment
Standing the test of time: Michael J Fox and Christopher Lloyd in 'Back to the Future'
filmReview: A week late, Secret Cinema arrives as interactive screening goes Back to the Future
Extras
indybest
News
i100
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
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
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

    SQL DBA/ C# Developer - T-SQL, C#.Net

    £45000 - £55000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: Working with an exciting ...

    Sales and Office Administrator – Sports Media

    £23,000: Sauce Recruitment: A global leader in sports and entertainment is now...

    C++ Software Engineer - Hounslow, West London - C++ - to £60K +

    £40000 - £60000 per annum + Pension, Healthcare : Deerfoot IT Resources Limite...

    VB.NET and C# developer (VB.NET,C#,ASP.NET)

    £30000 - £45000 per annum + Bonus+Benefits+Package: Harrington Starr: VB.NET a...

    Day In a Page

    Save the Tiger: Meet the hunters tasked with protecting Russia's rare Amur tiger

    Hunters protect Russia's rare Amur tiger

    In an unusual move, wildlife charities have enlisted those who kill animals to help save them. Oliver Poole travels to Siberia to investigate
    Transfers: How has your club fared in summer sales?

    How has your club fared in summer sales?

    Who have bagged the bargain buys and who have landed the giant turkeys
    Warwick Davis: The British actor on Ricky Gervais, how the Harry Potter set became his office, and why he'd like to play a spy

    'I'm a realist; I know how hard this business is'

    Warwick Davis on Ricky Gervais, Harry Potter and his perfect role
    The best swim shorts for men: Bag yourself the perfect pair and make a splash this summer

    The best swim shorts for men

    Bag yourself the perfect pair and make a splash this summer
    Has Ukip’s Glastonbury branch really been possessed by the devil?

    Has Ukip’s Glastonbury branch really been possessed by the devil?

    Meet the couple blamed for bringing Lucifer into local politics
    Dress the Gaza situation up all you like, but the truth hurts

    Robert Fisk on Gaza conflict

    Dress the situation up all you like, but the truth hurts
    Save the tiger: Tiger, tiger burning less brightly as numbers plummet

    Tiger, tiger burning less brightly

    When William Blake wrote his famous poem there were probably more than 100,000 tigers in the wild. These days they probably number around 3,200
    5 News's Andy Bell retraces his grandfather's steps on the First World War battlefields

    In grandfather's footsteps

    5 News's political editor Andy Bell only knows his grandfather from the compelling diary he kept during WWI. But when he returned to the killing fields where Edwin Vaughan suffered so much, his ancestor came to life
    Lifestyle guru Martha Stewart reveals she has flying robot ... to take photos of her farm

    Martha Stewart has flying robot

    The lifestyle guru used the drone to get a bird's eye view her 153-acre farm in Bedford, New York
    Former Labour minister Meg Hillier has demanded 'pootling lanes' for women cyclists

    Do women cyclists need 'pootling lanes'?

    Simon Usborne (who's more of a hurtler) explains why winning the space race is key to happy riding
    A tale of two presidents: George W Bush downs his paintbrush to pen father’s life story

    A tale of two presidents

    George W Bush downs his paintbrush to pen father’s life story
    Restaurateur Mitch Tonks has given the Great Western Pullman dining car a makeover

    The dining car makes a comeback

    Restaurateur Mitch Tonks has given the Great Western Pullman dining car a makeover
    Gallery rage: How are institutions tackling the discomfort of overcrowding this summer?

    Gallery rage

    How are institutions tackling the discomfort of overcrowding this summer?
    Louis van Gaal has £500,000 video surveillance system installed to monitor Manchester United players

    Eye on the prize

    Louis van Gaal has £500,000 video surveillance system installed to monitor Manchester United players
    Women's rugby: Tamara Taylor adds fuel to the ire in quest to land World Cup

    Women's rugby

    Tamara Taylor adds fuel to the ire in quest to land World Cup