Stepping out of the chilled air-con of Kuala Lumpur’s busy international airport you pick up a city-bound shuttle bus ticket from a well-signposted, well-ordered, and well-run ticket counter. Or wait just a few minutes for a taxi with a meter that actually works (a luxury in SE Asia).
The hour-long drive down a smooth highway, edged with manicured gardens and crowded with gleaming sedans, skirts the technological wonderland of Cyberjaya. By the time you catch sight of the gleaming twin spires of the magnificent Petronas Towers, presiding over a skyline that has been described as ‘the Manhattan of the East’, you are further than ever from understanding how this impressive metropolis could ever have deserved the name Kuala Lumpur (Muddy Estuary).
Returning after a long absence – and fresh from much humbler Southeast Asian ‘boondocks’ – the polished façade of the Malay capital struck me with a kind of reverse culture shock. Everything works, gleams, and happens on time here. In short, KL clicks!
Early risers can get the freshest ingredients at Pudu Market, KL’s largest wet and dry market. Porters with impossible loads dart around frenetic hagglers vying for everything from goldfish in bowls to durians.
Lai Foong Coffee Shop, on Tun Tan Cheng Lock Street, has been a Chinatown breakfast venue since time immemorial, and is the ideal introduction to a city where eating is said to be the primary pastime!
Flag down a taxi and take the short ride out to the National Museum featuring a mind-boggling diversity of Malay memorabilia (including a barbed device, used to restrain a person who was ‘running amok’).
No visit to KL would be complete without a close-up look at the Petronas Towers. Suria KLCC mall (on the lower floors) also offers the perfect excuse for some chic brand-name shopping and lunch in the sprawling food centre.
Take the lift up to the Sky Bridge on the 42nd floor (closed Mondays) to enjoy spectacular views over the avenues and skyscrapers of the Golden Triangle business district to the jungle-clad hills of ‘untamed’ Malaysia.
Walk off some of KL’s famously irresistible culinary offerings among the lush landscapes of Lake Gardens – where there is also a butterfly museum, an insect museum, and (most attractive) the gigantic walk-in Bird Park aviary.
One of Asia’s best cityscape sunset views is best appreciated from the KL Tower, and the evening buffet in Seri Angkasa revolving restaurant (at 282m, the highest in SE Asia) is an unforgettable KL experience.
Just a short stroll away you can find more high-altitude nightlife at Luna Bar in PanGlobal Tower. This is the perfect place for cocktails in a super-chic ambience around the roof-top swimming pool with more views of those hypnotic towers.
Zouk has been a KL institution for years and, after a major revamp, is still at the pinnacle of the city’s clubbing scene. This is the in-place to go to dance, or to watch the ‘beautiful people’ at play.
There are several night markets that provide insights into more traditional Malay nightlife. Check out Taman Connaught or Chow Kit market, where KL-ers cure their nocturnal munchies at the all-night nasi lemak stalls.
Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia> Book Now
Distance: 5,894 km
Flight Time: 7 hours, 40 minutes
Frequency: 3 flights a day