Ensure your clients get the most from a flying visit to Malaysia's capital with Karl Cushing's tips
Malaysia’s capital has always had its fans but in recent years it has blossomed into a fascinating, cosmopolitan metropolis.A mix of Malay, Chinese and Indian influences, this colourful, complex city is awash with history, although, as a glance at its skyline will testify, its focus is firmly on the future.
Airlift is a major plus, with the likes of Etihad, Emirates and British Airways serving the city and Malaysia Airlines having added 16% more capacity last November by launching double-daily A380 flights on its direct Heathrow-KL service. One result is an upsurge in multi-centre and tailor-made bookings for operators such as Travel 2, Kuoni and Hayes & Jarvis, which twins the city with everything from Langkawi to Thailand and the Maldives.
“KL is the ideal destination for a city and beach break,” says Hayes & Jarvis product manager Emma Mitchell. “Our tours from KL, such as to Malacca, Taman Negara and the Cameron Highlands, are also proving popular.”
Time-strapped tourists will also appreciate KL’s fantastic transport network, bolstered by a monorail, three metro lines and some handy, free GoKL buses.
08.30: Get your bearings by heading to KL’s ‘Golden Triangle’, and the iconic Petronas Towers. An easy stroll from the many nearby hotels, the towers can be seen throughout the city and the Skybridge on the 41st floor offers cracking views (8.30am-7pm, closed Mondays). It’s free, too, as is browsing in Suria KLCC shopping mall below.
10.00: Having awakened your retail senses, it’s time to go properly wild in the aisles. Bargain hunting is a sport in KL, with duty-free shopping and 23 sprawling malls to choose from. A good introduction is Jalan Bukit Bintang, home to Pavilion Kuala Lumpur and Starhill Gallery – top spots for designer goods.
13.00: Bargains bagged, it’s time to explore another KL highpoint, its cuisine. Get into gear by checking out the wide range of local menu options at a lunchtime buffet, such as that at Nelayan Floating Restaurant.
15.00: Camera in hand, burn off the calories with a stroll around ‘Little India’ in the Brickfields district, grazing on tasty titbits such as roti canai flatbreads and cendol, the super-sweet bean-filled drink.
16.30: Next up, Chinatown. Work up an appetite meandering through the backstreets before hitting Petaling Street for the night market (from 6pm). Alive with exotic smells and noises it’s a great place to sample street food, washed down with a refreshing Tiger Beer or lychee juice, as you browse the market stalls.
20.00: If you’re still on the lookout for souvenirs, nearby Central Market, with its eye-catching art deco stylings, is a top spot. There’s an enticing food court, too, while Precious Old China is a good place to try Nyonya cuisine, which blends Chinese ingredients with Malay cooking techniques.
22.00: Round off the day with a cheeky nightcap: you’ve earned it. You’ll discover there’s more to the local brew scene than Tiger Beer at the likes of Taps and Craft Brews, while venues such as the 1976 bar on Jalan Gasing and Mood Swings on Bukit Bintang are ripe with character.
23.30: Peckish again? Swing by the late-night food stalls on Jalan Alor for a cheeky murtabak – a stuffed pancake that is snack heaven.
09.00: Grab a bite at one of the many cafes lining Bukit Bintang or Jalan Tun Ismail, en route to historic Merdeka Square. It was here, in 1957, that the Union Jack was last lowered, marking the end of British rule.
KL’s historic heart, the square is flanked by impressive colonial buildings (worth revisiting when illuminated at night). Next up, take in some of the key sites such as the National Museum (9am-6pm daily), national mosque and Royal Palace – all within easy reach.
12.30: Refuel under the square at Plaza Putra. Alternatively, if subterranean dining isn’t for you, continue your foodie odyssey at a place specialising in village-style ‘kampung’ dishes, such as Senja Bistro on Jalan Doraisamy’s Asian Heritage Row. asianheritagerow.com
14.00: Swap the hustle and bustle of KL’s street scenes for one of its green lungs such as KL Lake Gardens; Bukit Nanas Forest Reserve, home to KL Tower with its observation deck and revolving restaurant; or Taman Tasik Titiwangsa park, with its big wheel.
Families can find plenty of fun too. Kids can discover watery wonders at Aquaria KLCC, with underwater lion dances adding Asian flavour. To travel back to the world of dinosaurs and the ice age, head to I-City. Kidzania, sister attraction to the version in Dubai, allows children to role-play their future jobs, from fireman to doctor.
19.00: Having ticked off the sights, it’s time to nip back to your hotel to don your gladdest rags for an exploration of KL’s chi-chi nightlife. Kick off with a pre-dinner cocktail at a swanky bar such as Bedroom, Marini’s on 57 for the views from the Petronas Towers or the Sky Bar at Traders Hotel, part of the Shangri-La group.
21.00: Continue with a leisurely meal at a local institution such as Enak KL or Bijan.
Appetites sated, top off your trip by cutting some shapes at a nightclub such as KL Live, Zouk, Milk or Mist and see how the locals get the party started.
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