Global Cultures

In a day: Kuala Lumpur

December 2015

Waves of European colonial settlement and immigration from China and India have gifted Kuala Lumpur one of the most diverse and exciting lifestyles in the world.

KL is a fast-growing commercial hub, and the Golden Triangle district at its frenetic epicentre is within easy reach of all the food, entertainment and shopping hotspots

The time-stressed visitor may prefer to check into one of the district's many hotels offering self-catering suites, such as Invito, Somerset Ampang or Golden Triangle Suites by Mondo. These have a small kitchenette, so you can grab a 'tapau' (takeaway) rendang or roti canai, and relax in your room while you prep for the next morning's meeting.

If you have time to shop, head to the many malls along the nearby Bukit Bintang, Malaysia's prime retail hub. Check out Low Yat Plaza (PCs and mobiles), Starhill Gallery (luxury goods) and Pavilion Kuala Lumpur (a megamall with around 450 upmarket shops).

You can often pick up international brands at local prices (with discounts often given for cash). The air-conditioned malls not only provide good retail, but also a refuge from the often blistering humidity.

For moving around central KL, there's a monorail system and a light-rail network, which is cheap and clean, though sometimes unreliable and difficult to navigate.

If the heat of the afternoon and the moped fumes get to you, then an ideal tonic is a sirap limao. This Malayan infusion drink, made from lemon or lime and rose syrup, will help soothe your head and throat before that important presentation.

After a long day, head to the chic SkyBar, which offers superb views across the metropolis, the nearby KL City Park and the Bukit Nanas Forest Reserve. It's a popular spot with professionals for networking and meeting up for pre-dinner cocktails.

A great pleasure of touching down in one of KL is not having to decide where to dine that night. Jalan Alor, a long and wide thoroughfare in the Golden Triangle, is a 24-hour festival of street food: from every part of China, India and Malaysia – and includes European favourites – all served with a dash of local panache.

You can join the crowd weaving its way among the hawkers along this brightly lit avenue of open-air cafes, stalls and food carts; some grazing on small parcels of char kway teow (charcoal fried noodles) or a coconut ice-cream, others grabbing a plastic seat at a table to enjoy Hainanese chicken rice or a delicious mamak rojak stirfry.

The Petronas Towers were overtaken in height by Taipei 101 in 2004 but they remain the tallest twin towers in the world.

Nearby Jalan P. Ramlee is known for being the city's party street, with nightclubs such as Rum Jungle (live music, table service, outdoor bar area) Beach Club (video games, music, TV sport) and Nuovo (r&b and house music from international DJs).

When the time comes to take a taxi out of the boiling chaos of downtown KL to one of its two international airports, save haggling or getting ripped off by pre-booking a 'limo' service (usually a normal car) by phone up to two days ahead.

And as you leave this unique, thriving multicultural metropolis, don't forget to watch the brightly lit pinnacle of the 421-metre KL Tower fade majestically into the sky.