Kuala Lumpur - A great place to start for a truly Asian experience
Malaysia’s capital city is a blend of the new and the old and a mascot for the Malaysian Tourist board’s catch phrase welcoming tourists to Malaysia ‘Malaysia truly Asia’.
For a few years now the Malaysian Tourist Board along with Malaysian Airways has been creating campaigns in order to attract the foreign tourist to Malaysia, periodic
‘Visit Malaysia’ years as well as the Shopping Carnival held every year in March and April are some of the strategies used to attract tourists and bolster tourism. Kuala Lumpur or KL as it is popularly known is usually the point of entry for a tourist to the peninsula of Malaysia.
Malaysia was a British colonial outpost which became the federation of Malaya in 1948 and declared independence in 1957. In 1963 Malaysia was formed along with another British colony Singapore and the eastern Malaysian states of Sabah and Sarawak. Singapore seceded from the federation in 1965.
Malaysia follows a parliamentary system of democracy and it is headed by a Prime Minister, like the famous Lee Kuan Yew of neighboring Singapore it was headed successfully by an enlightened leader Mahatir Muhammad for many years and it was he who contributed much to the advancement of Malaysia.
The main industries in Malaysia, a country which is rich in natural resources are manufacturing, tin, rubber, timber, pepper, palm oil and now with the efforts of the Malaysian tourism board tourism too is developing into a major industry. Malaysia with a racing track at Sepang is on the Formula One circuit and this is yet another big draw for tourists. However, KL with its many attractions and multicultural population composed of Chinese, Malays and Indians is the crown jewel for the board of tourism in its endeavors.
Getting to Kuala Lumpur
Fly into Kuala Lumpur’s ultra modern KLIA (Kuala Lumpur International Airport) glass and steel terminal at Sepang. It was commissioned in 1998 and ranks amongst the top airports of the world. It replaced the older Sultan Abdul Aziz Shah terminal at Subhang which is now a charter air terminal. More than 50 airlines call at KLIA. In March 2006 a second terminal was opened called the Low Cost Carrier terminal and serves the low cost carriers such as Air Asia and Cebu Pacific.
The KLIA Ekspres
The fastest way into the city is by the KLIA Ekspres train which has its terminal within the airport and is extremely convenient as it has adequate facilities for passengers with luggage to use it effectively.
Trains arrive every 15 -20 minutes throughout the day and speed you into KL Sentral the transport hub in KL city. KL transit is another train one can take to KL Sentral but it takes longer than the Ekspres as it stops at three stops before it gets to KL Sentral.
At KL Sentral one can check in luggage on your return journey out of KL if you fly Malaysian, Cathay Pacific or Air Borneo airlines. Tickets on both the KLIA Ekspres and KL Transit cost RM 35.
At the airport there are counters to hire a prepaid Taxi or Airport Limo into the city. The fare to the city center by prepaid taxi is between 60 RM. to90 RM
KLIA is accessible from the city center by road on the expressway known as ‘Elite’. The journey by road from the city center takes an hour as the airport is 70km away.
KL is served by many Bus stations the oldest being Puduraya near Chinatown and also the old railway station which also serves as a Bus station. Tourists from neighboring Singapore take a variety of buses at various pick up points in Singapore and traverse the six hour journey on the Causeway and Tuas highways to get to KL . Buses also come into KL from the East and West coasts of Malaysia.
Trains come into KL Sentral from Singapore and Bangkok. Many Malaysians who work in Singapore use the overnight train to come home to KL.
Not really an option but there are ferries that come from Indonesia to Port Klang nearby
Getting around KL
Just as any other teeming and developing Asian city KL has horrendous traffic snarls. The city is still heavily car dependant with the government encouraging the use of the Malaysian built car the Proton. The development of the Light Rail Transport system known as the LRT has alleviated this problem somewhat. It is composed of 3 lines run by three private companies and the lines are called KTM Komuter which connects the northern and southern suburbs and the Star LRT and the Putra LRT.
Banks, Shopping Malls and other sections of the city are accessible by the LRT. The city is also served by the Rapid City shuttle buses, distinctive with their red disks they serve 15 routes. Red and white taxis are by far the easiest way for a tourist to get around the city and they have a starting rate of RM2. There are also the yellow cabs which are slightly more expensive. A tourist must ask the driver to use the meter on the taxi ride to avoid being ripped off. A Red and White taxi can also take you to KLIA but be sure to fix the rate with the driver. In KL haggling with the driver for the fare is quite the norm.
KL’s Golden Triangle. A shoppers delight.
One of KL’s biggest tourist attractions is its luxurious five star hotels and malls and mega malls bursting with stores. Almost all the luxury Hotel chains in the world including the JW Marriott, the Ritz Carlton, the Regent, the Westin, and The Shangri-la have a presence in KL. Most of these luxury hotels are concentrated around KL’s golden triangle which is made up of Bukit Bingtang, Jalan Bukit Bingtang, Jalan Imbi and Jalan Sultan Ismail. Cafes and restaurants line a street known as Bingtang walk near the Ritz Carlton hotel.
Lot 10, Starhill plaza, Sungei Wan, BB plaza and KL plaza are malls always pulsating with shoppers. Some of these like Starhill are filled with high end retail stores. Sungei Wan with its many more modestly priced shops and food court is popular with the locals and tourists alike.
At the base of the world famous Petronas towers is another mall of high end luxury goods called the Suria KLCC. This complex also has a food court and number of specialty restaurants on its upper floor above the shops. Adjacent to KLCC is the super luxurious Mandarin Oriental Hotel..
Apart from the golden triangle KL boasts of many more malls in other areas the Berjaya Times Square Mall with its theme park, IMAX theater, restaurants, bowling complex and over a thousand shops is yet another shoppers paradise. Near the Expat populated district of Bangsar is the Mega mall with Metro Jaya and Carrefour as anchor tenants. The district of Petaling Jaya has another huge mall called Sunway Pyramid which has the Sunway Lagoon theme park a water park with many additional attractions. One Utama shopping center is yet another mall in KL with stores like Parkson and Marks and Spencer.
KL’s main attractions
The Petronas Twin Towers
Until recently the tallest buildings in the world, these buildings have provided a backdrop for many a Hollywood and Bollywood movie. Visitors are allowed to the 41st and 42nd level Skybridge. The Towers are located on Jalan Ampang with the KLCC shopping mall at the base. They are open everyday except Monday and entry is free and limited to the first 1200 so one must aim to get there early.
A relatively new attraction is a aquarium located in the basement of the KLCC shopping center which show cases 5000 varieties of fish .
The KL Tower
Also known as the Menara KL it affords a fabulous view of the city as it is built on a hill.
The KL tower is located on Jalan Puchak. Entrance can be obtained at RM15.
A square of much historical importance as it was here in 1957 that the declaration of independence was made at the open field known as Padang. It has the tallest flag pole in the world and it has other buildings of importance nearby the Anglican St Marys Cathedral ,the Sultan Abdul Samad Building and the Royal Selangor Club .
Sultan Abdul Samad Building
The Sultan Abdul Samad building served as the colonial secretariat at the time of the British rule it now houses the courts of Law. It is an Islamic inspired building with a 40 ft clock tower which is a gathering point for many celebrations
The Masjid or mosque is the oldest mosque in KL built in the style of the Mughals with three domes. Masjid Jamek is also the area where ‘Little India’ of KL is located with many stores selling Indian products and Bollywood DVDs. Bollywood movies are vastly popular amongst the Malay population who watch subtitled versions of these movies.
Sri Mahamarriaman Temple
Situated in Chinatown of KL the temple is typical of the temples of South India with its elaborate gopuram( tower). The temple is also the starting point for the procession of Thaipusam . A Hindu festival where devotees in a prayer fueled trance pierce their bodies with skewers and walk with altars on their head in a procession to the accompaniment of beating of drums and cymbals. The culmination of this journey is at the temple at the Batu Caves located 13 km from the city .They were discovered by Lord William Hornaday in 1878. The caves are bat infested but in the months of January and February Hindu devotees throng the Hindu temple located in the caves. The caves are accessed by climbing 273 steps. Buses from Puduraya bus station take visitors to these caves.
This is a massive bronze sculpture sculpted by Felix de Weldon, located off Jalan Parlimen and commemorates the Malay soldier who laid down his life as a supreme sacrifice of the country.
Local Food and Delights
When in KL one must sample the local foods available in the busy hawker stalls. Malay cuisine is rich and has influences of Indian cuisine as well as Chinese cuisine. Roti Canai is a popular dish consisting of Malaysian bread which eaten by dipping it in a chicken curry sauce, Ampang Yong tau foo,is a dish which consists of tofu and fish paste filled vegetables simmered in a broth, Nasi lemak is a rice dish with many accompaniments, Laksa is a curried soup served with fish and meat. These are some of the local delights. They are found in stalls in food courts at most malls and in the crowded hawker stalls in KL’s Chinatown and Jalan Alor which is parallel to Bukit Bingtang.The has hawker stalls of Jalan Alor stay open all night. Estana Curry House on Jalan Sultan Ismail is yet another spot to try local food. Raju’s alfresco restaurant in Petaling Jaya is renowned for its curries which are served on Banana Leaves as is the tradition in South India.
The district of Bangsar used to be nightlife central of KL with pubs such as Finnegans,La Bodega and One Bangsar . It is an Expat ( foreign worker on postings in KL are termed Expats and consist of a large community).dominated area but it is losing out to an area called Desa Sri Heratamas which is now popular with the younger folk.
Changkat Bukit Bintan is yet another up market area where many bars and cafes abound. Yokos, Bon Ton and Deutsche Hause are some of the establishments located in Changkat Bukit Bintan where one can get cuisines from different parts of the world.
Jalan Doraiswamy off the Sheraton Hotel is known as ‘Heritage Row’ and is full of art deco buildings which have been restored and transformed into eating establishments such as Mezze Notte, Thatindianthing, Cochine and Bar sa vanh. This area is KL’s latest hot spot and a must do on any visit to this exciting vibrant city.