The capital of Malaysia, Kuala Lumpur offers a variety of attractions to visitors to this South East Asian hub. A heady mix of old and new, Kuala Lumpur boasts shiny glass and steel skyscrapers sharing space with narrow winding streets overlooked by colonial shopfronts, bright neon shopping malls and green parks aflutter with birdlife, and a veritable smorgasboard of food with cultural influences from India, China, Thailand and beyond. Here’s some recommendations on how to spend 3 days in Kuala Lumpur.
Day 1: When in KL, do as the locals do
Start your exploration of Kuala Lumpur, or Kay-El, as the locals call it, in the Golden Triangle, an area bordered by Jalan Pudu, Jalan Imbi and Jalan Ampang. The main event here is the Petronas Twin Towers, or KLCC towers – the tallest buildings in the world when they were first completed in 1998. You can check out the city surrounds from the Skybridge that links the two towers, or take in the views from the observation deck.
Once you’ve had your fill of this city icon, the next best thing to do in the Golden Triangle is to go shopping, the locals’ favourite past time. Suria KLCC, located at the base of the Twin Towers, is home to a sprawling food court, multiple cinema and concert halls. There are plenty of global brands on offer, though prices will not be vastly cheaper. Other shopping options include the many malls of Bukit Bintang. The labyrinthine Sungei Wang Plaza is popular with the locals and there’s plenty of bargains to be found here. If you’re after electronic goods, Low Yat Plaza is a good bet, and the prices here are competitive.
After shopping to your hearts content, it’s time to hit the street food. Jalan Alor is a quintessential part of the KL experience, even for locals, whose favourite past time is eating (speaking from personal experience!) Once the sun goes down, Jalan Alor is transformed into a noisy, exuberant street lined with open grills, plastic stools and tables set out on the sidewalks and the smells of good things cooking.
Day 2: Blast to the past
Kuala Lumpur started from humble origins, as a tin mining town at the confluence of two rivers, the Klang and Gombak rivers. Now the spot is filled with high rise office buildings, but nearby is the picturesque Masjid Jamek, one of the oldest mosques in KL. Visitors are welcome, as long as they are dressed appropriately – women must wear headscarves. Drop by Central Market to pick up some local arts and crafts – batik textiles, jade carvings and woven handicrafts all make great gifts. Continue your visit to historic KL with a trip to Merdeka Square, where Malaysia’s independence from the British Empire was declared in 1957. You can learn more about the city’s past at the City Gallery, located south of Merdeka Square, entry is free. Nearby is the copper-dome-topped Sultan Abdul Samad Building, a flamboyant Moorish style building, popular for wedding shoots.
Perhaps one of the most off the beaten track experiences visitors to KL can have is to visit a pasar malam, or night market, and the easiest one to access is the nightly pasar malan open on Petaling Street, the heart of KL’s sense-assaulting Chinatown. Vendors operate out of street side stalls, selling everything from clothes to watches, fake luxury goods to fresh produce to satay sticks grilled to order. For foodies, the best option is to try everything and graze your way through the press of stalls lining the street.
Day 3: Mosques and Museums
While Malaysia is a secular country, the majority of her population are Muslim, and KL has a dozen of mosques that serve as places of worship. One of the largest is the modernist National Mosque. Eschewing the traditional onion-shaped dome and minarets, the National Mosque is a peaceful sanctuary amongst the greenery of the Perdana Gardens. When prayers are not in session, visitors are welcome, as long as dressed appropriately.
In this area of KL, the high rises recede and KL’s Lake Gardens offer visitors a respite from the heat and smog of the city centre. Here you’ll find the Bird Park, a tremendous walk-in aviary, stocked with plenty of tropical birds – keep an eye out for the hornbills, a native bird of Borneo. Finish your wander around the area by dropping in at the Islamic Arts Centre, where the architecture alone is well worth the entrance fee. The exhibits of textiles, jewellery, pottery, and calligraphy from all over the Muslim world are dazzling.
On your final night in KL, head to Traders Hotel, where a grand view awaits on the 33rd floor of the building. Here, you can kick back with a cocktail at SkyBar, a poolside bar with uninterrupted views of the sparkling Twin Towers, lit up in the night.
What have I missed? What have you tried and can recommend from your time in KL? Sound off in the comments below!