Like all great South-East Asian cities, Kuala Lumpur is a sizzling, steamy hot-pot of urban adventure. With three airlines now flying to the Malaysian capital from New Zealand, here’s a roundup of my recommended experiences in KL. Indisputably the most recognisable landmark in Malaysia, the Petronas Towers are the tallest twin towers in the world, pricking the capital’s hazy skyline with their identical silver prongs. Clad in stainless steel and glass, adorned with intricate Islamic cultural designs, I love how this blockbuster landmark still looks stylish, timeless and futuristic – all at the same time!
Photo / Mike Yardley
Book tickets to the Observation Deck on the 86th floor for sweeping views across the city before heading downstairs to the amazing Skybridge. Strung across the 41st and 42nd floors, the iconic towers are connected by the world’s highest double-decker skybridge. I was a little taken aback to discover as I crossed the bridge, that it’s not actually attached to the towers. It moves and slides between the structures, allowing for flex in the wind and providing extra stability for the towers.
The skyline views of Petronas Towers are best enjoyed at night, and the Saloma Link Bridge is my favourite vantage point, for a particularly punchy perspective. If you’d rather take in the view with a drink in your hand, head up to the 39th floor of Traders Hotel to Sky Bar, which is a beloved cocktail perch. Another night-time pick is KLCC park, in front of Petronas Towers. Lovely for a picnic during the day, as darkness falls Lake Symphony – an hourly fountain show – shoots coloured water 42m into the air, with musical accompaniment.
KL has emerged as a formidable contender to the crown of being Asia’s best shopping destination, with ever-impressive shopping malls redefining the city centre. Suria and Starhill have been crowd-favourites for years, but the retail emporium to beat them all is Pavilion. Boasting a monstrous 700 stores, it’s retail escapism in excelsis, whether you’re after the finest tailored threads, a luxury Bentley or a bargain bonsai tree. Pavilion knows no bounds in shopaholic excess, let alone cash limits. For sharply priced souvenirs and knock-offs, Petaling Street and Central market is your best bet.
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If the indie scene is more to your liking than glossy retail, according to KL’s cool kids, the place to be is the Zhongshang Building. This nondescript, even decrepit-looking building in the Kampung Attap area, is home to a burgeoning collective of artists and creatives, from artisanal sourdough bakers to letterpressers, silkscreeners and batik painters.
Meanwhile, it may not exactly set your world on fire if I suggested you visit a pewter factory. But the Royal Selangor pewter factory is undeniably one of Kuala Lumper’s treasures. Nearly 140 years old, Royal Selangor is the world’s foremost pewter manufacturer.
As you progress through the establishment on a guided tour, you are treated to a fascinating insight into how the workers shape, grind, polish, and manipulate the pewter into the most stunning products. From intricate models to beautifully crafted jewellery, it is difficult not to be amazed at what can be done with this metal alloy. Royal Selangor make trophies for many headline events, including the Formula One. In recent years, their special range of limited-edition figures have become coveted in the collectible stakes, from Harry Potter and Star Wars to the Marvel universe.
Anchoring Malaysian cuisine is its street food, with aromatic dishes best tasted fresh from the hawker stalls. Traversing one of Kuala Lumpur’s famous street-food markets is the ultimate initiation to Malaysian culture, with entire evenings easily spent sampling the variety of delights on offer. Visit Jalan Alor, a massive thoroughfare dedicated to street-food stalls, forming a river of vendors to wade through, where you can nosh on everything from nasi lemak (commonly known as a breakfast dish but now served round the clock) to spicy, slippery laksa, and curries mopped up with flaky roti canai.
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Famous Petaling Street, located in the heart of Chinatown, also comes alive in the evening with an unfurling buffet of fuss-free hawker-style eateries. You can taste delicacies from some of the oldest street-food stalls in the city, each of which has cemented a loyal fan base. My favourite dish was the oyster omelettes with deep fried potato balls.
Malaysia’s history and its architectural flourishes have been peppered with various periods of European colonial rule, influenced by the British, Portuguese, and Dutch. Remnants of these periods are still clearly visible throughout KL, with the remains of colonial buildings nestled between glossy skyscrapers. The Old Kuala Lumpur Railway Station, surely one of the most beautiful railway stations in the world, is a prime example of colonial rule. Completed in an extravagant British-Asian colonial style in 1917, it’s now a museum to rail travel. The Great Hall houses steam trains and fire engines, and visitors can explore carriages custom-made to carry dignitaries in the height of luxury.
Just a short hop from the city centre, the Batu Caves are an outcrop of awe-inspiring limestone caves and temples situated on a craggy cliffside and presided over by a colossal golden statue of the Hindu god Murugan, 42 metres in height. Besides being a sacred destination for Hindus, the caves beckon pilgrims of all stripes, with many colourful shrines to discover. Visitors who manage the steep climb up the cliffside will also be rewarded with far-reaching views over the city skyline and hordes of fearless monkeys, long-tailed macaques. Down below, the sprawling pond swarms with hundreds of turtles.
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The Booking.com APAC Travel Confidence Index 2023 reveals that over half of Kiwi 63% prioritise food and dining experiences while 68% seeking breath-taking and unforgettable landscapes – ideal for foodies and cityscape lovers. Kuala Lumpur ticks all those books. I bedded down at Grand Hyatt Kuala Lumpur, just across from Petronas Towers, after snagging a great deal on Booking.com Offering accommodation, bookable attractions and car hires, Booking.com takes the stress out of travelling all on one platform. www.booking.com
Mike Yardley is our resident traveller on Jack Tame Saturday Mornings.
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