Kuala Lumpur is a huge city with several district articles containing sightseeing, restaurant, nightlife and accommodation listings — consider printing them all.
Kuala Lumpur, or simply KL, is the capital of Malaysia. Literally meaning “muddy estuary” in Malay, Kuala Lumpur has grown from a small sleepy Chinese tin-mining village to a bustling metropolis of around 6.5 million (city-proper population of 1.8 million) in just 150 years. With some of the world’s cheapest 5-star hotels, great shopping and even better food, increasing numbers of travellers are discovering this little gem of a city.
Things to see
Despite having many attractions, Kuala Lumpur is one of those cities which is short on must-see attractions: the real joy lies in wandering randomly, seeing, shopping and eating your way through it. It’s hot, humid and sometimes crowded though, so schedule some air-conditioned downtime in shopping malls or restaurants into your plan. You may find that most attractions are only crowded on weekends/holidays and deserted on weekdays.
The main attractions are spread throughout the city, although the greatest concentration of places of interest are in the City Centre, where you’ll find Dataran Merdeka (Independence Square), where Malaysia usually celebrates Malaysian independence day (the exact spot where independence was declared on Aug 31, 1957 is at the Stadium Merdeka); the Sultan Abdul Samad Building and other Colonial-era buildings surrounding the square; the modern and rather unadorned National Mosque; the Moorish-style Kuala Lumpur Railway Station, designed by Arthur Benison Hubback, a British Architectural Assistant to the Director of Public Works, which now houses a mini-museum on Malaysian railway history; many of Kuala Lumpur’s other museums including the recently refurbished National Museum (which unfortunately has a discriminatory pricing policy – RM5 for foreigners, RM2 for Malaysians) tracing the history of the region through prehistory and the Malaccan empire to Independence, and the extremely well-regarded Islamic Arts Museum (RM12, 10-6PM), and the nearby ‘Police Museum; and the pretty Lake Gardens to the west. Within the city centre is also the fascinating narrow streets of Chinatown, Kuala Lumpur’s traditional commercial district, with its many Chinese shops and places to eat.
Another area of interest to the traveller is the Golden Triangle. Although predominantly a shopping and night-life district, it is also home to the Kuala Lumpur City Centre (KLCC) and the Petronas Twin Towers, once the world’s tallest building. In the nearby KL Convention Centre is the Aquaria KLCC which contains some 5,000 varieties of tropical fish. Just south of the Twin Towers is Menara KL Tower, which is situated on top of Bukit Nanas (Pineapple Hill), a forest reserve right in the heart of the city. PDA-Guided views from Menara Tower (RM38, 9AM-10PM) at 276 m, are far superior to those from the Petronas Towers (viewing deck at 170 m), and come highly recommended since it allows first time visitors the chance to orient themselves quickly about the layout of the city. It is however, not a particularly easy place to reach by public transport, so use either a taxi or the “hop-on/hop-off” tourist bus that makes a continuous circuit through the city.
There are also several attractions just outside Kuala Lumpur which are worth visiting. The Batu Caves in the Northern suburbs of Kuala Lumpur, are located in a limestone outcrop and are the focal point of the fascinating annual Thaipusam festival, usually held in February. The caves are easily accessible by KTM’s kommuter mass transit rail service (Batu Caves stn) or RapidKL bus U6 from Chow Kit area, though ask the driver to let you know the correct stop as the caves are not immediately obvious. Do some light cave exploring in Batu Caves which is really fascinating. The entrance is 50 ft below the main temple cave and on the left as you climb. The event will be memorable and is not risky even for children as young as 3 years. Another option is to catch Metrobus 11 for RM2 at Lorong Bas, near Pasar Seni (Central Market). Malaysia’s National Zoo (Zoo Negara) is also located in the north of the city.
KL Bird Park (free-flight walk-in aviary), 920, Jalan Cenderawasih, Taman Tasik Perdana (Next to Islamic Art Museum in the City Centre). Great semi-wild habitat for many different species of mostly Asian birds. The Bird Park allows you to approach quite close to the birds which are skittish but not fearful for some very nice photos. A bit pricey, but makes for a nice long day in a mostly shaded area. Feedings and shows throughout the day give something to see at any time, and the 20+ acres provide plenty of area to walk and explore. The photo booth offers a wide array of tamed birds that will happily sit on you and pose for photos for a small price (RM8 per person: your camera, 2 birds; RM25 per print: glossy printout of your group covered in birds). Concession stands are priced fairly and offer drinks, ice cream, etc. RM48 (adult), RM38 (child).
The gay scene
LGBT rights are not recognized in Malaysia. The nation retains its colonial era penal code criminalizing sodomy. Social attitudes towards the LGBT community are also shaped by Islam, the official religion in Malaysia. A recent LGBT Event was cancelled by the police. There are some gay bars, discos, spas, saunas, and it seems tourists and expats are not bothered by the police.