Kuala Lumpur travel guide
Lit up Bukit Bintang is Kuala Lumpur's trendy and flashy entertainment district. During the day the upscale cafes and shopping malls attract power shoppers from around the world, while during the night Jalan Bukit Bintang gets crowded with massage ladies and dodgy characters offering "everything is possible". Since this is Kuala Lumpur, there are of course good restaurants everywhere, especially along Changkat Bukit Bintang. If plastic tables are more your style, swing by the night market for some tasty Chinese food. This is also the place to find some nightlife whether it is a karaoke bar, a fancy club or just a cheap drinking hole. Bukit Bintang got it.
A downtown area favoured by Chinese descendants and tourists hunting for a good bargain. The worn down, but charming, old trading houses hold lots of cheap Chinese restaurants that move their plastic tables out on the sidewalk at night. During the day, you can visit several Chinese temples along with a Hindu one. Around sunset, Petaling street, the main shopping street, blows into a packed night market filled to the brim with souvenir nicknacks, pirated DVDs and fake designer goods in quantities that will give any decent custom officer tics. It is a great place for some people watching, while you sip away another beer at one of the food stalls.
Chow Kit is a bustling market area with both shops and markets. The morning markets deals mainly with fresh food, while the evening markets is more clothes (both new and secondhand) and random knickknacks. It's foremost for locals, so the prices are general lower than touristy China Town - if you are able to find something to your liking. A visit to Chow Kit is also a chance to get a glimpse of Kuala Lumpur's seedy side, for it doubles as one of Kuala Lumpur's red-light districts. The sleazy parts are along Jalan Chow Kit, Jalan Raja Laut and the back alleys off Jalan Haji Taib, but don't expect to see more than sad looking working girls waiting outside scruffy hotels - remember, Kuala Lumpur is not Bangkok.
Exotic-looking Jamek Mosque was built in 1909 and is one of the oldest mosques in Kuala Lumpur. The architecture was apparently inspired by the Mughal style of northern India, something we are not going to question. A fact easier to digest is that the architect, Arthur Benison Hubback, is the same guy who also built Sultan Abdul Samad building at Merdeka Square, a short walk from the mosque.
If you were teleported straight into Kampung Baru, you could think you were in a ordinary Malaysian village with the quiet residential alleys, wooden houses on stilts, and kids in uniforms on their way to school. But rising high above the rooftops and power lines is Kuala Lumpur's towering skyline, for Kampung Baru lies smack in the middle of downtown Kuala Lumpur. It has been here since the early days, and not much has changed. The value of the land alone was estimated to be about US$1.4 billion, but the proud Malay community still refuses to sell out. Kampung Baru offers an easy and interesting insight to traditional Malay life, and the Sunday Market (which starts Saturday evening) is a foodie's wet dream with lots of street food vendors selling all variations of authentic Malay food.
Lake Gardens, or Taman Tasik Perdana, as locals call it, is a huge hilly parkland with an artificial lake and lush surroundings. The network of tracks is favoured by joggers and the playgrounds is a hit for families with small children, but, for travellers, the main reason to come to the parkland is probably the handful of "nature parks" like the Bird Park, Butterfly Park and Orchid Garden to get a close look at the domestic flora and fauna.
Every decent capital has a main square. New York has Times Square, Moscow Red Square, Beijing Tiananmen Square - and Kuala Lumpur has Merdeka Square. Merdeka means independence in Malay and it was here the UK's flag was lowered and Malaysia'a own flag was raised for the first time when Malaysia got Independence in 1957. The square are flanked by a couple of interesting buildings, like the exotic Sultan Abdul Samad building, which previous housed the supreme court, and the Royal Selangor Club Complex which resemble a British country house and was the hangout for the British during colonial times. Any independence square is not complete without a flagpole, and Merdeka Square has one of the tallest in the world at 95 meters. The Malay don't take the square too seriously and it seems the open space is mostly used by dating couple, except on independence day (August 31) where it gets crowded.
The Petronas Twin Towers are the icon of Kuala Lumpur. To fully appreciate the grand scale of this set of illuminated rockets, you need to view them from a distance, and no place is better than the Sky Bar from (almost) the top of Traders hotel on the 33rd floor. This super chic bar slash spa offers amazing views of the Twin Towers along with the rest of the skyline of Kuala Lumpur and, of course, a swimming pool to have an excuse to wear bathers while drinking a Martini.
Honestly, many find Kuala Lumpur a bit boring. The list of great sights is short and the "KL vibe" is considered rather dull. Luckily, KL makes up for all this with its lavish food selection - particularly its street food. It's possible to find yummy and authentic food pretty much everywhere and the best thing is it's cheap. A street eatery shouldn't be judged by the wobbly furniture or smoky settings, but by the amount of locals eating there. A place that has boomed in the recent years is the night market at Jalan Alor. Before, this was a red-light district, but today the street is lined with food stalls, so many of them that it's hard to decide where to eat. It's a bit touristic and the prices are constantly going up, but the location is great, right behind Bukit Bintang, and you can't beat the buzz.
A massive shopping mall with brand names and several floors of fashion for the funky Malays and anyone else that can fit into their tiny sizes. It also has a decent electronic section with computers, cellphones and other high tech accessories for the flashpacker. But the real reason to come here is Cosmo's World, Malaysia's largest indoor theme park. Here you can go nuts on sickening rides like the DNA Mixer, Space Attack and Supersonic Odyssey, which is the crazy corkscrewed roller coaster that races through the whole amusement park.