Kuala Lumpur Laid Bare

Kuala LampurFrom shopping rules to eating scones with the Queen, here's 10 of the best things to do in Kuala Lumpur:  Arrive at the modern international airport and travel to the city's transport hub of KL Sentral on the airport train that takes just 28 minutes. From here, light rail trains and inexpensive taxis connect to the city and suburbs.

Alternatively take a circuitous walk to the Sentral Monorail Station and ride it to its Titiwangsa terminal for an elevated view of the city centre that only costs $1.

Seeking Tarzan

KL is probably the only city that can stake claim to a stand of rainforest right in its downtown area. At the base of the 421m high Menara KL tower, Bukit Nanas is a 10ha forest reserve with sign-posted walking trails and recreational facilities. Lizards, monkeys, squirrels and birds live amongst buttressed rainforest.

Getting high in KL

While the 88-storey Petronas Twin Towers are the world's tallest twin towers, visitors can only gain access to the skybridge that links them at the 41st and 42nd floors.

Views of the surrounding parklands are superb but only 1,700 visitors a day can enjoy the experience with the queue for free tickets starts as early as 5am.

A more accessible and enjoyable option is the SkyBar on the 33rd floor of the adjoining Traders Hotel. This open-sided bar has dramatic and uninterrupted views of the towers so plan to arrive around 6.30pm just before the tower lights are switched on turning them golden yellow against the purple sky of dusk. Their appreciation is heightened by a lemongrass martini or two.

Colonial KL

Kuala Lumpur has many fascinating streetscapes featuring eclectic architectural styles.Kuala Lumpur

A walk around Merdeka Square in front of the cricket pitch of the Royal Selangor Club provides the greatest variety. The ornate Sultan Abdul Samad and the modern 35-storey Dayabumi Complex contrast markedly. Both are delightful at any time of the day but especially at night when fairy lights on the former turn the street into an impressive sight.

Other landmark buildings in the vicinity include Masjid Jamek Mosque at the confluence of the Gombak and Klang Rivers, the old Railway Station and, the National Mosque.

Culinary KL

Malaysians are passionate about food - they live to eat. Food is superb, cheap and varied with the main styles being Malay, Indian, Chinese and Western.

Eat in hawker stalls or fine dining restaurants depending upon your inclination and budget. Don't miss food streets like Jalan Alor (hawker food), Changkat Bukit Bintang (bars and international restaurants), Tengkat Tong Shin (regional and international cuisines) and Chinatown.

For smart dining check out Sao Nam, Bijan, Tamarind Hill, Gu Yue Tien, Taj, The Loaf, Sage, Frangipani, Senses, Gobo Upstairs, Toh Lee and Al Naufourah. Make a reservation for the Sunday free-flow Veuve Cliquot brunch at Prego in the Westin for the coolest bubbly and the tastiest Italian for just $80/person.

Shopping rules

In a similar vein to eating, Malaysians love to shop especially as the range is extensive with very competitive prices.

Suria KLCC at the base of the twin towers is arguably the nation's most impressive conventional shopping centre but this is well supported by Lot 10, the Pavilion and Starhill Gallery.

Busy markets in Chinatown, Little India and Chow Kit provide local flavour.

Nocturnal shopping

Kuala LumpurThe pasar malam, or night markets, are an essential part of the cultural landscape.

Each city and town has evening markets in various locations on specific nights (your hotel concierges can advise on these locations).

Hawkers and traders set up their stalls before sunset and hawk fresh fruit, vegetables, meats and freshly-cooked snacks for eating in the market or for take-home consumption.

Sunday's night market in suburban Bangsar is vibrant and compact spreading along just one street. There are bars and restaurants lining the perimeter for those who like watching rather than participating.

Scones with the Queen

The Queen once stayed at the stately Carcosa Seri Negara (www.ghmhotels.com).

Mere mortals can book into this boutique heritage property or simply take English afternoon tea; as one does. What was once the British High Commissioner's residence is now home to discerning travellers seeking a heritage experience.

Take tea in the Drawing Room and contemplate the rigours of colonial life in the tropics. Anyone for croquet and Pimms?

It's all very British, but hey, why not? Reservations are essential especially at the weekends when Malaysia's high society entertains. The scones, clotted cream with strawberry and rose petal jam are divine.

Cultural KL

Opened in 1999, the Islamic Arts Museum has the region's largest collection of Islamic art. Located in KL's Lake Garden greenbelt the collection contains 8,000 artefacts as well as an exceptional library. Displays range from intricate jewellery to scale models of the Masjid al-Haram in Mecca.

There's an emphasis upon India, China and South East Asia but the 12 galleries are displayed according to medium rather than geography.

The building is modern with Islamic detail and turquoise domes on the roof. Artisans from Iran and Uzbekistan created an ambience of seamless continuity of light and space. The Museum Restaurant serves Middle Eastern lunches and the shop sells excellent souvenirs and books. Open daily from 10am-6pm (restaurant closed Mon).

Bar street

While not something normally portrayed in Tourism Malaysia's travel brochures, booze is readily available in most parts of KL.

Changkat Bukit Bintang is a compact downtown street with lots of small bars, cafés and restaurants.

Arrive at happy hour to enjoy $3 beers and then move onto beer towers holding a couple of litres of the amber fluid.

The beer they drink around here is Anchor, Tiger and Carlsberg with excellent support from Guinness and Irish imports like Kilkenny.

There are more bar/club streets at Heritage Row and around the Jalan P Ramlee/Jalan Sultan Ismail intersection with the Beach Club having attained legendary status throughout the region for its lively nightlife.


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