Kuala Lumpur, the capital of Malaysia, is a
bustling, energetic city that manages to retain the traditional
features of its multicultural past even as the ever-changing, 21st
century skyline of the present continues to shoot skyward.
The name of the
city, often shortened to just KL, derives from two Malay words
meaning "mouth" and "muddy." The city, the country's largest, was
founded in the 1850s at the confluence of the Gombak and Klang
rivers by Chinese miners, at the behest of a Malaysian chieftain.
The point where the two bodies of water become one was a landing
point for boats coming upriver to the Ampang tin mines. Now it is
home to a local mosque, the Masjid Jamek, which is nestled in a
grove of coconut palms.
Nearby is Dataran
Merdeka, the city's Independence Square, where the Union Jack of
the U.K. -- the nation's colonial overseer for two centuries -- was
lowered on Aug. 31, 1957, signaling the end of British rule and the
birth of Malaysia.
On one side of the
square lies the distinctive, Moorish-style Sultan Abdul Samad
building, with curving arches, domes and a large clock
A short distance to
the south is the Masjid Negara, or National Mosque, one of the
largest in Southeast Asia and distinguished by its 240-foot-high
On the other bank
of the Klang River, near Chinatown, is the incredibly ornate Sri
Mahamariamman Hindu Temple, incorporating gold, precious stones and
colorful tiles. The temple dates to 1873.
The Lake Gardens,
Kuala Lumpur's "green belt," contains three important attractions.
Parliament House is a strange building, comprising a three-story
House of Representatives and Senate dominated by an adjoining,
18-story office complex.
Monument, constructed in 1966, commemorates Malaysia's national
heroes, while the Tun Abdul Razak memorial honors the country's
second prime minister.
Also within the
Lake Gardens is the KL Bird Park, home to over 3,000 avian
specimens, and the Orchid and Hibiscus Garden.
A highlight of a
visit to Kuala Lumpur is the National Museum, originally built in
Malay-style architecture as a tin tycoon's mansion. Today, it
displays material relating to Malaysian history, arts and crafts,
flora and fauna and the development of the tin-mining and rubber
Until recently the
old, main railway station, built at the turn of the 20th century,
was one of the most photographed buildings in KL. A mixture of an
Islamic-influenced exterior shielding a large glass-and-iron train
shed straight out of Victorian England, the station is nowadays
rather dilapidated. The focal point for rail traffic has shifted to
the new KL Sentral Station.
The city is home to
modern architectural wonders, too. Two of the world's tallest
buildings dominate the Kuala Lumpur skyline. The KL Tower,
measuring 1,381 feet from the ground to the tip of its spire, is
the world's fourth-tallest communications tower. Its observation
deck, located at over 905 feet, provides breathtaking views of the
The Petronas Twin
Towers, meanwhile, are even more dramatic. Nearly 1,500 feet high,
the steel-and-glass structures are the world's tallest freestanding
twin towers, joined by a sky bridge at the 41st floor.
Kuala Lumpur is
quite spread out, so a city tour is an excellent way to get an
overall impression of the main sights of the city. Some tours also include a short excursion to sites
within a short drive and can include a visit to a pewter factory --
Selangor pewter is most attractive -- watching batik being made and
seeing how rubber is tapped.
attraction is the Batu Caves, about eight miles from the city
center. The caves, located in a huge outcrop of limestone cliffs,
are reached via 272 steps. In the muggy Malaysian climate, this is
quite enervating, and the chattering of the hordes of monkeys seem
to mock climbers' efforts. Nevertheless, Batu is a Hindu shrine,
and during religious festivals many thousands of devotees make the
Kuala Lumpur is
centrally situated for trips to other Malaysian destinations, such
as Malacca, with its mixture of Dutch, Portuguese, British and
Malay influences, or the cooler hill stations such as Genting
Highlands and Cameron Highlands.
Back in town, there
are many distractions besides sightseeing, such as shopping.
Chinatown, centered on Petaling Street, is home to myriad tiny
shops selling everything from clothes to herbal
The central market
is popular for antiques, jewelry, woodcarvings and other crafts
items. At night the area is transformed into an open-air bazaar,
buzzing with activity.
In recent years,
large shopping complexes have also sprung up, especially around
Bintang Walk. Malls such as Lot 10, Sungei Wang Plaza and Starhill
are always busy. If visitors get sore feet trolling all the retail
venues, they might try some acupuncture, reflexology or massage to
ease weary bones.
Eating is another
of Kuala Lumpur's many pleasures. The city boasts a range of
restaurants catering to all budgets and specializing in Malay,
Chinese, Indian and western cuisines. Visitors can choose from
open-air market stalls and fast-food outlets to the superb
restaurants found in all major hotels.
While tourists are
sampling the tasty Eastern specialties offered in hotels, the
locals are often tucking into McDonald's or sipping a coffee at
There are many
excellent hotels across Kuala Lumpur. The Bintang Walk area, close
to the upmarket shops, hosts well-known brands such as
Ritz-Carlton, Westin, Regent, Grand Plaza Park Royal and JW
Marriott. A Hilton and a Le Meridien rise above Sentral
Opened in September
2004, the Hilton Kuala Lumpur Hotel is located atop KL Sentral, the
city's huge, new, mixed-development project incorporating a
state-of-the-art transportation hub, corporate office suites,
condominiums, a retail complex and a convention and entertainment
35-story Hilton houses 510 guest rooms, including 32 suites (some
with private Jacuzzis on an outdoor terrace garden).
Rooms are light and
spacious with modern fittings, including 42-inch, plasma TVs in all
rooms and a second LCD TV screen in every bathroom. Suites have
home theater systems, as well.
guests also enjoy access to the executive lounge, where Internet
access is free and a dedicated manager offers assistance and
Another feature of
the hotel is the dome-like Studio, a three-level spiral of floors
that includes seven restaurants and bars. It's a one-stop dining
and entertainment center bringing together an eclectic variety of
cuisines and themes within one location.
For example, Caffe
Cino is a funky coffee bar offering a great cafe experience, while
Vintage Bank, with one of Malaysia's finest wine collections, is
perfect for drinks before dinner, a nightcap or a casual
Sudu offers the
best of Malaysian cuisine blended with international offers
throughout the day. Its Malaysian breakfast is a perfect change
from bacon and eggs.
The Noodle Room is
a haven for Asia's most popular dish, and Chynna treats diners to
the best of Cantonese cuisine.
A singular culinary
adventure awaits guests at Senses, where global cuisine combines
modern and traditional techniques drawing on the flavors and
textures of fresh ingredients from around the world.
cuisine aficionados, Iketeru encompasses both culinary and visual
delights that invoke traditional and modern features of Japanese
The hotel's Zeta
Bar, based on its popular London namesake, unites the concepts of
power-packed cocktails, cool vibes and great ambience with an
eclectic choice of the latest world music.
As befits a major
capital city hotel, the Hilton has an entire floor dedicated to
meetings, conferences and events with a number of flexible spaces
such as the pillarless Grand Ballroom.
The hotel also is
distinguished by a health club; a 400-foot, free-form terrace
swimming pool; and 2,500 pieces of original artwork -- mainly by
local artists -- complementing the contemporary design of the
For more on the
Hilton Kuala Lumpur Hotel, visit www.kuala-lumpur.hilton.com. For more on travel to
Kuala Lumpur, visit Tourism Malaysia's Web site at www.tourism.gov.my.
contact the reporter who wrote this article, send e-mail to [email protected].