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Content accurate at time of publication
01 Sep 2011
The essential quick guide for discerning travellers
BY GARY BOWERMAN
Parked in the trendy downtown district of Bukit Bintang is Pavilion (above), one of the country’s swankiest malls. Crammed with high-end brands including Tag Heuer, Bottega Veneta and Shanghai Tang, it also houses a foodcourt and restaurants. A bit less showy is Central Market, tucked between Merdeka Square and Chinatown. The blue building, formerly a fruit and vegetable market, has been repurposed to sell handicrafts, batik clothing and jewellery. Next to the market is the eye-catching new Kasturi Walk, a covered corridor of shophouse boutiques and kiosks selling local snacks like popiah (spring roll). A 15-minute cab ride from downtown is Bangsar Village where you’ll find an upscale shopping mall and streets of chic bars, cafes and restaurants.
The Brickfields district may be the city’s Little India, but for beautifully crafted vegetarian dishes, Saravana Bhavan in Bangsar serves authentic South Indian curries and a spectacular Gujarati thali (above), a platter of rice, curries and vegetables. Belying its Chinese name, Hakka Republic is a bistro offering international and pan-Asian dishes, from Laksa Johor to oxtail with vegetables on rice and cured wild salmon. Gourmands seeking fine European dining – think duck leg confit with rosti potatoes and grapes, or black cod with pea sprouts – should reserve a table at The Pressroom, one of the city’s finest eateries.
Kuala Lumpur thrives under the cover of darkness and its nightlife scene has improved immeasurably in recent years. Kick off by watching the sun dip behind the Petronas Twin Towers with a cool cocktail in hand at the newly-opened View. Overlooking the capital from its Jalan Ampang perch, it’s the hot new spot for a sundowner. As the evening wears on, head to party central Luna, a hip skybar on the 34th floor rooftop of Pacific Regency Hotel Suites that boasts 360-degree panoramas of downtown. If you’re in the mood for some serious partying, you’ll feel right at home among the young and energetic crowd at chic dance club Milk in Bangsar.
Begin your tour at Merdeka Square, where a 95m-high flagpole commemorates Malaysian independence in 1957. Flanking the square’s padang (playing field) are the contrasting Tudor-style Royal Selangor Club and Moorish minarets of the Sultan Abdul Samad Building. From here, wind past Art Deco facades, the clock tower at Market Square and Chinatown shophouses. Don’t miss the 452m Petronas Twin Towers and the nearby Kuala Lumpur Tower, whose observation deck at 276m offers superlative views of the ever-changing city landscape.
Thaipusam, an annual procession by Hindu devotees, is celebrated in January or February every year. During that time, all the entrances to Batu Caves, a popular Hindu shrine dedicated to Lord Murugan, are converted into a riot of colour, peacock feathers and flowers, with devotees sporting hooks and skewers piercing their flesh. Add hundreds of thousands of worshippers and camera-toting tourists, and the scene is set. At other times, this is a tranquil spot. Located 13km from downtown, the limestone caves can be reached via a steep 272-step stairway, from where you can enjoy some of the most spectacular views of the city skyline. A colourful Hindu temple complements the cave’s soaring cathedral-like ceilings, wind-blown arches and dramatic “organ pipe” stalactites (icicle-like structures that hang from the ceiling of limestone caves).