A metropolitan city with a storied past, Kuala Lumpur boasts a stunning mix of modern luxuries and cultural sensibilities.
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The Malaysian capital of Kuala Lumpur is by far the largest city in the country and home to an estimated 1.6 million people of both local and foreign origin. The bustling, vibrant city plays host to most of Malaysia's tourists, serving as the main entry point for visitors bound for other exotic destinations within the country.
Kuala Lumpur is a modern day metropolis, with a skyline rivaling those of most cities worldwide. The presence of multinational corporations and a variety of businesses underline Kuala Lumpur's importance as a commercial and financial centre in the South East Asian region, even with Singapore's close proximity. An extensive network of roads and an integrated public transport system ensure that travel within the city remains relatively hassle free and easy.
The various architectural designs throughout Kuala Lumpur reveal how the city has grown with time; the traditional Malay village of Kampung Baru, the rows of adobe shophouses that make up the city's Chinatown, the impressive buildings of the British colonial era, and the modern skyscrapers that dominate the city's skyline. Many old buildings are regarded as the city's heritage and are found at Kuala Lumpur's Old City Centre while the contrasting ultra modern Kuala Lumpur City Centre Precinct showcases the city's ambitions of the future. Although certain distinctive buildings – the Sultan Abdul Samad Building and the old Railway Station – came to symbolize the city during their time, present day visitors would have no trouble associating the iconic spires of the Petronas Twin Towers with modern Kuala Lumpur.
Being the nation's capital, Kuala Lumpur is often regarded as the country's cultural centre. Museums and art galleries like the National Museum and Galeri Petronas are among the many in the city that showcase not only treasured heritage and traditions but also serve to highlight the latest contemporary trends. The local art scene is vibrant and caters to a varied pallete, with traditional cultural performances and western plays and musicals held regularly at different venues in the city. The city is also home to the Malaysian Philharmonic Orchestra, a collection of 105 musicians from over 25 countries, that perform at the Petronas Philharmonic Hall in the Petronas Twin Towers.
Efforts to promote the city as a tourist destination in itself and not merely as a transit to other domestic destinations has vastly improved over the years. These efforts have focused on new types of tourism, including MICE (Meetings, Incentives, Conventions and Exhibitions), international events, educational tourism and medical tourism. These new types of tourism play on the city's strengths – its modern infrastructure and its status as a centre of commerce, instead of conventional tourist attractions. It comes as no surprise that the city now plays host to many international events, including the Malaysian Formula One Grand Prix and the Malaysian Motorcycle Grand Prix, and is positioning itself as a leading shopping destination in the region.
The city exudes a cosmopolitan feel and is accustomed to tourists from every corner of the globe. KL-ites, as the city locals style themselves, are a rather helpful bunch, and are known to happily entertain queries from travellers. Being a former British colony and a Muslim country, Malaysia and by extension, Kuala Lumpur, offers the best of both east and west, and visitors will have very little trouble experiencing this magnificient city, even those unaccustomed to the East.
The first time you come to Kuala Lumpur you might find the traffic chaotic, and that observation wouldn't be incorrect: traffic is frantic in KL, and driving its streets by yourself as a newcomer isn't recommended. Your best option is to have someone else transport you around the city or to other destinations, either by bus, monorail, train, or taxi. This won't just be simpler, but will also give you much more time to enjoy and view this magnificent city.
Most people will travel to Malaysia by air, either arriving at KLIA (Kuala Lumpur International Airport), its adjunct LCCT (Low Cost Carrier Terminal) - both located 60 kilometers south of the city center – or at Skypark Subang (Sultan Abdul Aziz Shah Airport), 20 kilometers west of the city center.
From KLIA and LCCT there are a variety of transport options to get to downtown KL. Busses, taxis and the KLIA Express (a non-stop rail line) will all make the trip in less than an hour and are easily accessible from the terminal. From Skypark Subang your only option is by road - taxi is the fastest.
KL buses are crowded but cheap in the city center. A RM1 or RM2 ticket will last you all day. When you travel outside of Kuala Lumpur a bus is your best option. Inexpensive and fast, you will be transported to your destination from various bus stations: KL Main Bus station Puduraya at Jalan Pudu, Putra Bus Terminal at Jalan Putra, Duta Bus Terminal at Jalan Duta and Pekeliling Bus Terminal. Most operators offer standard or luxury options.
The KL Monorail is an intracity public transit system which operates from KL Sentral to Titiwangsa, covering a distance of nearly 9 kilometers. With its 11 stations stopping at major destinations in the city, it is an ideal form of transport for visitors. Note that during rush hour it will likely be a bit crowded.
There are abundant and relatively cheap yellow cabs in Kuala Lumpur. Two main systems exist in Kuala Lumpur: vouchers and general pick-up. You buy vouchers at major taxi stands around the city, which have set prices for every destination from the point of departure. Fore general pick-up, your driver should use the meter which should start at RM2. When a taxi does not drive on the meter, find another one, or agree on a price for a ride to your destination beforehand. Sometimes the driver will charge RM2 for luggage. After midnight, bargain for a price before you enter the taxi.
There are five operators (Monorail, Putra, Star, KLIA express, Komuter KTM) within the Klang Valley. These operators' trains will not necessarily connect at the same location - hopping from one train to the next might take you as much as a 500 meter walk - so be sure to plan ahead.
KL Sentral station offers trains to the southern regions of the Malaysian Peninsula (all the way to Singapore) and to the north (to Kedah and Kelantan, and even crossing into Thailand and on to Bangkok).
Driving in KL can be disorientating as highways are not as clearly laid out as thos in major western cities. Drivers in Malaysia are also quite aggressive: you snooze, you lose, so drive alertly and carefully. Major car rental dealer can be found at airports.
Hundreds of thousands of small motorbikes and scooters swarm Kuala Lumpur. Unless you really have no other option, renting a motorbike within the city is not a recommended option.
Cars, taxis, motorbikes and busses offer little respect to pedestrians. Stay careful and stay on the pavement.
Kuala Lumpur is notorious for its early morning and after work traffic jams.
Destination and directional signs may not be easy for visitors to read, so bring a map.
A city the size of Kuala Lumpur has many attractions. From historical monuments and buildings to the rich living culture of its people, the city offers its visitors an unforgettable experience. Many areas of interest await the casual visitor, beginning with Kuala Lumpur's old city centre at the very heart of city. The eclectic mix of architectural styles within the city centre hints at the cultures which influenced the city's early development and is a must see for history buffs.
The majority of traditional tourist sites are located conveniently within the Lake Gardens area. Lying just west of the city centre, this beautifully landscaped region offers a number of public and privately owned parks for nature lovers as well as several museums and educational sites for a day of thoughtful contemplation.
Nothing symbolises Kuala Lumpur's modernity as well as the glittering spires of the Petronas Twin Towers. Part of an ambitious urban development project known as the Kuala Lumpur City Centre or KLCC, they have become the city's most iconic landmark in the 21st century. Locals and visitors alike flock to the towers and its environs, making KLCC one of the liveliest places in Kuala Lumpur.
The city's entertainment district, Bukit Bintang, should need no introduction to those familiar to Kuala Lumpur. Offering an astounding variety of consumer goods, and a fine selection of cuisine, Bukit Bintang has built up a deserved reputation as a shopper's paradise and a gourmand's heaven. The young and the young at heart flock to its many trendy nightspots and pubs as evening descends to dance the night away.
Vistors who are wish to know more about the city should check out these areas, along with some of the major attractions that Kuala Lumpur has to offer.
Hop-On Hop-Off Bus Tour
The Kuala Lumpur Hop-On Hop-Off Bus is a convenient way of seeing the city. Glass-roofed double decker buses take visitors on a tour of the city, making a circle route of 22 stops and showcases over 40 main attractions of the city.
Kuala Lumpur Central Market is not so much a mall as a cultural heart of the city offering an assortment of local arts and handicraft. A great place for those looking for traditional Asian souvenirs, it is located at the Old City Centre of Kuala Lumpur.
Petaling Street Bazaar
Sprawling along two intersecting roads, the Petaling Street Bazaar is teeming with vendors offering an assortment of wares at ridiculously low prices. A freewheeling place, the bazaar attracts bargain hunters eagar to experience the local market scene, complete with haggling and imitation products.
A village within the city, Kampung Baru is Kuala Lumpur's oldest Malay enclave with a vibrant close knit community. See how traditions and local customs adapt and survive in the heart of the most developed city in the country.
The site of one of the city's extreme events, the Kuala Lumpur Base Jumping Week, KL Tower rises into the sky like a gleaming spire. An impressive landmark, the tower offers stunning views of the entire city.
This little museum houses jade pieces from Malaysia and the rest of the world. Jewelery, artifacts, weapons and ornamental carvings are all on display.
Forestry Research Institute Malaysia
Located just beyond the skyscrapers of Kuala Lumpur, the Forestry Research Institue of Malaysia offers city dwellers a chance to appreciate the beauty of Malaysia's forests. Set up as a showcase of the country's biodiversity, FRIM allows visitors to be better acquainted with the greener side of the country.
Set in the face of a limestone cliff is the largest Hindu temple network in the country. Batu Caves is an impressive Malaysian cultural icon, where natural beauty intertwines with mysticism. Every year, the Hindu festival Thaipusam is celebrated on a grand scale at Batu Caves, and thousands of pilgrims flock to the shrines within.
These are just a few of the many attractions that Kuala Lumpur has to offer. There are many other areas of interest tucked away like hidden gems within this magnificent city fondly known as KL.
With its modern infrastructure and facilities, Kuala Lumpur is well equipped to host a variety of events, most notably the Formula One Grand Prix and the MotoGP at the Sepang International Circuit. The city hosts a large number of such events annually, from regional conventions and tradeshows, to sports events and concerts featuring international artistes. Other events include local cultural celebrations and commemoration of historical events.
Malaysia Mega Sale Carnival
The country's major shopping season is focused around an eight week long duration known as the Malaysia Mega Sale Carnival. Throughout this period, retailers and shops all over Malaysia offer promotions and discounts on various goods and items. An opening ceremony to launch this sale period, traditionally in the middle of the year, is usually held at Bukit Bintang, Kuala Lumpur's undisputed shopping district.
Malaysian Formula One Grand Prix
Every year, drivers from all over the world come to Kuala Lumpur to compete for glory in the Malaysian Formula One Grand Prix. Held at the Sepang International Circuit, the race has thrilled many visitors with its adrenaline pumping action since its inaugural race in 1999.
Malaysian Motorcycle Grand Prix
The longest running racing event in Malaysia, the Malaysian Motorcycle Grand Prix has been part of the MotoGP championship calendar since 1991. Riders from all over the world compete for glory in the 125cc, the newly introduced MotoGP2 and the premier MotoGP categories every year.
Every year, the Hindu community celebrate Thaipusam, a festival commemorating the victory of truth over evil. Hundreds of thousands of devout worshipers travel from Sri Mahamariamman Temple in Kuala Lumpur's old city centre to the temple network of Batu Caves in a colourful and vibrant procession.
Kuala Lumpur is by far Malaysia's most developed city and is synonymous with bright lights, sophistication and a fast pace of life. People all over the country flock to the city, attracted by the urban lifestyle and in pursuit of their dreams. The city also has a sizeable expatriate population and has become a melting pot of cultures, incorporating the best aspects of each to create a heady eclectic lifestyle that is uniquely Kuala Lumpur.
Kuala Lumpur Food
Food in Kuala Lumpur is a reflection of this eclectic lifestyle, offering an astounding variety of cuisines from all over the world, local delights and fusion dishes born of ingenuity and creativity. Local hawker fare at many kopitiams vie with fast food outlets for customers, while trendy restaurants invite patrons to sample the very best on offer. Specialty eateries offer culinary adventures that tantalize the palate, and here in Kuala Lumpur, nearly everyone has their favourite hang out spot to relax after a long day at work. Read more
Kuala Lumpur Shopping
The city is a shopping mecca and offers the latest in fashion and consumer gadgets, with many international brands having at least one outlet in the city. The many shopping malls around Bukit Bintang offer a variety of choices to the general populance, while other areas cater to differing niche markets – Hartamas with its upscale boutiques and speciality outlets for the upper classes and expatriates; Chow Kit and the famous Petaling Street bazaar for bargain hunters; and Bangsar, which markets itself as the city's most trendy and exclusive areas for entertainment, shopping and dining. Read more
Kuala Lumpur Nightlife
Kuala Lumpur really shines when the sun goes down as the night comes alive all throughout the city. Although entertainment districts like Bukit Bintang and the KLCC Precinct still remain popular, the buzz of excitement usually happens at Bangsar. With numerous nightclubs, pubs and lounges, Bangsar has become the centre of the city for its partying youth. Nightlife in the city is vibrant and ever changing, with new outlets opening and older establishments fading into obscurity, as the partying crowd continues to determine which part of the city best fits their groove. Read more
The story of Kuala Lumpur's founding is a popular tale in Malaysian history and well known to most Malaysians. The name Kuala Lumpur means muddy estuary, and the name is believed to be derived from the city's location along the Gombak River, which had been known as Sungai Lumpur, or muddy river, at that time. Popular belief often attributes the city's name to the confluence of two rivers, the Gombak River and the Klang River, that still run through the city to this day. This belief is supported by the fact that the initial settlement that grew to become the city did indeed begin at the rivers' confluence, which is located at the very heart of present day Kuala Lumpur. The historic Jamek Mosque, which served as the city's principal mosque till the completion of the National Mosque in the 1960s, was built at the site.
Early development of the city was supervised by a local Chinese businessman named Yap Ah Loy. Elected by the Chinese in Kuala Lumpur as their third Kapitan Cina, or headman, Yap Ah Loy rose to prominence and became an influential figure in the city's development and local politics at that time. He is also credited with rebuilding Kuala Lumpur after a civil war in Selangor during the late 19th century, planning the city and laying out the early network of roads that exist till today. Even in his lifetime, Kapitan Yap Ah Loy was regarded as somewhat of a legend, and present day Kuala Lumpur has a street that bears his name.
Kuala Lumpur History Overview
A general overview of Kuala Lumpur is available in the history section of the Federal Territory of Kuala Lumpur page. Discover how a trading town at the meeting point of two rivers became the country's capital.
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