The capital of Malysia, Kuala Lumpur is known by locals as KL. It has an amazing modern skyline that is dominated by the Petronas Twin Towers. The city has impressive British colonial-era landmarks. There are many interesting things to do and see in this lovely city.
Visitors are in awe of the impressive Petronas Twin Towers that stand like silver rockets rising up to the sky. They were designed by Argentinian architect Cesar Pelli and are the headquarters of the national oil and gas company, Petronas. The towers have 88 stories and are the tallest pair in the world at almost 452m. Their floor plan is based on an eight-sided star that echoes arabesque patterns. Each of the tower’s five tiers represents the five pillars of Islam and in the 63m masts that crown them. You can get tickets for a 45 minute guided tour which will take you to the Skybridge connection on the 41st floor and the observation deck all the way up on the 86th floor where you can get panoramic views of the city. The towers look particularly spectacular when illuminated at night.
Visit the lovely multi-story Chinese Thean Hou Temple, sitting atop of leafy Robson Heights. The temple was dedicated to Thean Hou, the heavenly queen. It offers amazing views over KL. It has a dual purpose as a house of worship and a space for events like weddings. It has become a tourist attraction especially during Chinese festivals and the birthdays of the various temple gods. There are great views from the upper decks where you can see up-close the mosaic dragons and phoenixes.
Take a look at the charm of the area known as Kampung Baru. This area was begun by the British in the 1890s. If you prefer you can get a free guided Kampung Baru Walking Tour. There are traditional Malay houses with leave gardens. You can find tasty home-cooked Malay food at the roadside cafes and stalls. While in the area visit the Bazaar Baru Chow Kit to the west and the Masjid Jamek Kampung Baru with its lovely gateway decorated in beautiful glazed tiles.
The admirable 60 story ILHAM Tower is home to KL’s latest public art gallery. It was designed by Foster + Partners. It showcases modern and contemporary Malaysian art. Exhibitions change every three to four months. Outside the tower you’ll find the giant copper-clad sculptures which are the first permanent public artwork by Chinese artist Ai Weiwei to be installed in Southeast Asia.
You can get the best city views from the 421m Menara KL. It is surrounded by primary rainforest and this spire is the world’s fourth-largest telecommunications tower. The bulb at the tip was inspired by a Malaysian spinning toy and includes a revolving restaurant, an interior observation deck at 276m and an open deck at 300m.
KL Bird Park has 21-hectare aviary houses that are home to some 3000 birds comprising 200 species of mostly Asian birds. The park has four sections – in the first two birds can fly feely beneath an enormous canopy. In section three you can find native hornbills and section four has caged species. You can view feedings throughout the day and bird shows are offered at 12:30 and 3:30 PM.
The huge open Merdeka Square was where Malaysian independence was declared in 1957. It is surrounded by heritage buildings like the Sultan Abdul Samad Building and St. Mary’s Anglican Church –both were designed by A.C. Norman. There is also an enormous flagpole with the Malaysian flag waving high. In the British era this square was used as a cricket pitch and was known as the Padang field. You can sign up for one of the free heritage walks around the square.
The Sultan Abdul Samad Building is among KL’s earliest Moorish-style buildings. It was built in 1897 and named after the reigning Sultan of Selangor at the time. This impressive landmark served as the secretariat for the colonial British administration. It was designed by A.C. Norman. At one time this building also housed the superior courts of Malaysia, the Federal Court of Malaysia, the Court of Appeals and the High Court of Malays, before they were moved to Putrajaya.
St. Mary’s Anglican Church was designed as a Gothic-revival English country church by government architect A.C. Norman and erected in 1894. It was Malaysia’s first brick church and still has a small Anglican congregation. Inside the church you can see a fine pipe-organ that was built in 1895 by Henry Willis, the Englishman, who was responsible for the organ in St. Paul’s Cathedral in London, England. The organ has been dedicated to Sir Henry Gurney, the British high commissioner to Malaya, assassinated in 1951 during the Emergency.
Take a walk on the newly constructed canopy walkway in the KL Forest Eco Park where you’ll be walking in a thick lowland dipterocarp forest. The forest covers 9.37 hectares right in the heart of the city. It is the oldest protected jungle in Malaysia and is commonly known as Bukit Nanas or Pineapple Hill. There are short trails threading through here.
The Islamic Arts Museum has one of the best collections of Islamic decorative arts in the world. The exhibits include amazing textiles, carpets, jewelry and calligraphy-inscribed pottery. The building has been decorated with domes and glazed tile work. There is also an excellent Middle Eastern restaurant and one of KL’s best museum gift shops with lovely products from around the Islamic world.
Sri Mahamariamman Temple is the oldest Hindu temple in Malaysia and was founded in 1873. Mariamman is the South Indian mother goddess, also known as Parvati. Her shrine can be found at the back of the complex. On the left sits a shrine to the elephant-headed Ganesh and on the right one to the Lord Murugan. During the Thaipusam Festival, Lord Murugan is transported to Batu Caves on a silver chariot.
One of KL’s most frequented tourist attractions Batu Caves is a limestone hill that consists of three major caves and a number of smaller ones. It is found about 11 km to the north of KL. This 100 year old temple features idols and statues that have been erected inside the main caves and around them. It is incorporated with interior limestone formations that are said to be around 400 million years old. This temple is considered to be an important religious landmark by Hindus.
The largest and most popular cavern is Cathedral Cave, housing several Hindu shrines beneath its 100m high arched ceiling. At the foot of Batu Hill are two other cave temples – the Art Gallery Cave and Museum Cave, housing numerous Hindu statues and paintings.
Head for Titiwangsa Lake Gardens to get picture perfect views of the city skyline. This is a park you can relax in, row a boat, jog, play tennis or explore the interesting bungalows of the nearby neighborhoods.
The Royal Museum was once the Royal Palace. You can tour the first two floors of the mansion that was originally built as a family home in 1928 by Chinese tycoon Chan Wing. The exterior was built in European style. In 1957 it became the residence of the King and Queen of Malaysia. There are major and minor waiting rooms, a small throne room for royal events, the king’s office, a family room and dozens of bedrooms. You can see floral wallpaper, upholstered furniture, thick carpets, crystal chandeliers and some usual posters. Take a look at the Dentist Room which at first look resembles a torture chamber.
One of KL’s most distinctive colonial buildings is the Old KL Train Station. The train station dates back to 1910 and was replaces as a transit hub by KL Sentral in 2001. The structure was designed by British architect AB Hubbback in the Mughai or Indo-Saracenic style. The walls are white plaster and rows of keyhole and horseshoe arches provide ventilation on each level. Large Chatri and onion domes adorn the roof. It was included in the list of the 26 most beautiful train stations in the world according to 2014 Architectural Digest. Today only KTM Komuter trains still stop here.
The National Monument is an impressive monument that commemorates the defeat of Communists in 1950. It offers fine views across the park and city. This giant militaristic bronze sculpture was created in 1966 by Felix de Weldon. It is beautifully framed by an azure reflecting pool and a graceful curved pavilion. Nearby is a cenotaph to the Malay fighters who died in WWi and WWII and at the foot of the hill is a sculpture garden commemorating the 20th anniversary of the founding of the Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN).
One of KL’s most popular sights is the Central Market. This art deco building dating from the 1930s was rescued from demolition in the 1980s. It has been transformed into an arts and crafts center. You can find some excellent shops, good restaurants and a wonderful museum here. The adjacent Kasturi Walk is bordered by a row of handsomely restored shop houses. Thirty-minute dance performances are held nightly at 9 PM except for Fridays.
Aquaria KLCC has found its home in the basement of the KL Convention Center. Its 90m underwater tunnel offers views of sand tiger sharks, giant gropers and other creatures of the deep. You can see arapaimas, electric eels and sharks being fed. There are free dives and cage dives available and a Sleep with Sharks program for children aged six to thirteen.
At the heart of KL you’ll find Chinatown. A most active and colorful area. You’ll find lots to delight about Oriental culture, heritage and history. It has become a most popular tourist spot. Here you can buy most anything from herbs to imitation goods. At nighttime its main market area, Petaling Street, becomes a lively and vibrant night market with hundreds of stalls offering all kind of good at dirt-cheap prices.