Any visitor to Kuala Lumpur is at once confronted with its collision of cultures; its sparse and glittering modern architecture and the extravagance of old designs, its celebration of economy and commerce, and tenderness towards life’s simple pleasures. There’s a vast array of unique things to do in Kuala Lumpur, ranging from cultural, to natural and gastronomical.
Fighting the case for modernity, The Petronas Towers are the tallest twin skyscrapers in the world, and soar, leagues above other edifices forming the Kuala Lumpur skyline. Malaysia’s premier shopping emporium, Suria KLCC lies at the foot of the building. Its ground floor is graced with a parade of elite designer outlets, including Burberry, Moschino and Miu Miu. There’s also room for a cinema, concert hall, art gallery and a science centre. Equally worth a visit, Masjud Jamek is the oldest mosque in Kuala Lumpur. Its red brick and marble structure is strikingly beautiful, and based on Indian Islamic architecture. It was built at the exact point where the Sugai Klang and the Sugai Gombak rivers meet, and is surrounded by palatial coconut palms and channels of calm water. It’s free to explore the airy marble interior, and ideal place to hide from the heat outside. The Kings Palace is another favourite spot. Its ornate gateway makes the perfect frame for a photo opportunity, and is always guarded by two dashing cavalrymen in claret uniform upon gleaming horses.
Kuala Lumpur’s warm equatorial climate makes year-round visiting feasible. The temperature generally hovers around 30 degrees, but it can drop after rainfall. Malaysia’s rainy season begins in October and ends in March, making the summer months a great time to spend in the city and avoid the monsoons which can affect the rest of the country at this time of year. Light clothing is always recommended, but generally air-conditioning is endemic within city limits, and rains only serve to make the climate more refreshing.
Malaysia hosts a wealth of different cultures within its borders, but maintains a wonderful atmosphere of unity without compromising identity. This means, throughout the year, the country is never far from a state of celebration. The Hindu festival of Thaipusam celebrates Lord Murugan, the Tamil god of war. It sends devotees surging from the inner city on the tenth month of the Hindu calendar (usually either January or February) to the nearby Batu Caves- it is a celebration not to be missed if in the area. Chinese New Year in Malaysia is even more raucous, as over a quarter of its population are Chinese. At midnight on the first day of the New Year, hundreds of firecrackers are to be heard banging and screeching to signify the loud noises which scared off the legendary monster of traditional Chinese mythology. The city dazzles with decorations for weeks during New Year. Paper lanterns, animals and dragons and giant papier-mâché lions can be seen wriggling joyfully down the streets on the shoulders of Chinese dancers. On the 31st of August every year, Malaysia holds its annual Independence Day festival. On the eve of Independence Day, the many ethnic groups of Malaysia join in celebration. A huge and colourful parade is held in Kuala Lumpur’s streets, consisting of marching bands, martial arts displays, acrobatics, dancing, flag waving and traditional costumes. The evening culminates with the flag of Malaysia being raised proudly at midnight to a backdrop of sparkling, crackling fireworks. Rest assured, whichever time of the year you choose to make your visit, or for whatever reason, what’s guaranteed is a warm and helpful welcome from Kuala Lumpur’s diverse and inclusive citizens.
And then there is the food. Begin your day with Roti Canai and tea, an indian pastry pancake served with Malaysia chicken curry used as a snack and served everywhere at all times. Indulge yourself in favoured dishes like Satay (marinated meat barbecued over the charcoal with peanut sauce, Nasi Lemak (coconut milk rice served with sambal ikan bilis and slices of hard boil egg and cucumber), banana leaf rice or Prawn Mee (noodles served with rich flavored stock made of shrimp) just to name a few.
Despite the city’s wealth and evergrowing population it is certainly very budget friendly. You an easily find basic but decent rooms for 25 USD/night,and getting around is simple enough with metro, skyline or the frequent bus service. Worst come to worst, should you ever get lost simply ask as Malaysians are always happy to help. And here’s a small secret you’ll probably be happy to learn: it is free to visit the Petronas towers, and ride the elevator up to floor 41 where the connecting bridge is. Simply make sure you get there before 11.30 when all the days passes are given away and you’ll be rewarded with this view overlooking Kuala Lumpur from one of the most famous buildings in the world…without having spent a cent!
Have you visited Kuala Lumpur? What did you like best? I found the peaceful mingling of faiths and cultures a model to repeated everywhere in the world. What stood out to you?
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