Kuala Lumpur, or popularly known as KL is in its totality, peripheral townships and all, a fairly large city of over 7 million people and may seem unwieldy to the unaccustomed eye. KL is the proud home of an amazing array of cultural and historical vestiges from a colourful past. It is also home to large Malay, Chinese, Indian communities, a number of lesser-known tribes, and a multitude of languages, religions, customs and quirks.
Malaysia offers an enticing concoction of some of the world's most interesting cultures - quite a deal for the Internet-age traveler looking to experience it all. At the very core of Malaysia, Kuala Lumpur is a kaleidoscope of architecture, lifestyles, tropical flora, percussion, and international cuisines.
Kuala Lumpur began as a few square miles of unspectacular landscape that now hosts many of its most important buildings. Once you orient yourself along the lines of modern history, you will never get lost. Look for the Sultan Abdul Samad Building, a Moorish-style, elongated structure dressed in salmon colours and perhaps the most photographed site in town. Its functioning clock tower has witnessed many historical milestones and faithfully provides a backdrop to important national events such as the annual National Day Parade.
Across the street lies the Dataran Merdeka, or Independence Square, which evolved from a British colonial cricket green and is now complemented by a lovely water fountain, colonnades, flower beds and an underground food and entertainment centre. You cannot miss the Selangor Club and the Cathedral of Virgin St Mary, both unmistakable ornaments of the once exclusive lifestyles of colonialists.
The progressive spread of Islam since the 15th century has bequeathed Kuala Lumpur some of the greatest mosques this side of Istanbul. Jamek Mosque, the oldest in the country, is located just behind the Sultan Abdul Samad Building and offers a fine start for a day of exploring.
The Central Market, traditionally a fresh market, now hosts painters, sculptors, fortune-tellers and traders hawking a wide range of curios, collectibles and art. For connoisseurs of kitsch, paradise lies at Petaling Street. This 500-meter stretch of century-old shophouses and neighbouring blocks of similar offerings are collectively known as Chinatown.
The greener side of Kuala Lumpur began as a vegetable and tapioca field. Today Lake Gardens and its vicinity still feature numerous parks – such as Orchid Garden, Kuala Lumpur Bird Park, Hibiscus Garden, Butterfly Park and Deer Park - but is also marked by the Parliament House, the commemorative National Monument, and the Tun Abdul Razak Memorial. Explore further and you discover the Islamic Arts Museum Malaysia, the National Mosque (Masjid Negara) and at the end of the line, the Kuala Lumpur Railway Station.
Golden Triangle & Kuala Lumpur City Centre (KLCC)
For the city's newest gadgets and gizmos, head for one of the many shopping establishments. Which one? To err on the side of caution, choose the tallest among them: the Petronas Twin Towers. These towers are among the tallest in the world. Or, take a stroll in the Suria KLCC at the base of the towers to find a wealth of luxury items.
Certainly shopkeepers and department stores abounded before Suria KLCC, and the most expensive and well-stocked of these lie scattered around the intersection of Jalan Sultan Ismail and Jalan Bukit Bintang. One of the most happening party strips – the Bintang Walk is also found here.
What happened to the tin barons who got rich from the mineral that made Kuala Lumpur? The Ampang enclave hides a precious cache of private residences where the affluent still live. Some of these architectural marvels serve as glimmering veneers of cool and clever enterprises, and conceal several of the city's best-kept secrets, including Sungei Tua Waterfall.
The old footpath to the Ampang tin mines evolved into Jalan Ampang, now lavishly adorned with eateries and merry-making stops of a tantalising variety, seamlessly blending in with the adjacent instruments of commerce: high-rise office blocks, hotels, foreign embassies and political offices. For an unbeatable view of all these and more, head to one of the world's tallest telecommunications towers, the Kuala Lumpur Tower, on Jalan Punchak.