Despite the best wishes of Tourism Malaysia, Kuala Lumpur struggles to be a destination in its own right. It’s a city that tourists generally pass through on their way somewhere else, rather than for its own charms. Which is a shame, because although it lacks any blockbuster attractions, and has no deep history or culture to boast of, it is entirely possible to have a pleasant and enjoyable stay in KL.
Of course, the problem with any city is separating the wheat from the chaff, particularly if you only only have limited time there. Here are five recommendations for what do if you only have 24 hours in KL:
The city’s most iconic landmark is the Petronas Towers. The towers potentially offer the best views of KL, just not to tourists. Getting tickets for the sky bridge tour involves a super-early start, lots of queueing and frequent frustration. If you are lucky enough to get a ticket (10 ringgit), the highlight of the tour is 10 minutes on the 41st floor bridge linking the two towers. The tour leaves many people deeply underwhelmed. By contrast, a trip to the observation deck of Menara KL (the world’s fourth tallest communications tower) offers much better views of the city, albeit with a hefty price tag of 38 ringgit. An alternative way to take in the sights is to eat at the revolving restaurant at the top of the tower.
KL has a number of decent museums and art galleries, but the undoubted star of the show is the Islamic Arts Museum. The museum has more than 7,000 artefacts in its permanent collection, ranging from delicate pieces of jewellery through to large models of mosques. It’s well worth the 12 ringgit entrance fee.
Many tourists get so dismayed by the hassle and tackiness of Petaling Street Market that they ignore one of KL’s real treats: wandering round Chinatown. While most of KL’s history has been trammelled by the headlong rush to modernity, Chinatown has managed to retain a sense of the city’s past, without becoming a sterile museum piece.
Of course one thing about shiny new buildings is that they look great at night. And probably the best spot to appreciate modern KL is at the Sky Bar in Traders Hotel. The drink prices may be on the steep side, and the service remarkably amateurish, but all this pales into insignificance compared to the stunning views of the city, especially of the Petronas Towers.
Back down to earth, in more ways than one, is Jalan Alor, KL’s most characterful eating street. Jalan Alor is brimming with dozens of Chinese restaurants and food stalls. Ever fancied frog porridge or chicken feet? Well, this is the place to find it. Those with less adventurous tastes will not be disappointed either. As a rule of thumb, anywhere filled with Chinese customers is likely to offer good food.
No. 2 Jalan Punchak, Off Jalan P. Ramlee, Kuala Lumpur.
T: (03) 20205444
Islamic Arts Museum
Jalan Lembah Perdana, Kuala Lumpur.
T: (03) 22742020
Level 33, Traders Hotel, KLCC, Kuala Lumpur.
T: (03) 23329888
By Pat Fama.
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