DISCLAIMER:- These pages and the links below are NOT updated! Please refer to the official websites for more relevant and up-to-date information.
KUALA LUMPUR (KL) -
CITY OF CONTRASTS
CAPITAL OF MALAYSIA | IBUKOTA MALAYSIA
Established in the mid-1800s, Kuala Lumpur (pic 1, pic 2) is the youngest Southeast Asian capital. It's also one of the wealthiest and most appealing, blending charming colonial buildings with modern skyscrapers. As the commercial capital of Malaysia, it is situated midway along the west coast tin and rubber belt of Peninsular/West Malaysia (map), at the confluence of the Klang and Gombak rivers in hilly country west of the Main Range (Banjaran Titiwangsa). It is about 25mi (40km) from the coast of the Straits of Malacca and her ocean port, Port Klang. It sits at the center of the Peninsula's extensive and modern transportation network, serving as the ultra-modern cultural, commercial and transportation center of Malaysia. In 1972, Kuala Lumpur was designated a municipality and in 1974 an area of 94 sq mi (243 sq km), including the municipality, was designated the Federal Territory of Kuala Lumpur which is surrounded by the State of Selangor. As the commercial capital and largest city in the nation with a population of 1.3 million (2000 Census), it is to some extent a reflection of the rest of the country. The residents of KL are predominately comprised of Malays, Chinese and Indians. The ethnic mix is evident in the various dialects, unique cuisines and diverse cultural offerings. Thus in KL, as in the rest of Malaysia, one will witness extraordinary diversity - in customs, religious beliefs, dress, cuisine, even language, although English is widely spoken.
Unlike much of the rest of Malaysia, KL moves at an extremely fast pace. Today, like other countries in the region, Malaysia is experiencing phenomenal economic development. In KL, this is particularly evident, where people work at a frenetic pace and where huge signs remind the masses of "Vision 2020," Prime Minister Dr. Mahathir Mohammed's goal to have the country granted "developed nation" status by the year 2020. The vision must be catching on: every other day another super-mall, with scores of modern stores and shops, goes up in another suburb. No longer is the economy reliant solely upon the export of the country's natural resources, such as spices, rubber and palm oil. It now boasts not only a national car, the Proton, but also aims to become the technology and financial center of Southeast Asia. Home to the "Multimedia Super Corridor," this city is highly regarded as the most pro high-tech business center in Asia. One of the newest airports in Asia, the modern KLIA offers daily direct flights from all over the world, making it easy to do business here.
In 1857, a rabble of 80 plus Chinese tin miners stumbled ashore into a muddy swamp at the meeting point of the Gombak and the Klang rivers (see History). After throwing up a makeshift village, the town quickly became a mining boomtown, exporting tin to England and America, who were at the forefront of the Industrial Revolution. Just over a century and a half later this 'muddy confluence', or Kuala Lumpur in Malay, has emerged as one of the most progressive cities in South East Asia, a bustling metropolis striding confidently into the twenty-first century. In the years following the first landing, the embryonic settlement grew steadily across the surrounding flat plain on the money that poured in from tin mining and rubber cultivation. Today, the Gombak and the Klang Rivers still laze through the center of Kuala Lumpur, or KL as the locals universally refer to it, but the city around has been irrevocably transformed with a metropolitan population of 1.8 million. Skyscrapers have sprouted in the place of rubber plantations, with mosques and traditional Chinese shops still hugging the space below. In many ways, KL offers all of the best parts of other South East Asian cities in one easy to get around package. Like Bangkok there are frenetic street markets, well-preserved historic districts and hundreds of hawker stands. Unlike Bangkok, though, KL also has the air-conditioned malls, the efficient public transport system and the cleanliness of Singapore.
Any visitor to Kuala Lumpur will be struck by its many contrasts. On one hand, it is home to enormous modern projects, such as the Petronas Towers, which loom large over the city. On the other hand, there is still plenty of colonial charm reflected in many older buildings, as well as peaceful, understated architecture seen at some of the several mosques scattered about the town. The simple, but ubiquitous, outdoor hawker stalls -- serving up a variety of local specialties for under US$1-- are still generally the desired eatery for most Malaysians. At the same time, one can hardly go five minutes into lunch without hearing someone's hand-phone go off at the next table: another important business deal, no doubt.
Discovering KL (as locals affectionately call it) is like traveling through a time tunnel. Here, vivid traces of history continue to influence and inspire a country set on becoming a fully industrialized nation by the year 2020. You will see gleaming ultra-modern skyscrapers standing magnificently next to rows and rows of quaint century-old, two-story shophouses, and on six-lane superhighways, rush hour traffic often appears to be an elongated parking lot. Somewhat surprisingly, there are still remnants of the old kampungs, traditional Malay villages, within parts of KL. Haute cuisine beside hawker stalls. Kuala Lumpur has grown by leaps and bounds since its early days as a tin-mining town.
KL is very much driven by these contrasts and contradictions: the old and new, the order and the chaos. One minute, visitors find themselves strolling through an air-conditioned mall picking up bargain electrical goods and designer Western clothing at knockdown prices. The next minute, they are relaxing in a palm tree-shaded mosque, next to a schoolchild sporting a Manchester United T-shirt, as the muezzin's call to prayer reverberates around the skyscrapers above. Kuala Lumpur is a melting pot of cultures, influences and beliefs, where a new experience is waiting to assault the senses at every turn, from frenetic street markets full of exotic spices and rising steam to the sanctuary of a Buddhist temple. This plurality is reflected in KL's polyglot population. Ethnic Chinese, Indians and Eurasians are all integral parts of the eclectic ethnic mix, which is governed by the majority Malays. In contrast to its troubled neighbor, Indonesia, Malaysia is a bastion of tolerance where each faith and its traditions are respected and protected. KL to many Malaysians is quite simply Ibukota, or the 'Mother City', the epicenter of Malaysia's economic, political and cultural life. Today, the city is at the heart of an 'Asian Tiger' economy that has hurdled the worst of the recent regional economic crisis to regain its place as a world leader in the electronics and semi-conductor industries.
Despite its bustling, cosmopolitan style, KL is at heart an earthy place, where people sit around the kedai kopi (coffeehouse) and talk about food, religion, and business. It's also the center of the federal government, and since government is dominated by the easygoing Malays and business by the hyperactive Chinese, the city's tone is schizophrenic at best. Although it's not one of the world's great destination cities, KL does have first-rate hotels, excellent and varied cuisines, a lively blend of cultures, architectural styles that range from Moorish to Tudor to modern, a generally efficient infrastructure, and some of the lowest prices of any major Asian city.
Malaysians have not always had a say in the running of their own country, let alone their cities. Indeed, Malaysia was colonized by the Portuguese, the Dutch and, most recently, the British. Perhaps as a result of Malaysia having been an independent nation since 1957, there is tremendous national pride. This is reflected in many aspects of Malaysian life, but represented most egregiously in the many artifacts and institutions that are brazenly boasted to be the tallest, largest or somehow otherwise "tops" in the world. And modernization has not necessarily meant Westernization. Yes, Western ideals are espoused - especially among the younger generation - but the Malaysian identity is still tantamount.
The many contrasts and the warm weather (especially if you're looking to escape cold) are part of what make Kuala Lumpur such an excellent city to visit. Kuala Lumpur is an extremely intriguing city where one can spend several days and nights viewing the sights, sampling the cuisine, shopping for unique items, exploring the tropical environs, and -- perhaps most importantly -- getting to know the Malaysian people, who are particularly friendly and congenial. It is a most worthwhile stop on any Southeast Asian itinerary. Indeed, KL is one of the most fascinating cities in Southeast Asia.
ALSO SEE :-
PAST AND THE PRESENT
While the city's past is still present in the evocative British colonial buildings of the Dataran Merdeka (Independence Square) and the midnight lamps of the Petaling Street nightmarket, that past is everywhere met with insistent reminders of KL's present and future. The city's bustling streets, its shining, modern office towers (on the left are the world's tallest buildings - the Petronas Twin Towers), and its cosmopolitan air project an unbounded spirit of progress and symbolize Malaysia's unhesitating leap into the future. To some, this spirit seems to have been gained at the loss of ancient cultural traditions, but in many ways KL marks the continuation rather than the loss of Malaysia's rich past.
The city presents a mixture of modern and Moorish architecture, traditional Chinese shop houses, squatters' huts, and Malay stilt kampongs (villages). While its centre along the embanked Kelang is heavily congested, its municipal area and suburbs are well planned. The commercial quarter, concentrated on the river's east side, features the world's tallest buildings, the Petronas Twin Towers (1,483 ft [452 m]), designed by Argentine-American architect Cesar Pelli and completed in 1996. Government buildings and the notable railway station (all influenced by Moorish design) are on the river's hilly west bank. This nucleus is surrounded by a zone of Chinese two-story wooden shop houses and mixed residential areas of Malay kampongs, modern bungalows, and middle income brick flats. The exclusive Kenney Hill sector is a showcase for domestic architecture. Despite the prevalence of Islamic domes and minarets, the Chinese dominate the city and its economy. The Indian minority, connected with nearby rubber estates, is substantial. Malays are usually in government service, and Kampong Baru is one of the city's few concentrated Malay residential sections.
The industrial suburb of Sungai Besi (Iron River) has iron foundries and engineering works and factories that process food and soap. The Sentul and Ipoh Road area is the site of railway (assembly and construction) and engineering workshops and sawmills. Cement is manufactured at Rawang to the north, and small-scale tin and rubber smelting is common throughout the region. While Kuala Lumpur has diversified manufacturing, the focus of industrial planning is in the adjacent estates of Petaling Jaya and Batu Tiga. The local Batu Arang coalfield and the Connaught Bridge thermal-electric power station near Kelang are the main sources of the city's fuel supply and power.
There are several hospitals and state clinics, including a modern tuberculosis centre and the well-equipped Institute of Medical Research (1900). The Rubber Research Institute (1925) and Radio and Television Malaysia are headquartered there. The University of Malaya was founded at Kuala Lumpur in 1962, and the Malay-language Universiti Kebangsaan opened there in 1970. Other educational institutions include the Federal Technical College (1954), the Language Institute (1958), and Tunku Abdul Rahman College (1969). The city is the site of the National Museum of Malaysia (1963), the modern National Mosque, Parliament House, Lake Gardens, the palace of the head of state, the National Zoo, Bukit Nanas (Pineapple Hill) Forest Reserve, and two sports stadiums. The old Sultan's (Jamek) Mosque is on a peninsula in the city center. Subang International Airport (with one of the longest runways in Southeast Asia) and Templer Park are outside town. Batu ("rock") Cave, a 400-ft- (122-m-) high limestone outcropping reached by hundreds of steps, contains a Hindu temple and is the scene of elaborate Deepavali (Bahasa Malaysia, Thaipusam; a New Year festival) celebrations for local Hindus.
Kuala Lumpur, the commercial hub of the country, has its fair share of famous landmarks, historical relics and heritage buildings plus a pulsating night life to keep the visitor occupied day and night. None of these, however, would be complete without the sheer fun and excitement of bargain hunting within the cool comforts of ultra-modem, one-stop shopping complexes or the thrill of browsing among antiques and curio items in the older establishments in the older parts of the city. Kuala Lumpur is a shopping paradise with an eclectic spectrum of opportunities, from air-conditioned mega malls right through to the frenetic street markets. Mingle with the jostling crowd at the numerous roadside stalls or share in the heady excitement of the carnival like 'pasar malam' or night markets.
Prices are excellent in both and haggling is the norm at the street markets and even in some of the malls, where bulk discounts are also on offer. The city overflows with malls, the scale of which is impressive - bowling alleys, discos, cinemas and even, in one, a canal, add a surreal element to the shopping experience. Many of the malls are located on Jalan Bukit Bintang. Here visitors can pick up electrical goods in Bukit Bintang Plaza, a wide range of clothing and footwear in Lot 10, designer bargains at Star Hill Shopping Centre or explore the boutiques in Kuala Lumpur Plaza. Elsewhere, high fashion blends with one of the world's highest buildings at the Suria KLCC Shopping Centre, tucked in the basement of the Petronas Twin Towers. On offer are big designer names, such as Hugo Boss, Laura Ashley and Karl Seeger.
A galaxy away from the malls
are the night markets. Vision KL Magazine publishes a regular
update on where and when the best markets are, with the only constant
remaining the nightly Jalan Petaling. This Chinatown bulwark
peddles CDs, electrical equipment, perfume, watches and clothing, as
well as some of the city's best hawker fare. The best souvenirs are
traditional handicrafts like pewterware. The factory outlet of KL's own
distinctive Royal Selangor Pewter is open to the public from
0800-1700 daily, 4 Jalan Ushawan Enam. Batik may have its roots across
the Malacca Straits in Indonesia, but KL today offers some excellent
quality batik. A range of batik is found at Central Market or in Kompleks
Budaya Kraf, Jalan Conlay.
Most shops are open 0900-1700 daily, with the malls open later 1000-2200. Some shops close on Sundays, but all of the malls are open. Tax-free shopping is available; if notified before payment, the shop will give the visitor a form, which can be presented at the airport for refund upon departure.
To the avid shopper KL, is paradise. From world-renowned designer labels and brands to exquisite made-in-Malaysia items, the highly competitive environment that exists among traders is a blessing in disguise to shoppers. While department retail establishments or at any one of KL's famous night markets. KL will enthrall you. It will capture your heart and mind in a way no other city will.
Visitors, especially those from a part of the world where there are four seasons, will be struck by the heat and humidity. It's crippling and it's constant, with fairly constant daytime temperatures around 30-34° C (86-93° F), evenings around 5-8° C (10-15° F) cooler, and the afternoons often punctuated by thunderstorms that usually pass quickly, leaving the evenings cooler and rain free. Kuala Lumpur certainly isn't a "walking" city, not just because it is sprawling, but mainly because a few minutes in the midday sun will leave you soaking in sweat and begging for air-conditioning. Located near the equator, KL maintains tropical climate throughout the year, which basically means this: it's hot during the day, it rains in the afternoon - KL gets drenched in 105 inches (2700mm) of rain annually! - and it's moderate and bearable in the evening. Most Malaysians, wisely, stay indoors during the day -- that is, if they're not stuck in traffic.