A highlight of a trip to Kuala Lumpur is the views from the skybridge at Petronas Twin Towers . Each morning 1,700 passes are distributed on a first-come-first-serve basis to visitors who want to visit the skybridge. It’s best to start queuing at 7am as most tickets are gone by 9am.
The views from the ground are equally incredible as you gaze up at the 88 story gleaming towers that reach 1,483 ft (452m) into the air.
The floor plan is based on the Islamic eight-pointed star and the five sections of the skyscraper reflect the five-pillars of Islam.
Beneath the Petronas Towers is KLCC Park, a large urban park with jogging tracks, a playground and wading pools. There is also the huge Suria KLCC shopping mall which has a number of good restaurants.
The majestic National Mosque, or Masjid Negara, was built in 1965 as a symbol of Malaysia’s recently won independence. It is one of South East Asia’s largest and can hold up to 15,000 people.
It is situated in Kuala Lumpur’s Lake Gardens in the center of the city and surrounded by swathes of beautiful gardens near the bird and orchid parks. It was designed by a group of three architects and the eighteen-pointed star dome is said to represent the thirteen states of Malaysia and the five pillars of Islam. The main dome is covered in thousands of blue and green tiles and there are 48 smaller green domes dotting the courtyard inspired by the grand mosque in Mecca. The 240ft (74m) minaret sounds the call to prayer that can be heard across Chinatown.
An impressive six-tiered Chinese temple, Thean Hou Temple was opened in 1987 and is dedicated to Thean Hou, the heavenly mother.
It is the largest Chinese temple in Kuala Lumpur and sits atop Robson’s Hill 6 mi (8 km) from the city center offering excellent views back over the city. The prayer rooms are filled with bright golden statues and dedicated also to the Goddess of the Waterfront and the Buddhist Goddess of Mercy. Below the main prayer rooms are hawker stalls and souvenir stalls while outside there is a Chinese medicinal herbs garden and a tortoise pond. The celebrations at Chinese New Year are a riot of color and noise as revellers, wearing predominantly red (a lucky color), bang drums and clash symbols while watching the lions dance to ward off evil spirits.
The neighborhood known as Kuala Lumpur City Centre (KLCC) is quite literally the heart of the Malaysian capital and home to some of the country’s most recognizable landmarks, including the Petronas Twin Towers. A commercial development project that began in 1993 envisioned KLCC as “a city within a city,” one that would leave visitors to Kuala Lumpur feeling like they could quite comfortably never leave the area.
Besides housing myriad bars, restaurants and shops, Kuala Lumpur City Centre houses Suria KLCC, a massive six-floor shopping mall occupying the lower levels of the Petronas Twin Towers and filled with international retailers and an excellent supermarket. Those looking for a green escape from the bustle of Kuala Lumpur can find refuge in KLCC Park with its artificial lake, jogging paths, fountains and playgrounds. The neighborhood is also home to the beautiful and modern Assyakirin Mosque, set at the base of the world’s tallest twin towers.
Kuala Lumpur’s Central Market was established in 1888 as an open wet market for the local communities and ended up being so popular and conveniently located that it underwent several expansions and eventually moved into the Art-Deco structure it lives in today. The wet market moved out in the 1980s, but the Malaysian Heritage Society managed to save the original structure from demolition, instead renovating it into an arts center and heritage site.
Today, the beautifully restored building houses vendors selling handicrafts, souvenirs and artwork, as well as a batik emporium. The Annexe, located behind the main building, has gallery space for art exhibitions and film screenings, and a recently added covered pedestrian lane called Kasturi Walk lines the building’s exterior with even more kiosks and stalls to browse through. The Kasturi Walk is also a great place to sample some typical Malaysian street food as you shop.
The colorful enclave of Little India is filled with the sounds and scents of India. Bright bangles and trinkets glitter from stalls and the scents of sandalwood and cumin fill the air. Fantastic Indian dishes are on offer at roadside stalls, Indian breads like chappati and prata and snacks like vadai and stringhoppers.
The sari shops are very popular with people looking to buy vibrant beautiful material and use the skilled tailors who work in this area. The Saturday night market is when this area is at its bustling best as vendors trade late into the night.
Bustling Petaling Street is the main thoroughfare of Kuala Lumpur’s Chinatown. The street is effectively one long market which specialises in counterfeit clothes, watches and shoes. It sets up mid-morning and is busy until almost dawn with locals and tourists haggling for cheap wares.
Look past the pirated goods stalls and you will see a heritage area of old Chinese shop houses selling spices and food stalls selling local dishes like Hainanese chicken rice and nasi lemak. The side streets leading from Petaling Street are where you will find wet markets and shops selling everything from spices to electronics to funereal wreaths. Other highlights of Chinatown besides shopping are the temples, some of the finest examples in Kuala Lumpur. There is the stunning Hindu temple Sri Mahamariamman and the two late 19th-Century Chinese temples Koon Yam and Chan See Shu Yuen.
Impeccable Merdaka Square - or Dataran Merdeka - was a cricket ground in colonial times. The cricket ground was overlooked by the Royal Selangor Club which housed a club for the colonial rulers. When independence for Malaysia was declared, it was here that the Union Jack flag was lowered and the Malay flag was first raised. The flag still flies on a massive flagpole on the edge of the square.
The square is surrounded by historic buildings, the most majestic of which is the Sultan Abdul Samad building which housed the British administration and now houses the Ministry for Heritage, Culture and the Arts. The Moorish style building is dominated by a tall clock tower nicknamed "Big Ben." The square is now the focus of many of the city’s celebrations and the Independence Day festival is held here on August 31st.
In Malaysian, “Istana Negara” translates to “National Palace,” and Kuala Lumpur’s Royal King’s Palace (Istana Negara) serves as the official residence of the supreme King of Malaysia. The king relocated to a newly built Istana Negara in 2011, and while you can’t enter, it’s possible to see the beautiful architecture of the palace from afar and watch the hourly changing of the guards.
Before 2011, the Royal King’s Palace occupied another mansion. The structure was originally built in 1928 by a wealthy Chinese immigrant on a plot overlooking the Klang River. During the Japanese Occupation during World War II, the mansion became the home of the Japanese Governor before becoming a British military office after the Japanese surrendered in 1945. In 1950, the Sultan of Selangor moved into the residence and lived there until Malaysian independence in 1957.
Located near the famous Lake Gardens in Kuala Lumpur, the National Monument (Tugu Negara) commemorates those who lost their lives in the fight for Malaysia’s independence. Built in 1964 to replace a cenotaph originally erected by the colonial British government, the bronze monument stands 50 feet (15.5 meters) tall and depicts seven soldiers, each representing a different quality of leadership, with one carrying the Malaysian flag. The original statue now stands behind the newer piece.
American architect Felix de Weldon, the same man who designed the Marine Corps War Memorial in Washington, D.C., also designed the Malaysia National Monument. Besides serving as a testament to Malaysia’s history, the National Monument itself made history by being the world’s tallest freestanding bronze sculpture grouping.
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Considered among the world’s most beautiful train stations, the Kuala Lumpur Railway Station showcases the Moorish style of architecture favored by the British during Malaysia’s colonial era. Built in 1911 and designed by A.B. Hubback, the station is one of the most recognizable (and most photographed) landmarks in the city, thanks to its white arched facade and onion domes on the roof.
Kuala Lumpur Sentral Station took over as the city’s major train transport hub in 2001, but the old station still operates on a smaller scale (for commuter trains mostly) and remains a popular sightseeing stop.
Royal Selangor is one of the world’s largest pewter manufacturers, founded in 1885 by a young Chinese immigrant named Yong Koon. While it might not sound like a typical attraction, the Royal Selangor Pewter Factory and Visitor Centre offers fascinating insight into Malaysia’s cultural heritage through the lens of one of its most prominent crafts.
Guided tours through the facility educate visitors on tin mining, the properties of pewter and methods for transforming the resource into tools and gifts. An onsite pewter museum showcases Yong Koon’s original smithing tools and personal items, as well as some of his original pieces. The 18,000-square-foot (1,672-square-meter) retail space has thousands of Royal Selangor products for sale to take home as gifts or souvenirs. Visitors who want to better understand the process of manufacturing pewter can head to the visitor center, which offers two hands-on workshops, the 30-minute School of Hard Knocks.
The oldest mosque in Kuala Lumpur, Masjid Jamek, is also its most delightful. Large cream onion domes and red-and-white-striped minarets stand among a palm tree grove at the confluence of the Klang and Gombak Rivers. This was the site where Kuala Lumpur’s first settlers had their settlement.
It was built by the English architect Arthur Bennison Hubbock who was inspired by the Moorish style of Moghul mosques in India. It was opened in 1909. When visiting the mosque it is important to respect the rules of dressing, make sure your limbs are covered and women must wear a headscarf.
Malaysia’s National Museum (Muzium Negara), housed within a beautiful Minangkabau-style building in Kuala Lumpur, is one of the city’s best and an excellent place to learn about Malaysia’s long and rich multicultural heritage. Completed in 1961 and opened two years later, the museum takes visitors on a journey through time with beautifully curated displays divided into four themed galleries.
The Prehistory gallery displays stone tools and other Paleolithic artifacts dating back thousands of years, including the Perak Man, the oldest mostly intact human skeleton in Southeast Asia. The second gallery, The Malay Kingdoms, contains art and artifacts that trace the various people groups and kingdoms that once existed on the Malay Peninsula and in the Borneo Islands.
Kuala Lumpur's Bird Park is the largest park of its type in the world with 20 acres (8.1 hectares) of free-flight aviary for the birds to enjoy. Around 3,000 birds live in the park from the small and vibrantly colored parrots to the impressive Indian Blue Peacock with its magnificent 5 foot (1.5 meter) long tail. Kids will love being able to feed the birds and the bird show at 12:30pm each day is a treat.
Aside from the free-flight aviary there is a special aviary for the parrots and for the fascinating oriental birds which features rare birds including the Greater Bird of Paradise and three special kinds of toucan. There is also the hornbill park and the flamingo pond where you can watch the gorgeous pink creatures patiently sunbathing standing on one leg.
Over 6,000 winged beauties live in the tropical rainforest surrounds of Kuala Lumpur's Butterfly Reserve. Wander along meandering paths as they flit and fly pausing occasionally to rest upon a lucky visitor.
Kids will love the chance to see the big and majestic Raja Brooke butterfly which is one of the special species in the reserve along with the Lime Butterfly and Malay Lacewing. Pick up a bag of feed at the counter so you can feed the koi that swim in the ponds. At the exit there is also an insect museum where you can marvel at Malaysia's giant centipedes and spiders.
Located on the concourse level of the Kuala Lumpur Convention Centre in the middle of the Golden Triangle, Aquaria KLCC houses some 5,000 aquatic and marine creatures representing more than 150 species. The 60,000-square-foot (5,574-square-meter) aquarium explores the marine and freshwater flora and fauna of the Malaysian region and the world, with highlights that include a 295-foot (90-meter) glass tunnel with a moving walkway, where visitors pass beneath giant stingrays, sand tiger sharks, sea turtles and schools of fish, as well as a touch pool, wave tank and simulated glass bottom boat.Throughout the day, the oceanarium’s team of scuba divers drop into the tanks for interactive animal feeding shows. Those who want a closer look at the animals can sign up for Dive with Sharks or Cage Rage experiences.
Mahsuri’s Tomb - or Makam Mahsuri - is a shrine to one of the most beautiful women to have ever lived on Langkawi.
There are at least 14 versions of the legend of Mahsuri although we do know that she was the daughter of Thai immigrants and married the warrior Wan Darus. The legends revolve around an accusation of adultery and her death by stabbing.
The stories say that white blood flowed from her proving her innocence and that with her final breath she cursed Langkawi for seven generations. The last of those seven generations passed just as tourism came to Langkawi and it began to prosper again.
Aside from a small museum about the Mahsuri legend there is also a traditional Langkawi house to explore and a handicrafts shop at the memorial compound.
Like in many Southeast Asia destinations, some of Kuala Lumpur’s best shopping happens at night at the city’s many pasar malam, or night markets. One of the best is the Masjid India Night Market. While most of these markets are similar in their offerings, this one happens to be one of the largest and most popular, making it a good option for people-watching, bargain-hunting or enjoying an inexpensive dinner of popular Malaysian and international street foods.
The Masjid India Night Market takes place each Saturday, and while stalls begin to open at about 5 or 6 p.m., things don’t really start to pick up until a few hours later. You’ll find a little bit of everything on offer, but most come for the inexpensive clothing and accessories, and for the excellent variety of street foods.
The Langkawi Cable Car will take you high above the Langkawi rainforest on Mount Mat Chinchang for the most spectacular views of the surrounding islands and sea. It’s an absolute must-do when you visit Langkawi and a great way to orientate yourself when you first arrive.
The cable car was built without constructing any roads through the forest and has the longest suspension between two stations in the world. The view changes throughout the day with some spectacular sights at sunset. From the pinnacle of Mount Mat Chinchang you will see 360-degree panoramic views of the Langkawi islands, mainland Malaysia and Southern Thailand.
There is plenty to explore on the mountain and it is possible to take jungle treks and birdwatching tours.
An overload of tropical fish awaits you at Palau Payer Marine Park. The park is a coral reef teeming with fish including feather starfish, rainbow runners, barracuda and ghost fish. It is one of the west coast’s most popular dive sites, there is the wreck of an old fishing boat and the wreck of a small boat carrying roof tiles to explore. It was the first marine park created in western Malaysia and is also used as a research center.
Snorkeling in the very warm waters is fantastic; get ready for the hungry little fish to nip at your toes as you explore their home. Aside from the colorful fish there are sea turtles, anemones, and friendly octopi. In the afternoon there are shark feeding exhibitions put on by the tour groups. The sharks are reef sharks which are exciting but won’t hurt humans.
The best time to visit is October to March, although any time of year is fine if the weather is good.
One of the finest museums on the island of Borneo, the Sarawak Museum is also the oldest, opened in 1891 by Charles Burke, the second Rajah of Sarawak. Set inside a massive, rectangular, Victorian-period edifice designed to resemble a Normandy townhouse, the inside still has the feel of a museum constructed in the late 20th century as punctuated by the wood and bamboo flooring.
The need for interior renovations aside, however, the Sarawak Museum is home to a fascinating array of ethnographic and ecological artifacts relating to traditional tribal and environmental life in the state of Sarawak. In addition to small scale replicas of Iban longhouses, original tribal weapons, and mounted exhibits of exotic mammals and reptiles, of particular interest to many visitors are the displays of shrunken heads and human skulls which adorn various parts of the museum interior.
Situated 62 miles (100 kilometers) south of Kuching, Annah Rais is a Bidayuh longhouse settlement in the foothills of the Borneo Highlands. While the 500 or so residents of Annah Rais make a living from tourism and the settlement has long been on the tourist map, they’ve done well to preserve the traditional longhouse architecture, and visitors get a sense of what life in such communal settlements is like.
Annah Rais comprises three separate longhouses, Kupo Terekan, Kupo Saba and Kupo Sijo, which travelers can visit solo or with a guide. Each longhouse has a covered bamboo verandah, called an awah, used for communal activities. Doorways spaced along the longhouse lead to each family’s private quarters. While some visit Annah Rais just for the day, some of the residents open their homes to visitors as part of a cultural homestay program. Visitors are paired with a local family who provide a traditional dinner and breakfast in addition to the enriching cultural exchange.
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