Destination Information - Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
Kuala Lumpur, capital of Malaysia, is one of the polished diamonds of Southeast Asia. A frenetic kaleidoscopic city in seeming perpetual motion, the sheer energy of the place will captivate before you even venture out onto the streets. A thoroughly modern city, downtown KL resembles Manhattan or central Los Angeles more than it does anything distinctly Malaysian. The locals have little problem with this: for them it's a symbol of the city's constant progress and status as one of the world's leading centres of trade.
When the sheer scale of the Petronas Towers and the magnificence of the Kuala Lumpur Tower have worn off though, you'll no doubt be wanting to seek out something more distinctly Malaysian. And this is where KL exceeds expectations, for amidst all the modernity you'll find countless examples of Malaysia's colonial past.
Though Kuala Lumpur is immensely wealthy and truly international, the elements of a more traditional society are given pride of place in KL, rather than being tucked away anonymously behind more modern constructions. It's a charming juxtaposition of old and new, visually apparent in the architecture as much as it's evident in the vibrant culture of the city.
Dataran Merdeka, in the heart of the city, is the best such example. An enclave of British architecture, the mock-tudor Royal Selangor Clubhouse and the cricket pitch wouldn't look out of place in a home counties market town. You'll find genuine Malaysian hubbub around the traditional arts and crafts stalls of Central Market, or slices of multi-culturalism at the Petaling nightmarkets. For sheer colonial exuberance, the Kuala Lumpur railway station's domes and over-elaborate façades can't be bettered. To get an overview of this fascinating country you'll find more than you'll ever need to know at the National Museum, housed in a Malaysian palace, or you can see some superb local works of art at the National Art Gallery.
Although Kuala Lumpur can hardly be considered typical of Southeast Asia, in some ways it's the most representative of the entire region. Forward thinking and cosmopolitan, it's a unique blend of different cultures and of the ancient and modern, making it one of the most exciting cities on earth and of course the perfect gateway to Malaysia.