24 hours in Kuala Lumpur

For this instalment of our 24 hours in a city series, local Malaysian writer Jonathan Lee introduces the country’s capital

Jonathan Lee
23rd May 2022
Image credit: Jonathan Lee
For this instalment of our 24 hours in a city series, local Malaysian writer Jonathan Lee introduces the country’s capital

Ah my hometown of Kuala Lumpur, a city which is best described as where old meets new. Driven by cultural diversity, relatively low costs and wide gastronomic and shopping variety, Malaysia’s capital used to host 8.9 million tourists each year (well, pre-Covid times). If you ever do happen to travel to the other side of the globe, or perhaps have a full day stopover, it is my hope that this guide would be of service to you.

To start your day, why not join the locals for breakfast? Mamak stalls can be found all across Kuala Lumpur and all of them are relatively cheap. Mamaks are people of Tamil Muslim descent, hence their food fuses the best of both cultures. My usual go-to would be roti canai which is an Indian flatbread usually served with curry, but if you fancy something heavier then Malaysia’s national dish, nasi lemak (rice cooked in coconut milk) would be your best bet. Don’t forget to add a cup of kopi tarik to witness an entertaining performance of your coffee strained between two cups.

Image credit: Jonathan Lee

While the sun is high up in the sky, which to be fair is rather common in Malaysia, head to the Independence Square to get some photos against a lush green field and the colonial-style buildings of Sultan Abdul Samad Building. Nearby there is the Central Market where you can pick out souvenirs and window shop the many local products that the marketplace offers. It is worth pointing out here that many key attractions, for example the two mentioned here, are connected by an underground railway system, so getting around in the city is hardly a hassle.

In the vicinity is Kwai Chai Hong or ‘Little Demon lane’. This back alley, along with the rows of heritage buildings on both sides, has been beautifully restored and now features gorgeous street art depicting life in Chinatown in the 1960’s, making it the perfect spot for your next Instagram post. If you are into cultural attractions, the Guan Di Temple and Sri Maha Mariamman Temple are nearby, the former being a Buddhist place of worship and the latter for Hindus. The rich history of both temples are evident in its architecture and interior, allowing you to immerse in the spirituality of both faiths.

Image credit: Jonathan Lee

No trip to Kuala Lumpur would be complete without a visit to the iconic Petronas Twin Towers (fun fact, they were once the world’s tallest buildings). The best time to visit would be in the evening when you would get to see the towers light up and stick around until the 8pm KLCC Lake Symphony Water Fountain Show. Here’s a local tip: a bridge opposite the pond in the adjacent KLCC park offers the best photographs!

To cap the day off, treat yourself to a drink at the Heli Lounge Bar, which is my personal favourite rooftop bar. A helipad in the day, the place transforms itself into a bar when the sun sets. Enjoy the sweeping views of the bustling city as lights of the nearby skyscrapers light up the evening sky, all the while sipping a martini - now that’s a perfect conclusion to a day trip.

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