Wednesday, April 13, 2005

KL Confidential

"What? You coming to KL? (Sorry, I mean Kuala Lumpur to us Malaysian)" That was my question to a friend from Jakarta. I asked him "How many days you have? Three? Perfect Weekend! When I put down my phone, my brain starts ticking to plan for the compact trip in the city. ‘First thing first’ I said to myself, accommodation. The are many hotels from the five star to two star hotels including the newly opened Hilton and Le Meridian at Kuala Lumpur Central Station in Brickfields, Mandarin Oriental at KLCC (Kuala Lumpur City Centre), Regent and Marriott at Jalan Bukit Bintang, practically there at the Bintang Walk (officially opened for the Millennium celebration on 31 Dcember 1999) and the list goes on. As for the three star and below, Concord Hotel at Jalan Sultan Ismail, right next to the famous joint, Hard Rock Café, with its 24 hour café serving local delicacies. Right infront of the Concord Hotel is another world famous hotel chain, Shangri La Hotel. This is also a strategic place as monorail service is jut around the corner. Around Bukit Bintang area there are many lower range hotels including Federal Hotel, Capital Hotel, Heritage Hotel and so on and perhaps it is easier to get food, from Chinese, Malay, Indian to western food chain and fancy restaurants. Getting on internet to check out these hotels would be good as they could offer better prices than walk ins. (
"So, what is the point of going to Kuala Lumpur?" I try to find some jolly good reasons for KL visit. Well, it the capital of Malaysia, it is Indonesia’s closest neighbour (Kalimantan and East Malaysia – Sabah and Sarawak) that use to speak the same language of Bahasa Melayu before we went separate ways. Now, Bahasa Melayu, the official language or national language of Malaysia, is quite different from Bahasa Indonesia. Some Indonesian kids would refer to Bahasa Melayu as language of "Siti Nurbaya", a famous Malay novel by a Sumateran, written in 1950s. In other words, Bahasa Melayu in Malaysia has become antique, authentic and poetic. Well, the Tourism Malaysia’s slogan has a lot of truth in it too, Malaysia Truly Asia is every where in Kuala Lumpur and Malaysia, the cultures of the Malay, Chinese, Indian are juxtaposed with each other. We celebrate and have official holidays for all festivals - Hari Raya for Malay and Muslim, Chinese New Year Chinese, Deepavali for Indian, Thaipusam for Hindu, Vesak for Buddhist and Christmas for Christian plus our colourful Independence Day on 31 August every year. That’s the reason why we have variety of foods on the street, food court at departmental stores and at five star hotels’ buffet. But it is a must for any traveler to Malaysia to try Nasi Lemak (Malay special rice with little fish chili paste) to Kuey Tiaw Goreng (Chinese white fried noodles with cockles) and Roti Canai (Indian pan cake serves with curry and yellow peas). The list of Malay, Indian, Chinese food goes on, not to mention Thai, Arab, Portugese, Italian, French, Vietnamese, Cambodian, Padang, Mexican and all the American chains. Another special delicacy that should not be missed is Chinese Peranakan food, or normally called "Nyonya Food". One could try "Madam Kwan" at KLCC or Bangsar, "Little Penang" at Mid Valley Mega Mall or Curve at Bandar Utama. Nyonya’s famous dishes include "Laksa Asam", "Prawn Mee", "Lobak" and "Asam Pedas".

"But what to do in KL?" I asked myself. Well, for those who take shopping as a recreational activity, there’s a long list of shopping malls, markets, bazaars and avenues. Suria at KLCC, dubbed by an Indian friend of mine as "Paris to Indian from India". Then I thought, well, that’s quite flattering. I too go to KLCC from time to time to check out those sassy sophisticated shops from international designers like Armani, Versace, Escada to local designers like Kirana, Kapas and ASEAN collections at ASEANA, next to Parkson Grand departmental store and Mandarin Oriental Hotel. KLCC has a series alfresco cafes over looking the splendid fountain and water pool, so you can sip your coffee at Chinoz, Dome, Starbuck and watch beautiful people walking by. If you are a little more cultured, you might want to check out the exhibition at PETRONAS Gallery, or Science Gallery or book your ticket for the world class performance of Malaysian Philharmonic Orchestra at Petronas Philharmonic Hall. "Don’t you think there are a lot of things already there?". Of course we do have other great shopping malls such as Ampang Park, which is not far from KLCC, Bukit Bintang Plaza or called BB Plaza, Sungai Wang Plaza, KL Plaza, Lot 10 and Starhill at Bintang Walk, Mid Valley Mega Mall near Bangsar or One Utama, Curve and Ikano, almost like one huge complex. I sometime spend the whole day at One Utama, Curve, Ikano and IKEA – lunch, coffee, movie, tea, dinner and a bit of shopping for clothes, books, DVDs, wash car and Thai massage! For your information, we have the biggest IKEA (you know that world famous, Swedish home and living brand) in the region. We always find something to buy at IKEA, from stylish reading lamp to cardbox containers. Yes, it is a bit out of the way from KL city, but it is worth it, especially if you want a modern looking house in a shortest time and simplest way. I also heard that Malaysia offers the cheapest electronic appliances as well as computer stuff. So you may want to visit the Low Yat Plaza, tucked behind BB Plaza and Sungai Wang Plaze.
‘Is that all you do in KL? Shopping!". Not quite!. We could go to see some western musicals at Istana Budaya(, the Malaysian National Theatre at Jalan Tun Razak where they used to perform Cats, Fame, Saturday Night Fever, Sounds of Music and etc. Local performing arts could be enjoyed at Panggung Bandaraya and Auditorium Bandaraya at Jalan Raja Laut, Dewan Bahasa dan Pustaka(DBP) at Jalan Dewan Bahasa, Malaysian Tourism Centre (MTC) at Jalan Ampang, Actors Studio at Bangsar Shopping Complex Bangsar and perhaps to watch Indian classical dance performance at Sutra House at Persiaran Titiwangsa. For more information on performances, you could check out the local listings on or get a copy of KLUE, a monthly magazine similar to Timeout in London and New York, where they listed out all the performances and exhibitions in Kuala Lumpur. But if you want to do all the tourist stuff, you should also visit the National Museum, behind Kuala Lumpur Hilton at KL Central, the National Art Gallery on Jalan Tun Razak next to Istana Budaya and Central Market for little souvenirs.
"Ok, Ok, enough of that high culture vulture and time to let loose and let you hair down". If you are into standards and safe joints, let’s do Hard Rock Café, they have regular performances by rock bands from the region (Malaysia, Indonesia, Philipines) or Planet Hollywood, where they have good local performers on Sunday nights. In the past they have featured Sheila Majid, Ning Baizura, Anuar Zain, VE Ruffage, Dayang Nurfaizah among others. Zouk, if you like the Singapore joint, look out for that strange looking building on Jalan Ampang, Atmosphere and Blis at 12SI, Jalan Sultan Ismail, Beach, Nuovo, Budaba, Passion at the junction of Jalan Sultan Ismail and Jalan P.Ramlee, just around the corner from KLCC, where DJs from all over the world converged. Other interesting area to hang out is along Changkat Bukit Ceylon where you could find the award winning place, Frangipani, a modern renovation of Pre-World War II townhouse with beautiful fine dining downstairs where water element, colonial colonnade and romantic lighting made up a splendid ambience. Come Friday and Saturday, you would have interesting crowd with great music and milieu. Others include the nearby La Bodega at Cangkat Tong Shin. Other interesting areas for hang out include the Heritage Row behind the Sheraton Imperial and of course Jalan Telawi in Bangsar, though a little bit out of the way from the city centre, but it is worth it to discover as there are so many interesting hang out place like La Bodega, Alexis, Vintage, Telawi Bistro, Social Club and when you get hungry again after those dancing and body shaking, you can eat those Indian breads and pan cakes at Devi’s restaurant or Nasi Lemak at the nearby food stall.
If you are coming to KL in March, you might want to do a little excursion to catch the Formula One in Sepang, which is not far from KL, if you take the train to KLIA. And it is really worth it as the whole world would be there. There would be series of concerts during the event and it is becoming an event where people would like to be seen, including superstars like Jackie Chan, Michelle Yeoh, Ken Watanabe, Bai Ling, Paula Abdul, Diana Krall, Lauryn Hill. It’s becoming the ‘Ascot of England’ and the sports of 21st Century. For goodness sake, Formula One is the sports event with the most spectators now. If not, just join them for the party in KL.
Oops, I forget to tell that, it is better to take ERL, the train to Kuala Lumpur, from KLIA to KL Central. It only costs RM35 (RM1 is about RP2500) and it only takes 30 minutes. From KL Central, you could either take taxi to the hotel or if the hotel that you choose is connected to the LRTs or Monorail, that would be faster. But if you want to arrive at the hotel stylishly, get the Limo from KL Central. "Give me a call when you reach KLIA, I will wait for you in KL to have fun" my last sentence before I put down the phone.

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