Things to Do in Kuala Lumpur
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.
To truly feel the pulse of Kuala Lumpur, plan to spend a few hours walking one of its busiest streets, Bintang Walk. Located in the heart of Bukit Bintang, a neighborhood with the highest concentration of shopping outlets in the city, Bintang Walk runs along the area’s main artery, Jalan Bukit Bintang, but has come to encompass the surrounding area as well.
While the shopping scene is what initially attracted tourists and locals to the area, Bintang Walk has grown beyond a mere commercial center. There’s plenty of shopping to be done, but the streets here are also lined with cafes, hip nightclubs, eateries and vendors serving up just about anything one could want. This is also one of the best areas in the city to find Arabian food. While Bintang Walk is buzzing throughout the week, weekend evenings are the prime time to see the area at its peak of activity, as a mixture of local youth and foreign tourists congregate to shop, eat, drink, see and be seen.
A crowning achievement of the Heritage of Malaysia Trust, Rumah Penghulu, or Malay House, is a traditional stilt house from Kampung Sungai Kechil, a small town in Kedah in the very north of the country.
It was the house of a local headman and is suitably impressive in design. There are three main areas; the living area, the bedroom and the kitchen and dining area. The house is solid wood and was built through the 1920s and 30s. It was bought by the trust and painstakingly moved to Kuala Lumpur where it was restored to its former glory and is a celebrated part of preserving the nation’s heritage.
A fascinating exercise in building a city from scratch, Putrajaya is the administrative capital of Malaysia and located just south of Kuala Lumpur.
Planned as an "intelligent" and "garden" city the Putrajaya has wide boulevards and many lovely parks where the city’s population, mainly government workers, unwind and get back in touch with nature. The park offering the best views of the city is Taman Putra Perdana next to Perdana Putra. The city is home to many showcase buildings including the Putra Mosque which is a vision in pink with the highest dome in South East Asia, it can fit 15,000 worshipers. Perdana Putra is the Prime Minister’s office and the jewel in the crown of Putrajaya. The educational Millennium Monument gives an insight into the history of Malaysia.
More Things to Do in Kuala Lumpur
Putrajaya Bridge, perhaps the most important bridge in Malaysia, spans Putrajaya Lake at a length of 1,427 feet (435 meters). Inspired by the Khaji Bridge in Iran, the Putrajaya Bridge combines cable backstays and steel tiebacks to create an elegant, sail-like appearance reminiscent of Santiago Calatrava’s sculptural bridges.
The lower level of the bridge accommodates motor traffic and a monorail across the lake, connecting the Government Precinct in the North to a Mixed Development Precinct in the South, while the upper level carries a pedestrian path for jogging, walking or cycling. It’s also a popular spot for watching the sun set over Putrajaya Lake in the evening. At night, changing colored lights illuminate the bridge.
Malaysia’s Cameron Highlands, a hill station approximately the size of Singapore, is one of the country’s largest resort areas and a popular escape from the heat and humidity of Kuala Lumpur. Located in the west of the country, about 124 miles (200 kilometers) from Kuala Lumpur, the Cameron Highlands enjoy a mean annual temperature of 64 degrees Fahrenheit (18 degrees Celsius), and temperatures rarely rise above 77 Fahrenheit (25 Celsius).
The vast area is largely agricultural, making it possible to tour tea plantations, visit bee and butterfly farms, stroll through flower-filled gardens or stay in one of the charming inns that looks straight out of Tudor-era England. Like in much of Malaysia, adventure travelers come to trek in the Cameron Highlands, where you might get lucky and spot the Rafflesia flower, the largest flower in the world.
Get a taste of the local flora and fauna at Kuala Lumpur’s Forest Reserve Institute of Malaysia (FRIM). At over 3,775 acres, FRIM holds hundreds of plant species and both regenerated and secondary forest.
Visitors hike along shady trails past a river and waterfall cutting through the forest, as well as the remains of an old Orang Asli settlement. The Dipterocarp arboretum is a collection of living trees for botanical reference, and the Bambusetum features 30 different species of local bamboo.
The more adventurous may want to explore some of the four jungle tracks: Keruing Trail, Rover Track, Engkabang Trail and Salleh Trail, all of which pass through some of most spectacular secondary forests in Malaysia.
Also a highlight is the Canopy Walk, allowing up close exploration of the rainforest’s treetops. Canopy Walks are limited to 250 people per day and are closed Monday and Friday.
Get up close and personal with rare Asian elephants—only 1,200 remain in the wild—at the Kuala Gandah Elephant Sanctuary outside of Kuala Lumpur. Established in 1989 within the Krau Wildlife Reserve, the sanctuary is managed by the Malaysian Wildlife Society and has a goal of taking in elephants orphaned by poaching or logging and raising them until they can be reintroduced to the wild.
The sanctuary is also home to a group of resident elephants. Visitors can come face to face with these gentle giants and get the unique opportunity to join baby elephants for a bath in the river, as long as the water level isn’t too high. If you prefer to just watch and learn about the elephants, the sanctuary has observation points, and a short National Geographic-produced video is often screened, telling about the organization’s elephant translocation project.
Located in Malaysia’s Titiwangsa Mountains, Taman Negara National Park comprises 1,677 square miles (4,343 square kilometers) of densely forested area, making it the largest national park in peninsular Malaysia and one of the most pristine primary rainforests left on the planet. Famous for its rich biodiversity, the park is home to exotic and endangered species such as elephants, leopards, tigers and many more types of birds and insects than one could ever hope to see in a single visit.
For many years, Taman Negara National Park was only accessible by way of boat, and jungle cruises remain one of the most popular means of wildlife spotting. More intrepid travelers can hire a guide for treks into the rainforest that vary in length from a few hours to several days. For a different perspective on the jungle environment, take the Canopy Walk, a suspension bridge perfect for spotting colorful birds hiding in the tree branches.
In recent years the bustling capital city of Kuala Lumpur has transformed from a lively city to an Asian economic hub, complete with modern skyscrapers and contemporary shopping plazas. This diverse city showcases the culture and history of some 2 million Malay, Chinese and Indian residents that call the capital of Malaysia home. And while the city is ripe for travel with plenty to do, see and experience, Kuala Lumpur receives torrential downpour nearly half the year. Crazy rains bring traffic in its bustling city streets to a standstill. Luckily, the risk of getting soaked is lowest during peak cruising season, from January to February (though it still might be worth packing a poncho, just in case).
Port Klang may be a fair distance from Kuala Lumpur, but a variety of services—including fixed-priced roundtrip taxis and local car rentals make getting to the capital city relatively easy for intrepid travelers.
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