The Beginner’s Guide to Kuala Lumpur

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October 26 Petronas Towers Kuala Lumpur

The city of Kuala Lumpur (KL) may be a modern economic hub, but it’s far from being a humdrum concrete jungle. The most populous state of Malaysia is famous for its street food, historical sites and colourful cultures, all while retaining a uniquely old world charm. Explore all the capital has to offer by eating, shopping and sightseeing around town.

Rice-Curry-Nasi-Lemak-Kuala-Lumpur

Copyright: Tisay

Local Delights

No trip to KL is complete without sampling the famous banana leaf rice – a traditional South Indian speciality. Kick-off your culinary adventure at Vishal Food & Catering, a popular, authentic and wonderfully gritty eatery serving up plates of rich and comforting spicy curries, vegetarian dishes and a mind-blogging variety of meats, fish and poultry – all piled atop a steaming mountain of biryani.

Of course, nasi lemak – an aromatic rice dish cooked with coconut milk and pandan leaves – is one of Malaysia’s many national dishes you should try at least once. Nasi Lemak CT Garden offers a buffet of sides such as the signature beef rendang (beef simmered in coconut milk and spices), ayam kampong goring (fried chicken) and sambal tempe goreng (fried fermented soya bean cake with sweet chilli paste) for a solid and hearty meal.

If you still have a little room for spice in your tummy, then fill it up with traditional Nyonya cuisine from Straits Food Company. The menu comprises dishes such as pongteh chicken (stewed chicken with potatoes), Nyonya laksa (rice vermicelli in spicy coconut broth), popiah (spring rolls) and pai tee (a savoury tart filled with thinly sliced vegetables and carrots). This quirky café – set in a charming shop house, surrounded by lush greenery and furnished with cosy modern-retro furniture – is also a great place to chill out.

Shopping Galore

Selling an assortment of fashion accessories, books, home decor and more, you will find fun and quirky souvenirs at Snackfood for friends who scoff at clichéd mementos like magnets and t-shirts. Looking for something for yourself? A.L.L.I.E.N – an edgy fashion boutique curated by stylist and designer Allien Gan – stocks urban streetwear and accessories made by emerging local designers as well as his own fashion line. You also can’t miss the many street markets, such as the Publika Rasa-Rasa Bazaar, which sells local food, desserts and bites on the first Tuesday of every month.

Scenic Sights

Batu-Caves-Kuala-Lumpur

Copyright: LW Yang

Venture just outside the city for a dose of nature. The Batu Caves are a popular tourist destination, famously known for their network of caves and cave temples on a limestone hill. Climb 272 concrete steps to reach the Temple Cave built by Indian trader K.Thamboosamy Pillai, which has a rich history dating back 1920 – just remember to wear comfy shoes.

Kuala-Lumpur-Skyline

Copyright: Naim Fadil

For an authentic peek at Malay culture, pop by Kampung Baru – a village located right in the heart of the city. This unusual juxtaposition of old and new world has yet to be gentrified by developers and you’ll see rustic kampong houses, coconut trees and hawker stalls selling real Malay street food like rojak and satay – all with a view of the gleaming cityscape in the background.

Alternatively, go on the path less travelled and check out the city’s colourful graffiti street art at Pasar Seni, Masjid Jamek and Jalan Sultan, which is often a social commentary on the country’s hot-button topics.

For more on where to eat or drink, check out our helpful restaurant guide and our guide to the best bars in Kuala Lumpur.

Image credits: Naim Fadil, LW Yang, Tisay, Asia City Media Group

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