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Published June 19th 2013
All this cites of this iconic city in one day
My family and I did Kuala Lumpur, known as KL by the locals, in one day. A very early start and a very late finished, we managed to take in much of what this city has to offer, but it does leave you wanting more.
Kuala Lumpur is a city of duality. As you drive its streets you are greeted by some of the most magnificent architectural sites on the planet, this is in strict contrast with the poverty and perceived disorganisation of the surrounding residential and market neighbourhoods. Beauty and excess is in direct competition with the practicalities of everyday life of the people who inhabit the area.
First stop was the Kings Palace (Istana Negara), it was converted to the official residence of Yang Di-Pertuan Agong (Supreme Head) in the late 1950's which is the time it underwent its refurbishment to the standard that can be seen today. This palace is quite striking; its architecture is classically Islamic, which is amazing to see outside of the Middle East. The palace sits 13acres (50,000 m²) of land, and is guarded by Royal guards on foot and horseback. While there is no opportunity to enter, even though the official residence changed in 2011, there are plenty of photo opportunities outside the gates. It is welcome and expected; sometimes the guard will even pose for photos.
National Museum I think that any visit to another country should include a look into their history and culture. There is nowhere better than to do this than the National Museum. This is not the most expansive museum I have ever been to, nor the most well curated, however it does a great job in giving a general overview of an old and complex Nation and an insight into the culture. The museum is built in the style of a traditional Malay house, which only adds to its appeal. There are four main galleries Early History, Malay Kingdoms, Colonial Era and Malaysia Today feature history of Malaysia from prehistoric days to the present.
You take a trip through the Malaysian development into what it is today. Take note of the artwork on the outside of the museum as you enter, it is quite striking.
Jamek Mosque This is a spectacle, to get in there is a small cost and you have to dress in full length robes covering the head and exposed area of the arms and legs. It is well worth it to wander around this feat of Islamic architecture.
Be quiet and respectful as it is still an operational mosque in a largely Muslim country, but take the opportunity to take photos and religious or not, breathe in the atmosphere. It is quite a contrast, the Mosques, the oldest in Malaysia, is in the centre of this bustling capital, yet there is an eerie sense of history, peace and tranquillity you can feel when walking around this structure. The size and intricacy of it is in itself a feat, this is a must see if you come to KL.
You cannot go to KL or any capital without experiencing the shopping. In KL this comes in two forms. There are the must see Petronas Towers, a dominating feature of the Malaysian landscape and quite famous (appearing in several films). These towers used to, until recently, be the 2nd highest building in the World and still ranks at number 7 at a height of 451.9 metres or the 88-stories.
Externally they are spectacular, inside they are breathtaking. The styling and design of this shopping complex is quite remarkable. It is one of the most spacious centres I have been into and as for the retailers; every high end distributer has a presence in the towers, including Armani, Chopard, Hermes, and Gucci. The towers also serve as home bases for blue chip companies such as Bloomberg, Boeing, IBM, Microsoft and Reuters.
This is shopping in style and luxury and removes the visitor from the hustle and bustle of greater Malaysia outside.
Opposing this is another must do. The Central Markets were first established in 1888 as a wet open market. Soon enough as people flocked in a permanent structure was built and now the markets are a mix of small permanent shops and market stalls. Here you will find a little of everything, it is the place to go for those cliché gifts to bring back for family and friends. Be warned this market can get extremely busy and it is quite easy to get turned around in. It is not the greatest of World markets, but you cannot go away claiming they did not have what you were looking for.
Experiencing both shopping options within an hour or so of each other is quite the culture shock; I definitely advise anyone who wants to experience all aspects of KL to do both.
Kuala Lumpur is a fantastic modern Asia Pacific city; it is metropolitan and at times hectic. Like other cities in the World it has its contrasts, they just seem a lot more stark here, where the poverty of the city is set against the excess of somewhere like the Petronas Towers. This does not detract from the visit, if anything it adds to it, as you get a true indication of what KL is. A city struggling to grow and advance while fettered by economic and social shackles. This is a city I will definitely be going back to.