The Business Traveller Asia-Pacific team takes an experiential trip around the Malaysian capital.
Kuala Lumpur is a riot of the senses, but how does it affect each one? Here we share some of the ways in which we’ve found the Malaysian capital delivers great sensations.
No Black Tie
In Kuala Lumpur, jazz music and No Black Tie are synonymous. This is usually the only place mentioned when anyone asks where to go to hear some Coltrane or Hancock.
Established in 1998 by US-trained classical pianist Evelyn Hii, this club-cum-Japanese restaurant and bar has seen Malaysia’s – and the region’s – top singers, musicians and literati parade their myriad talents. The intimate stage is set in interiors marrying wood and glass, and guests can sit on either the lower or upper level.
The entrance fee to the club area depends on the performer, with prices beginning at RM$30/£6 (with occasional free events). Note that consumables have to be paid for in cash – as the staff will explain, this is so the band gets paid, as a time-worn tradition is that they are paid in cash at the end of each night.
The restaurant’s house speciality is soft-shell crab presented in a variety of ways – as a salad with thousand-island dressing, wrapped in dry seaweed, or served with cucumber and prawn roe, among others. Monthly kaiseki (traditional multi-course) menus are also available.
- 17 Jalan Mesui, off Jalan Nagasari; tel +60 3 2142 3737; noblacktie.com.my
Margie T Logarta
Kuala Lumpur Bird Park
Even though the peacock is the national bird of my home country of India, I have never seen one as closely as I did at Kuala Lumpur Bird Park, located only ten minutes’ drive from the city centre. It was only during my visit that I discovered how shy peacocks actually are, despite their grand demeanour. But it’s not only peacocks you’ll find here – the park is home to 3,000 birds of almost 200 species, most of which fly around freely and interact with visitors.
The park is split into four areas: zones one and two are the free-flight zones, where you’ll find all kinds of birds – from the magnificent royal peacocks to flamingos – living together in the same space. You will also find Brahminy Land in zone one, where a live eagle feeding show takes place.
Zone three is the Hornbill Park, home to these large, gorgeous creatures from the Malay Peninsula and Malaysian Borneo. Zone four offers more educational facilities, such as a nursery with egg incubators and a gallery and education centre, as well as the World of Parrots, a mini aviary housing species such as cockatoos and parakeets, where you have the opportunity to feed lories every day.
Even if you are not a bird person, such a colourful display provides a beautiful spectacle, and you can also enjoy a refreshing walk in the park. Entry is
RM48 (£10) for adults.
- 920 Jalan Cenderawasih,?Taman Tasik Perdana; tel +60 3 2272 1010; klbirdpark.com
Petronas Twin Towers
I love high places so, whenever I am visiting a city with a tall tower, I’ll try to make time to visit it. The city’s most recognisable landmark, the 88-storey Petronas Twin Towers are the world’s tallest twin structures, at 452 metres high, and are home to office buildings, conference halls and the 14,000 sqm Suria KLCC mall at its base.
Designed by Argentinian-American architect Cesar Pelli, the flatplan and exterior of the complex were inspired by the geometric shapes found in Islamic architecture and symbols. The two-storey Skybridge links the towers on the 41st and 42nd floors. Instead of physically connecting the towers, the bridge actually slides in and out of them on bearings, supported by a three-hinged arch, to offset movement caused by wind. It provides additional support to the whole structure and if there was a fire in one tower, those on the upper floors would have an escape route to the other.
Visitors are only allowed on the lower level of the bridge, but from 170 metres above ground, I enjoyed a commanding view of the most moneyed neighbourhoods of the city and the busy thoroughfare of Jalan Ampang.
A visit to the Skybridge and observation deck, where you can view an informative display and video about the construction of the towers, and their environmentally friendly features, costs RM80 (£16). Open 9am-9pm Tues-Sun.
- City centre; tel +60 3 2331 8080; petronastwintowers.com
Forest Research Institute Malaysia
Being from Australia I have seen some impressive tropical forest, so I was surprised by how much a visit to the Forest Research Institute Malaysia (FRIM) moved me. It is set in a vast, breath-taking place – some 515 hectares of tropical forest abundant with activities for all ages and fitness levels, from bike rides to a canopy walk high in the trees.
I opted for a guided walk (from RM80/£16 per group of 30 people or less; individual walk-in charges to FRIM begin at RM5/£1), something I can highly recommend as the guides are passionate about their working environment and are full of interesting facts that really help you to appreciate the magic of the place. Other attractions include botanical gardens, a wetland area, Malay traditional houses, an ethno-botanic garden and an arboretum. There are also picnic spots and a camping area for those with more time to spare. Located only 16km from Kuala Lumpur, it’s the perfect way to escape the bustle of the city.
- 52109 Kepong, Selangor Darul Ehsan; tel +60 3 6279 7000; frim.gov.my
Tea, teh, cha... call it what you like but you will find it almost everywhere in Kuala Lumpur, be it at the hawker centre, where you can easily find the country’s favourite teh tarik (“pulled tea”, a concoction of tea and condensed milk with a deliciously frothy top), or traditional Chinese tea at any of the innumerable Chinese restaurants. Tea has always been an eminent part of Malaysian tradition, equally important to each of the constituents of its melting pot of cultures.
One of my favourite places to indulge in a cup is Chinatown, because of the excellent variety available in one small area. In particular, floral tea is a delightful treat for the senses, and a must-try.
As you walk along Jalan Sultan, you are greeted by the aroma coming from Purple Cane. This shop boasts a wide array of scented teas (from RM10/£2 for 150g), including oolong and chrysanthemum, but probably the most captivating bouquet comes from the handcrafted Blooming Scented tea. Consisting of a heady mix of, among other things, lily, rose, marigold, osmanthus, carnation, chrysanthemum and lavender, it smells and tastes wonderful.
Another teahouse that boasts aromatic delights is Kean Guan Tea Merchants. It is mostly known for its herbal infusions but also has scented jasmine tea in loose form, or mini-balls known as Jasmine Pearls – these are hand-rolled green tea leaf-and-bud sets blended with night-blooming jasmine flowers. The smell is evocative of the temples of India and festive celebrations, when an intoxicating fragrance fills the air.
- Purple Cane: Ground Floor, 11 Jalan Sultan; tel +60 3 2031 1877; purplecane.my
- Kean Guan Tea Merchants: 160 Jalan Petaling; tel +60 3 2078 5306; kgtea.com
Restoran Kin Kin
Visit this restaurant only when you have a lot of time because service is notoriously slow and grumpy. People come for one dish – pan mee, a Hokkien-style noodle dish with minced pork (RM6/£1). The recipe here is without soup and, instead, served with dark soy sauce and a half-boiled egg. You break the egg and dress the noodles with the runny yolk, and there is the option to spice it up with chilli flakes.
It took 45 minutes for mine to arrive but it was worth waiting for – the locals who shared my table, including a group of government workers taking advantage of their long Friday lunch hour, seemed to agree. The location is a little out of the way, 2km west of the city centre, but if you have the time, it’s worth a visit.
- 40 Jalan Dewan Sultan Sulaiman 1 (parallel to Jalan Tunku Abdul Rahman), Chow Kit.
With several cuisines under one roof – including Malay, Chinese, Indian, Ibanese and Nyonya – Makan Kitchen in the Doubletree by Hilton is one of my favourite places to enjoy a taste of Kuala Lumpur, where all these diverse communities come together.
The food is presented in an open-kitchen format so you can see the chefs in action, with dishes served buffet style (from RM12/£2) and speciality dishes available from an à la carte menu. Each cuisine zone features décor that reflects its origin, and the produce is top quality.
Standout dishes include sup pindang daging – traditionally prepared slow-cooked beef broth infused with turmeric and aromatic Malay spices – and pansoh manuk, where chicken is slowly cooked and served in bamboo, creating a succulent and fragrant dish. For a heat hit, try the devil curry chicken or opt for a classic fish tikka. Also of note is the otak otak, a Nyonyan dish of spiced fish and prawn mousse infused with lemongrass and chilli, wrapped in a banana leaf before being cooked on a griddle. Street foods such as satay, wok-fried noodles and laksa are also available, and there is an extensive selection of desserts.
Open from 6am to 12am daily, Makan Kitchen seats 350 people and features a number of semi-private and private rooms.
- Doubletree by Hilton, the Intermark, 182 Jalan Tun Razak; tel +60 3 2172 7272; makan-kitchen.com
From the moment I stepped into the Sensory room at the Ritz-Carlton hotel’s Spa Village, I knew this would be an unusual spa experience – the 60-minute Sensory Exploration session (RM225/£46) is noticeably different in that it is designed to stimulate each of the five senses.
The first step was to write down any negative thoughts on a piece of paper, which was placed in a small bowl of water. The instructor then took me through a guided meditation that involved deep breathing followed by listening to music (and feeling sound vibrations) and gongs, and I was asked to listen to the music with my heart. I must admit I did stifle a giggle or two.
Next, my sense of taste was stimulated by having to close my eyes while tasting bitter (gourd), sour (lemon), salt, and sweet (dried fruit). I was asked to visualise the tastes and, between each, an aromatic towel was pressed to my face and I inhaled eucalyptus oil – I was asked to taste the smell. Lights gently changed colour in the ceiling for further sensory stimulation.
The therapist then gave me a superb head and neck massage. A 25-minute foot and lower-leg massage followed while lights twinkled, music played, aromas filled the air and floor vibrations were felt, adding to the sense of peace and relaxation.
The final part involved choosing a gemstone, holding it over my heart and making a wish, and when I glanced at the paper with the negative thoughts... it was blank. The treatment is designed to leave you fresh, rejuvenated and balanced, which is exactly how I felt. It had also removed the noticeable stress from my face and I thought I looked several years younger.
- Ritz-Carlton, 168 Jalan Imbi; tel +60 3 2142 8000; spavillage.com
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