Walking tour: Kuala Lumpur

30 Apr 2007 by business traveller

Julian Tan makes a short escape from monotony of meetings and explore Kuala Lumpur's wealth of historical attractions. Now if only the walls could talk.

Seven-time Tour de France champion Lance Armstrong once remarked: “I would want to do Australia, do Malaysia – just some stuff that’s different. Everest is not on my list.” Biking’s poster boy should have come along with me then on my recent trip to Kuala Lumpur (KL), where I spent an enjoyable three hours in-between appointments rediscovering the city on foot. I’m certain he would have found enough to write home about. “From the Pasar Seni (Central Market), you can walk to many places of interest like Chinatown, the Sultan Abdul Samad Building and National History Museum,” the concierge at Crowne Plaza Hotel, where I had concluded a meeting, informed me, whipping out a map from under the counter. The prospect of taking a break from enclosed spaces and interminable interviews seemed refreshing, except that I forgot it was 32ºC outside and sweltering, even the pavement seemed to be soaked. I had never done a historical walk around KL – known for earthy hawker fare, shopping, the F1 Grand Prix and, of course, the iconic 451.9-metre Petronas Twin Towers, which figured in Pierce Brosnan’s Tomorrow Never Dies. Getting acquainted with a big city like KL can be challenging, but thanks to the city’s Light Rail Transit (LRT) system, it took me under 30 minutes to travel from KL City Centre to Pasar Seni, where my journey started. Located opposite the LRT station is the Central Market, a blue 1930s art-deco building bustling with activities. Dating from 1888, the landmark occupies what used to be a popular open-air wet market. To preserve it from inevitable demolition and conserve a colourful slice of the past, the Malaysian Heritage Society acquired the building in the late 1970s and conducted a total refurbishment, amounting to M$9 million (US$2.6 million). The result: a one-stop showcase of Malaysian culture and handicrafts. Bamboo wind chimes, straw baskets, batik, printed tees, silver and semiprecious jewellery, manicure and pedicure services, local pastries and more are carried in over 100 shops that stand cheek-by-jowl in the air-conditioned market. Live angklung (a bamboo musical instrument indigenous to Malaysia and Indonesia) performances are held at varying times throughout the day. Browsing in the shops alone could take an afternoon – and, oh, did I mention that there are also restaurants and an ice-cream parlour? After a brief lunch, I continued my journey on foot, heading around the back of the market to get across the bridge over Klang River. A stone’s throw from the Central Market is the Merdeka Square Heritage Trail, consisting of the Sultan Abdul Samad Building, Merdeka Square (Independence Square), also called Dataran Merdeka, and National History Museum among others. The padang (field), fronted by the exclusive Royal Selangor Club founded in 1884, features the national flag crowning a 100-metre flag pole. It was here where the Union Jack was lowered on August 31, 1957 signifying Malaysia’s liberation from British rule. It has also served as the venue for police parades and cricket matches. Today, the landscaped area with gardens, terraces and fountains plays host to National Day celebrations. Funny enough, the Royal Selangor Club got its nickname “The Spotted Dog” after the Police Commissioner’s wife brought her black and white Dalmatians there. Along the same side of the street is the National History Museum. Opened in 1996, the impressive structure features Moorish and Islamic architectural influences. Recognising its roots as a telecommunication base during the Japanese occupation and a commercial bank until 1965, the Department of Museums and Antiquities earmarked the building for heritage conservation in 1991 and converted it into a museum. Among the artefacts on display are the table used to sign the Pangkor Treaty in 1874 indicating a British role in Malaysian politics, and the first Federation of Malaya flag that was raised in 1957 to mark the country’s independence. Next to the museum is the Galeri Kuala Lumpur, which houses an ongoing art exhibition on the ground floor of the City Library. Other facilities include a theatre and meeting venues for rent. By then, I had finished my bottled mineral water, and as I was waiting at a traffic junction to get to my next destination, I was joined by a group of camera-toting Caucasian tourists and their tour guide who were alighting from their air-conditioned bus. Though I was sorely tempted to hop into their bus for some respite from the afternoon heat, I soldiered on determined to see the cultural marathon through. Located diagonally opposite the Galeri is the Sultan Abdul Samad Building. Constructed in 1897, the ornate edifice boasts Moorish features, a clock tower and copper domes. The former British Secretariat building is now the Supreme and High Courts and is beautifully illuminated when night falls. Further up, along the Klang and Gombak rivers, is the Masjid Jamek. The place of worship, off Jalan Tun Perak, is KL’s oldest surviving mosque. It was constructed in 1909, with even the Sultan of Selangor presiding at its debut. Inspired by the Mogul architecture of North India, this house of worship boasts cupolas and minarets soaring over the brick walls and arched colonnades, as well as a 21.3-metre dome sheltering the prayer hall. Apart from featuring striking architecture that embodies Islam’s precepts, Malaysia’s multiculturalism and diversity is further highlighted by the presence of age-old structures dating back to its colonial days. A fine example is the Cathedral of Saint Mary The Virgin, a Gothic edifice with stained glass windows, tasselled tile paving and buttresses. Word has it that a government architect by the name of A C Norman proposed the design and W H Treacher, a British resident, carried out the laying of the foundation stone in 1894. A short walk away from Masjid Jamek is Jalan Tun H S Lee, where you’ll find a stretch of some of KL’s oldest shophouses from the mid-1880s. Also known as High Street, it was one of the early streets characterised by brick and tiled Chinese shophouses. Here, five-foot ways or pedestrian walkways are built a tad lower than the road surface. Soon it was time to wander back from the past and prepare for the present – yet another dinner with clients. A biking ride around this lively city is certainly next on my agenda. Has anyone got Lance’s email?


While it’s Visit Malaysia Year, 2007 also marks the 50th anniversary of the country’s independence from colonial rule. Visitors can look forward to a kaleidoscope of cultural festivals and international sports and recreational events, and the meetings and incentive market is also catered to. “Visit Malaysia Year (coincides) with the 50th national independence anniversary, making it an even more meaningful occasion for everyone,” says the Honourable Datuk Seri Tengku Adnan Tengku Mansor, Minister of Tourism, Malaysia. “Many exciting programmes are lined up to celebrate Visit Malaysia Year 2007 and our relatively young nation’s Golden Jubilee. It is our hope that all Malaysians will participate in making this event a memorable and successful one as we welcome the world to our shores.” Event highlights include the Colours of Malaysia parade on May 26 (the festival until June 10 showcases the country’s rich and diverse cultural heritage), and Merdeka Day on August 31 where Malaysians will commemorate the country’s independence. For more information, visit www.tourism.gov.my


Cathedral of Saint Mary the Virgin tel 60 3 2692 8672 Central Market Jalan Hang Kasturi Open daily, from 1100 to 2200 LRT station: Pasar Seni Royal Selangor Club www.rscweb.org.my National History Museum Open daily, from 0900 to 1800 Admission: M$1 (US$0.30) www.nationalhistorymuseum.gov.my Galeri Kuala Lumpur Open daily (except public holidays), from 1000 to 2100 tel 60 3 2612 3500 Kuala Lumpur Hotels


WHAT'S IT LIKE? Conducted an extensive M$5 million (US$1.45 million) refurbishment of its meeting facilities and venues.

WHERE IS IT? Set on five hectares of landscaped gardens in the heart of the city's banking and commercial precinct.

HOW MANY ROOMS? 565 rooms and suites boasting a fresh, contemporary style; non-smoking floors available.

ROOM FACILITIES: An oversized bathtub with rainforest shower, work desk, broadband internet access and satellite TV among others.

DINING: Planter's Inn for local and international favourites throughout the day, ISHq for Pan-Asian cuisine and gourmet delicatessen Tiffins.

BARS: Casual meetings can be held at Glass Lounge or Club Bar, or boogie to house music at Sugar Club, complete with Wi-Fi.

BUSINESS FACILITIES: Grand ballroom can accommodate up to 1,400 banquet or theatre style; and 27 function rooms of various sizes.

LEISURE FACILITIES: Pool offering views of the Petronas Twin Towers. Also a fitness centre and Angsana Spa with 22 therapy rooms.

PRICE: US$120 online for three nights in a Crowne Plaza Club Room in early July.

CONTACT: Jalan Sultan Ismail, 50250 Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, tel 60 3 2148 2322, www.crowneplaza.com/kualalumpur


WHAT'S IT LIKE? A trendy four-star business hotel in an excellent address that provides the standard amenities.

WHERE IS IT? A quick stroll from the convention centre, Petronas Twin Towers and other major tourist and shopping attractions.

HOW MANY ROOMS? 335 guestrooms and suites ranging from 30 to 60 sqm, including non-smoking floors.

ROOM FACILITIES: High-speed internet connection, individually controlled air conditioning, minibar and electronic safe among others.

DINING: One - Tonka Bean Café.Deli on the ground floor features all-day dining with a choice of indoor and alfresco seating and a deli.

BARS: Bohemia Tobacco.Bar caters to cigar aficionados; Oswego Bar.Wine has a small private dining room; and lobby lounge.

BUSINESS FACILITIES: Two banquet halls can take up to 450 when combined; and four meeting rooms, two of which can add up to 108 sqm.

LEISURE FACILITIES: Pool with Jacuzzi, gym, aerobics rooms and the newly opened Swasana Spa offering Thai and Balinese treatments.

PRICE: US$132 online for three nights in a Deluxe King Room in early July.

CONTACT: 13 Jalan Pinang, 50450 Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, tel 60 3 2147 1111, www.impiana.com


WHAT'S IT LIKE? This five-star property boasts of a 24-hour state-of-the-art security system and CCTV survelillance in its public areas.

WHERE IS IT? Situated in KL's Golden Triangle and CBD and within walking distance of the convention centre.

HOW MANY ROOMS? 448 guestrooms and 160 serviced apartments with equipped kitchens.

ROOM FACILITIES: Broadband internet access, multi-feature phone, separate shower, cable TV and aromatherapy among others.

DINING: Eccucino Brasserie for all-day dining, Tai Zi Heen (Chinese) and Taishojin (Japanese).

BARS: Mezzanine Bar & Lounge, Fidel's Cigar Room and Terrace Poolside Bar & Grill.

BUSINESS FACILITIES: A dedicated meetings and banquet floor features a pillarless grand ballroom for up to 800 and nine function rooms.

LEISURE FACILITIES: Fitness centre, landscaped swimming pool with Jacuzzi, tropical garden, Mandara Spa and kids' club.

PRICE: US$125 for three nigths in a Grand Deluxe Room in early July.

CONTACT: Jalan Conlay, 50450 Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, tel 60 3 2170 8888, www.princehotelkl.com


WHAT'S IT LIKE? Opened in June 1996, the five-star property is a favourite among heads of states, royalty and celebrities.

WHERE IS IT? Centrally located in the city centre, overlooking the Petronas Twin Towers and the Menara Tower.

HOW MANY ROOMS? 521 rooms in the contemporary East Wing and 400 in the European-style West Wing.

ROOM FACILITIES: Plush bedding, phones with voicemail, broadband Internet access, fax and PC dataport and minibar among others.

DINING: Vogue Café (Pacific Rim cuisine), Sagano (Japanese), MED@Marché (Mediterranean), Dynasty (Cantonese), Temptations (Asian) and a deli.

BARS: Live music at the Stage Lounge, Mezzo Bar with screen projectors for sports telecast and lobby lounge.

BUSINESS FACILITIES: An Olympic-size pool with bar and 24-hour fitness centre among others.

LEISURE FACILITIES: US$130 online for three nights in a Renaissance Club Room in early July.

PRICE: Corner of Jalan Sultan Ismail and Jalan Ampang, 50450 Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, tel 60 3 2162 2233, www.renaissance-kul.com


WHAT'S IT LIKE? Refurbishment began in February, with Club Floor Rooms and Lounge due for completion this July.

WHERE IS IT? Part of a 324-hectare landmark consisting of hotels, serviced residences, convention centre, theme park and shopping mall.

HOW MANY ROOMS? 441 guestrooms in this flagship property (25 minutes by car from the city) alone.

ROOM FACILITIES: Satellite TV, high-speed internet access, coffee and tea-making facilities, personal safe and minibar among others.

DINING: Avanti (Italian-American), West Lake Garden (Chinese), Sun & Surf Café (Asian and Western), Atrium (all-day dining) and over 20 outlets at Oasis Boulevard.

BARS: Enjoy snacks and cocktails while relaxing to live music at the lobby lounge.

BUSINESS FACILITIES: Over 10,000 sqm of function space when combined with the adjacent convention centre, including a new dedicated meeting zone.

LEISURE FACILITIES: Free-from swimming pool, tennis courts, 24-hour fitness centre, Mandara Spa, mall and theme park among others.

PRICE: US$161 online for three nigths in a Deluxe Room in early July.

CONTACT: Persiaran Lagoon, Bandar Sunway, 46150 Petaling Jaya, Malaysia, tel 60 3 7492 8000, www.sunwayhotels.com
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