As the iconic cityscape of Kuala Lumpur emerged, it was one of the most exciting taxi drives from any airport I’d made. Through bleary jet-lagged eyes, the iconic Petronas towers emerged like two futuristic space-crafts.
After a motorway journey just short of an hour, I was like an excited child. We’d passed miles of palm-tree woodland and hilly landscape, to finally arrive at Malaysia’s most populous and multi-cultural city.
Kate and Wills were here for three days in September as part of a nine-day Royal tour. And as cities go, it’s a captivating mix of old and new, and one of Asia’s most visited.
But what does KL have for ladies looking for a bit of luxury?
Well, with a boutique shopping scene to die for, an overwhelming choice of luxe skyscraper hotels and an eclectic Asian food scene, the answer is everything.
For Fashionista Belles
The most savvy of fashion followers can’t help but be impressed by KL’s shopping scene.
Dozens of expansive air-conditioned shopping malls are scattered across the city. Suria KLCC is one of the newest – a six-floor shopping experience at the foot of the Petronas Towers. Shop til your heart’s content in Paul Smith, Georgio Armani, and Jimmy Choo. There’s even a Harrods and M&S!
The Golden Triangle is among the most famous shopping areas. Situated by KL’s ‘Fashion Avenue’, you could spend hours in the Pavilion, among one of the newest seven-floor malls home to high street and couture fashion, dining and leisure facilities. It’s worth the visit alone for the impressive modern architecture and striking fountain positioned by the world-known cosmetics store, Sephora. Take a short walk to Bukit Bintang and you’ll find more malls than you could ever imagine. There’s even one dedicated entirely to technology!
For Explorer Belles
If you’re willing to don the backpack, pumps and tourist map, KL has so many tourist hotspots.
Merdeka Square, aka Independence Square is a huge expanse of grass where crowds celebrated Malaysia’s official independence 56 years ago. Marvel at the skyscrapers that alienate traditional Tudor-esque buildings from the British colonial era. And admire rows of international flags where Malaysia’s was first hoisted.
The majestic Sultan Abdul Samad Building and clock tower is worth admiring from the pretty landscaped gardens of the square. Soak in some history at St Mary’s Church and the National History Museum too.
For a humbler form of retail therapy, KL’s Central Market – an amazing art-deco structure – offers traditional arts and crafts. Go to the market’s ‘Little India’ for fine lace and ‘Little China’ for lanterns and wooden carvings. You’ll also find all sorts of Malay Batik sarongs, aromatherapy oils and jewellery.
A few minutes’ away from Central Market is chaotic Chinatown. Here, you’ll be hit by a heady surge of street vendors, smoke fumes and bolshy market sellers. If you’re enticed by the ‘designer’ handbags, shoes and watches be prepared to barter!
‘Little India’, aka ‘Brickfields’ is worth visiting for its beautiful display of colour. Hop on the KL Monorail to KL Sentral Station where you’ll find Jalan Tun Sambanthan – a long stretch of multi-coloured buildings, Indian stores and markets where dozens of men and women string intricate flower displays together.
For Spiritual Belles
KL has a tranquil side too. The Perdana Botanical Garden is a beautiful oasis escape from the metropolis, home to the Perdana Lake, Deer Park, Bird Park and Orchid Garden. Venture 20 minutes out of the city to The Batu Caves – a mountain-side Hindu temple and shrine accessed by climbing 272-steps. Here you’ll find the golden Hindu deity ‘Murugan’ – the tallest statue in the world. A must for breath-taking views.
For City Views
Speaking of views, KL is the city of amazing sky-high vistas. And the circular observation deck from the top of the 421m Menara known as the KL Tower, is the best you’ll get. Get there via the ‘scenic’ walk through Bukit Nanas Forest up ‘Pineapple Hill’ – you’ll feel like you’re in a faraway jungle.
The most iconic view of KL of course, is from the famous Petronas Towers. Many queue to access the skybridge – a 170m high double-decked walkway at levels 41 and 42. But book into the city’s Grand Hyatt, and you’ll already have the best ‘FROW’ seats.
For Sky-High Chic
Step out of the elevator on the 38th floor of the Grand Hyatt – and you’re at the ‘sky lobby’ the highest point of the hotel. Immaculately dressed hotel staff greet you with a nod and hand-over-the-heart welcome. And seconds later, through the lobby’s gigantic glass exterior, you’ll be hit by the breath-taking backdrop of the gigantic Twin Towers.
The ‘corner’ positioning of the 28th floor Grand View Deluxe room is probably among the most sought-after. Décor is dark wood, muted tones and chic business-like furnishings with silver lamps. But the pièce de résistance is the jaw-dropping view of the Petronas Towers, and KLCC Park.
By night, you might catch one of the spectacular fountain shows in the park’s Simfoni Lake. As 150 colourfully-lit fountains move spectacularly to music, it’s like Malaysia’s answer to the Vegas’ Bellagio.
Some of the Hyatt’s bathrooms feature a liquid crystal glass (LCG) technology whereby you can turn the frosted shower cubical opaque at the touch of a button.
And where else can you get such awe-inspiring views while taking a rainshower? This is one hotel stay you won’t forget.
For Delice Dining
You can’t visit KL’s without testing its eclectic food scene – an exciting fusion of Malay, Indian, Chinese and Eastern Asian cultures.
For real street food, hit a road-side cafe in Chinatown or downtown Bukit Bintang for authentic curries and naan.
But for super-cool dining, the Hyatt’s ‘JP Teres’ hits all the right notes.
From the chic ‘arty’ surroundings of this ground-floor venue, enjoy mouth-watering satays, beef rendang and roti canai as you watch chefs work their magic from the restaurant’s show kitchens.
If you can stand the heat, sit outside among lush greenery and water features – a hotspot for city slickers by night.
Stylish al-fresco dining also comes in the form of the Hyatt’s aptly-named ‘Poolside’ restaurant. In keeping with the architect’s circular theme, this striking poolside dining area overlooks the hotel’s oval outdoor swimming pool.
Here, you’ll get delice smoothies, snacks and the among the best ‘Nasi Lemak’ on offer. And if you can’t muster up the energy to stir from your four-poster bed sun lounger, why not open the nifty bedside box and call for a waiter? How’s that for first class service?
For sky-high dining, THIRTY8 restaurant offers an unrivalled ambience for some more traditional cuisine.
It’s more starched tablecloths and steaks, seafood, and sushi, than satays and noodles. But again, thanks to the hotel’s clever oval design, get the right table and dining comes served a panoramic view.
For Sky-High Cocktails
Ask any KL visitor for the best skybar and they’ll probably say the swanky Trader’s at the Shangri-La. Here, cocktail hour happens poolside, on the hotel’s 33rd floor.
But we Belles like to keep ahead of the trends. And we reckon Marini’s on 57 is KL’s best vertiginous nightspot.
Take an ear-popping elevator up 57 floors and you’ll find a chic cocktail bar, house music and arty surrounds.
Sip on cosmos and be dazzled by the bats circling in the glow of the Petronas speres overhead. It’ll satisfy any thrill-seeker’s appetite.
For lesser vertigo-loving night-owls, the bustling Bukit Bintang is KL’s answer to NYC’s Times Square – a mad mix of neon lights and hectic crowds. Tucked behind the backpacking district is the classier Changkat Bukit Bintang – known by locals as ‘Changkat’. Uber-trendy Frangipani bar and restaurant is top of the trendiest nightspots.
For Escapism and Indulgence
No KL visitor should board a homeward-bound plane without sampling a Malaysian spa. The Hyatt’s Essa Spa offers treatments based on ‘ramuan’ – a traditional Malay method of preparing ingredients. The Essential Calm massage – a mix of jasmine, ylang ylang, bergamot and frangipani is the perfect tonic for tourist fatigue, and the best farewell you could get from this dazzling city.
Grand Hyatt Kuala Lumpur, 12 Jalan Pinang, 50450 Kuala Lumpur, +60 3 2182 1234
For details on JP Teres, THIRTY8, Poolside, and the Essa Spa, visit www.kualalumpur.grandhyatt.com
Marini’s on 57, Level 3 Petronas, Persiaran KLCC, 50088 Kuala Lumpur, +603 2386 6030, www.marini’s57.com
Trader’s Skybar, Traders Hotel, Kuala Lumpur City Centre, 50088, +60 3 2332 9888, www.skybar.com.my