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The Best of Kuala Lumpur

November 13, 2014

Around the Malaysian capital, Mark Lean steps beyond the glitzy rooftop bars, mean martinis and killer views to uncover a city full of charms to the many cultures that call it home. Photographed by Kit Chan.

Published on Nov 13, 2014

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Lay of the Land

Bukit Bintang
The city's main shopping thoroughfare has malls like Pavilion, where you can take the air-conditioned elevated walkway to Suria KLCC mall and Petronas Twin Towers.

Suria KLCC Mall and Petronas Twin Towers

In this suburb popular with expats, there's a mix of eateries and shops plus a Sunday evening market with delicious street food.

Petaling Jaya
Most locals live in PJ. The SS2 neighborhood is famous for all-you-can-eat durian buffets ( at late-night stalls.

Mont Kiara
Visit here for the Publika Gallery (, a mall that combines art installations with quirky shops, restaurants and bars.

Publika Gallery
Publika Gallery

Find most embassies on these wide and leafy streets. The restaurants and bars offer an alternative to the gridlocked weekend party scene in central KL.

Getting Around
Taxi fares are inconsistently priced. Hail one at a hotel, and insist on the meter.

From hip to classic, five properties to check out.

Candy-striped rugs, comfy magenta sofas, colorful pop art and pool tables turn this unconventional business hotel into one of the city's hippest spots to hold a meeting or hang out. Or both. Its handy location, on the doorstep of KL Sentral, the transport hub, ensures that you steer away from traffic when heading out, and to the airport. Jln. Stesen Sentral; +603 2723 1188;

Aloft Kuala Lumpur Sentral
W XYZ℠ bar at Aloft Kuala Lumpur Sentral

This storied 300-room property with a wing built in 1932 matches Art Deco glamour with interiors decked out in refined beige and burnished brown hues, and freestanding bathtubs in rooms. In the evenings, pop into the chandeliered bar with its white tuxedoed pianist and grand piano, for a refreshing gin and tonic, garnished with a slice of cool cucumber. Jln. Sultan Hishamuddin; +603 2785 8000;

The Majestic
The storied Majestic

The rooms here check all the high-tech boxes: LED televisions; MP3 docking stations; and, for privacy, LCG cubes in bathing areas. On Sundays, join the high society for champagne brunch at Thirty8, the restaurant with eye-popping views of the city. Jln. Pinang; +603 2182 1234;

Kitted out in tasteful gold furnishings and varnished cane chairs, this hotel marries comfort with classic Malay design. The views from the club lounge are a bonus, with the Petronas Twin Towers just next door. Dress to impress at MO Bar, popular with socialites and corporate types. Jln. Pinang; +603 2380 8888;

Mandarin Oriental Kuala Lumpur
The golden Mandarin Oriental

Smooth granite flooring, aluminum-caged beds and nets to keep mosquitos away are sure signs that this five-room residence isn't your typical hotel. It's better than it sounds, really. The bare environs are offset by lush greenery, funky avianinspired murals and a manicured rooftop garden, ideal for reading a book and catching some rays. 42A Jln. Terasek, Bangsar;


Stylish Malaysian designers and one-of-a-kind stores.

A label by one of Malaysia's most stylish and best-dressed personalities, Farah Khan is all about maximized glamour. The form-flattering beaded column dresses, hand-sewn by Southeast Asian artisans, have found a following with celebrities like Kimora Lee Simmons and Guiliana Rancic. The Melium Galleria, G17-18, GF, Suria KLCC; +603 2382 9988;

Farah Khan
Farah Khan is all maximized glamour

Here, you'll have access to a finely curated range of Malaysian-themed accessories, home wares, and curios from some of the country's finest artisans, all in one shop. Our favorites: batik print elephant soft toys, artful rattan bags and baskets, as well as vibrant hand-painted bead costume jewelry that veer towards the right side of kitsch. G 1.10, 1 Jln. Medan Setia, Bukit Damansara; +603 2096 1323;

KitaKita --- Fine Malaysian Handicrafts

Jewelry designer Natrah Omar's design manifesto emphasizes contrasting themes and materials. Think clunky chains, paired with spikes, pearls and crystals—a mesh of glam rock and American rustic inspirations. The city's fashion insiders clamor for her bipolar baubles. Great Eastern Mall, Level 2, Lot 10-2, Jln. Ampang;

Alia Bastamam's creations, including modern interpretations of the classic kimono, all point towards a bright future for both the designer and Malaysian fashion. At her Damansara Heights atelier, Bastamam possesses a clever measure of what women want to wear—take-your-breath-away evening stunners, and resort outfits that look just as dazzling on the beach as they would at a cocktail party. 14 Jln. Chempenai, Bukit Damansara; +603 2095 3232;

Men's fashion in the city has recently been given a dapper update with places like 15sheets stocking hard-to-find brands like Paper Denim Cloth, Descendant of Thieves, H by Hudson and Stolen Riches. Stop by for a coffee at the shop's café annex, and watch the Bangsar scenesters stroll past. GF, 9 Jln. Telawi 2, Bangsar; +603 2201 3760;

Menswear from head to toe at 15sheets


Three places to get your culture on in the capital.

Just minutes from KL Sentral is this large South Indian community. The mom and pop stores sell everything from saris to spices. Pop over to Annalakshmi, a vegetarian restaurant at the nearby Temple of Fine Arts with lunch and dinner buffets. Payment is by donation, so you decide how much to contribute for your meal.


As the region's largest Islamic arts repository, this 12-gallery museum features more than 7,000 artifacts from India, China and Southeast Asia. Highlights include religious manuscripts and ancient calligraphic coins as well as Kashmiri shawls with intricate plant designs.

The Petronas Philharmonic Hall's convenient location next to the Suria KLCC mall means that it's possible to just drop by impromptu for a matinee or evening performance.



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