Few capitals in the world can rival the sheer diversity of architectural styles found in Kuala Lumpur. The meteoric rise of the city from State capital of Selangor in 1880 to capital of the Federated Malay States in 1896 as a result of tin mining successes sparked a feverish building activity. Impressive buildings of the late 19th and early 20th century now mingle with modern skyscrapers creating a truly colourful scene. The mix of Malay, Chinese and Indian constructions, with strong, old and new, European influences, reflects the social reality of this multiethnic, modern metropolis. The City’s dramatic skyline of historical and modern, short and tall, humble and grand buildings, matched only by the diversity of Kuala Lumpur population and the variety of entertainment, never fails to bewilder the unsuspecting first time visitor. In downtown KL, also known as the Golden Triangle, can be found many of the city’s shopping malls, five-star hotels and the iconic Petronas Twin Towers.
One of the best and cheapest ways to eat in Kuala Lumpur, and indeed throughout Southeast Asia, is at the large food courts where different foods are served from different hawkers. Jalan Alor is the most popular hawker centre in the city at night and is loaded with Malaysian-style dining stalls, Chinese restaurants, and coffee shops. Chow Kit, Jalan Masjid India, and Kampung Baru are also good for Malay food.
For mostly Chinese food, head for Jalan Petaling in Kuala Lumpur's Chinatown, which is open throughout the day and has plenty of 'bak kut the' (Chinese soup) restaurants. Shopping mall food courts are better for those who prefer to eat in air-conditioned comfort. Coffee shops can be found all over the city and are generally open in the evening and can mainly be found in Chinatown, along Jalan Sultan, Jalan Petaling, and Jalan Hang Lekir, as well as in the city centre Golden Triangle area.
Indian Muslim 'mamak' shops are on most Kuala Lumpur street corners. There are also street-side versions called 'mamak stalls' that are very popular. Strictly prepared halal foods are served at these eateries. The best place to find mamak stalls in Kuala Lumpur is near the Heritage Row on Jalan Doraisamy. Lebuh Ampang in the Brickfields area and the city centre are also good areas for Indian food.
For a sit-down meal at a nice restaurant where a variety of foodstuffs are on offer, head for the Golden Triangle, Bangsar or along Heritage Row. Bangsar is especially known for its higher-end dining and Western food, while lovers of Korean food should head to Ampang Jaya. Arab food is available at Bukit Bintang. You should keep in mind that most restaurants in Kuala Lumpur usually close by 22:00, although street-side hawkers stay open much later.
Nightlife in KL
Malaysia is a Muslim country, the broad ethnic mix in KL ensures some lively nightlife, be that dancing the night away in a glitzy nightclub, enjoying a classical concert or traditional dance show or browsing the food stalls of a Malay night market. Alcohol is freely available in the capital, but rarely sold in Muslim-owned businesses. In these places, bottled water, carbonated drinks, fruit smoothies, juices and teh tarik (sweet, milky tea) are the beverages of choice.
The main area for bars is in the 'Golden Triangle', where you'll find plenty of Western-style bars and nightclubs, and even a few mock British pubs. There are more upscale nightspots on Asian Heritage Row (Jalan Doraiswamy), close to the Medan Tuanku monorail stop. The suburb of Bangsar, just south of the centre, offers a more relaxed night out, with numerous bars and eateries targeting a young, trendy crowd.