Expats entertain a steady stream of visitors here in Malaysia and, however mundane you may come to find the sights, it is important to give all your guests the best tour you can to showcase your new home! Need an itinerary? Sarah Rees is here to help.
No matter how jaded we may get with the capital city we call home, it is important not to forget that, for the large number of foreign visitors, KL is a new, fascinating, unknown place. It is your job to take your tour guide duties seriously and give your newly arrived pals a taste of the best the city has to offer. Each visiting person will help you see Malaysia in a new way, and you may find some gems you overlooked or have simply forgotten, so don’t get despondent!
After a lengthy journey in a plane seat, your visitors will probably be fired up for taking to the streets and getting to grips with what the city has to offer on ground level, so why not shun the car for your feet and get down to where KL really began, and to where the historical roots can educate visitors on the journey the city took from muddy swamp to modern masterpiece.
Start at Pasar Seni station…
Avoid plunging your guests into the whirl and noise of Chinatown by disembarking at Pasar Seni LRT and exiting via the bridge that connects the modern station to the old railway station. This Moorish masterpiece is a wonderful piece of history, and the bridge will take you inside, with stairs allowing you access along the platform and across to the main lobby area.
Take a short break to look at the exhibits that constitute a mini “museum” – old seats, old pictures – before emerging into the warmth. Pause to allow for ample photographs of the splendid exterior and that of the KTM headquarters building on the opposite side of the road.
By crossing using the subway and heading onwards towards the Lake Gardens, you can provide yet another top photography spot in the form of the National Mosque, its blue roof glinting and shimmering (hopefully) in the sunlight.
A walk onwards and up the steep – but short – hill on the left (Jalan Lembah) will take you to the Islamic Arts Museum. This eye-catching white building offers some cool air conditioning and an impressive array of arts both past and present (open daily, 10am-6pm), as well as a nice restaurant for refreshments (closed Mondays).
Nature at its best…
Emerge from the museum and you will realise that you already on the edge of the Lake Gardens, a place that demands a visit no matter the age and inclination of your guests.
The active can walk along the paths towards the lake and the park, while the old or young may prefer to jump in a taxi (there are plenty) and head to one of the many attractions: the Bird Park (open daily 9am-6pm) is quite spectacular, while the Butterfly Park (open daily 9am-6pm) will enchant anyone with an interest in nature. End your exploration at the far side of the Lake Gardens where a kids’ playground will let the little ones burn off some energy and a stall provides drinks and excellent curry puffs.
Take to the street…
Exit onto Jalan Parlimen and cross over the road to get a photograph of the National Monument, which stands proud to honour all those who have died in conflict in this region. Continue along the road to head back towards the city, via a small, neat park where benches provide some shady rest for those with weary legs.
Once you use the traffic lights to get across the large roundabout, you will find yourself at the front of the Royal Selangor Club, and on the edges of KL’s architectural crown jewels. Merdeka Square will delight your visitors with its style, history, and plentiful photograph opportunities, while the KL City Gallery (open daily 9am-6.30pm) or St. Mary’s Cathedral – both on the Square – are good places to escape the heat and learn more about the area.
Sustenance and Shopping…
Cross the main road (Jalan Rajah) and walk along Jalan Mahkamah Persekutuan to get a good view of Masjid Jamek (the city’s first mosque) before heading left over the bridge (Leboh Pasar Besar) and introducing your guests to the splendours of Chinatown. Bellies can be filled and wallets emptied around here, and there are plenty of choices for both.
Central Market is always lovely and jam-packed with souvenir shops, plus the food court on the second floor is a good way to introduce nervous guests to local grub. The more adventurous should be taken down Petaling Street, where plastic stools and wipe-clean chopsticks are the only companions for a lunch they won’t forget.
Time for some temples….
There is so much to see in this area that you will be spoilt for choice, but if your guests are not too weary, take them around the back alleys of the Chinatown area to glimpse the charming shophouses still packed with everything from exotic animals to buttons, flowers to incense sticks. There are also many very old temples hidden around here (Hindu, Buddhist, and Muslim), and most are well-signed, so take a walk!
You are now just a few minutes away from Pasar Seni LRT station, where a train can take you back to chez tu for a swim and a rest after your long day of sightseeing! The evening stretches ahead of you, and is a whole new opportunity for experience: Jalan Alor for some local food? Bukit Bintang for a look at the lights? Or the fountain show at KLCC that delights the crowd every evening? A meal at the top of the KL Tower is a flashy option, or head back to Petaling Street to see the place come to life; the choice is yours!