1. Rest, relax, repeat
An idyllic green lung is not what one expects to find in the heart of KL, which makes Laman Standard Chartered on Jalan P Ramlee (facing KLCC Tower 3) such a delightful oasis. Artistic sculptures of the bank’s logo double up as chairs for resting under shade.
2. Beyond beautiful
Hiding in plain sight amid the crumbles of Chinatown, Peter Hoe Evolution & Beyond has made it into the pages of Lonely Planet and The Wall Street Journal, yet remains unknown to many locals. The 26-year-old boutique in Lee Rubber Building on Jalan Tun H.S. Lee is a maze of gorgeous treasures – from apparel to home decor and more – while its café serves the creamiest quiches in town.
3. Slices of heaven
Escape from the city without stepping away from it at Sekeping Retreats, a series of nine urban getaways boasting raw industrial flair and breathable spaces. Of the four in KL, a favourite is Sekeping Sin Chew Kee, which sits atop well-dressed watering hole Bar Lai and behind atmospheric coffee café VCR. sekeping.com
4. Crispy love
There’s roti canai (Indian flat bread) and there’s Valentine Roti, hailed as KL’s best by virtue of its crispy, fluffy layers. Located on 1, Jalan Semarak, regulars like it with a chunky tomato sardine sauce. Owner Valentine, whose parents started the stall in 1975, is often behind the canai counter.
5. Mobile meals
KL’s street dining scene has long featured mobile food kiosks, and has now blossomed to include Western-influenced food trucks that offer a smorgasbord of international cuisines. Hunt down Curbside Cantina for tacos and Royal Post Cafe for gourmet coffee.
Track @curbsidecantinakl and @royalpostcafe on Instagram for their next appearances. Sample more of KL’s food trucks at KL Cinta Makan Fest. facebook.com/klfoodtruckfest
6. Of specialty coffees and gourmet beans
First, we drank thick Hainanese kopi. Then came Starbucks, and Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf. These days, caffeine appreciation in KL focuses on third wave cafés that wax lyrical about single origins, cold brews and espresso-based drinks. Popular home-grown chains include Artisan Roast, espressolab and The Library Coffee Bar.
7. Car-free in the city
On every first and third Sunday of the month, the area around Dataran Merdeka transforms into a fitness park of sorts for KL Car-Free Morning. For two hours, a seven-kilometre network of roads is pedestrianised to let weekend warriors cycle, run, jog, walk, skateboard or rollerblade. OCBC Bank provides 100 bicycles for free rentals.
8. Incubating ideas
Celebrating ideas, Cooler Lumpur Festival debuted in 2013 as a platform for writers, artists, musicians and ‘thinkers’ to gather for meaningful discourse through talks, forums, exhibitions and film screenings. Last year’s instalment also featured a food festival – it is a Malaysian event, after all. facebook.com/CoolerLumpur
9. Private driver on tap
How did we get around before Uber? A similar local version, GrabCar by MyTeksi, is just as popular. There’s also a flat-rate (fares start from RM5 or less than USD2) ride-sharing service called Tumpang that serves selected areas. Uber and MyTeksi mobile apps are available on both iOS and Android; to book a ride with Tumpang, go to tumpang.la
10. Panoramic presentation
The best place to take in a 360-degree view of KL is not from a skyscraper but at the Kuala Lumpur City Gallery, housed in a centennial building fronted by a much-photographed I <3 KL sculpture. The highlight is the Spectacular City Model Show, a mix of multimedia projection and 3D scale model. klcitygallery.com
11. Pewter on point
For over a century, Royal Selangor has been producing impeccable pewter pieces that are decorative, functional and desirable (its Star Wars collection is a case in point). At its Visitor Centre, you can walk through an interactive exhibition, make a bowl at the School of Hard Knocks, get a crash course in pewter-making at The Foundry, and munch on scones at the café. royalselangorvisitorcentre.com
12. Tourist privileges
KL-ites do everything at the malls and so should you, especially as the city’s most popular malls offer tourist privilege cards that entitle you to retail discounts and dining offers. To claim yours, flash your passport at the information counters.
13. Cheap movie nights
On Wednesdays, multiplexes slash ticket prices by up to 30 percent – which means long lines for tickets and popcorn after working hours. Beat the crowd by going early; you enjoy the same low prices for screenings before noon on weekdays. Prices differ slightly but the promotion is valid at all three of KL’s biggest cinema chains, TGV, GSC and MBO Cinemas. tgv.com.my gsc.com.my mbocinemas.com
14. Freebies for foodies
San Francisco Coffee’s Express outpost at Mid Valley Megamall is its only outlet that offers a perpetual ‘buy one, free one’ deal on Frappes. By 9.30pm, bakeries and sushi counters start offloading unsold items at up to half the original prices.
15. Paint me a river
After years of whitewashing after graffiti artists, KL City Hall legalised their form of art in 2012 and organised the KUL Sign Festival. ‘Bombers’ were invited to brighten up the walls flanking Klang River, and the vibrant results can be viewed from the Pasar Seni LRT station.
16. Live a little
A stone’s throw from Bukit Bintang, Jalan Mesui is a quiet enclave populated by hip hangouts. Stay at Hotel Mesui, with its striking original Art Deco circular windows; sip coffee and eat cake at Feeka; or catch live music at No Black Tie.
17. Walk down memory lanes
Take a step (actually, many steps) back in time to Malaysia’s past when you join KL City Hall’s free guided heritage walks. There are three trails, each covering a different area – Dataran Merdeka, Brickfields, and Kampung Baru. Call +603-26980332 or email firstname.lastname@example.org for bookings and enquiries. For information on other walking trails, check at the Malaysia Tourist Information Centre (MaTIC) on Jalan Ampang. matic.gov.my/en
18. Book lovers’ bounty
Bibliophiles adore Book Xcess for bestsellers at a bargain and make a beeline for its annual Big Bad Wolf Books sale. For rare titles, browse through Silverfish Books. Looking to swap them? KL Book Exchange meets every first Sunday of the month. bookxcess.com facebook.com/SilverfishBooks klbookexchange.weebly.com
19. Street art
Catch young untapped talents busking at high-traffic spots like Bukit Bintang (outside Lot 10), AK Busk Stop inside Avenue K mall, and in front of RHB Bank on Jalan Bukit Bintang, which draws big crowds on Friday and Saturday evenings.
20. Showcasing East Coast culture
PUSAKA, a non-governmental organisation dedicated to protecting the cultural heritage of the Malaysian East Coast, puts up regular showcases on unique traditional performing arts such as the much-revered mak yong dance-drama, and wayang kulit (shadow puppet). PUSAKA’s showcases are usually free. facebook.com/Pusaka
21. Walk this way
KL’s streets are designed for cars (and they’ll honk to let you know it), making it difficult or dangerous to leg it from one point to another. The Bukit Bintang-KLCC elevated pedestrian walkway is thus a saviour as it zigzags between the KL Convention Centre and Pavilion Kuala Lumpur mall, with several exit points along the way. Air-conditioned and with security guards positioned at certain sections, it’s a comfortable and safe way to foot around the city.
22. Beat the lemak*
Two free ways to offset all the nasi lemak you’ll be eating, and both are held every Saturday: YogaOneThatIWant (YOTIW) Studios’ yoga sessions at 7.30am, and lululemon athletica’s free community classes at 10am.
*lemak means ‘fat’ in Malay; nasi lemak is the unofficial (but widely accepted as such) national dish of Malaysia comprising coconut milk rice with spicy condiments.