In the space of a century, Kuala Lumpur grew from a trading post and tin-mining shantytown into a colonial capital. Today, it is a modern, cosmopolitan business hub and centre of government.
The economic boom that started in the late 1980s has caused a building bonanza. In downtown Kuala Lumpur, old and new are juxtaposed. The jungled backdrop of the copper-topped clocktower of the Supreme Court of 100 years ago has been replaced by scores of stylish, high-rise office blocks, dominated by the soaring, angular-roofed Maybank headquarters. The Victorian, Moorish and Moghul-style buildings, the Art Deco Central Market and the Chinese shophouses stand in marked contrast to these impressive skyscrapers. The Petronas Twin Towers offer the most impressive addition to the modern skyline; part of the Kuala Lumpur City Centre (KLCC) development, these are the tallest twin towers in the world.
KL is a bit of a sprawl of a city. The big shopping malls, trendy restaurants and bars are clustered around The Golden Triangle and the KLCC. Here too are the Petronas Towers, once the tallest in the world, and the KL Tower, another mighty spike on the landscape. The ethnic neighbourhoods lie southwest of here – there’s Chinatown, a web of bustling streets filled with temples, funeral stores, restaurants and shophouses, and Little India, packed with stores selling Bollywood DVDs, saris and spices. Also here is the colonial core where the remnants of the British empire ring Merdeka Square. You can escape from the hustle a few streets southwest of here in the Lake Gardens, which house the fine Islamic Arts museum and a bird and orchid park.
Around the city are the intriguing Batu Caves and some good entertainment in the form of the Sunway Lagoon and Mines Wonderland. Seremban, a former tin-mining centre and window on the world of the Minangkabau culture, is south of the capital.