The MONUMENTAL CITY
We travel the city to tell you what to do in Kuala Lumpur: a unique destination where tourism and business blend together.
Elegant, modern and dynamic while staying in tune with the local culture; the Meliá Kuala Lumpur reflects the spirit of the Malaysian capital. This makes it the ideal choice for travellers combining business with pleasure.
Some say that the existence of Kuala Lumpur must be some kind of miracle. In this land of thick jungles, intricate roots, ravenous mosquitoes and torrential tropical rain, there blossomed—like a cartoon flashforward—the tangle of glass, steel and concrete that shapes one of the world’s most modern cities. The young capital of Malaysia was established in 1857, when a group of Chinese prospectors found tin deposits in the place where the murky waters of the Gombak and Klang rivers joined. This is precisely where its less-thaninviting name came from; for those who don’t know, Kuala Lumpur means ‘Muddy Confluence’.
With the fever of this new El Dorado, the rainforest was stripped of its trees and the rivers’ shores were filled with buildings that, over time and due to British rule, took on various styles: Mughal, Malay, Victorian, Moorish.... Then, of course, came progress, and with it, the skyscrapers that sprung up here and there until the city became a sort of Asian Manhattan, albeit much more relaxed. A cosmopolitan, eccentric, somewhat chaotic city whose pulse lies between the ancient and the ultramodern, while flying the flag of savoir vivre.
So many races, languages and cultures come together in Kuala Lumpur (KL) that its charm verges on madness. It’s the madness of both a futuristic city with skyscrapers and aerial monorails, and a village where the colonial past coincides with bustling ethnic enclaves. The most important are Chinatown and Little India, forming the central core of the population along with the Malaysian people. Together yet separate, these three communities coexist in harmony and mutual respect, despite the fact that each preserves its own signs of identity: temples, food, language and more.
That said, multiculturalism, with its rich and shifting customs, is the trait that truly defines what’s become one of the most vibrant cities in Southeast Asia (with apologies to Bangkok). Although it often has to compete with the sprawling nature of the rest of the country, with the humid forests fraught with friendly monkeys and the idyllic beaches that line the islands, the city is a fully fledged destination that warrants a visit in its own right.
The Petronas Towers, of course, have a lot to do with that. These twin towers are loaded with Islamic symbolism— although at first glance they may not appear to be—and are, in the eyes of many, a true architectural wonder. At a height of 452 metres, the lookout-like towers were the world’s tallest buildings from 1998 to 2003 (when they were surpassed by Taiwan’s hulking Taipei 101), and today are ranked seventh on the list of the world’s pointiest skyscrapers. Their merit, beyond caressing the clouds, lies in their embodiment of the image of modernity, the symbol of a 21st-century metropolis.
The work of Argentina’s César Pelli, this monument of reinforced concrete, steel and glass is said to come close to perfection. Its star-shaped design unites ground-breaking sophistication with traditional Islamic imagery, and stands out among the rest of the towers that make up the city’s financial district: the so-called Golden Triangle, the vibrant heart of modern Kuala Lumpur. Here, in this forest of towering buildings, the biggest businesses, the biggest hotels, the biggest restaurants and the biggest shopping centres congregate. So do the tourists, attracted by its dazzling lifestyle and pulsating activity. Money flows, circulates and spreads. Cars parade along interconnected motorways. Everything seems to multiply at the speed of light.
Right here in the commercial centre, born in the 1990s in the heat of economic growth, among the brand new contemporary architecture championed by authorities to show the world a renewed city, sits the hotel that best captures the spirit of KL. One that combines modernity and tradition, comfort and excellent service, without neglecting the local culture. The Meliá Kuala Lumpur does all of this and more. Especially now, after the comprehensive renovation— carried out in various stages—that has given it a new face. According to Andrea Barbi, Marketing and Public Relations Manager of the Asia-Pacific region, ‘With the re-launch of this new Urban Chic Hotel concept, we have not only given the guest rooms and common areas a more elegant, modern and dynamic appearance; we have also endowed the whole space with harmony, in a way that creates a classic style with contemporary touches’.
The Meliá Kuala Lumpur boasts an unbeatable location in the Golden Triangle, just steps from Times Square and right in front of the Imbi Monorail station, which connects the whole city in one amazing trip. There’s nothing like climbing aboard this futuristic train (cool, comfortable and cheap) and watching through the window as mosques, Buddhist temples and typical alleyways speed by... seeing it all from a different angle.
The Petronas are also a short walk away, across streets that reflect the business side of the city. This is why the Meliá Kuala Lumpur, considered one of the best hotels in Malaysia, is the ideal accommodation for today’s travellers: those who travel for work but are also looking to experience moments of leisure. ‘With its reflection of the quality standards of an international five-star hotel, and its modern, functional design, this hotel attracts both business tourists and those travelling for pleasure’, says Andrea.
The facilities also make things easier for this kind of customer. There’s the exclusive environment of The Level, located on the top floors of the hotel (the 18th floor and up). It’s a private reception area with personalised service, where guests don’t have to worry about anything at all. There’s private (express) check-in, flexible check-out and free use
of a fully equipped meeting room, as well as access to a lounge and terrace where you can sip a cocktail and enjoy incredible views of the city. ‘On top of that, we offer another set of services to make business stays more pleasant’, the general manager explains, referring not only to the gym and the pool, but also to the culinary aspects of the facilities: two bars and a restaurant offering international cuisine, with an open-kitchen design.
So, with all your tasks completed and your stomach satisfied, you can carve out some free time to explore the surroundings. Start at the Masjid Jamek, the oldest mosque in the city, situated at the exact spot where the rivers join. Or at Independence Square, the city’s colonial heart, where the mark of history endures in the form of St. Mary’s Cathedral and the striking Sultan Abdul Samad Building—erected by the British, despite its resemblance to the Mughal style of the Taj Mahal, and bringing to mind 'One Thousand and One Nights'.
This distinctive feature of KL lets you leap straight from the past to the future. Business travellers will be especially interested in Putrajaya, the new executive capital of Malaysia, 36 kilometres south of the city. It’s an intriguing experiment, digitally designed and managed and based on the concept of a garden city surrounding a lake, whose shores are home to the administrative entities of the Malaysian government. Developed by the country’s leading architects, the city combines an amazing mix of styles, highlights of which include elements of Mughal architecture and Islamic ornamentation.
Andrea Barbi, however, continues to point to multiculturalism as the true expression of the essence of the metropolis—from the diverse neighbourhoods to the impressive Batu Caves (13 kilometres from the city), which is one of the most popular Hindu shrines on the planet. Above all, she recommends its delightful cuisine, which is a melting pot of influences. ‘No one should leave the Malaysian capital without trying its local dishes: breakfast at Imbi Market, a famous ancient refuge; lunch at Ngau Kee, the oldest spot for noodles and meatballs; and dinner at Seng Huat, my favourite restaurant’, she suggests. ‘And of course durian— the king of all fruits’. In case you had any doubt.
On the left, the hotel terrace where you can dine with the skyline of the Malaysian capital at your feet. In the background, the Kuala Lumpur Tower (1995), 88 floors and 421 m tall. Below, the city’s oldest mosque, Masjid Jamek.
Above, the Petronas Towers (3 minutes from the hotel by ,monorail). On the right one of the rooms of the exclusive ser vice The Level; the hotel’sspectacular facade; The Kitchen restaurant and buffet; the Garbo bar, a perfect place to relax beside the hotel’s pool; and the hotel'sinternational buffet.
Above, the Lobby Bar,ideal for having a cocktail after a hard day. Below it, reception.On the right, the golden statue of the Hindu god Murugannext to an isolated waterfall, 14 km fromKuala Lumpur.