I’m on route to the fabulous Malaysian region of Penang. Aboard my chosen chariot, a standard low cost carrier (LCC), I shiver under the powerful air-conditioner and try to get some sleep on the overnight flight. My mission mostly unsuccessful, the flight touches down in muggy Kuala Lumpur’s LCCT Airport at 3:40am, and I sleepishly collect my bright red Victorinox suitcase and sprint for the pre-paid taxi ticket sales counter. I'm making a slight detour in KL, and pick up a taxi ticket for around A$40 - about double the usual fare and the price to pay for arriving before 6am.
I have the whole day at my disposal before my connecting flight, but I’m dead tired, so I slump into the back of the taxi and allow the driver to speed off toward the city. We drive through the hazy orange glow of night and light rain for a good 20 minutes before I notice any sign of residential life. Then suddenly, out of nowhere, rows of two-storey houses with pointed-roofs pop up along the highway, not unlike those planned village buildings at Tokyo Disneyland, minus the glamour. Aged iron security bars cover every point, suggesting crime in the city’s outskirts.
The driver merges onto another highway. As we push closer to the city, high-rise apartments spring upwards in the foggy night sky. The buildings virtually mount the highway and I can see clearly into the windows of strangers' windows.
Office buildings and hotel branding signals we have arrived in KL, and a few minutes later we’ve pulled off the highway and arrive at my chosen relaxation den for the next 18 hours: Traders Hotel Kuala Lumpur. I’m happy to give over my luggage to the cheerful staff and am even happier to be led straight to my room via a hassle free check-in at the elegant - but minimal - lobby.Traders Club Room
My simply styled room has warm earthy hues that invites diving onto the king bed and surrendering to the depths of slumber.
I fight sleep, though, for a quick snoop around the room and clap my hands in joy when I discover a delicately-arranged slate dish holding three hand-crafted sweet treats. Feeling suddenly famished, I pop one in my mouth and continue my self-guided room tour.
A two-seater fabric couch sits under the window, next to a small round coffee table holding a bowl of colourful fruit. Two steps to my right is a quaint gold fabric armchair and matching foot stool, offering welcoming comfort.
Resting my head back in the naturally reclining chair, I lean over to part the heavy curtains and gasp: the iconic Petronas Towers are standing tall and bright in the night sky right outside the window.
The bathroom is just right for one person and I’m quick to run a relaxing bath filled with Traders bath salts and indulge in this simple luxury. My gaze spots an oversized shower which will come in handy before I fly off tonight to Penang. It's not long before I allow myself a quick nap, but in no time again I'm up with the sun eager not to miss a beat during my short time in the city.
If You GoIf your staying for a night, a week, or longer, Traders is exceptionally located in the centre of KL, and offers both comfortable and luxurious accommodations. If you opt for a Club Room or Suite, you will be given added privileges such as complimentary breakfast in the Club Lounge, business facilities, and complimentary beverages. Gobo Upstairs Lounge & Grill is also a must dining experience if you visit - an elegant eatery boasting some of the best steak cuts with impressive views of the Petronas.
Gypsy in the city – for a few hours
Refreshed and with my gypsy feet ready for walking, I grab a city map and head off for a few hours of sightseeing. I take to the trains to get around which is a simple feat (no doubt six years living in Japan has made me quite the international train travel expert) and cheap. I’ve got a list of must-dos - the Petronas, Central Market, Chinatown, and the famed mosque Masjid Jamek – but only a few hours to cross them off.
Proud icons of the Kuala Lumpur skyline, the Petronas Twin Towers are a short walk from the hotel, but guests can opt for the courtesy hotel buggy. I choose to use my feet, and enjoy the dedicated walking path that fringes the Kuala Lumpur City Centre Park, where manicured gardens, swimming pools, flowers and tall trees with spaghetti-like branches give a sense of a Malaysian oasis in the middle of the city.
Inside the Petronas, I’m less interested in the head-banging explosion of shopping options than I am with a trip to the observation deck, but I’m not in luck: it’s Monday and the deck is closed.If You Go: Visiting days are Tuesday to Sunday, 9am – 9pm (closed from 1pm – 2.30pm on Fridays). Tickets are limited and are issued from 8:30am.
From the Petronas I jump on the train station at KLCC station, conveniently located within the complex that houses the Petronas (although I walk in circles for 15 minutes before I stumble upon the station). Originally a gambling complex owned by Yap Ah Loy (regarded as KL's founding father), the building underwent a dramatic re-build in 1883, followed by four further expansions before officially re-opening in 1986 (although it had been trading as a wet market since 1888). Inside, the art deco-style buildings now house over 228 unique shops, boasting Malaysian arts and crafts, souvenirs, and some great market-shopping bargains. I snap up a few cashmere scarves after haggling gently for a good price.
The Central Market Annexe, situated behind the Central Market, promotes local art culture, while Kasturi Walk is a covered pedestrian strip alongside the main market building where market kiosks and colourful food stalls give an al fresco ambience to the shopping experience.
If You Go: Get the train to Central Market (Pasar Seni) Station and head straight across the road to the blue-walled entrance of the Central Market building.
Midday approaches and my stomach is grumbling louder than the busy hustle of cars, busses and bikes on the surrounding dirty streets. I head off to China Town on foot, dodging the chaotic traffic, with nothing but Laksa and a cold beer on my mind. While China Town offers another level of shopping altogether, jet-lag is starting to kick in and I've seen enough of the same counterfeit watches, bags and jeans. I find a food court on the side of the main mall strip and am delighted to see the various menus are dirt cheap, and subsequently delicious. A bowl of hot pork laksa sets me back a mere 5MYR (A$2), which I pair with a cold bottle of Carlsberg for 8.50MYR (A$2.70).
I'm running out of time, but if I had more to spare I could easily go on an Asian shopping spree here. Think watches, sunglasses, bags, jeans, jewellery, iPhone cases and a string of fashion outlets offering dirt-cheap prices.
If You Go: China Town is a short stroll from Central Market, and right outside Maharajaela station on the KL Monorail.
One of KL's most significant buildings, Masjid Jamek (Jamek Mosque) is next on my self-guided tour of the city. Built in 1909, this strapping mosque features three Moghul domes, a courtyard, symmetrical minarets and a surrounding chhatris (elevated dome-shaped pavilions). Constructed on the first Malay Burial Ground in KL, the mosque is ever so grand from the city streets, but I want to see it up close. I walk toward the entrance gates where a small group of local Muslims have gathered playfully out front.
Again I'm out of luck - the mosque is not open to foreigners on Mondays. I make note to visit on a different day next time. I take another stroll around the exterior, admiring how the tall palm trees planted around the mosque give the place a slight tranquil feeling. Often called the 'Friday Mosque', Masjid Jamek is said to be exceptionally congested on Fridays with locals backed up across the street and up to the station.
If You Go
The mosque was recently closed for renovations, but should be back open by now. Check with a local tour operator or your hotel concierge to make sure the day you plan to visit fits with the mosque's openings for tourists. Entrance is free, and the Masjid Jamek train station is right out front.
Weary from my rushed adventure, I get a train back to Traders and make my way to the Sky Bar - an iconic part of KL's vibrant culture that can't not be missed. I set myself up in one of the poolside 'cabanas', a cosy little booth lined with cushions and a spectacular view of the Petronas. Shortly I'm joined by the hotel's PR staff, who go ahead and order me a selection of snacks that could easily pass as the main course: spring rolls, curry puffs and satay chicken are among the Asian-inspired platter.
Cocktails are the go here, and I order a lychee martini with rose syrup for round one, followed by a raspberry mojito - sweet sensations! As the sun sets the bar starts to get packed with an interesting mix of hotel guests, local Malaysians, and US Navy sailors who have just docked. The pool lights flicker against the turquoise water's surface, and the floor-to-ceiling windows are open in sections allowing the outside sultry air to filter through. This is urban luxury meets faux tropical oasis. It's fabulous, and I wince as my watch suggests I'm 15 minutes late to meet the taxi awaiting to take me back to the airport.
If You GoThe Sky Bar is the perfect place for poolside relaxation. Slip into the pool and enjoy a cold beverage whilst taking advantage of the wifi during the day, or take in the stunning night view with a mix of guests after the sun goes down. Sky Bar has marked itself on KL's club scene, and often hosts great DJs drawing local and tourist crowds from all over the city.