Nightlife in Kuala Lumpur
Dot Ramos Balasbas-Gancayco (The Philippine Star) - March 9, 2013 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines - Because of the popularity of budget airlines like Air Asia, Sea Air and Cebu Pacific, Kuala Lumpur is now very accessible to many Asian travelers. I myself have been to Kuala Lumpur four times and during every visit, I am always amazed at the speed by which it has modernized. And, with its varied influences from the Malays, Chinese and Indians (who mainly compose the population), combined with its rich colonial European past, one never really gets tired of Kuala Lumpur.  

My most recent visit to Kuala Lumpur (which was before the Sabah issue) was the most special of all, not only because I was with the Philippine Ambassador to Malaysia, His Excellency the Hon. Ed Malaya (a schoolmate at the UP College of Law), but also because for the very first time, I was able to experience KL nightlife and entertainment.

Feeling young and adventurous, I did the famous Bintang Walk and saw the trendy bars and restaurants that dotted the place. I tried the night market at the Chinatown and experienced the aroma and taste of its restaurants, and the market’s vibrant sights and sounds. With Ambassador Ed and some friends in Rotary, we went to a classy music lounge (known for its great live music), which was walking distance to the Petronas Towers. To no one’s surprise, the versatile and well-applauded band that was performing that night was a Filipino band — a trio, which did world-class renditions of music from the ’60s to contemporary music, while we sipped our beer and chewed on our Malaysian satay.

After two sets of fine music (that included Tagalog songs that intrigued the other foreign tourists at the venue), we had our nightcap at the nearby Marini at 57 where we had an awesome view of the twin towers while sipping wine and munching on our cheeses. Service was impeccable delivered by extremely friendly staff, who were, to our utmost delight, mostly Filipinos.

For those who still have not visited Kuala Lumpur and are planning to, here are some useful tips:

1. Hotel Bookings — To lessen expenses, stay in a hotel that is near the MRT or LRT so you can save on taxi-fare. For those who are young, trendy, into fashionable shopping and love to explore nightlife, the Bukit Bintang area would work best.

 2. Shopping — Go to the Central Market for your souvenir shopping. My husband, my son and I bought several batik shirts and dresses, while our companion, Nenette Coloma, wife of Sec. Sonny Coloma, discovered very reasonably-priced Malaysian handicrafts for her staff. Here, you need to use your haggling skills. So as not to have a hard time, look for stores manned by Filipinas who are very friendly and honest. For nice pasalubong for ladies, go to Little India. For branded items, Suria KLCC at the Petronas area and Pavilion Mall would be the places to go to although I find the designer items there more expensive than in the high-end shops at home. Chinatown is a haven for patrons of the not-so-original pieces of which I can never be one. (Still, a tourist should not miss this place for the beautiful temples.)

3. Travel Attire — Be prepared for the heat (wear light cotton) and the rain (have a handy umbrella). Avoid using your most expensive bags and accessories because sudden downpours will ruin them. Light sweaters are advisable to bring for air-conditioned areas.

4. Etiquette — Remember that the King and Queen are well loved and must be treated with respect. One should also be mindful of others’ religious beliefs and practices. If you are going inside mosques and other religious areas, make sure you dress up properly.

5. Sightseeing — Here are my top choices: a. The Petronas Twin Towers. Never miss this marvelous edifice which I swear is one of the most beautiful examples of modern architecture my eyes have set on in all my years of traveling; b. The Islamic Arts Museum Like the Twin Towers, this is a never-to-be-missed stop. Here, one gets to see not only the Islamic art of Malaysia, but also the Islamic art and crafts of the entire world, including paintings, ceramics and jewelry. The most popular section here is the showcase of miniature Moslem mosques, a stunning display of Moslem architecture from all over the world; c. The King’s Palace. Although tourists cannot enter, one should have a souvenir picture taken at this very popular landmark; d. The Cenotaph by the National Movement. A historical monument dedicated to the heroes of Malaysia; e. The beautiful colonial era buildings. To continue your historical tour, see and take photos of the magnificent Sultan Abdul Samad Building on Merdeka Square, a symbol of the rich colonial past of Malaysia. From here, walk to the Masjid Jamek, a mosque with Moorish architecture, and the National Mosque, with its awesome spires; f. The Batu Caves. A beautiful Hindu temple that houses statues built inside the caves; g. The KL Tower. For a more panoramic view of KL, this is where one goes. Its observation deck is higher than that of the Petronas Towers.

6. Traveling with kids — Book yourselves at the Sunway Hotel where thrilling water activities are offered. Go to the National Museum. Never miss the world-class Aquaria KLCC (said to be the largest aquarium in the world), the Bird Park and the Science Discovery Center, all in the Petronas area.

7. Dining — You do not go to Malaysia to eat pasta or French cuisine. You go there to savor Malaysian and Indian cuisine, a bit hot but very tasty. I highly recommend Madame Kwan Restaurant at the Pavilion Mall where I was able to taste the best ever nasi lemak, Malaysian satay, panfried tenggiri fish and fried king prawns. For curry dishes and nasi briyani, go to Nasi Kandar or any Banana Leaf Restaurant. Oh, and there are also good Chinese restos in Chinatown, but of course!

(E-mail author at dotgancayco@ymail.com or text 0927-5000833.)

AIR ASIA BANANA LEAF RESTAURANT BATU CAVES BINTANG WALK BIRD PARK AND THE SCIENCE DISCOVERY CENTER KUALA LUMPUR ONE PAVILION MALL PETRONAS TOWERS
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