Nick McGrath, The Daily Telegraph, March 13, 2013
Why Kuala Lumpur?
It’s one of the best places for shopping in the world, better than Hong Kong, for example, because it’s so cheap to stay – you can get a room in a five-star hotel for as little as £125. The ethnic mix of food is also superb: you can have Chinese food for breakfast, Malay for lunch and Indian for dinner.
Anything special I should pack?
The right shoes, of course. I always pack evening shoes in case I get invited to a function and comfortable shoes to cope with the daytime heat.
What do you miss most when you’re away?
The food. I love Malaysian food and even though I can buy all the ingredients in London, it’s not the same.
What’s the first thing you do when you return?
I head straight to Petaling Street in Chinatown, which has a lively stretch of shops, restaurants and hawker stalls. It’s a great place to get a bite to eat ahead of a day’s sightseeing.
Where’s the best place to stay?
The Ritz-Carlton (0060 3 2142 8000; ritzcarlton.com ; from £128 per night). The service is excellent, it’s immaculately clean and everybody knows me.
The Sri Maha Marriamman Temple in Chinatown
Where would you meet friends for a drink?
For cocktails at the rooftop bar of the Teeq Brasserie at Rootz (2782 3577; rootz.com.my ), which has lush gardens and the best views of the city.
Where are your favourite places for lunch?
Hakka (2143 1907), which is located opposite the Pavilion shopping centre ( pavilion-kl.com ) on Jalan Raja Chulan, for great steamboat soup, fresh oysters and steamed cod in soy sauce.
And for dinner?
For a high-end and classy experience Shook! (2719 8535; starhillgallery.com ), which is located in the upmarket Starhill Gallery shopping centre beneath the JW Marriott Hotel, has live music and serves great Japanese, Chinese and Italian food. If you’re looking for good-value street food, of which there is plenty, try the air-conditioned Hutong food hall at Lot 10 (2782 3840; lot10hutong.com). It has dozens of hawker stalls serving favourites such as ipoh chicken rice or soong kee beef noodles.
Where would you send a first-time visitor?
You can’t go to Kuala Lumpur and not visit the Petronas Twin Towers (2331 8080; petronastwintowers.com.my ); an adult viewing ticket from the 86th floor observation deck costs £17). If visitors were there next weekend, then certainly to the Formula 1 Grand Prix [see “Essentials” below].
What would you tell them to avoid?
Sightseeing between about 2pm and 5pm as the heat can be exhausting.
Public transport or taxi?
Either. Taxi drivers in Kuala Lumpur are encouraged to be tourism ambassadors, so taxis are definitely worth using. The monorail is also a great way to get around and you get a great view of the city.
Kuala Lumpur’s many street markets
Handbag or moneybelt?
Kuala Lumpur is a safe city to walk around so a handbag is fine.
What should I take home?
There are a lot of local designers creating some fantastic shoes in Kuala Lumpur right now and the prices are affordable, too. A pair of well-made high heels can be picked up for about £30, while sandals in any colour you like are on sale from £8.50. I see lots of customers leaving the shopping malls with 10-15 pairs.
- Jimmy Choo is a cultural ambassador for the Malaysian Tourist Board. For more information, visit tourism.gov.my
Kuala Lumpure essentials
British Airways (0844 493 0787; ba.com ) flies from Heathrow to Kuala Lumpur from £776 return; Malaysia Airlines (0871 423 9090; malaysiaairlines.com) from £645 return.
Kuoni (01306 747008; kuoni.co.uk ) offers four nights’ b & b at the Melia Kuala Lumpur, including flights with Etihad Airways from Heathrow, from £874 in May. To book quote KL210.
The Malaysian Grand Prix takes place from March 22-24. Tickets are from £15 for the uncovered Hillstand to £3,127 for a paddock club hospitality package (details on 020 3514 0646; malaysia-grand-prix.com ).
Other annual events include National Day on August 31, which marks Malaysia’s independence in 1957, and the Kuala Lumpur International Buskers Festival ( malaysiabuskers.com ) in December.
WHAT TO SEE
The Sri Maha Mariamman Temple in Chinatown is the most striking religious monument in old Kuala Lumpur. The Hindu shrine was founded by migrant workers in the 1870s and its tower is covered in colourful statues.
Not far away, Lake Gardens blend sculpted parkland with tropical jungle. Among the highlights are the Kuala Lumpur Bird Park, where 160 species of mostly Asian birds are on display, and the Islamic Arts Museum ( iamm.org.my ), which houses a collection of Islamic carpets, jewellery, weapons, manuscripts and ceramics. Elsewhere, and a short walk away, try the National Planetarium ( anhkasa.gv.my/planetarium ), which is part of the National Space Agency.
WHAT TO DO
Look out for the city’s night markets, which are held once a week at various locations around the city. These are the place to feast on an array of local dishes from grilled fish to curries and pancakes. It’s known as pasar malam and you will find the best in Jin Raja Muda Musa in Kampung Baru and Lorong Tuanku Abdul Rahman in Little India. Teenagers could head to Berjaya Times Square for the fashion stores, bowling alley, karaoke, Imax cinema and theme park.