Skyscrapers spring up like weeds in Malaysia’s capital city of Kuala Lumpur, lending to the sense of constant motion the city exudes. Business types in dark suits mingle with youthful tourists, and everyone seems to be in a hurry. No wonder, since the city, founded by a small group of tin miners in the mid-1800s, morphed into one of Southeast Asia’s most important destinations for business travelers.
Fondly called KL by locals, it is more than just a skyscraper-loaded city obsessed with commerce. The varied industries represented — everything from footwear to petroleum, information technology to textiles — mirror the diversity of the city in general. In contrast to the predominant towering multistoried pillars of glass are Chinese shop houses and colonial buildings. And the mix of cultures, most notably Malay, Chinese and Indian, heavily influences the Malaysian approach to business.
In general, Malaysian businesspeople are culturally savvy but observe cultural differences where greetings are concerned. Many Malays and Indians are uncomfortable shaking hands with members of the opposite sex, and the Chinese may look downward when being introduced, as a sign of respect. All three cultures use both professional and honorific titles in business, but the Malays and Indians use these titles with their first name and the Chinese with their surname.
Even if your business agenda is tight, unless you are seriously acrophobic, you shouldn’t miss a walk across the sky bridge to view the city panorama. The 1,483-foot-high Petronas Towers amount to towering twin buildings of glittering glass connected by a sky bridge 558 feet in the air. However, only so many people are allowed on the bridge each day, and elevator time must be booked in advance and in person. All the spots for the day can be gone by 10 a.m., so show up early, get your reservation and then meet a business associate for a cup of coffee or breakfast in the food court at Suria KLCC, a six-story shopping center at the foot of the towers, until your turn.
Located in what is touted as the tallest tower in Southeast Asia, Atmosphere 360 restaurant embraces a spaceship-like theme. Not only does it offer great 360-degree views, but also the starry fiber-optic ceiling lights make you feel like you’re dining among the stars. The lavish buffet offers dishes to suit almost any palate, making it a great venue for an upscale dinner with culturally diverse clients. But this restaurant revolves, so don’t be surprised when you come back from the buffet line only to find your table isn’t where you left it.
If you’re looking for an impressive place to take business associates for a drink, head for the hip and happening Mai Bar. This swanky tiki-themed bar is on the rooftop of the minimalistically sleek and oh-so-modern Aloft Hotel. Sit sipping exotic cocktails in the darkly sexy bar or by the pool. If you dare, try the signature cocktail, the Malaysian Princess Mai Tai. This deceptively lethal concoction starts with silver rum pressed with blueberries and kaffir lime topped with golden rum, pineapple and orange juice; proceed with caution.
Like any major metropolis, Kuala Lumpur boasts a plethora of 5-star hotels in the downtown area. The Grand Millennium, located right on the main shopping avenue of Bukit Bintang, is considered to be among the better KL business hotels. Besides 15,000 square feet of meeting space, the hotel offers guests top-notch business services, including a business center and secretarial service.
An alternative to a conventional hotel, especially for extended-stay business travelers, is to book a serviced suite. PARKROYAL offers suites of various sizes and a business center that includes printing, photocopying and scanning, secretarial services and meeting room rental.
Adjacent to China Town and a short walk from Merdeka Square, the Central Market is a KL landmark. Formerly an old “wet market” selling meat, vegetables and other local products, the market has turned into a veritable feast for shoppers. There’s almost no souvenir or handicraft that can’t be found here. Booths and stalls fill the two-story 1928 building selling everything from T-shirts to fine antiques. The building is blissfully air-conditioned, so it makes a good place to meet a client for lunch then shop for gifts to take home.
Getting around the city is fairly easy via LRT (Light Rail Transit), but the lines do not always connect, so you may need to go part way by one of the buses which depart frequently from most LRT stations.
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