By all appearances, Kuala Lumpur still is an affluent colonial crossroads on the trade routes between India and China. Its cultural diversity shows in every aspect of life here, from the Chinese and Indian cuisine that dominates the restaurant scene to the mix of Moorish, Tudor and Spanish building styles. The king of this largely Islamic country is a sultan; you still see the same selection of spices, textiles and tropical produce displayed here in the 7th century.
Even social customs reflect a more conservative era. Men and women follow traditional gender roles, especially in the home, and in some settings are segregated. You’ll find more conformity here than in Western societies because individual needs are believed to be less important than those of the community. Malaysian culture is based on consensus building.
In spite of its traditional ways, however, Kuala Lumpur is no frontier town. More than 5,000 foreign companies representing 40 countries have facilities in Malaysia — and Kuala Lumpur is the center of that activity. From a malariaridden tin-mining settlement in the 1850s (its name translates in Malay to “muddy river mouth”) Kuala Lumpur — or KL to locals — boasts gleaming skyscrapers towering over colonial buildings and parks in the city center. The striking twin towers of Petronas, Malaysia’s national oil company, dominate the cityscape.
With KL’s rapid growth, industrialization and globalization, its people find themselves at their own crossroads. In this city that is both peaceful and bustling, residents are challenged to reconcile the old and the new in their lifestyles, culture and business ventures. They have no choice: The prime minister’s “Vision 2020” initiative supports the national vision, “Kuala Lumpur — A World-Class City.”
By 2020 KL will “establish the highest quality living, working and business environment benchmarked against the best in the world … to attract and retain national and international investors as well as skilled and professional workers.” To attain that lofty goal, plans call for upgrades to KL’s infrastructure, facilities, transportation services and housing. It’s an ambitious plan, a grand renovation of a city of more than 2 million.
KL has a head start on sports facilities, having hosted the 1998 Commonwealth Games, and is home to a long list of world-class sporting events, among them the Formula 1 World Championship auto races, the A1 Grand Prix and the Motorcycle Grand Prix. Each year, the city stages the CSI 5* KL Grand Prix, an international equestrian event, as well as the KL Tower Run and the Kuala Lumpur International Marathon.
The city is preparing for even more visitors, both leisure and business travelers, with five new luxury hotels in the works, including a St. Regis. Planners are taking steps to boost KL’s image as an eco-tourism and health tourism destination. The city’s “Malaysia, Truly Business” website offers 168 reasons to invest here, whether your aim is to relocate your business, buy a second home, organize a conference or take a tropical vacation.
Malaysia and Kuala Lumpur are progressing at a dizzying pace, yet some of the city’s most appealing elements won’t change. For one, Malaysia’s impressive literacy rate of 90 percent will only improve as corporate investments — and the market for an educated workforce — grow.
Some traditions are bound to erode, but for now, public hugging, firm handshakes and shaking a woman’s hand unless she offers are still considered bad manners. Conservative dress and speaking in soft tones is preferred, and don’t be offended if a colleague from Kuala Lumpur asks personal questions, especially about relationships and children. Sharing personal information is a prerequisite to doing business with Malaysians; answer politely and ask them questions, too. Likewise, expect your Malaysian counterparts to arrive late for meetings; in Kuala Lumpur they call it “rubber time.”
Checking In With Salahuddin Mohd Ariffin
Vice President and Director of Tourism Malaysia, New York
What Exciting or Unusual Business Opportunities Can Entrepreneurs Explore in KL?
Most people don’t realize that Malaysia is the world center for the production and trade of halal goods and services — those foods and products permissible in the Muslim faith. It’s a fast-growing market with great potential, estimated at $2.1 trillion globally. In fact, the 7th International Halal Showcase — bringing together the world’s halal-compliant goods and services — will be held in Kuala Lumpur June 23–27, 2010.
Malaysia’s agro-based industries also are expanding. We are modernizing agriculture: developing large-scale commercial farming with greater private sector participation, making wider use of modern technologies, unlocking the potential of biotechnology, helping entrepreneurial farmers develop their businesses, and improving the institutional support system.
Are Meetings a Major Segment of KL ’s Hospitality Business?
Kuala Lumpur is a popular M.I.C.E. destination. In 2007, our premiere convention and expo site, the KL Convention Centre, was the first convention center in Asia to be awarded “benchmarked” status by Green Globe, the worldwide certification and improvement system for sustainable travel and tourism. In its first three years the center was nominated as Asia’s Best by an important trade group and hosted more than 1,800 events, contributing more than $500 million to the city’s economy.
How Does the Government Encourage Foreign Investors?
Malaysia has taken steps to make the services sector more open. Our aim is to create a conducive business environment to attract investments and technology, and to create higher-value employment opportunities. This is an intense effort by the government to promote and develop the services sector, complementing the growth and development we’ve seen in the manufacturing sector. The government has decided to immediately liberalize 27 services industries — in health and social services, tourism, transport and business and computer services — without imposing any equity conditions.
How Has Tourism in Kuala Lumpur Changed Recently?
Sightseeing here just got easier with the launch of the KL Monorail and KL Hop-On Hop-Off. The KL HOHO bus route covers 70 tourist attractions and 22 designated stops, including several at KL Monorail stations. On board, passengers can view KL through a semi-glass roof and listen to prerecorded commentaries in eight languages. The 11 KL Monorail stations in high-traffic areas connect passengers to shopping districts, major hotels, KLCC, historic sites and some of the best restaurants and nightclubs.
Info to Go
Kuala Lumpur International Airport (KUL) is located 31 miles south of the city. The high-speed KLIA Ekspres train reaches the city’s main transport hub, KL Sentral, in 28 minutes and costs $10. Taxis to KL Sentral take an hour and cost $20. Rapid KL operates buses and three rapid transit lines. If renting a car, remember to drive on the left; seat belts are compulsory. Visit www.tourism.gov.my
Just the Facts
Time Zone: GMT +8
Phone Code: 60
Entry/Exit Requirements: All visitors receive a passport stamp allowing a three-month stay. Keep the landing card you receive when you enter Malaysia; you’ll need it when you leave.
Official Language: Malay; English widely spoken
Key Industries: Tourism, finance, halal goods, microchips, health services
It’s almost mandatory for KL visitors to visit the double-decker skybridge connecting the Petronas Twin Towers (1 Jalang Ampang, tel 60 3 2051 5000). The world’s tallest twin towers, at 1,483 feet, were designed by César Pelli and overlook another of KL’s most popular attractions, the 100-acre Kuala Lumpur City Centre Park (KLCC), a city-within-a-city blending commercial and residential space with landscaped parkland.
Kuala Lumpur Lake Gardens, 100 acres of manicured greenery, sit half a mile southwest of KLCC. These gardens boast a unique twist: Some of the city’s finest cultural and natural attractions are sprinkled throughout the area surrounding the Lake Gardens. Don’t miss the Art Deco Central Market (Jalan Hang Kasturi, tel 60 3 2274 9966). Once a produce market, now this National Heritage site houses 130 shops and 140 stalls, all staffed with vendors selling traditional handicrafts and trinkets. Take home batik and songket brocade, rattan and labu, gourd-shaped ceramic vases.
The Lake Gardens include Hibiscus Garden, Orchid Garden (Jalan Perdana, tel 06 3 2693 0191), Deer Park and Butterfly Park (Jalan Cenderawasih), with more than 150 species of butterflies flitting about. In the same botanical complex you will find the National Art Gallery (2 Jalan Temerloh, tel 60 3 4025 4990), the National Planetarium (Jalan Perdana, tel 60 3 2273 4303) and the National Museum (Jalan Damansara, tel 60 3 2282 6255).
For upscale shopping, KL offers —at last count — 66 malls. One of the most popular is Suria KLCC (Jalan Ampang, tel 60 3 2382 2828), a six-level mall located beneath the Petronas Twin Towers. Another grandiose shopping experience is the Bukit Bintang walk, spanning three roads and taking in galleries, open-air cafés and Malaysia’s biggest department store, KL SOGO (190 Jalan Tuanku Abdul Rahman, tel 60 3 2698 2111). So important is shopping to Malaysia’s economy that three times each year the Ministry of Tourism launches “official” shopping seasons with mega-sale celebrations.
Don’t leave KL without a walk down Petaling Street, the hub of Chinatown, preferably at night when the district is at its liveliest. You’ll pass Traditional Chinese Medicine doctors, herbalists and vendors selling food items from noodles to dried duck.
For a good walking tour of the city, contact the Malaysia Tourism Centre (109 Jalan Ampang, tel 60 3 2164 392) for a three-hour tour starting at Merdeka Square near the KL Lake Gardens.
Business travelers are pampered here in the heart of the financial district. Apple iBooks available to use; comped cocktails and breakfast on club floors. Jalan Sulotan Ismail, tel 60 3 2161 7777, $$$
Mandarin Oriental KLCC
Guests enjoy spectacular views of city lights, KL City Centre Park gardens, or both; elegant contemporary Asian décor, complimentary fruit platter. 50088 Kuala Lumpur, tel 60 3 2380 8888, $$$
Central atrium and posh furnishings set Maya apart. Glasswalled showers allow you to watch big-screen TV as you bathe. Free shuttle to KUL. 138 Jalan Amb ang, tel 60 3 2711 8866, $$$
Diners come here to see and be seen among diplomats, filmmakers, news anchors. It’s also known for killer desserts, especially the signature tiramisu. 29 Jalan Telawi 3, tel 60 3 2284 2880, $$
KL’s best spot for lovers of authentic Italian food, but not for amore — it’s too noisy. Wine cellar stocks 100,000 bottles of Italian. 3a Jalan Ceylon, tel 60 3 2070 3120, $$$
Set in a renovated 1930s colonial bungalow, once a schoolhouse, Top Hat specializes in Nonya food. Try the signature kuih pai tee (little top hats). 7 Jalan Kia Peng, tel 60 3 2142 8611, $$$
The Hamilton Hotel, located steps from the White House, was the perfect place for a relaxing weekend getaway. Upon arrival, the staff was extremely friendly and helpful with a quick check-in process. The lobby was immaculate with shining marble flooring, velvet couches and an arched ceiling design that brought a sense of sophistication. For added security, the elevators are only accessible to those who have a key card to a guestroom.
Luxury destinations around the country partnered with Bryte to introduce The Restorative Bed and enhanced sleep programming at their hotels. The revolutionary, AI-powered Restorative Bed uses real-time technology to intuitively adjust based on the individual’s needs and preferences. An embedded sensory network detects biometrics, like heart rate and breathing patterns, when a sleeper enters the first stage of sleep, triggering cooling features and lulling sleepers into deep sleep. Computer-controlled air cushions alleviate pressure points, and the technology also leads sleepers naturally out of sleep.
Tauck announced plans to fully restart its U.S. tours by July 1. Departures of the Southern Charms: Savannah, Hilton Head and Charleston tour have already begun, with other popular tours across the country relaunching in the coming months. Check the Open for Travel page for information on specific tour departures.
Turkish Airlines resumed its premium onboard dining and hot meal service on all business- and economy-class flights longer than two hours and 15 minutes. The resumption of service is in accordance with all health and hygiene applications.
Coffee is the pillar to almost everyone's morning and, in a way, it's part of a routine you need to get right in order to have your day go smoothly. There are many different brands, types, flavors, coffee shops and ways to make the bold morning beverage.
With the vaccine rolling out and U.S. air travel expected to pick up in the upcoming months, the personal finance website WalletHub released a report on 2021’s Best Frequent-Flyer Programs, to help travelers make the best decision for their wallets.