With a Radisson RED earmarked to open in Kuala Lumpur in the next couple of years, we want to explore the more artistic and off the beaten track places, so what better way take do so than get the low down from local artist Cristjen Lai. Read on to discover his top tips on how to make the most of a day in the Malaysian capital.
Most people visit China Town (Petaling Street Market) when they come to Kuala Lumpur, the fact is it’s a complete tourist trap! Look beyond the tourist hot-spots and you will discover what really makes the city buzz. Locals call the street ‘Chee Cheong Kai’ which means Starch Factory Street and this is because Kuala Lumpur was one of the “pioneer” towns in Malaysia around the start of the 20th century, with many people starting up businesses and settling down in China Town.
Although many of the original businesses have now closed a few survived and are still popular with the old timers. One of my favorite is Lai Foong Restaurant (Kedai Kopi Lai Foong), their beef noodles are just fantastic! If you’re a morning person, you should get up early and head there, order a cup of milk tea and some beef noodles. I know it sounds really heavy to have beef noodles in the morning, but why not give it a try? And don’t worry if this doesn’t appeal for breakfast the good news is they are open until 2pm in the afternoon.
After that take a walk around and explore the morning market. In China Town, there are a few different markets at the same location occupied a different times of the day. Early in the morning is when the locals come to buy their groceries and have breakfast; after 9-10 in the morning, the ‘tourist’ market will begin to take place.
If you’re into art and history go to Chan She Shu Yuen Clan Ancestral Hall. It’s such a shame that not many people nor guidebooks mention this place as it is a real gem. They have some of the oldest and most stunning artefacts and collections in Malaysia which came from China back in the 18th century. They also have a small library with many books written in Chinese. I spent a lot of time there studying the early lifestyle and history of the area.
One last place in my morning routine in Kuala Lumpur is to finish up with a cup of drip-coffee in the arty Aku Cafe. The owner is a graphic designer; a very friendly and talkative guy with a great taste in movie and arts.
Exhibitions are regularly on display in Aku – the work is not from internationally famous artists, but it really does showcase a great range of local art. Next to Aku Cafe is another favourite cafe of mine Moon Tree. These two cafes are thriving and are really popular with the local creative talent.
There are lots of things to do in Kuala Lumpur. But what is the thing that might make your Kuala Lumpur experience different to the normal tourist options? How about enjoying a private fragrance session with OLFAC3? Aien the lovely perfume maker can help you develop your own scent based on your personality and likes. It’s very fun to talk to her as she mixes different ingredients to create a scent specially for you. The whole experience is like a scene from a fairy tale!
The contemporary arts scene is very vibrant in Kuala Lumpur, there are a few galleries that I really like. TAKSU Kuala Lumpur, Richard Koh Fine Art, MAP @ Publika and Artemis Art Gallery are all worth visiting!
Publika has become the main hub of art activity in the city, many art galleries are located there and Publika itself hosts art fairs and handmade craft fairs regularly.
One gallery that you should really look for is Popup Malaysia. They don’t have a permanent location, just like the name – Popup Malaysia, they have pop-up art stores anywhere anytime. All you have to do is go on their Facebook’s page and find out where they will be next.
I’m a coffee addict without doubt and I’m allergic to places that are packed with people. I like to sit outside while I’m sipping my coffee, especially when I’m not in Europe. All I want is a bit of SUN! In Malaysia, not many nice cafes have outdoor seating especially in Kuala Lumpur. My two favourites in the trendy Bukit Bintang area are Feeka and VCR Cafe. Great European standard coffee, outdoor seating and most importantly it’s sort of hidden in the middle of the city – offering peace and quiet.
Next to Feeka is my favourite bar in town No Black Tie. A small and cozy bar that has different events every night of the week, check out their website before you go. A cold beer with some jazz is always nice, no?
For a classy night out start off with dinner in Soleil Wine Bar and Restaurant. It’s one of my favorite restaurants in town, Chef Evert is a very sweet Belgian and in his cuisine he uses a lot of Asian ingredients combined with French cooking techniques. I can’t really tell you which dish is best, because I never look at their menu since the chef is a dear friend and all I say when i order is ‘surprise me!” My suggestion to you is to tell him what you don’t like and what you’re allergic to and let the magic happen.
After that, Luna Bar is a good place to hang out with friends or your loved ones. It’s a quiet cozy lounge bar on the 34th floor of the Pacific Regency Suites with a swimming pool. There are a few rooftop bars in Kuala Lumpur, but Luna Bar is still my favorite. It offers 360 degree views of the city and with a glass floor in the lounge area it is just breathtaking; and the background music is just perfect for conversations.