Go to the jungle city
Once a Chinese tin mining town, Malaysia’s lush capital, built around a natural rainforest, has grown into a glittering metropolis with futuristic architecture, gold-domed mosques and temples, and ancient banyan trees. Known as the jungle city, Kuala Lumpur was put firmly on the map when the 88-storey Petronas Towers were built in the 1990s. They were the world’s tallest buildings until 2004, and remain the world’s tallest twin towers today.
Still, there’s far more to KL, to give it its local nickname, than shiny skyscrapers and tropical rainforest. It has world-class street food, contemporary Asian art and many heritage sites, including the Batu Caves, a revered Hindu temple that this summer had an Instagram-friendly makeover on the 272 steps leading up to the limestone caves.
A waterfall of lights
KL has had the official style stamp of approval with the opening of the W Hotel Kuala Lumpur (double rooms from £160, whotels.com). Barely two months old, the 150-room hotel across from the Petronas Towers is the brand’s first foray into Malaysia. And there’s no doubting its Asian beat: the lobby has a ‘waterfall’ of pulsating LED lights and bamboo chandeliers. There’s also the Wet Deck rooftop pool and bar, and Saint Pierre, KL’s latest Michelin-starred contemporary French restaurant.
It’s not the only new face in town, though. The super-slick 143-room Alila Bangsar (doubles from £71, alilahotels.com/bangsar) opened in May in the trendy Bangsar district, while affordable luxury brand CitizenM is currently adding the finishing touches to CitizenM Kuala Lumpur (citizenm.com), which opens in the buzzy Bukit Bintang district at the end of the year. Finally, Monopoly Mansion, the world’s first Monopoly-themed hotel, will pass go here in 2019.
Food on the aeroplane
A blend of Malay, Chinese and Indian cultures, Malaysia is renowned for its incredible food — KL staple curry laksa came in at number two on Lonely Planet’s recent Ultimate Eatlist of the world’s top 500 eating experiences. The spicy curry noodle soup is best slurped at the curry stalls at Madras Lane. Sushi Ryu (set lunch from £51, ryu-sushi.com) also opens this month in the Platinum Park Tower and is the city’s first two-Michelin-starred Japanese restaurant.
For a low-key munch, head to Tropicana Avenue’s latest Japanese izakaya. Kyu Bar (facebook.com/KyuBarPJ) knocks out authentic yakitori (from 70p) and gyoza (from £2.36), washed down with mugs of local beer (£2.36).
And for something totally out there, eat in a grounded Boeing 737. The 90-minute Plane In The City experience (from £46, planeinthecity.com) includes a wing walk, a tour of the cockpit and a three-course dinner. Upgrade to first class (£183) for free cocktails and canapés, plus a night at the city’s Le Meridien hotel.
Getting into the spirit
With Halloween and spooky season imminent, it seems appropriate to reveal the city’s zombie side. The Deceased, a rooftop bar that opened in KL’s Chinatown this year, has ghostly music, ‘blood’-streaked walls and faux corpse photos. The bar is decked out like an old apothecary shop (it was a Chinese pharmacy in a former life) with glass jars filled with boozy infusions and cocktails that include Petty Person Beating and Tea of Oblivion (from £6.90, facebook.com/thedeceasedkl).
For something a little less sinister but just as atmospheric, head to BarZhen (cocktails from £6.90, facebook.com/barzhen), hidden behind a blue door on a lantern-draped alleyway in Chinatown. The latest secret address on KL’s burgeoning speakeasy scene has a signature cocktail, the Red Dates Clover Club, made with red date-infused gin, kaffir lime leaves and egg whites.
■ Return flights from Heathrow to Kuala Lumpur with British Airways start from £553, https://www.britishairways.com/travel/home/public/en_gb