Incense-swathed temples, frenzied hawker markets, towering sky scrapers and more collide in the sultry capital of Malaysia. Shopping and eating are locals' favourite pastimes, but there's more to the city than just satay and retail therapy. Browse an open-air flea market, join the locals exercising in the cool morning air at the lush KL Forest Eco Park (visitkl.gov.my) – the city's last surviving tract of tropical rainforest – and soak up sensational views of KL's skyline from the observation deck of Kuala Lumpur Tower (menarakl.com.my).
Kuala Lumpur's landmark Central Market (centralmarket.com.my), formerly a wet market, is worth a mosey, with vendors selling handicrafts, art, clothing and more. The Kuala Lumpur Bird Park (klbirdpark.com) is home to more than 3000 exotic birds including flamingos, peacocks and macaws. Come sundown grab a cocktail at the super hip Marini's on 57 (marinis57.com; reservations recommended), Malaysia's highest rooftop bar, for stellar views of the glittering Petrona Towers.
If you love hawker food, you've come to the right place. Come dusk, bustling food stalls cram the atmospheric Petaling Jalan (street) area in China Town lined with pre-war shop houses. Try delicious fried noodles, beef noodle soup, roast duck and Portuguese grilled fish. Here you'll also find the charming Old China Cafe (oldchina.com.my/cafe.html), an expat favourite, serving up authentic Peranakan cuisine. You can sample everything from frog's porridge, sizzling satay and more at the city's largest collection of roadside hawker stalls along Jalan Alor (go after 5pm). Gyuniku Signature in Central Market (see above), meanwhile, is renowned for its saute peppered brisket and tendon rice and mixed beef kwai teow soup, served up on enamel crockery.
Unearthing Kuala Lumpur's best retail offerings requires stamina, comfy shoes and a liberal dose of patience but bargains can be had. KL's main retail and entertainment district Bukit Bintang, in the Golden Triangle, is home to nine vast malls where you can lose yourself for days. Beyond the international chains and big brands, unearth home-grown fashion and vintage finds at Shoes, Shoes, Shoes (shoesshoesshoes.com.my); Allien (facebook.com/Transformashion), and Chalk (facebook.com/pages/Chalk-Sungai-Wang/131570690313047).
For a change of pace head to Bangsar Village, where Melbourne expats Shantini Iyngkaran and Anjana Arunachalam have opened Organica Lifestyle (organicalifestyle.com) hidden away in a quiet residential street. Downstairs tuck into nutritious breakfasts and lunches like the Quinoa Lemak (a healthy spin on Malaysian stable nasi lemak), cold pressed juices and, best of all, Proud Mary Coffee. Upstairs join a yoga, meditation or Pilates class.
The new Oasia Suites Kuala Lumpur (stayfareast.com/en/hotels/oasia-suites-kuala-lumpur), is the first Oasia property by Far East Hospitality Group in Malaysia. In KL's plum Golden Triangle, the 247-room property offers a rooftop pool and gym, spacious studio, one- and two-bedroom apartments (many with views over lush parkland and the looming Kuala Lumpur tower) with kitchenette, washing machine and dryer. The ground floor restaurant is nothing to write home about, however you're walking distance to many of KL's good eateries and bars. From $130 for a deluxe room a night.
Kuala Lumpur taxis unfailingly rank on world's worst lists. Ask politely for the meter to be turned on. If that fails negotiate a fixed price, or use Uber.
Sheriden Rhodes was a guest of Far East Hospitality (stayfareast.com).