The heart of modern KL, the Golden Triangle is a sprawling area bounded to its north by Jalan Ampang, and to the west by Chinatown and Sungai Klang. Many visitors make a beeline for KLCC (Kuala Lumpur City Centre;, a group of huge developments surrounding the bland KLCC Park, on a site once home to the Selangor Turf Club. The chief attractions here are the Petronas Towers, soaring above one of KL’s best malls, Suria KLCC, and the city’s glossy aquarium.

Further south, the Golden Triangle’s other magnet is Bukit Bintang (“Star Hill”), home to upmarket and workaday malls, many of KL’s best hotels and restaurants, and some engaging street life. East, Kompleks Budaya Kraf is the city’s largest handicrafts gallery, while northwest lies Bukit Nanas, a forested hill where the Menara KL communications tower affords great views of the city.

The Petronas Towers

Very much the symbol of modern Malaysia, the twin columns of the Petronas Towers rise 451.9m above KL’s downtown, completely dwarfing the enormous Suria KLCC Mall at their base. When they were completed in 1998, as the headquarters of the state-owned oil company Petronas, many questioned whether the US$1.6 billion price tag was an unwarranted drain on the Malaysian economy, but the tapering steel-clad structures (designed by the Argentinean architect Cesar Pelli) are a stunning piece of architecture. Despite a definite Art Deco feel, the unusual eight-pointed cross-sectional profile obviously draws on Islamic art, while the profusion of squares and circles on the interior walls symbolize harmony and strength. The project is also permeated by Chinese numerology in that the towers have 88 floors and the postcode 59088 – eight being a very auspicious number for the Chinese.

One tower was built by a Japanese team, the other by rivals from Korea; while the Japanese topped out first, the Koreans had the honour of engineering the skybridge, which joins the towers at both the forty-first and forty-second floors. The views from the skybridge of KL’s sprawl are pretty spectacular, thanks not least to the blue, glassy towers soaring either side of you – though not as good as from the Observation Deck on Level 86.

Menara KL

At 421m, the Menara KL tower offers vistas east across the Petronas Towers to the blue peaks of the Titiwangsa range that marks the start of the Peninsula’s interior, and west along the unmitigated urban sprawl of the Klang Valley. Dusk is an especially worthwhile time to come, as the city lights up, as does the tower itself on special occasions – green for Muslim festivals, purple for Deepavali and red for the Chinese New Year. Though free audio guides describe what can be seen in each direction, it’s probably best to hold off visiting until you know KL well enough to be familiar with its general layout.

The observation deck sits inside in the bulbous portion of the tower, which was designed in the shape of a gasing, the Malay spinning top. Fixed binoculars (free) allow you to espy city life in minute detail, even picking out pedestrians narrowly avoiding being run over as they scurry across the streets of Chinatown. You can also combine a visit with tea or a meal at the revolving Seri Angkasa restaurant one floor higher.

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