Kuala Lumpur is the capital of Malaysia. The city is not very old: in the middle of the 19th century Chinese came to the place where the rivers Kelang and Gombak come together to look for tin. Although they did find it, they paid a high price: 69 of the 87 Chinese died due to horrendous circumstances in what was then a dense jungle. The survivors persevered and set up the tin trade; the beginning of Kuala Lumpur.
One and a half century after the arrival of the Chinese, 'KL' (as Kuala Lumpur) is often called, is a modern city that is dominated by the 452 metre high Petronas Towers.
When it was opened in 1996, it was the world's tallest building.
Both the old city (Chinatown and the Central Market) and the newer commercial area are located on the east bank of the Kelang river. The oldest part of the city has very narrow and winding roads, in sharp contrast the skyscrapers elsewhere in Kuala Lumpur.
The city has one and a half million inhabitants, which is not much for an Asian capital, but around the city there are many suburbs and shantytowns. The entire urban area has 4.5 million inhabitants. Most of them are ethnic-Chinese, followed by Malaysians. In addition, there are many immigrants from India, Indonesia, the Philippines and Bangladesh.
In Malay, Kuala Lumpur means 'muddy confluence'. The city owes that name to its location along the confluence of the muddy rivers Kelang and Gombak. The Kelang flows to the east into the Malacca Straits, on the other side of which lies the Indonesian island of Sumatra. Kuala Lumpur lies a little to the north of the equator, and as a result the climate is hot and humid all year round.
The city's economy originally consisted of tin and rubber. Although those industries exist to this day, the city is now known above all for its modern electrical and electronic industries. Machine construction and food processing are also important sectors, Malaysia has an indigenous car industry (Proton), which exclusively services the domestic market. The factory is situated close to Kuala Lumpur. The country has considerable oil and natural gas reserves. The head office of the Petronas oil company is located in Kuala Lumpur. In addition, tourism provides important revenues and jobs. Many travellers to Malaysia arrive at Kuala Lumpur Airport and stay in the city for a few days.
The very modern Kuala Lumpur Airport is located 50 kilometres to the south of the city centre. From the central train station (KL Sentral) the airport can be reached in 30 minutes. It is an important junction for flight routes; more than 50 airlines use Kuala Lumpur Airport.
The airport is the home base of Asia's first budget airline, Air Asia. This company has an extensive flight network, including domestic flights as well as connections to all the neighboring countries and to China. The budget flights depart from a separate terminal at 20 kilometres from the main terminal. From the train station there are various direct connections to this Low Cost Carrier (LCC) terminal.
From the old airport Sultan Abdul Aziz Shah in Subang, there are domestic flights operated by Berjaya Air. It is located 25 kilometres outside of the city.
Kuala Lumpur has an excellent public transport system. There are three monorail lines: the circular KL Monorail which services the commercial district, and 2 KTM Commuter lines to the suburbs in the north, south and west of the city.
The main attractions in the city can be reached with the City Shuttle buses, which depart from four main stations: KL Sentral, KLCC (Petronas Torens), Titiwangsa (Pekeliling Busstation) and Maluri (a monorail station).
Near Chinatown in the centre of the city lies the large Puduraya bus station, from where most regional operated by Cityliner and Intrakota depart. Around the station there are city bus stops. Buses bound for the eastern provinces depart from Hentian Putra bus station to the north of the centre.
Nowadays the old train stations serves as a terminal for luxurious high-speed buses to places like Penang, Johor Bahru, Singapore and Hat Yai in Thailand.
Driving in Kuala Lumpur is not easy: traffic is busy and the system of motorways is confusing, road signs provide little information or are simply not there. The best place to park your car is in a car park, which are always located near the large shopping malls. Three centrally located car parks are Asia Park Asia Park on Jalan Bukit Bintang and the two car parks behind the Dorsett Regency Hotel. Do not park your car along busy (shopping) streets, because chances are someone will have double parked their car by the time you get back.
Outside the city, it is a different story. Western Malaysia has excellent motorways, most of which lead to Kuala Lumpur. The city is situated on the main north-south route (road numbers E1 and E2). The E8 (Kakak Highway) leads to the eastern coastal provinces of Pahang, Terengganu and Kelantan. These are toll roads. A toll free road is the Federal Route One, which also goes from north to south along the west coast. Singapore can be reached in about 6 hours.
The people in Malaysia drive on the left side of the road, which means the steering wheel in your rental car is on the left. You will get used to that pretty soon, among other things because Malaysian drivers are more disciplined than some of their fellow Asians.
Kuala Lumpur has built a reputation as a place where you can spend the night in a 4 star hotel for comparatively little money. Most luxury hotels are situated in the Golden Triangle, a shopping and entertainment area in the city. In this area there are also many budget hotels. The cheapest hotels are located in Chinatown. Kuala Lumpur is an economic and tourist centre. Make sure you book your hotel room in advance.
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