Kuala Lumpur is every inch the typical Asian metropolis – haphazard and hyperactive in its own imitable way. Yet among the hurly burly, KL exudes an irresistible old-world appeal. Its British colonial landmarks are often delightfully eccentric and even among the hustle of downtown, there are still little tracts of immaculate rainforest and grand ornamental gardens.
Cliché or not, KL is the proverbial melting pot. Three distinct ethnic groups – Malay, Chinese and Tamil make up a rich and fascinating patchwork city, best explored through its burgeoning arts scene, cluttered street bazaars and a national obsession with food.
Aside from Singapore, this is Southeast Asia’s most family friendly city; the transportation system is efficient and inner city streets are safe and welcoming. As with many other parts of Asia, kids are universally adored and can expect constant (good natured) attention.
Kuala Lumpur boasts myriad accommodation options for the family, be it a graceful colonial property or an arty boutique bolt-hole. If it’s all about the kids, then plush Sunway Resort and Spa is arguably the smart choice. Set in the glitzy Sunway Lagoon Theme Park, adrenaline-fuelled fun and games are right on the doorstep.
Sunway Resort and Spa, Bandar Sunway, Petaling Jaya, Kuala Lumpur
Around Central KL
Get Active: Sidestep the crowds heading to the top of Petronas Towers and instead go to the 4th floor, a veritable Aladdin’s cave of all things hi-tech and futuristic. Take a touchy-feely journey through nano-technology, art, science and bizarre 3D film. It’s great interactive fun for budding scientists at Petrosains Discovery Centre.
Petrosains, Petronas Towers, Level 4, Suria KLCC ,Tel: +603 2331 8181 Closed Monday.
Craving for Culture: Watch the kids become mini-master chefs in no time. It is all about hands-on fun with ethnic food, adding a dash of etiquette, language and culture into the mix at at Young Chefs Academy.
Young Chefs Academy Malaysia, 5-3 Jalan 26/70A, Desa Sri Hartamas, Tel: 603 6211 2433, suitable for ages 3 and up.
Go Native: A tranquil escape from the heat, KL’s Lake Gardens packs a surprising punch. Amid the manicured lawns and ornamental fountains are numerous kid-friendly treats. You’ll find a fantastic Bird Park, Butterfly Park, Islamic Museum, boating lake, and Planetarium just for starters. Try out some Tai Chi moves with the locals or kick back with a lazy picnic.
Lake Gardens, Jalan Parlimen, Tel: +603 2693 4132
After Dark: Chow down for some serious sate in KL’s much-loved “Eat Street.” Jalan Alor is brimming with steaming ‘mamak’ food stalls serving up everything from the ubiquitous frog porridge, stingray and legendary ‘saucy desserts.’ Kick back to a soundtrack of animated multi-lingual chitchat.
Jalan Alor, Bukit Bintang
Selangor’s wild, untamed landscape is the perfect antidote to the big city. The state of Selangor makes up much of KL’s outer suburbs on all sides, rising to jungle covered peaks in the north and windswept beaches and mangroves out west. It is home to KL’s number one attraction – the spectacular Batu Caves but also provides the chance to go native with ‘orang asli’ tribes or blazing a trail through desolate swampland.
Get Active: A mere 30 minutes from downtown KL, you can be staring down light-fingered monkeys and monitor lizards at Kanching, an expansive swathe of primary rainforest. Take a bracing dip in the waterfall pools or if you are feeling especially energetic, cruise the upper ridges of the jungle by mountain bike.
Kanching Forest Reserve, Rawang, Selangor
Craving for Culture: For a crash course in the art of being Malaysian, head straight to Selangor Culture Cove. This quaint eco-park –cum-arts center will give you a fascinating lowdown on Malay music and dance, batik painting and the cultivation of spices. There is lots of hands-on fun stuff for curious kids but this is one for Mom too; nibble your way through the chocolate museum and dip a toe in the tropical fish spa.
Selangor Culture Cove, Jalan Kenneison Brothers, Batu Caves, Selangor Tel: +603 6186 7833 Open daily 09:00-17:00
Go Native: A trip to the isolated headland of Pulau Carey gives a fascinating glimpse of one of Malaysia’s few remaining ethnic tribes. This ‘orang asli’ settlement is renowned for wooden mask carving and eccentric wedding rites. It’s a fascinating chance for youngsters to get creative in organized workshops and make original tribal art themselves.
Sungai Bumbun, Pulau Carey, Kuala Langat, Selangor
After Dark: Dare to be different? Take the brood to i-City in Shah Alam to build an ice sculpture or go tobogganing on real snow. It’s the ideal way to cool down in the tropics but save this trip until last. Get here after sundown and see an eye-popping forest of digital lights in the outdoor arena– with enough LEDs to even outshine Las Vegas.
1-City Snowalk, Jalan Multimedia, City Park, Shah Alam, Selangor Tel: +603 5521 8800
Once dubbed “Malaysia’s answer to Silicon Valley,” Putrajaya is all green lush parkland and palm fringed boulevards. It may not have the urban edginess of central KL, just 30 minutes to the north, but is still fun in an outdoorsy kind of way. It is a rather dignified garden city boasting miles of carefully manicured greenery, lakes and great kid-friendly attractions. You’ll find a smattering of contemporary art and culture here – it hosts a happening indie film festival and dragon boat racing is a big draw.
Get Active: The perfect antidote to boredom? How about a huge skate park, indoor climbing walls and over 10 miles of forested biking trails? Putrajaya Challenge Park hits the spot for energetic kids looking to let off steam.
Putrajaya Challenge Park, Precinct 5, Putrajaya, Tel: Open daily 10:00-22:00
Craving for Culture: There is no escaping the imposing sight of Putra Mosque in Putrajaya, which is known simply as the “Pink Mosque” for pretty obvious reasons. It has all the hallmarks of classic Islamic design; a huge pink granite dome and a towering minaret. Take a tour and admire the arty decorative interior which will captivate inquiring minds. There are occasional lectures, exhibitions and a library hosting workshops for kids of all faiths.
Putra Mosque, Perdana Putra
Go Native: Fancy a fruitful day on the farm? Pick your own tropical fruits, spices, cocoa, coffee beans and then test your skills as a rubber tapper. It will have your mouth watering in no time. Head over to Putrajaya’s Agriculture Heritage Park for a crash course in country living.
Agriculture Heritage Park, Precinct 16, Putrajaya Tel : +603 8887 7772
After Dark: Take it nice and slow at sunset with a Putrajaya river cruise with dinner. The city’s interesting mix of the historic and hi-tech is best seen from the water’s edge – after dark all is festooned in dazzling multi- colored neon. Eager for a little passion in Putrajaya? Pack the kids off for an hour and hop onboard the “Love Boat” – a quirky blend of traditional Malay fishing vessel and Venetian Gondolier.
Cruise Tasik Putrajaya, Jeti Putra, Jambatan Putra Tel: +603 8888 5539