FROM a distance, Kuala Lumpur looks like your archetypal modern Southeast Asian city
- all gleaming skyscrapers and jammed highways. Scratch the surface and you'll find much more than you'd expect from its modern exterior. Kuala Lumpur's history is rich in intrigue, and its populace a unique blend of Malay, Chinese, Indian and Eurasian cultures.
From grand colonial architecture, to labyrinthine alleys hiding markets and temples, as well as the shopping malls of the Golden Triangle, Kuala Lumpur packs a lot in. While the Malaysian capital is no pedestrian's paradise, main attractions are very accessible. And where footpaths disappear - a common occurrence - it's easy to jump on the Light Railway Transit or hail a cab for a few ringitt.
A pole apart 08:30:
most of Kuala Lumpur's mid to high-end hotels are situated in the modern Golden Triangle. Skip the hotel breakfast and head for one of the trendy coffee houses along Jalan Bukit Bintang, also home to Kuala Lumpur's shopping malls. Avoid the temptation for now and head by taxi or bus to Merdeka Square, Kuala Lumpur's colonial heart. The huge Malaysian flag atop a 95-metre pole - reputedly the world's tallest - is the place to jump off the bus. Most city tours visit Merdeka Square.
Early days 09:30:
the fabulously colonial Royal Selangor Club sits on one side of Merdeka Square, while to the east is the Sultan Abdul Samad Building, a blend of Victorian and Moorish architecture housing the Supreme Court. A brief walk takes you to the confluence of the Kuala lumpurang and Gombak Rivers and the ornately domed Masjid Jamek, or Friday Mosque. This is the birthplace of the city, and where the first Europeans scrambled ashore.
Top of the world 10:00:
the Petronas Towers, the world's tallest buildings, are a Kuala Lumpur highlight and best reached by the LRT. The identical and beautifully sculpted 451-metre towers are connected at 58 metres by a skybridge, which doubles as a viewing platform. Once the supersonic lifts deliver you back to earth, it's hard to resist the designer stores at the base. The Suria KLCC Shopping Centre is worth a visit too - if only for people-watching and the indoor canal.
Use your noodle 12.00:
take the LRT ride back to the colourful, crumbling streets of Chinatown. The hawker stalls are great for a lunch of duck rice and fish-ball noodles. Chinatown's Jalan Petaling is pedestrianised and perfect for soaking up the atmosphere. The Central Market on Jalan Hang Kasturi has a good selection of local handicrafts - or you could check out the fortune tellers. To the north is Little India, awash with music and the smell of cooking spices.
Fruits of the forest 14:30:
after the bustle, a taxi or bus to the Lake Gardens in the southwest will refresh both mind and body. The gardens surround a large lake where you can hire boats at weekends. A stroll among the imposing rainforest trees and brilliant blooms is an experience. A visit to the orchid garden is a must, along with the enormous walk-in aviary.
Hit the plastic 17:30:
on route back to the hotel, dip into some shopping malls. On Jalan Bukit Bintang, pick up electrical goods in Bukit Bintang Plaza; clothes and shoes in Lot 10; designer gear at the Star Hill Shopping Centre; or explore Kuala Lumpur Plaza's boutiques. For an early supper, try Shook on the lower ground floor of Star Hill for Chinese, Japanese, Western or Italian cuisine served in chic surroundings.
On a plate 20:00:
dining in Kuala Lumpur is a highlight of any visit. Seri Angkasa, 282 metres up the Kuala Lumpur Tower, has the best views and a wide selection of Malaysian and western dishes from around £15 per person. Chinoz on the Park, at Suria KLCC, has indoor and covered outdoor dining with views over to the lake. Main meals range from pizzas to wok-fried tiger prawns from £10. Premier Holidays' Kuala Lumpur dining experience involves a walk through Little India before dinner at the Kuala Lumpur Tower for £35 per person.
Neon and on 22:00:
Kuala Lumpur's many night markets are a thronging mix of furious bartering and delicious hawker food. The most established is at Jalan Petaling in Chinatown offering everything from DVDs to clothes. Colours of Asia's Kuala Lumpur Highlights package, £22 per person, includes a tour the of the night market before dinner. But save some energy for partying. For live music, the Hard Rock Café on Jalan Sultan Ismail is popular while around the corner the Beach Club is loud and busy but fun. Locals with insider knowledge head to Bangsar, a 10-minute taxi ride away, where two streets are lined with bars and restaurants.