Within Kuala Lumpur are many hidden gems that evade the tourist’s eyes. Look away from the Twin Towers and the Golden Triangle, and you will see a different side to KL; among the skyscrapers and modern architectures are forgotten buildings full of history and culture. Wander off the routine path and rediscover KL in ways you hadn’t imagined possible. Soak up the intricate sights, sounds, scents and tastes of the multifaceted city and take a rare glimpse into the elements that make KL a metropolis like no other.
If you are up for scheduling in a little road trip outside of the city centre, within two hours outside Kuala Lumpur are the neighbouring states of Pahang, Perak and Negeri Sembilan. While tourist attractions such as the casino and theme park at Genting Highlands or destinations like Pulau
Pangkor are often touted as the top must-visits of Malaysia, the less highlighted local favourites are worth visiting as well. Listed here are lesser-known spots that are within two hours drive from the city centre—perfect for a short weekend getaway or a day trip.
WITHIN 30 MINUTES OF KUALA LUMPUR
The Performing Arts
Various locations across Kuala Lumpur
Kuala Lumpur’s thriving performing arts scene is home to several production houses including the Kuala Lumpur Performing Arts Centre (KLPAC), Damansara Performing Arts Centre (DPAC), The Actor’s Studio @ KuAsh Theatre and PJ Live Arts. Though a world of paradoxes, the key feature that bridges the gap and unites them can be encapsulated by a single word: variety. Experimental in nature (we are talking about the arts here) and no stranger to taking risks, local theatre houses don’t just host international acts and productions to meet the audience’s increasingly cosmopolitan demands, but stay true to its Malaysian roots through shows by local talents that reflect evolving tastes and the quintessential fusion of cultures only available in the multicultural nation.
Where to go:
The Actor’s Studio @ KuAsh Theatre
Tuanku Bainun Creative Centre for Children,
48, Jalan Tun Mohd Fuad, Taman Tun Dr. Ismail, KL
Tel: 03–4047 9000
Damansara Performing Arts Centre
H-01, DPAC, Empire Damansara,
Jalan PJU 8/8, Damansara Perdana, PJ
Tel: 03–2054 0960
Kuala Lumpur Performing Arts Centre
Sentul Park, Jalan Strachan (off Jalan Ipoh), KL
Tel: 03–4047 9010
PJ Live Arts
Ground Floor Block K @ Jaya One,
72A, Jalan Universiti, PJ
Tel: 03–7960 0439 / 03–79317426
Various locations across Kuala Lumpur
In recent times, Kuala Lumpur has witnessed an expansion of the modern arts scene, resulting in the opening of new galleries that cater to KL-lites’ changing tastes and shifting public persona. Galleries that have cropped up in the past few years and garnered increased attention include Purplehouz Fine Arts Gallery, Wei Ling Gallery, The Annexe Gallery and The Print Room. Renowned for giving exposure to local and international artists to showcase their work, these venues also create safe spaces for them to test the boundaries of artistic expression—a vital requirement for the development of individual style and flair.
Launched in 2007, The Annexe Gallery serves as a centre for contemporary arts, priding itself for being the “art and soul” of Kuala Lumpur. Located in the Central Market Annexe Building, it offers a unique range of eclectic, modern exhibitions compared to the more traditional Central Market.
Where to go:
The Annexe Gallery
1st & 2nd Floor, Central Market Annexe, Jalan Hang Kasturi, KL
Tel: 016–489 2603
The Print Room
49, Lorong 16/9E, PJ
Tel: 03–7931 2227
Purplehouz Fine Arts
Various locations including
94, Jalan Gasing, PJ
Tel: 03–7931 2790
Wei Ling Gallery
8, Jalan Scott, Brickfields, KL
Tel: 03–2260 1106
Heritage Trail through Kuala Lumpur
Various locations across Central Kuala Lumpur
Delve into vestiges of Kuala Lumpur’s rich history and discover heritage buildings from the Colonial era that still remain in the heart of the city. Start at Central Market and embark on a self-guided walking tour that covers Lebuh Pasar Besar (Old Market Square, Kuala Lumpur’s former central district for commercial activities) with its art-deco style Clock Tower (1937; built to mark the coronation of King George VI), OCBC Building (1938; Jalan Hang Kasturi), Gian Singh Building (1909; Jalan Tun Perak), Oriental Building (1930; Jalan Tun Perak), Masjid Jamek (1907; Jalan Tun Perak), Chartered Bank Building (1919; Jalan Raja), Government Printing Offi ce (1899; Jalan Raja) and St. Mary’s Anglican Cathedral (1894; Jalan Raja). To the unassuming eye, these buildings might appear out of place amidst their more upscale neighbours, but they serve as a reminder of Kuala Lumpur’s origins—and the heights it can soar to.
Located a stone’s throw away from these buildings are Kuala Lumpur’s other more popular heritage sites such as the Sultan Abdul Samad Building (1894–1897; Jalan Raja) and Royal Selangor Club (1884; Jalan Raja).
2, Jalan Stonor, Kuala Lumpur
Tel: 03–2144 9273
GPS coordinates: N3°09.030’ E 101°43.001
For those seeking to explore the intricate history of Malaysia’s past, this is a prime place to start. The Heritage Centre houses its Secretariat in a restored 1925 British Colonial bungalow along with the Chen Voon Fee Resource Centre and a gift shop. In the grounds of the Heritage Centre stands the award-winning Abu Seman Kampong House, a traditional Malay timber house formerly inhabited by a village headman in Kedah. In 1996, it was carefully relocated and restored at its present site where it serves as an education resource and cultural tourism centre. Guided tours of Abu Seman are available at 11.00am and 3.00pm daily from Mondays to Saturdays.
WITHIN 60 MINUTES OF KUALA LUMPUR
Sekeping Serendah Retreat
Serendah, Hulu Selangor, Selangor
GPS coordinates: N3°368050’ E101°631150
Tel: 012–324 6552
Nestled in the idyllic town of Serendah outside Kuala Lumpur, the Sekeping Serendah Retreat offers the perfect escape for individuals keen to leave the chaos of the metropolis behind—even if it’s just for a short break. Spread over five acres of lush tropical rainforest are seven sheds that seem to rise organically from the ground.
Open and transparent, the almost-Spartan sheds are constructed to blend in with the surroundings—there are even circular openings built into the floors and ceilings to accommodate growing trees—evoking a distinct sense of belonging between men and nature. The sheds are intentionally basic, allowing guests to marvel at the retreat’s simple architectural elegance, and adorned with unique pieces of contemporary art made from discarded industrial metal scraps. The various sheds can house between two to four adults, while the warehouses boast a capacity of up to 10 adults, making Serendah the ideal getaway for groups of family and friends.
Sungai Lepoh Falls
Hulu Langat, Selangor
GPS coordinates: N03°15.03’ E101°51.94
Nature ramblers keen to discover the pristine sights of the Sungai Lepoh (sometimes spelled as “Lepok”) Falls will be thrilled to learn that the waterfall can only be reached through a 4km trek that runs through a forested area marked by durian orchards and bamboo. The 2-hour trek uphill gains approximately 350m in altitude, but the path is relatively clear and not strenuous; ideal for individuals keen to stroll through the jungle at a leisurely pace. The stunning waterfall that greets visitors at the end of the hike is a sight for sore eyes; gushing rivulets cascade from its peaks into a deep pool that’s ideal for swimming or a quick dip—a welcome respite to cool down after the journey.
Kuala Selangor, Selangor
GPS coordinates: N3°21.398’ E101°14.916
This Chinese fi shing village located just across the river from Kuala Selangor is a commercial hub with halal seafood restaurants, traditional markets and stores selling trinkets and local snacks. The local market, Pasar Pasir Penambang is a small seafood market that is popular among villagers and tourists. Fresh seafood is of course the top seller here. To visit Pasir Penambang, one can plan a trip here on a late afternoon, feast at the restaurants by the river and proceed to Kampung Kuantan or Kampung Bukit Belimbing to watch the fi refl ies that light up the village at night.
Taman Alam Nature Park, Jalan Klinik, Kuala Selangor
Tel: 03–3289 2294
GPS coordinates: N3°20.471’ E101°14.918
A relic from the Dutch colonial era, Altingsburg Lighthouse soars high atop Malawati Hill. Although the lighthouse itself is off limits to visitors, you can explore the six replica cannons next to it. From the lookout point, enjoy a panoramic view of the Taman Alam Park. The hill’s crisp air and lush greenness also make it an ideal spot for a picnic. Further down the hill, look out for the Silver Leaf monkeys—though they’re certainly fascinating to behold, it’s best to keep your belongings close!
Port Klang, Selangor
GPS coordinates: N2°52.015’ E101°21.998
Named after an English planter who acquired the island to start rubber plantations, Carey Island bursts with exciting sights and sounds. Locals love it for the fresh seafood options. The island is also home to the aboriginal Mah Meri tribe, striking bird species, the historical Hatter’s Castle and heritage bungalows from the island’s rubber plantation heyday. Nature and adventure tours are offered that encompass a golf club, mangrove swamp and beach among other places.
WITHIN 90 MINUTES OF KUALA LUMPUR
Kuala Lukut Chuah, Negeri Sembilan
GPS coordinates: N2°584429’ E101°789518
Located in Kuala Lukut Chuah, the small fi shing outpost of Kelong Mahmud rises from the ocean on stilts, creating a picturesque view that’s bound to captivate visitors. Comprising barriers and compartments constructed from wood and betel nut stem, the fishing stakes carry an undeniable rustic charm—the perfect hideaway for excited anglers on the lookout for lesser known fishing spots. Kelong Mahmud can hold a maximum of 20 people and is equipped with basic amenities including electricity, water, toilets and a cooking area—ensuring that fishing enthusiasts are able to cast lines, put their feet up and wait for the fish to bite comfortably without distractions.
National Elephant Conservation Centre
Kuala Gandah, Lanchang, Pahang
GPS coordinates: N3°30.050’ E102°11.615
Established by the Department of Wildlife and National Parks in 1989, the centre is a base for the Elephant Relocation Team who is responsible for relocating 450 wild elephants to prevent further decline of the elephant population. Besides supporting research on the translocation and conservation of elephants, it is also open to the public for visits.
Visitors can assist in bathing and feeding the elephants while guided by a NECC offi cer; depending on the weather and currents, visitors are allowed to bathe the baby elephants in the river—otherwise, you can also observe the young ones roaming within a secured area. As part of the effort to raise awareness on the elephant conservation issues, documentary screenings are held to educate visitors on the history of the centre, the relocation and conservation efforts and the future of the elephant population—far from being dry and boring, the informative documentary is an essential part of the trip.
WITHIN 120 MINUTES OF KUALA LUMPUR
Jalan Kuala Kangsar, Gunung Tasik, Ipoh, Perak
GPS coordinates: N4°38.706’ E101°05.932
The Perak Cave Temple, or Perak Tong (see top photo), is one of Ipoh’s most famous cave temples. Dating back to 1926, it houses over 40 Buddhist statues including the centerpiece, a 13-metre high Buddha statue, while the cave is ornamented with mystical paintings, murals and calligraphies of poetry and philosophy. The oriental architecture of the temple is also a big draw to visitors and tourists. For the fi t and healthy, a climb up the steps (reportedly over 300 steps) will be rewarded with gazebos erected along the ridge top that offer a bird’s eye view of Ipoh.
Jalan Gopeng, Batu Gajah, Perak
Tel: 05–3651 336
GPS coordinates: N4°32.778’ E101° 05.085
If you have a car, it would be interesting to visit the infamous Kellie’s Castle. With a reputation for being haunted, the castle’s construction began in 1915 but was halted in 1926 when its owner succumbed to the Spanish flu. William Kellie Smith, hailing from Scotland, ventured out to the seas and made Malaya his home. Here, he managed to carve himself an empire by teaming up with estate owner Alma Baker to help construct roads in South Perak, and later on invested his profits in an estate to set up a rubber plantation. Smith’s flourishing business allowed him to build grand mansions on his lands, with what is now called Kellie’s Castle being his second one in Malaya. Tragically, he was reportedly inflicted with the Spanish flu on a trip to Portugal, and never returned. Visitors to the castle will be able to learn more about the history and construction of the castle, which itself is a museum to Smith’s unfortunate legacy in Perak.
Banjaran Spa and Wellness
1, Persiaran Lagun Sunway 3, Ipoh, Perak
Tel: 05–210 7777
GPS coordinates: N4°37.889’ E101° 09.364
Allow yourself to unwind at Banjaran Spa and Wellness where you will find private pools, geothermal jacuzzi and hot springs, dipping pools, thermal steam caves and a host of spa treatments including Ayurvedic and traditional Chinese medicine treatments, massages, facials and more. In line with its promotion of health and wellness, the retreat’s Pomelo restaurant offers light, nutritious meals with seasonal and organic fruits and vegetables, and fresh premium seafood, meat and poultry without artificial seasoning or flavourings. The star of the retreat is Jeff’s Cellar—this unique wine and dine spot is perfect for special occasions and dinner parties. Featuring the private wine collection of Tan Sri Jeffrey Cheah, the founder and chairman of the Sunway Group, guests will be able to dine inside the 280-million-year-old cave to the music of the natural water features in there.