Meetings AsiaPacific, January 2007

Kuala Lumpur: The Heart of Malaysia

by Josh Krist

The heart of Malaysia—“Truly Asia” as its recent marketing slogan put it—is most definitely in Kuala Lumpur. Known as “KL” by the veteran Asia-Pacific road warriors who have passed many a time through the city’s busy Kuala Lumpur International Airport, everyone who’s spent time in the city says it’s one of the most striking places on Earth.

Most know Kuala Lumpur by the iconic Petronas Twin Towers, the 88-story landmark that was at one time the tallest building(s) in the world, and takes its style from Islamic architecture. But meeting planners should know that Kuala Lumpur has three standout convention and exhibition facilities in the metro area.

In the shadow of the Petronas Twin Towers is the 100-acre Kuala Lumpur City Centre, home to the Kuala Lumpur Convention Centre. Site of PATA’s Travel Mart 2005, the column-free exhibition hall alone weighs in at 104,000 square feet. The facility boasts an underwater aquarium—perfect for stunning receptions.

The Putra World Trade Centre (PWTC), in the heart of Kuala Lumpur, has a total of 263,000 square feet of event exhibition space in three exhibition halls, 17 meeting rooms, a press conference room, and VIP suites.

The Putrajaya Convention Centre (PICC) is located in the stunning new federal administrative center of Putrajaya, 15 miles south of Kuala Lumpur. The convention center has 1.4 million square feet of exhibition space spread over nine levels, and private meeting rooms for smaller gatherings.

The political, cultural and economic center of the country, Kuala Lumpur is the largest city in Malaysia, and like most big cities has its share of traffic congestion and pollution. But, unlike any other city in the world, KL has a million-year-old forest in the heart of the city, Bukit Nanas Forest Recreational Park, the “Green Lung,” as locals call it.

Home to 1.8 million people and only 150-odd years old, KL is a blend of old and new and is one of the shining stars in the Asian economic revival. The shopping here is fit for royalty—fashionistas and blue bloods come here just for that reason—but there are plently of open-air markets where attendees can find that one-of-a-kind handmade souvenir that they’ll talk about for the rest of their lives. Bintang Walk is one shopping must-see and is the hippest hangout area in the city. On a wide pedestrian-friendly walkway, shopaholics can find almost anything new and cool that their hearts desire, and can take a break to people-watch in one of the many streetside cafes. Central Market, on the other hand, is the air-conditioned go-to place for traditional Malaysian arts and crafts. The ethnic makeup of the city consists of Chinese, Malays, South Indians, and East Malaysian ethnic groups. Each group has its own neighborhood, with all the good food and cultural sites you could imagine.

When it comes to culture, Kuala Lumpur is no slouch. Islam is the official religion here (see sidebar to avoid offending your hosts), but it’s a tolerant country where all religions are practiced freely.

The Islamic Arts Museum, set in the leafy idyll of Kuala Lumpur’s Lake Gardens, is a modern museum that’s one of the best Islamic art museums in the world. For another kind of perspective on the city, head to the viewing deck of the KL tower for a breath-taking vista. Right below is the monkey- and exotic-bird-filled “Green Lung.”

No matter what your attendees do in this vibrant, colorful city, it’s almost a sure bet they’ll remember every minute of it.

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