THIS is a tale of three cities - Kuala Lumpur, Labuan and Putrajaya. They are all in different parts of the country, but they have two things in common - same title and same birthday. Kuala Lumpur was the first to be declared as Federal Territory on Feb 1, 1972, followed by Labuan in 1982 and the youngest is Putrajaya in 2001. They are all brightly lit up at night and beautifully landscaped in many parts.
THOUGH the Federal Government administration offices have been moved to her younger sister, Putrajaya, Kuala Lumpur, or KL as it's fondly referred to, will always have her place of prominence. KL is likely to be the most important city in Malaysia and an increasingly important international city for a long time to come.
GOING BACK TO OLD KL
Follow the city's heritage trail that will take you back to the very confluence of the two rivers - Gombak and Kelang - that gave KL its name.
* Masjid Jamek: It is located exactly at the convergence of the Kelang and Gombak rivers. The stately mosque is the oldest in the city.
* Dataran Merdeka: The square has a special place in the hearts of all Malaysians. For this was where the Union Jack was lowered for the last time in 1957.
Surrounding the area are historical buildings like Bangunan Sultan Abdul Samad and the Old City Hall and the tallest flag pole in the world.
* Central Market (Pasar Seni): The centre is a popular spot for those who want to get a glimpse of Malaysian art and craft. Craft demonstrations are held occasionally.
* Bangunan Sultan Abdul Samad: Built in 1848, this historical landmark is famed for its Islamic-inspired architecture. Its 40-metre-high clock tower is a popular gathering point for New Year and National Day countdown celebrations and parades.
* Istana Negara: The palace is the official residence of the Yang di-Pertuan Agong, the constitutional monarch and paramount ruler of Malaysia. It was built in 1928 by a Chinese millionaire and occupied by Japanese officers during the Japanese occupation of Malaya. Visitors can witness the changing of the guards daily at the main gate. The palace is not open to the public.
* Kampung Baru: Founded in the late 19th century, Kampung Baru is KL's oldest residential area. And it is also the only original Malay enclave in the heart of the city. Though KL has been modernised, the kampung still maintains a strong rural-like charm with its many traditional Malay houses. Come here for the Pasar Minggu (weekend market), which starts from late afternoon on Saturday and finishes early on Sunday morning.
* Petaling Street (Chinatown): For whatever reasons, Petaling Street is a good place to start shopping and looking around. The busiest spot in town, Petaling Street preserves its shopping ambience the same way it was done and built decades ago. Walk through the rows of pre-war buildings and you might just bump into something interesting - all kinds of goods or hawker food.
* Brickfields: The place is a bustling shopping haven for everything Indian - from food to textiles, spices to ceremonial offerings.
OGLING AT MODERN KL
Amid its old-world charm, KL is a modern sophisticated city. Its modern buildings and transport and road systems make it a real joy to just wander around, while sightseeing, shopping and eating can be done anywhere.
* Petronas Twin Towers: These twin towers, among the world's tallest, are one of the two places you must take your KL holiday photos. The other one is Bangunan Sultan Abdul Samad near Dataran Merdeka. On the same compound where the Twin Towers stand tall is Suria KLCC - a high-end shopping mall. There is also a marvellous park, a convention centre (Kuala Lumpur Convention Centre), Petrosains (an edu-tainment park) and a gigantic walk-through aquarium (Aquaria KLCC). For a more memorable experience, go up to the Skybridge to get a magnificent view of KL.
* KL Tower: To get another aerial view of KL, go up the observation deck of KL Tower. You will be a few metres higher than the Twin Towers since the tower is built on a hill.
* National Science Centre: It is located in the quieter outskirts of KL at Bukit Kiara. This national landmark has more than a thousand interactive exhibits to help visitors gain and appreciate a love for science.
* Tasik Perdana: This is a huge green lung for KL folk. The Lake Gardens is the oldest in the city and is a big area to cover in a day. There is a handful of tourist attractions around the lake, so much so that there is a tram service provided for visitors' convenience. Come and plan your day to cover all. There are:
* Masjid Negara: The National Mosque is the start of your tour around the Lake Gardens.
* Muzium Kesenian Islam: Opposite the National Mosque is the beautiful white-blue building of Islamic Art Museum. The museum showcases objects of religious and aesthetic significance, displaying Malaysian Islamic culture and uniqueness.
* Tugu Negara: This immense bronze structure was built as a memorial to the soldiers who gave up their lives for their country. This sculpture depicts seven soldiers holding the Malaysian flag, each symbolising one of seven qualities - unity, strength, leadership, sacrifice, courage, suffering and vigilance.
* Muzium Negara: The majestic Malay-influenced building has been the landmark in the area for a long time. It exhibits everything about Malaysian culture and lifestyle.
* National Planetarium: The planetarium houses space science and astronomy exhibits, a theatre screening 3-D movies, a viewing gallery and an observatory.
* Parks and gardens: There are several parks here, including the KL Bird Park, Orchid Garden, Hibiscus Garden and Herbal Garden. The KL Bird Park is said to be the largest walk-in free-flight aviary in the world.
IRRESISTIBLE KL SHOPPING AND DINING
Shopping is simply great in KL. Just choose one area to suit your budget and preferences. Either go to the full-blown shopping malls around town or the typical Asian markets - night markets or flea markets, which are usually open during weekends. Shopping areas are the ever-busy Bukit Bintang which has malls like Berjaya Times Square, Lot 10, Starhill and others; Jalan Tuanku Abdul Rahman - the oldest street in the city with unique shopping offerings; Bangsar with Mid Valley Megamall and Bangsar Shopping Centre; and Petaling Street. In KL, food shouldn't be any problem for anybody. Regardless of your palate, budget or location, there is always something to eat. Go for high-end fine dining at the many restaurants or choose humble open-air roadside stalls.
Putrajaya may well become the country's most attractive city to live, work or visit. The city is a stunningly well-planned combination of delightful landscapes and buildings with scenic water features and parkland. Created as Malaysia's first Intelligent Garden City, Putrajaya has the best potential to be a city you will want to visit over and over again.
Architecturally, Putrajaya is an indigenous city with a modern look. Go around the city and ogle at the structures - beautiful buildings, bridges, monuments and even street lamps!
* Dataran Putra: The 300-metre circular Dataran Putra serves as a unique transition between the ceremonial area and the parks. It has concentric stars representing the states of Malaysia and is adorned with light and water features. The highlight here is the Chahar Baghs or the recreation of Eden with its four quadrants and four rivers. The Chahar Baghs is a carefully arranged interplay of paths, water channels, trees and flowerbeds.
* Putrajaya International Convention Centre: PICC has state-of-the-art conference facilities at par with other international conference centres, such as in London, Tokyo and Paris. The design is based on the traditional pending perak (a silver Malay royal belt buckle) and wau bulan (moon kite). The walls are mainly made of glass to allow in more sunlight.
* Perdana Putra: This is the main administrative office of the Prime Minister, Deputy Prime Minister, Ministers and Deputy Ministers in the Prime Minister's Department, Chief Secretary to the Government as well as the Special Units. This majestic structure has a combination of Islamic and Mogul architecture featuring striking green domes.
* Seri Perdana: The official and private home of the Prime Minister. The public are only allowed on a guided tour to the reception and banquet block, which serves the formal guest areas. The residence block is the private home of the Prime Minister and his family.
* Putra Bridge: It is the main bridge in Putrajaya and connects the Government Precinct to the Mixed Development Precinct. It is inspired by the design of the famous Khaju Bridge in Isfahan, Iran.
* Seri Perdana Bridge: It connects Precinct 2 on the Core Island to the residential area of Precinct 8. Looking like a sail ship, the bridge is designed with eight rest areas for visitors to enjoy the breathtaking scenery of the surrounding lake area that includes the Prime Minister's Office and Masjid Putra.
* Seri Gemilang Bridge: It connects Heritage Square with Putrajaya Convention Centre. It is also known as a ceremonial bridge.
* Seri Saujana Bridge: It is a new concept of the cable-stayed arch bridge, which connects the Core Island (Precinct 4) to the Precinct 7.
* Seri Bestari Bridge: It is a large bridge in Putrajaya, spanning the lake and the promenades and connects Precinct 16 and Wisma Putra on the west side on Core Island.
MAN-MADE NATURAL WONDERS
Intelligent Garden City as it is, Putrajaya has placed around its boundaries vast parks of special interest.
* Taman Botani: It is the largest botanical garden in the country, divided into three sections - flowers, ornamental plants and preservation/research - over 92ha. It has been designed as an arcadia or a national sanctuary for the Malaysian living collection of plant taxonomy as well as a centre for education and research. Taman Botani has over 700 species of local plants as well as those from African and Asia Pacific regions.
* Taman Warisan Pertanian: The park is designed to showcase Malaysian commercial agricultural development, featuring more than 170 plant and tree species, including crops such as rubber, cocoa, oil palm as well as fruits, herbs and spices. You should come during fruit seasons, or otherwise try rubber tapping, latex collection and many other activities. It also has a Rubber, Pepper and Coffee Processing Demonstration Centre and a visitor's complex housing souvenir shops, cafe and fruit stalls
* Taman Wawasan: Taman Wawasan is a recreational park located in Precinct 2 and bordered by Putrajaya lake and a canal. Among its attractions are the Aviary, Park Promenade and Three-Theme Adventure Playgrounds (park, water and forest). Other facilities include light beacons, wakaf and shelters and jogging tracks.
* Taman Rimba Alam: The park is a display of urban forestry combining tropical forest eco-system with a metropolitan recreational park. There are a Forest Education Centre, camping ground, look-out tower, jungle trail and mounted police stable.
* Taman Wetlands: The Wetlands Park and the wetland areas here form the largest artificial freshwater wetlands in the tropics and is the first of its kind in the country. The park has a nature interpretation centre, wetlands plant nursery, flamingo pond and nature trails.
* Taman Putra Perdana: It is located at the highest point in Precinct 1 and surrounded by Persiaran Sultan Salahuddin Abdul Aziz Shah. This is among the best places to enjoy a panoramic view of Putrajaya.
* Taman Selatan: The park has been developed as the green gateway from the south of Putrajaya, incorporating cemeteries for Muslims, Buddhists, Hindus and Christians. On the ground are religious pavilions, a memorial centre housing a Memorial Wall and Exhibition Area and Challenge Park, among others.
SHOPPING AND DINING AT THE INTELLIGENT CITY
Shopping and dining at Putrajaya are done in a modern fashionable way. Shop at Alamanda Shopping Centre, Putrajaya's one-stop shopping complex. Located at Precinct 1, this lifestyle mall has a variety of shops, restaurants, bowling alleys and food court. For something exotic, head to Anjung and Lanai where restaurants, bookshops, convenience stores and handicraft shops are located.
Eating out is another affair in Putrajaya. There is a unique blend of indoor and outdoor dining experience for diners. You can choose to dine and shop at Souq, which is located at the lower level of Putra Mosque. It has more than 50 stalls offering food items, accessories, exotic gifts, handicraft and souvenirs of Putrajaya. Modern and contemporary dining can be had at Selera Putra food hall located at the Promenade, Dataran Putra in Precinct 1.
* Walk across the Skybridge of Petronas Twin Towers
Be part of the famed towers. But you have to start queuing at the checkpoint which is located at the lower ground floor of Suria KLCC to get a ticket. Only a limited number of visitors are allowed per day. So, go with an open heart (even to accept disappointment)!
* Walk on the walkways of Water Villages
* Cruise Tasik Putrajaya
The best way to see and experience the splendour of Putrajaya is on a cruise boat or the gondola-like vessels. The vessels are uniquely designed in the style of local Malay traditional perahu. Take a leisurely cruise to see and marvel at the city's many stunning landmarks and experience the breathtaking sights of Putrajaya from a unique perspective.