Imagine a city, its skyline punctuated by minarets, Mogul domes and skyscrapers, its colourful, food-stall-lined streets shaded by banyan and rain trees.
Kuala Lumpur's Top Five
1. Street Food
White tablecloths? Snooty waiters? A roof? No need to bother with all that!
In KL some of your best dining experiences will happen on the street.
Freshly cooked meals served from mobile carts, stalls and shophouse kopitiam (coffee shops) are the way to go. Jln Alor is the city's most famous eats street, jammed with alfresco tables.
The atmosphere and food is good here but prices will be higher than at more locally patronised hawker gourmet destinations such as Lucky Gardens, Imbi Market or the street stalls scattered around Brickfields.
2. Petronas Towers
It's impossible to resist the magnetic allure of the Petronas Towers: the 452m-high structure is beautiful to look at, as well as being the embodiment of Malaysia's transformation into a fully developed nation.
Designed by architect Cesar Pelli, this glistening, steel-wrapped structure is the focal point of the Kuala Lumpur City Centre (KLCC), a 40-hectare development that also includes an imaginatively designed tropical park, a fun aquarium, an excellent kids' museum, a world-class concert hall and one of KL's best shopping malls.
3. Shopping Malls
Come for the air-conditioning, stay for the designer bargains! The roll call of brands in malls Pavilion KL, Suria KLCC and Publika will impress even the most sophisticated of shoppers.
Refreshments are never far away, with masses of restaurants and excellent food courts always part of the retail mix, along with everything from doctor-fish spas to luxurious multiplex cinemas and karaoke rooms.
It's the unexpected finds - the feng shui stores, art galleries and Hindu temples - that really set these malls apart.
The Forest Research Institute of Malaysia (FRIM) is an emerald jewel, a natural escape from KL's urban grind.
Feel your soul start to calm as soon as you enter this 600-hectare reserve where hard concrete and traffic pollution give way to soft foliage and fresh air.
Get the blood pumping on the steep hike up to the thrilling 200m-long Canopy Walkway that hangs a vertigo-inducing 30m above the forest floor and provides panoramic views back to the city.
Down on the ground look for the pond that's home to an arapaima, a giant South American fish.
5. Batu Caves
It's always a very busy and colourful scene at this sacred Hindu shrine but, if you can, time your visit for a holy day, the biggest of which is Thaipusam.
Guarding the 272 steps that lead up to the main Temple Cave is the 43m gilded statue of Murugan, assisted by a platoon of lively macaques who show little fear in launching raids on tourists' belongings.
A new cable car at the foot of the giant limestone outcrop takes the sweat out of reaching Temple Cave.
This is an edited extract from Lonely Planet Kuala Lumpur, Melaka & Penang (3rd Edition) by Simon Richmond © Lonely Planet 2014. Published this month, RRP: NZ$39.99.