In Kuala Lumpur, Sentral is really a little southwest of the center, but with extensive development and great transport links it is getting more central by the day.
Once full of traditional shophouses with European, Chinese, Malay and Indian influences, today the Malaysian capital is more a city of highrises. And Sentral is one area that is enthusiastically embracing the elevated aesthetic.
Tourists generally congregate in the middle of KL, close to the nightlife of Bukit Bintang and shopping around Kuala Lumpur City Centre and the Petronas Towers, but Sentral is coming up in the world with new malls and luxury accommodation.
Kuala Lumpur means muddy confluence (of the Klang and Gombok rivers) in Malay. A frequent complaint about this city – of more than 7 million in its greater urban area – is that most of these people seem to be driving cars, and traffic moves at the speed of sludge.
Sentral, however, is the best connected transport hub in town. Most of KL’s passenger rail lines serve KL Sentral, the largest station of its kind in Southeast Asia, and many intercity trains serving Peninsular Malaysia and Singapore start there as well. Taking advantage of all this railway action, along with easy access to the city and the airport, developers are busily completing an “exclusive urban center built around Malaysia’s largest transit hub”, that will also serve the business and financial sectors.
All the railway components of the scheme have been completed, but other elements such as shops, offices and apartments are still under construction though the lot is expected to be completed by 2015.
The connectivity is great for the business traveler, and accommodation options just became more interesting with the new Aloft Kuala Lumpur Sentral (www.aloftkualalumpursentral.com), which has a youthful, contemporary atmosphere and a modern streamlined approach. With perky staff called “Talent” and music videos in the elevator, the hotel feels like an immaculate nightclub.
Located right outside the station, Aloft KL’s outlook is futuristically urban, overlooking skyscrapers, highways and rail terminals from its 29 floors. The Aloft concept is well established in North America, but there are only around a dozen Alofts in Asia, and this is Malaysia’s first. The rooftop pool and bar are popular with wonderful views of the city skyline, including the Petronas Towers, tallest twin buildings in the world.
But there are still pockets of traditional neighborhoods near by, and in the immediate environs there is the lively Indian community of Brickfields and its many Indian restaurants. A popular South Indian outlet called Anjappar, serving South Indian food of the mercantile Chettiars, is part of a chain that started in Chennai in 1964. Go early to avoid disappointment. For more international food options, Bangsar and its upmarket malls, tapas bars and bistro-style cafes is about 10 minutes away by cab, depending on traffic.
As an antidote to all the concrete and man-made structures, the National Museum and a deer park of Lake Gardens are a short walk away. As the area is a jumble of car parks and large roads to accommodate vehicles rather than pedestrians, the easiest thing to do is head for Le Meridien outside Stesen Sentral and ask someone to point out the stairs down from the highway.
From Sentral it’s also easy to reach other parts of the city, such as KLCC, via Light Rail Transit (LRT), take the monorail just outside Stesen Sentral to Bukit Bintang for bars, retailers and technology, or even venture to the suburbs via Komuter train. In fact the transport options are so good at Sentral, in many ways it’s better than being in the actual city center.
Once a comedy critic and features writer, Carolyn now focuses her attention on travel writing. She uses her talent for frequently being hot, dirty and itchy to find the entertainment and instructional value of being acutely uncomfortable for the benefit of the journeying multitudes.
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