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10 things you didn’t know about Kuala Lumpur


Conjure up images of Kuala Lumpur and the majestic glass and steel needles of the Petronas Twin Towers probably spring to mind first. But delve further into Malaysia’s sprawling capital and a more intriguing side of the city emerges. Global Blue reveals some less familiar facets of Kuala Lumpur

Stephen Doig
Stephen Doig ,

1. In the 1999 crime movie Entrapment, starring Catherine Zeta-Jones and Sean Connery, the film’s climax takes place within – and dangling from – the Petronas Twin Towers, where the two main characters have planned a heist on the fictitious International Clearance Bank, although some scenes were filmed in the UK’s Pinewood Studios. The film caused controversy in Malaysia and angered the prime minister of the time, because the filmmakers spliced in riverside slums underneath the towers when in fact they’re in a sleek, urban setting.

2. Formula 1 takes place way beyond Monaco; the Sepang International Circuit in Kuala Lumpur also hosts the annual event and its challenging design has inspired tracks in Shanghai, Bahrain and Texas.

3. Henry Nicholas Ridley might not be a household name, but he probably influences your everyday life more than you know. He was the Victorian botanist who established the rubber industry in the Malay Peninsula and revolutionised the way that the crop was cultivated. Ridley brought seeds from London’s Kew Gardens to plant in Malaysia; one of the trees he planted in 1877 still survives in Kuala Kangsar, 250km from Kuala Lumpur, and is marked with a commemorative plaque.

4. Port Dickson is one of the closest beach retreats to Kuala Lumpur, but steer clear of the wildlife. King cobras can grow up to 18 feet long and a snake of this length was caught here in 1837.

5. It takes a trained eye to spot it, but there’s a mistake in the architecture of the Petronas Towers. Tower 2, the east tower, was built by Samsung and Tower 1, the west tower, by Japanese company Hazama. The latter got the dimensions wrong. The tower should be vertical but instead it tilts, like the Leaning Tower of Pisa – but less dramatically, at an angle of only 25mm.

6. The name Kuala Lumpur translates from Malaysian to English as, rather unpoetically, ‘muddy confluence’, as the city was founded where two presumably less than sparkling rivers converged.

7. Kuala Lumpur is the eighth most visited city in the world and expected nearly 11 million visitors in 2014, according to Forbes, making it the third most popular Asia-Pacific destination after Bangkok and Singapore – and way ahead of cities such as Barcelona, Rome and Tokyo.

8. Lush jungle, the home of tigers and the world’s biggest flower, the Rafflesia, covers over half of Malaysia – and there’s a tropical rainforest tucked away right in the heart of Kuala Lumpur. The Bukit Nanas forest reserve boasts flora such as herbs and rare orchids, fauna including monkeys, wooden bridges and waterfalls. Established in 1906, it covers around 10 hectares and offers a respite from the hubbub of city life.

9. An annual Hindu festival at the mystical Batu Caves near Kuala Lumpur involves piercing the skin with metal skewers as a sign of devotion.

10. A local delicacy is bull penis soup with fennel seeds, garlic, cloves and cinnamon. Feeling adventurous?

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