City Focus – Kuala Lumpur
Business Chief explores Kuala Lumpur, the capital of Malaysia and an up-and-coming commercial and financial hub of Southeast Asia
Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia’s capital and the hub of its financial, economic and cultural industries, is one of Southeast Asia’s most prominent and iconic cities. Ranked by the Economic Intelligence Unit in 2017 as the region’s second most liveable city behind Singapore and the 31st safest in the world, Kuala Lumpur boasts exceptional infrastructure, tourist hotspots and cultural touchstones. Known locally as KL, the city has grown from humble beginnings as a small village in the 1800s to one of the most dynamic metropolises in Southeast Asia. As of 2017, the city is home to over 1.8mn people across 243 sq km. As with the rest of Malaysia, the city’s official religion is Islam and its official language is Malay, although English is also a recognised language across the country.
Today, the local government is taking steps to capitalise on the city’s new position as an international commercial and financial hub with the Kuala Lumpur Structure Plan 2020. As economies around the world become increasingly reliant on digitalised operations and smart technologies, the city government’s plan focuses on empowering Kuala Lumpur’s knowledge economy (K-economy) capabilities. This plan involves both the promotion of data-driven industries and the development of highly skilled workers to drive those industries’ success, as well as a realignment of the city’s manufacturing infrastructure to maximise the sector’s efficacy.
Kuala Lumpur boasts an impressive transport network that connects the city centre with its two major airports and neighbourhoods, and an intercity rail service that links with both Thailand and Singapore. The KL Monorail operates for up to 18 hours each day with trains arriving between every five and 12 minutes depending on the time of day, connecting KL Sentral (the city’s primary transport hub) to 11 stations around the city along a 9km line.
Running alongside the KL Monorail is the Kuala Lumpur MRT SBK Line, a fully-automated public rail service from the centre to the city’s residential areas, running along a 51km route with 31 stations. The Light Rail Transit (LRT) system rounds out the extensive rail-based public transport network in the city, closing major of the gaps in accessibility from the aforementioned services. Around 35km to the south of the centre and connected to it by the KLIA Ekspres train are the city’s two major airports, Kuala Lumpur International Airport (KLIA) and KLIA2, both based in Sepang, with the former being the country’s main international airport and the latter being the largest budget airline airport in the world. The city’s robust transport infrastructure forms part of the basis for Structure Plan 2020, with the manufacturing districts of the city set to be redistributed in accordance with access to the major transport routes.
Landmarks and tourism
Kuala Lumpur is home to an iconic skyline, with perhaps its most famous elements being the Menara KL Tower and the Petronas Twin Towers. Offering the highest altitude for a comprehensive view of the city at 276m, the Menara KL Tower also features a revolving restaurant whilst serving as a vital component of the city’s telecommunications infrastructure. Situated within the Bukit Nanas Forest Reserve, visitors can experience both the tower’s tourist attractions and the oldest forest reserve in Malaysia – featuring plants indigenous to the country’s tropical climate, in one trip.
The Petronas Towers stand at 451.9m tall and have become a symbol of national advancement, culture and pride. Encased in stainless steel and glass panelling, the towers are unquestionably Malaysian in their design, blending modernity with the nuances of Islamic architecture. “The design of each Tower's floor plate is based on simple Islamic geometric forms of two interlocking squares, creating a shape of eight-pointed stars. Architecturally, these forms describe important Islamic principles of unity within unity, harmony, stability and rationality,” states the towers’ official website. The towers feature cutting edge smart technologies that enable seamless coordination of power, lighting, safety, fire and smoke control, security and telecommunications.
Around an hour outside of the city, in the Gombak district of Selangor, are the Batu Caves, a world-renowned network of limestone caves and home to the Temple Cave. Dedicated to Lord Murugan, the Hindu god of war, the temple is found at the peak of 272 concrete steps which were painted in the colours of the rainbow in August 2018. At the foot of the steps stands a golden statue of Lord Murugan, although the steps are used by more than tourists and worshippers: a thriving population of crab-eating macaques live in and around the cave network, representing both a fascinating point of interest and a risk to any distracted snack eater.