A feast of fashion, food and fun in KL
Perfect for a weekend getaway is the Malaysian capital of Kuala Lumpur, which is only a three-hour flight away.
The city is well served by an efficient public transport system and visitors can navigate easily to every corner of the city.
Eating is inevitably a major part of any Kuala Lumpur experience. On almost every corner there are restaurants and street hawkers offering irresistible fare. But there are a few neighbourhoods that are particularly foodie.
'Bangsar remains popular,' said local resident Lina Othman, who works in corporate communications.
'There are good restaurants around the Jalan Telawi area, Bangsar Shopping Centre and Bangsar Village 2 - a new mall - has some good restaurants as well.'
Bangsar is only about 10 to 15 minutes by taxi from Kuala Lumpur city centre and is reachable by the Kelana Jaya Line train, at the eponymous station.
'The Changkat Bukit Bintang and Changkat Tong Shin area also have a good mix of restaurants,' said Ms Othman.
She also suggested Starhill Gallery in Starhill Shopping Centre (www.starhillgallery.com) for its mix of about a dozen good restaurants. The food courts at Suria KLCC (tel: 60 3 23822828), on the third and fourth floors, were also recommended. In fact, KLCC, or Kuala Lumpur City Centre, was where she would begin if she was to host an out-of-towner.
'You can get tickets - free - to the Petronas Twin Towers Sky Bridge,' she said. 'While waiting to go up, they will show an intersting clip on how the Twin Towers were conceptualised and built.'
Designed by famous architect Cesar Pelli, the 88-storey Twin Towers set a few records when they were being built, including a 54-hour non-stop concrete pour for the foundation (13,200 cubic metres of concrete was eventually used) - a national first.
'The view of Kuala Lumpur from the Sky Bridge is amazing, as you get to see how large the city is and how it is growing,' Ms Othman said.
'I would go to either China Town or the Masjid India area next and browse around. This is the older, more 'organic' part of town - very vibrant and colourful.'
Somewhat like Temple Street in Hong Kong, the main strip of China Town, reachable by KLJ at Pasar Seni station, features knock-out bargains as well as food hawkers, with colonial-style buildings as the backdrop. China Town is also where authentic bak kut teh (a herbal pork soup) can be had for less than M$2 (HK$4.50).
Chow Kit, which has an eponymous KL Monorail station, is another district with a night market, where some stalls serve a great sato ayam (Indonesian spicy chicken soup, eaten with rice).
'Other 'local' things to try are nasi padang and nasi lemak antarabangsa in Kg Baru, in addition to loads of other places. There is a huge variety to eat for supper - Malay food, Indian food and Chinese food. Like Hong Kong, Malaysians are always eating, regardless of time of day,' Ms Othman said. 'If you want souvenirs, head for Central Market, its a bit more 'touristy' but they have everything under one roof.'
The Central Market (tel: 60 3 22746542) was formerly the city's biggest wet market and has been preserved as a tourist attraction.
Malaysia boasts many great local fashion brands. One of them, BritishIndia, specialises in fusing Oriental motifs with western clothes and lifestyle. There are nine BritishIndia stores in Kuala Lumpur, including one in Suria KLCC, but the largest one is in Great Eastern Mall (tel: 60 3 42598888) in Ampang.
For more upmarket fashion designers, Ms Othman recommended Rizalman Ibrahim, who does both formal and casual wear and has a boutique on Jalan Imbi, and Tom Abang Saufi for more resort style clothes and with a boutique at MATIC - the tourist information centre on Jalan Ampang. For formal and casual batik pieces, there is Jendela Batik, whose boutique is in Starhill Shopping Centre and Melinda Looi, who sells her formal and casual lines in Bangsar, Istan and Suria KLCC.
'Aseana in Suria KLCC has a section that carries a good mix of both international brands and local designers, so that's a good one-stop shop to view Malaysian designers,' Ms Othman said.
The nearest beaches to the city are in Port Dickson, about an hour away by car. But the Sunway Lagoon (www.sunway.com.my/lagoon) is only about 15 minutes away. It is a mammoth and impressive theme park that includes the world's largest manmade surf beach and longest pedestrian suspension bridge, in addition to rides such as the Voodoo Adventure River.
Ms Othman also suggested Genting Highlands (www.genting.com.my): 'It is about 11/2 hours away from KL and it's also cooler there.' But she warned that tussling with the crowds comes with the territory when going to these theme parks on weekends.
'For a bit of nature, the Forest Research Institue of Malaysia (www.frim.gov.my) is a good place. You can do a bit of trekking and there is the canopy walk - a bridge 30 metres above ground, through the trees,' she enthused.
For creatures of the night, Kuala Lumpur's Zouk (tel: 60 3 21711997) is still going strong, according to Ms Othman. Asian Heritage Row - a lineup of pre-war buildings that have been converted into a nightlife hub - features popular places such as The Loft (tel: 60 3 26915668) and Bar SaVanh (tel: 60 3 2697 1180).
'More chill out and relaxed places are Bar Blonde (tel: 60 3 26911088), also on Asian Heritage Row, Sky Bar at the Traders Hotel (tel: 60 3 23329888), and Luna Bar in Menara Pan Global (tel: 60 3 23327777). For live jazz, there is No Black Tie (tel: 60 3 21423737) on Jalan Mesui, and Top Room at Top Hats Restaurant (tel: 60 3 21428611),' Ms Othman said.