Discovering Bukit Bintang’s hidden side

S Puvaneswary enjoys a guided walking tour that uncovers the hidden gems of Bukit Bintang’s centre – its back lanes, street art and local food – that brought to life the area’s 200-year history.

Jalan Bukit Bintang (Bukit Bintang Road) is one of the liveliest areas in the capital with a vibrant nightlife. This is where tourists come to shop, drink and dine. Despite being a frequent visitor to this area for business meetings and shopping, I seldom lingered to explore its offerings. But thanks to a good guide, I was introduced to new aspects of this vibrant city. What were once dingy, narrow alleys and timeworn buildings have now been transformed by Kuala Lumpur City Hall into artsy, Instagrammable spots.

One of the 70 exhibits, Rotated Room, at the newly-opened Museum of Illusions Kuala Lumpur

This walking tour is about 2.5km long, which makes it suitable for people of all ages. The meeting point is befittingly The Federal Kuala Lumpur, the city’s first international class hotel which was constructed for the Independence celebration in 1957 to house foreign dignitaries who had come to witness Malaysia gaining independence from British rule.

We took a lift up to the hotel’s 18th floor, which offered sweeping panoramic views of the city. Our tour guide, Jane Rai, pointed out historic buildings and shared stories of how the city’s predecessors built up business empires and contributed to the rapid growth of the city.

Following a leisurely stroll through modern shopping malls, where we also sampled authentic local food, we ventured out on the streets to admire the colourful backstreet murals and explore the area where the early settlers built their homes.

A highlight for me was the Museum of Illusions Kuala Lumpur, a new attraction in the city comprising more than 70 exhibits that play tricks on one’s eyes. One exhibit, The Ames Room, made my friend appear to shrink and swell before my eyes as she paced back and forth in the room.

This heritage walking tour is part of a series of ‘Kuala Lumpur Heritage Walks’ available that bring visitors to explore the old sections of the city. The evening walking tour, which is operated by inbound tour operator Going Places Tour, is conducted in English and runs from 16.00 to 19.30 daily, except Sundays.

It includes two food stops where guests can get a taste of authentic Malaysian dishes and local drinks. Both places cater to customers on gluten-free diets. The walk ends at Jalan Alor, famed for its local street food. Over here, Jane regaled us with fascinating tidbits of the road’s rich history, and we also glimpsed an insight into the daily lives of people who live and work in this area.

Excellent tour on foot. The rich history and culture is brought to life by a knowledgeable and entertaining tour guide who is also extremely well-connected to the fabric of the city. Not only did the tour indulge all my five senses, it also acquainted me with places in the heart of Bukit Bintang that was completely off my radar.

Rate: RM300 per person (US$73)
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