Once a small tin-mining town, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, is a city of superlatives. With more people (1.6 million and counting), taller buildings and more to see, do and experience than almost any other city in Southeast Asia, Kuala Lumpur has risen from its humble beginnings into a world powerhouse.

With all of its impressive achievements, though, many people still don’t know much about it. Consider some of these facts about this city:

  1. Kuala Lumpur translated from Malay means “muddy confluence,” and that’s exactly where you’ll find this city, where the Gombak (formerly known as the Lumpur) and Klang Rivers meet. However, the rivers are quite polluted — major efforts are underway to clean them up — so you won’t find much recreation on the waters.
  2. When you think of the world’s best shopping destinations, you might think of cities like New York and Paris, but Kuala Lumpur is actually one of the top cities in the world for shopping. The city is home to 66 shopping malls as well as several zones designated for the sale of locally produced items; in fact, shopping here is such an important part of the Malaysian economy that the Ministry of Tourism has designated several special events each spring with special sales and promotions to encourage retail tourism.
  3. Once the tallest towers in the world, at more than 1,500 feet, Kuala Lumpur’s Petronas Towers are the defining landmarks of the city skyline. The towers, which are connected by a sky bridge offering stunning views of the city, also house Suria KLCC, the largest and most luxurious shopping mall in the city. The towers were built separately; one tower, built by the Japanese, actually has a slight tilt, while the second tower, built by a Korean firm, is level.
  4. Education is a high priority in Kuala Lumpur, and more than 97 percent of the population can read and write. It’s also an ideal spot for English-speaking visitors, because while Malay is the official language of the city, all students are required to study English — and all math and science courses are taught in English.
  5. Speaking of visitors, almost 10 percent of the population of Kuala Lumpur is foreign-born; however, the vast majority of the population is of Malay, Chinese or Indian descent. The diverse makeup of the city’s population is reflected in the architecture, food and cultural customs.
  6. Kuala Lumpur is the centre of Malaysia’s arts and culture — from concerts at the Petronas Philharmonic Hall to exhibits at the National Museum, the National Art Gallery of Malaysia, the Islamic Arts Museum and dozens of smaller galleries and museums, Kuala Lumpur offers a diversity of experiences unmatched by other cities of its size.
  7. Racing is a major sport in Kuala Lumpur, and the city hosts a race on the Formula One schedule each year. The race is run on the Sepang International Circuit near the airport and draws more visitors to the city than any other event.
  8. Unlike other cities in Southeast Asia, which offer extensive public transportation options, the majority of travel in Kuala Lumpur is via car. While buses and trains are available, they aren’t well-used. Taxis are plentiful but notorious for charging foreigners exorbitant rates even for short trips.
  9. The weather in Kuala Lumpur tends to be warm and humid; in fact, the average temperature tends to be 31 to 33 C; the highest temperature ever recorded was 39.3 C, while the lowest was 14.4 C; however, the rainfall is the true weather story here, as the city receives an average of more than 100 inches of rain each year.
  10. Nearly 10 million people visit Kuala Lumpur every year, making it the sixth most visited city in the world, after London, Paris, Singapore, Hong Kong and Bangkok.

These facts merely scratch the surface of the mystery and majesty of Kuala Lumpur. Combining elements of both traditional Malaysian culture and modern industry, it’s no wonder that this city is high on so many must-visit lists — and will continue to surprise the world with what it has to offer.

Kuala Lumpur Skyline from PPR Jelatek
Credit: Image provided by Edy Lianto from Flickr’s Creative Commons