Simon Walker (35)
Managing Director at Hydrogen Group
How often do you travel to Kuala Lumpur (KL) and who do you fly with?
I travel there about once a month for two to four nights. Since it’s only a 45-minute flight, I usually fly with AirAsia. It does the job all right plus AirAsia flies there more regularly than any other budget airline.
You can also consider Firefly, a low-cost airline operated by Malaysian Airlines. It terminates at Sultan Abdul Aziz Shah Airport which is much closer to the city centre.
One thing everyone ought to know about Kuala Lumpur:
KL is a very modern city with all the big-name shops and everything you might possibly need – you’re not going to suffer. Also, the food is delicious and affordable.
How quickly can you get a visa?
Most European, US, Australian and Canadian nationals don’t need a visa for stays up to three months in Malaysia.
Fastest way to get into the city:
Because I fly with AirAsia, I land at the Low Cost Carrier Terminal (LCCT) instead of Kuala Lumpur International Airport (KLIA). There is no train service at LCCT so I always take a cab.
If you’re flying with Singapore Airlines or Malaysia Airlines, you’ll probably end up at KLIA where you can get the KLIA Ekspres train into the city centre. It only takes 28 minutes and costs 35RM.
Both airports are pretty far from the city centre and take about 45 minutes to an hour in the cab. It’s best to hire and prepay for your cab at the airport counter. If you hail a cab on the street or accept offers from touts, they will probably charge you a ridiculous price. The two major cab companies are differentiated by colour – red, older cars and blue minivans. I always choose the blue cabs. They’re slightly more expensive but I find the drivers are more familiar with the business district.
When are the good and bad times to visit Kuala Lumpur?
During major public holidays like Chinese New Year and Hari Raya Aidilfitri, most locals will travel out of KL back to their hometowns so many shops and restaurants will be closed and there isn’t much to do. And they do have a lot of public holidays – that’s something to take note of. [Check the EX Calendar for the ones in August and September – Ed]
That said, there are a couple of interesting events to catch in KL. My favourite is the KL Tower International Jump. You can see experienced base jumpers leap off the 421-metre-high KL tower! It sounds crazy but adrenaline junkies do it and have been doing it for the past 10 years. It’s on from 26 to 30 September this year. Another big event is the Formula 1 Petronas Malaysia Grand Prix, held annually in March or April.
Any good hotels to recommend?
I usually stay at Traders Hotel (+603 2332 9888), a sister hotel of the Shangri-La. The hotel overlooks the magnificent Petronas Twin Towers and a lake. Renaissance Hotel (+603 2162 2233) is good value for money.
What’s the dress code for meetings?
The weather is similar to Singapore. It’s really hot in the afternoons but cooler in the evenings. For practical reasons, a shirt and tie will do. You can skip the jacket.
Any cultural or business etiquette to be aware of?
As Malaysia is a predominantly Muslim country, I would suggest taking into consideration the importance of prayer times when scheduling business meetings. Friday is the religious day of the week when Muslims visit the mosque so I try not to arrange my meetings then.
Because of all the different titles they hold there, it can get pretty confusing. The best thing you can do is to just ask: “How can I address you?” Another important thing is to be sensitive about people’s backgrounds and respect cultural differences. There are people who might appreciate a beer but some who might not.
You are taking a client to lunch or dinner, where would you go?
Actually, I prefer early morning meetings. I particularly like a place called Chinoz On The Park in Suria KLCC (+603 2166 8277). A great place in KLCC for lunch is Ben’s (+603 2163 1655). It has good food and coffee and great cocktails. I would also recommend a walk down Changkat Bukit Bintang, which is full of little bars and restaurants. Just pop into any that catches your eye and give it a try. I often end up in Pinchos (+603 2145 8482), a Spanish tapas place in that area.
For good local food, try Madam Kwan’s (+603 2026 2297) in KLCC. It’s popular with both locals and tourists and often gets pretty packed so it’s best to make reservations.
Must-tries: Nasi lemak (coconut milk rice) and beef rendang.
If you really want to impress your clients, go to European restaurant Lafite (+603 2074 3900) in the Shangri-La Hotel. It’s expensive by KL’s standards but they serve excellent food.
Must-tries: Australian Kobe Wagyu beef tenderloin and Valrhona chocolate soufflé
Casual places or bars to go for a drink with clients where you won’t get hassled?
Skybar (+603 2332 9888), in Traders Hotel, is my favourite bar to hang out at. Chill-out bar, Luna (+603 2332 7777) is best for after-dinner drinks. Generally the bars around KLCC and Changkat Bukit Bintang have a good mix of people – you’ll find financial district people drinking and chilling alongside oil and gas engineers.
For places where you might get hassled, try any nightclub in the “Golden Triangle” which encompasses Bukit Bintang and the KLCC. Zouk KL is trendy and similar in style to Singapore’s Zouk.
Any unsafe areas to avoid?
I think the city centre is very safe but, of course, I wouldn’t make myself a target by leaving my wallet and phone out on a bar table. I do know that the area around KL central station is famed for pickpocketing but luckily I haven’t experienced it. I treat KL like I would any big city in the world.
You’ve got some spare time, what’s the must-see?
Definitely Petronas Twin Towers (+603 2331 8080). It’s the landmark of KL and the tallest twin towers in the world with a Skybridge on the 47th floor. For those who don’t mind a little squeeze and want to experience local culture, KL Chinatown street markets are worth a go.
If you’ve got time to venture out of the city centre, go to the Batu Caves, a 20-minute drive from the city centre. The limestone hill has many Hindu temples and a steep flight of 272 steps. It’s supposedly worth the trip but I have yet to find the time to go.
Gifts to take home for family and friends?
I don’t usually buy gifts because it’s such a short trip. However, I find that alcohol is cheaper in KLIA than Changi Airport so I sometimes pick up a bottle of whisky on my through.
How long before your flight do you really need to be at Kuala Lumpur International Airport?
Both airports are a long way from the city centre so leave a good hour to get there. Traffic is usually pretty mild but you never know. Once there, I would quite happily check in 40 minutes before my flight, as the airports are quite efficient.