One of the world's great melting pots, Kuala Lumpur offers a whirlwind tour of Asian cultures, customs and cuisines. On its bustling streets, Chinese joss-houses compete for space with rainbow-coloured Hindu temples and dignified mosques.
Above all this rises one of the most distinctive skylines in Asia, dominated by the twin turrets of the Petronas Towers. Not for nothing do the tourist brochures describe this as 'truly Asia'.
The streets form a living map of the cultures and races who gathered here in colonial times when KL was a booming mining outpost. Turn one corner and you could be in Shanghai or Kowloon. Turn the next, and find yourself transported to steamy south India. One moment, you might be standing in a forest of shimmering skyscrapers, the next, you might find yourself surrounded by traditional tin-roofed Malay houses.
The diverse cultures who share this fast-expanding metropolis live together in remarkable harmony. Festivals transcend religious boundaries and an air of tolerance and mutual respect pervades. This 'stronger together' approach has allowed KL to achieve great things. Aided by oil wealth, the city has transformed itself from jungle outpost to futuristic cyber-city in just a few short decades.
The rapid pace of change is most apparent in the central business district, where pockets of jungle and colonial bungalows still stand amongst the glass and steel towers. However, every year brings another skyscraper, another gleaming shopping centre, and the old parts of the city are vanishing fast as the city marches towards the future. The pockets of old KL that remain in Chinatown, Little India, Brickfields and Chow Kit are still the most atmospheric parts of the city.
For travellers, KL is first and foremost a place to shop and to eat. The fusion of flavours created by KL's fusion of cultures has created one of the most dynamic dining scenes in Asia. Take your pick from elegant fine-dining restaurants with starched white tablecloths or boisterous street markets where the real food culture of KL plays out in the open air. Start the day with a south Indian dosa (rice-flour pancake), then lunch on Chinese noodles and finish the day with a rich Malay curry, infused with lemongrass.
Like neighbouring Singapore, KL has been cultivated as a shopping stopover for travellers on long-haul routes across Asia. Enormous shopping malls sprout from every corner in the central Golden Triangle area, overflowing with fashionable global brands. But this commercial outlook is underpinned by a spiritual side that makes KL feel reassuringly grounded. Locals step from teahouse to temple and mall to mosque without skipping a beat.
Sights range from colonial architecture to thrilling theme parks and one of the world's most famous motor racing circuits at Sepang. Track KL's meteoric rise from the jungle in the city's museums, or head into the jungle for real in the rainforest reserves that sprawl beyond the city limits. Whatever you choose to do, expect a warm welcome from locals, and a welcome absence of the hassles that mar travel in many Asian capitals.