MT Business Travel: Frequent Flyer Paul Stokes' Guide to Kuala Lumpur

HOW TO GET THERE: It's a 12-hour direct flight from Heathrow. I usually use Malaysian Airlines - its revamped business class is well worth trying - but Virgin Atlantic flies direct too.

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Last Updated: 31 Aug 2010

AIRPORT TO TOWN: Official cars ('limos') to city-centre destinations cost about RM90 and take 45 minutes. These are just glorified taxis, but they run at a fixed price and are far better for your pocket than the taxi touts outside. The KLIA Express train goes from the airport to the central station, on the city outskirts, in about 15 minutes. Take a taxi from there, but check that the meter is running before you set off.

BEST HOTEL: Hotels in Kuala Lumpur make a mockery of European notions of five-star service. My favourite is the Mandarin Oriental 1 (Kuala Lumpur City Centre, +60 3 2380 8888, www.mandarinoriental.com). It has won awards and is right next to the city's most famous landmark, the Petronas Towers, so if your room faces the right way you get incredible views. The Shangri-La 2 (11 Jalan Sultan Ismail, 2032 2388, www.shangri-la.com) is close to Bukit Bingtang, a bustling bar area, and offers great business facilities.

The Hilton Kuala Lumpur 3 (3 Jalan Stesen Sentral, 2264 2264, www.kuala-lumpur.hilton.com) sits on the central station and so is good for the airport. Its deluxe rooms are a dream for gadget-lovers, with flatscreen TVs in the bathroom mirror.

BEST BUSINESS RESTAURANT: The Tamarind Springs 4 (Jalan 1 Taman TAR, 4256 9300, www.tamarindrestaurants.com) is an intimate restaurant in a stunning jungle location. It serves exceptional south-east Asian cuisine on tables strewn with jasmine leaves to expats and affluent locals. Tamarind's Hill 5 (1 Jalan Kerja Air Lama, 4256 9100) provides the same quality in a rich colonial setting. Most major hotels offer great dining experiences; for international cuisine, try the Westin 6 (199 Jalan Bukit Bintang, 2731 8333, www.westin.com/kualalumpur).

BEST BARS AND CAFES: Eating is a national sport, and Kuala Lumpur offers everything from Swedish bakeries to incredible sushi. Colonial-themed Frangipani 7 restaurant in Bukit Bingtang (25 Changkat Bukit Bintang, 2144 3001) is popular with locals showing visitors the 'real' city. Bangsar Baru is good for a Sunday evening: take in the night market and go for banana-leaf curry before hitting the bars.

A FEW HOURS TO KILL?: I like to get off the beaten track and explore the backstreets on foot, but before that a trip up the 420m-high Menara KL 8 is essential. For history, visit the National Mosque 9 and Islamic Arts Museum 10, and check out the city's temples before dawn - a unique experience. There's a great bird park in Lake Gardens 11, with a traditional Malaysian craft complex nearby. The Petaling street market 12 in Chinatown is great for food and shopping, and the city has several huge malls, KLCC 13 being the best for high-end brands.

BUSINESS ETIQUETTE: Malaysia is an Islamic country and visitors must respect this. Yet the presence of large Indian, Chinese and other Asian populations makes for a multi-cultural environment with a rare degree of mutual understanding. Malaysian business eschews the clinical style of the West in favour of one more grounded in personal relationships. This takes time to develop, but the Malaysians are warm, friendly and accommodating.

SECRETS OF THE JET SET: Kuala Lumpur is one of the most diverse cities in Asia, so immerse yourself, be open-minded and enjoy the experience. Don't act like a tourist - get local quickly by trying the food and having a go at bartering. Finally, stay hydrated. If you don't drink enough water, you'll soon know about it.

- Paul Stokes is vice-president of marketing & strategy at Premier Automotive Group Asia.

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