24 hours in KL: Top things to do, see and eat for Merdeka celebration 2020

Heritage trails, food discoveries and cultural offerings that will help you get to know the city better.

Explore the sights and sounds of KL, including the famous Kwai Chai Hong, this Merdeka (Photo: SooPhye)

With the cancellation of the Merdeka Day parade, this year’s Independence Day celebration will be a quieter affair to say the least. While the long weekend provides the perfect excuse for a quick getaway out of the city, those planning to stay in Kuala Lumpur aren’t getting the short end of the stick. There are a number of Merdeka deals and offers available as well as events and showcases to explore around town. Plus, fewer vehicles and smaller crowds are always a bonus.

Here’s how to make the most out of your break.


Although many of us are starting to peek our heads out again after the MCO is relaxed, there’s no better time than now to explore what’s nearest to us. Take advantage of EQ hotel’s deal, which includes breakfast and three complimentary vouchers worth RM63 to use for dining and spa when you book its Deluxe King or Twin Room at only RM636 nett. Plus, you’re also entitled to lunch or dinner with unlimited servings for two adults at Nipah.


Tian Jing Hotel on Jalan Sultan exudes a retro charm (Photo: Tian Jing)

For a dose of nostalgia that transports you to old Malaya, Tian Jing in Chinatown will charm you with its ancient Chinese architecture that harnesses the wisdom of expanding air circulation and maximising natural light. The hotel’s furniture is hand-picked from all across the nation, each piece with its own unique story. Smack dab on Jalan Sultan, Tian Jing’s biggest draw is most probably its strategic location – you’re already thick in the action of exploring some of KL’s most popular attractions such as Sin Sze Si Ya Temple and Sri Mahamariamman Temple Devasthanam.


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Since you’re already downtown, head straight to local institution Ho Kow for an elaborate kopitiam fare. Don’t be put off by the snaking queue though – patient diners will be rewarded with silky-smooth curry chee cheong fun, crisp slices of toast slathered with kaya and butter, as well as thick kopi-o to wash them all down. Bunn Choon is also just around the corner on Lorong Panggung, if you’re hankering for some egg tarts with a flaky crust.


Dig into an elaborate kopitiam fare at local institution Ho Kow (Photo: Ho Kow Kopitiam)

On the other side of Old KL, the newly opened Tun Perak Co-Op also serves small bites (we spotted tong sui over the weekend) with a side of culture. Take a gander at the interesting local exhibitions at the collective art space as well as the pre-war structure that adds character to the space.



KL is a jumble of soaring towers with a scattering of ornate heritage buildings sandwiched between. While our local architectural landmarks never lost their power to thrill, it’s always good to have a discerning expert explaining the history behind each historical edifice. The Kuala Lumpur Heritage Trail has been organising guided tours for years, offering walks around Old KL, Kampung Baru and the illuminated streets of the city at night. If you’ve always wondered about the story behind the 1904 Victorian fountain situated next to a wall of mosaic portraits with Malaysia’s prime ministers, here’s your chance to play journalist.


'Bayangnya Itu Timbul Tenggelam' highlights how photographs gained new dimensions and meanings through the different ways they were used, collected, and displayed (Photo: Ilham Gallery)

Our local art scene is as varied and interesting as the city itself. Ilham Gallery is hosting Bayangnya Itu Timbul Tenggelam, an exhibition that surveys the cultures that developed around photography and its relationship to Malaysia. Not only it invites gallery-goers to discover the different values and meaning people have invested in photographic image through the years, it’s also an attempt to understand the complex modern history of photography.

If you know where to look, a stroll in the capital can also turn into a discovery of unique homegrown brands. A Piece of Malaysia (Apom) is a treasure trove of all things Malaysian, and the one-stop shop is carrying out a mid-year Merdeka clearance sale of up to 70%. Show off your quirky tees emblazoned with Malaysia’s famous slangs or gather your friends for a round of Lepak Game.


Your Merdeka get-up, sorted (Photo: Apom Malaysia)


If gallivanting around town has left you on your last legs (and a little hungry), head to Shangri-La Hotel to recuperate. The Lobby Lounge is offering a Malaysian-themed afternoon tea set comprising a wide selection of modern, bite-sized interpretations of well-known local dishes, including savoury noshes like Nasi Lemak Maki Roll and Salmon Otak Otak and sweet treats like Musang King Mochi and Sago Gula Melaka Panna Cotta. The set is served with your choice of coffee or tea at RM62 per person or RM135 with a glass of Veuve Clicquot Champagne.


The Lobby Lounge is offering a Malaysian-themed afternoon tea (Photo: Shangri-La Hotel)


A 10-minute saunter will lead you to the frond-covered doors of Beta KL, a Malaysian fine dining restaurant that champions local ingredients at the heart of Kuala Lumpur. Chef Raymond Tham’s Tour of Malaysia menu (RM350 per person) — as all of his restaurant’s offerings — highlights and elevates local ingredients and classic flavours from across the country. Diners can expect dishes like Rendang Foie Gras Bao, Aubergine with Turmeric and Sourdough, Fish in Umami Broth and Lotus Seeds and Birdnest with Coconut, Lychee and Lime.


Beta KL's Tour of Malaysia menu (Photo: Beta KL)

Expanding your exploration radius opens up doors to different city experiences, especially when it’s done on foot or by public transport. So if you find yourself back at KL Sentral at the end of the day, St Regis Kuala Lumpur is a pleasant five-minute walk from the station. Here, you can pass the baton to the chefs at The Brasserie to continue your exploration journey in the form of culinary storytelling. The Malaysiaku: A Reimagined Malay Heritage Menu (RM322+ per person) uses popular dishes from all 14 states to retell six Malaysian folklores and fairy tales in a six-course dinner. It begins with Puteri Gunung Ledang followed by Bawang Putih Bawang Merah, Ketam Sumpuhan, Nasi Menjadi Bunga, Si Tanggang and Rasa Sayang.


St Regis KL is offering a reimagined Malaysian course menu, including this 'Rasa Sayang' dessert (Photo: St Regis KL)


Round off your evening with a nightcap at Bar Trigona, which was named Malaysia’s Best Bar 2020 in May. Their new menu, Life Cycle of a Fruit, reimagines the ways in which popular Malaysian fruits are utilised. Techniques like fermentation, distillation and infusion are used to draw out unique flavours along the fruits’ entire lifecycle, from fresh to overripe. Sample novel concoctions like the Mandarin Way, a blend of homemade spiced vermouth, gin, gula melaka and mandarin citric acid or old favourites recast in new forms, such as the Mango Negroni with mango-distilled gin, Campari and Aperol.


Look out for Bar Trigona's Life Cycle of a Fruit menu, which reimagines the ways in which popular Malaysian fruits are utilised (Photo: Four Seasons Kuala Lumpur)


EQ Hotel, Equatorial Plaza, Jalan Sultan Ismail, KL. 03 2789 7777.
Tian Jing, 66-68, Jalan Sultan, KL. 03 2022 1131.


Bar Trigona, Four Seasons Kuala Lumpur, 145 Jalan Ampang, KL. 03 2382 8888. Tues-Sat, 6pm-1am; Sun, 4-11pm.
Beta KL, 163 Fraser Place, 10 Jalan Perak, KL. 03 2181 2990. Tues-Sun, 6-10pm.
Bunn Choon, 8 Lorong Panggung, KL. 017 539 8886. Tues-Sun, 7.30am-3.30pm.
Ho Kow Kopitiam, 1 Jalan Balai Polis, KL. 03 2856 8287. Tues-Sun, 7.30am-3.30pm.
The Brasserie, St Regis Kuala Lumpur, 6, Jalan Stesen Sentral 2, KL Sentral, KL. 03 2727 6666. Daily, 6.30am-10.30pm.
The Lobby Lounge, Shangri-La Hotel Kuala Lumpur, 11, Jalan Sultan Ismail KL. 03 2074 3900. Daily, 3-6pm.


Ilham Gallery, Level 3 & 5, Ilham Tower 8, Jalan Binjai, KL. 03 2181 3003. Tues-Sat, 11am-7pm; Sun, 11am-5pm.
Apom Malaysia, Level 1, Bangsar Village 1, KL. 012 906 8798. Daily, 10am-10pm.
Tun Perak Co-op, 62 Jalan Tun Perak, KL. Tues-Sun, 9am-7pm.


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