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Kuala Lumpur

During the last few decades, Kuala Lumpur (or "KL" for short) has experienced tremendous changes. On my first visit back in 1990, the capital of Malaysia was not yet an economic or technological powerhouse; the city was easy to travel around and there were not too many high-rises. But strong Asian economic development since the early 1990's has given this 155-year-old city a new look and a new vibe with its tall skyscrapers, luxurious hotels and expansive shopping malls.

Credit for Kuala Lumpur's burgeoning reputation as a popular Asian city can be given first to the movie "Entrapment." The sexy thriller starring Catherine Zeta-Jones and Sean Connery was partly filmed at the city's Petronas Towers, which, before the turn of this century, stole the title of "world's tallest building" from Chicago's Willis Tower (then known as the Sears Tower). Although the Petronas Twin Towers are not the tallest in the world anymore, they are probably the most recognizable skyscrapers in Asia.

Malaysia is an ethnically, racially and culturally diverse nation. The majority of inhabitants are either Malay or Chinese, with the rest consisting of Indians and Arabs. There are several religions, Islam being the largest.

One word of warning: While Kuala Lumpur boasts numerous gardens and lush greenery, the air can be quite hazy, occasionally almost dangerously so for people with breathing problems. Another caveat: While the city has numerous attractions and shopping centers, many are spread rather far apart -- so a taxi is often the most efficient way to get around.

--written by Teijo Niemela

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