In Malaysia, a lot of business deals are done on the golf course
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I have lived in Kuala Lumpur (KL) for four-and-a-half years, between 2011 and 2015. One of the first things you notice about it is the fact that it’s a very new city, with lots of new buildings, and quite organised traffic. I was living in a suburb of KL, with a beautiful view of the city skyline. There was a lot of walking area, with side roads and cafés where you could sit outside.
When we initially went to Kuala Lumpur, we spent some time in the Hilton Kuala Lumpur. The standard of hotels in the city is very high, and costs are welcomingly low; so you get a very high quality for your money. One hotel of which I have very fond memories is the Aloft Kuala Lumpur Sentral, which is a chain from the US; it is located in the central district of the city.
It is a very business friendly city, and also has the highest quality of food. You get a fantastic collection of Asian food—Vietnamese, Indonesian, Thai, Japanese. All this is in combination with European food—Italian, French, German, Russian—and American.
Just recently, the city has spent a substantial amount of money to develop public transport, which is a good way to get around the city. There is something called the MRT (Mass Rapid Transit), which is built high above the roads, and is a safe and clean way to travel; it connects all the shopping centres and hotels.
If you are interested in golf, Kuala Lumpur would be a favourite city because they have so many inner-city golf courses. I know of at least eight that have 36 holes. There are quite a substantial number of smaller golf courses. I think KL has somewhere around 26 golf courses. And this ties up with a very nice cultural combination, because in KL, and in Malaysia in general, a lot of business deals are done on the golf course. So it is absolutely normal to meet with your business partners on the golf course; my favourite story was always, if you want to meet anybody from the government, it would take normally over a month to get an appointment for a meeting of half an hour; but if you were interested in golf, they would basically meet you the following week, and have a few hours for you without any interruption.
There are many shopping opportunities in the city. And Malaysia had very early adopted a strategy where you just have to show your passport, and you don’t have to pay a local tax. All the shops are multi-lingual, and all the luxury brands are available in a host of shopping centres, where you can go according to your personal preferences. There is a very high degree of international offering of goods and brands.
My wife and I are very much into art, and we met a lot of local artists. The nice thing is you don’t need to go to any art shows, and we would buy directly from artists. It gives you a very different feeling about the piece of art if you know the artist yourself. We also have some very nice pieces of furniture, wooden furniture, some of which is from China. There are antique pieces, some might be 150 years old.
Be open, and try new things, especially road-side food. The quality is good, and it gives you a local flavour. There are soup kitchens where they have Bak-kut-teh, which is basically a pork soup. Be adventurous, because it will be an adventure you’ll never forget.
Roland Folger is managing director and CEO, Mercedes-Benz India
(As told to Jasodhara Banerjee)