KL’s Chow Kit, Sabah among NYT’s annual list of 52 global places to go this year

An old building in Chow Kit in Kuala Lumpur. The NYT chose Chow Kit in Kuala Lumpur for the 20th destination to visit worldwide, describing the working class neighbourhood as a ‘gritty, underappreciated red-light district’. — Picture by Saw Siow Feng
An old building in Chow Kit in Kuala Lumpur. The NYT chose Chow Kit in Kuala Lumpur for the 20th destination to visit worldwide, describing the working class neighbourhood as a ‘gritty, underappreciated red-light district’. — Picture by Saw Siow Feng

KUALA LUMPUR, Jan 10 ― Malaysia’s capital city and its easternmost state of Sabah on Borneo made it into the New York Times (NYT) 52 Places To Go in 2020 ― adding lustre to the Visit Malaysia Year 2020 campaign.

The annual list, compiled by the widely-read US paper, is seen as an influential travel advice for globetrotters in highlighting small, often-forgotten places in the world that spur tourism.

This year, Malaysia has the distinction of being one of only two countries in South-east Asia to make the list, the other being Cambodia.

The NYT chose Chow Kit in Kuala Lumpur for the 20th destination to visit worldwide, describing the working class neighbourhood as a “gritty, underappreciated red-light district”.

As for where to stay, the NYT suggested as first pick, the 113-room boutique hotel under the Ormond Hotel group, called The Chow Kit, designed by award-winning New York-based Studio Tack in its first project in Asia.

“Its handsome Chow Kit Kitchen & Bar, with reeded-glass windows, pulls in the local and international crowd with a modern Malaysian menu,” the NYT recommended.

“Next door, its wallet-friendly sister property MoMo’s has a pared-back look: unfussy micro-rooms have concrete and combed-plaster walls and plenty of wood, while a social space called the Playground replaces the traditional lobby,” it added.

Sabah, which was ranked 28 out of 52 in the list, was described as a biodiversity hotspot that offers diverse experiences while still being largely off the tourist map.

Amid global concern over climate change, NYT said tourism in Sabah could provide an incentive to protect the Borneo state’s “primeval jungles”.

“Adrenaline junkies can climb Mount Kinabalu and go diving with sharks off the Semporna coast. Beach lovers should head to Gaya Island, a short ferry ride from the capital Kota Kinabalu.

“But Sabah’s biggest draw is the chance to see endangered orangutans in the wild. Cruise along the Kinabatangan River in small boats to glimpse the apes, as well as pygmy elephants, crocodiles and proboscis monkeys. Or head to the Sepilok Orangutan Rehabilitation Center, which has been rescuing orphaned orangutans from forest fires and poachers since 1964,” the entry on Sabah read.

The other Asean destination is Kampot in Cambodia at number 23.

The other top 10 places listed in descending order are: US capital Washington DC; the British Virgin Islands; Rurrenabaque in Bolivia; Greenland in Denmark; Australia’s Kimberley Region; Paso Robles in California (USA); Sicily in Italy; Salzburg in Austria; Tokyo in Japan; and Caesarea in Israel.

Malaysia is hoping to attract 30 million international tourists who will collectively spend some RM100 million, adding revenue to the country amid a global economic slowdown triggered by trade tensions between the US and China, and now the Middle East.

The Visit Malaysia Year 2020 campaign was launched by Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad last December 31 with the theme “Visit Truly Asia Malaysia 2020”.

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