Malaysia’s capital KL, seems to be, at least amongst those I’ve spoken to, a marmite kind of place – you either love it or you don’t. It’s a mixture of culture no doubt, you’ll find Chinese, Malay, Indian and British influences in various parts of the city, as well as first class infrastructure, like the Patronas towers, alongside run down blocks – but for me at least, the blending of all these things in KL doesn’t seem to work. Compared to other Asian capitals, there’s something I really don’t like about the place. That being said, it’s always worth a visit and there are a long line of people who’ll argue that it’s the best city in the world and you’re more than welcome to disagree with me. There’s no denying that the city is home to delicious food, culture, markets and more and the various districts are worth an explore.
Kuala Lumpur has an international airport that is connected to the city either by bus, or by the KL express/transit to KL Sentral, (55MYR one way) which is located downtown of the city centre.
You can also use Subang airport to get into KL, although it is only used by a couple of smaller and low cost airlines.
The LRT runs every 5 minutes or so and has two lines which pass through the city. There’s also a monorail that can take you close to many major areas.
Top tip: touch ‘n go cards are your friend.
There are also buses, although you’ll find in Malaysia that working them out is no easy task. Quite often, the idea of a timetable hasn’t quite reached here yet.
Top tip: Also be aware that KL has absolutely terrible traffic, so if you’re wanting to get somewhere on time, give yourself a lot of it.
The main bus station is located near Chinatown.
Then of course there’s taxis.
Top tip: Try uber or grabcab on your phone to save money.
Chinatown and Little India.
Both of these are exactly what you’d think. Hanging around here you’ll find a lot of good food and markets. In Chinatown, Jalan Petaling attracts the most attention from tourists looking to get a good bargain on a copy bag or something similar. Streets either way will offer good street food and restaurants to explore.
If you want souvenirs, clothes etc, then you’ll be able to find something in here. Be prepared to haggle to get a good price.
This is the place to be for all things nightlife and a great place to wander around and get a feel for the city. Near here, head to Jalan Alor for excellent streetfood.
The towers are hands down the most defining feature of KL’s skyline. You can buy tickets to walk across the bridge between them but otherwise they’re offices and not a lot more. I find them to look a bit odd once you’ve got a feel for the rest of the city. The park below the towers also makes for a nice stroll. Any event or festival, of which there are many here because of all the cultures living alongside each other, will have fireworks set off from here, so note that down if you want a good view.
The batu caves are located about twenty minutes outside the city centre and can be reached by bus or train quite easily. Prepare to climb 272 steps up into the caves to see the locals come to worship. The caves were chosen as they were thought to resemble the Himalayas, though I’m going to hands up entirely disagree on every level with that one. During the festival of Thailpusam, thousands walk from Sri Maha Mariamman temple in Kuala Lumpur to the caves. But on an ordinary day, you won’t have to fight the crowds too much – only the monkeys.
Islamic arts museum.
If you’re interested in culture and religion, then it’s worth the visit and is one of the few museums within the city that gets any recognition as being worth it.
The lake gardens is a nice respite in and amongst some of the chaos. Around the lake you can see the National Monument or head to the butterfly park or the bird park, if things like that happen to take your fancy. On a quiet day, it’s a really nice spot for a jog or slow walk around the lake, but beware of weekends and public holidays because everybody will have a similar idea.
Translated to independence square, Merdeka is where Malaysia’s first prime minister declared independence. It’s one of the first stops on most people’s list of things to do in the city. From here it’s relatively easy to reach the old train station if you can make it over the highway, which is a pretty amazing colonial building.
Elephant sanctuary – Kuala Gandah.
This is located about an hour or so from the city but if you have the time, then this is a great way to spend it. The sanctuary relies solely on donations by visitors and works hard to rehabilitate elephants that have been orphaned or injured in the wild. As far as is obvious, they are all treated well.
Make sure you munch on.
Hands up to Malaysia for having the most amazing food. Whilst in Borneo, a Malaysian guy told me that the best place to get good Chinese and Indian food was actually in Malaysia. I’m not sure about such a tall claim, but I can certainly vouch for it being incredibly yummy.
Try Roti Cenai – it’s kind of somewhere between a naan and a chapatti but overall very yummy. It’s usually served with daal soup and makes for a yummy breakfast, lunch and dinner. It’s also very cheap and cheerful so it won’t put you out of pocket.
Nasi lamak, laksa and mee goreng – traditional Malay dishes, but all can get a little spicy.