Kuala Lumpur is the capital city of Malaysia and has a mix of skyscrapers and colonial buildings which are divided into numerous districts, its main hub is called the Golden Triangle which comprises Bukit Bintang, KLCC and Chinatown. KL, as it is called by locals, is where we had our first house sit in Asia at small condo looking after a toy poodle named Guinness.
Thankfully, there was a pool on the premises because Kuala Lumpur was where we encountered the highest temperature of our trip so far at a blistering 41 degrees and God knows what the “real feel” was!!! Keeping this in mind we limited our site seeing to a few of the well known sites and just getting a feel for the city together with lots of escapes into air conditioning.
Although our visit was short, it was long enough for us. There are so many different elements that influence a persons thoughts on a place, things such as weather, preconceived expectations, cultural activities, natural beauty and of course your interactions with the local people. Unfortunately, KL was a disappointment for us but nonetheless still interesting.
Perhaps our perspective of KL was influenced very early on by our experience with the taxi drivers when arriving from the airport to the city centre. Standing outside the bus station in the 40 degree heat with our knapsacks etc. and not yet having a Malaysian SIM card we had no choice but to accept the set price offered by the group of taxi drivers huddled together at the bus station even though we knew they were supposed to be metered taxis and the price quoted to us was grossly inflated. To make matters worse, even after being given the address and saying he knew where it was, two phone calls had to be made to the home owner for directions to the home which was by no means out of the way. Traveling frequently we are very aware of “the tourist price” but this was done in a most unpleasant and aggressive way. Although by no stretch of the imagination did this spoil our visit to KL as these type of events are part of the good, the bad and the ugly of travel it did start our time in KL with a bad taste in our mouth. However, I will say this we learned our lesson and we have used only Uber on the rest of our travels except in Bali where it is unavailable and if we thought Kuala Lumpur’s drivers were aggressive wait till our post on our experience arriving in Bali😱
After our time in KL we felt that some of its popularity was due to it being Air Asia’s hub, having of a high speed direct trail link from the KL airport into the downtown area, its high end shopping malls and a few local activities which all combine to make an enjoyable layover. Air Asia is the largest low cost airline in S.E. Asia flying to 100 destinations in 22 countries. As a Canadian the ticket prices literally blow your mind, for example our next flight from KL to Singapore (similar to flying between Montreal and Toronto) cost $16.50 CAD!!! Flying Air Asia is what allowed us to travel between Bangkok, KL, Singapore, Bali and Phuket in our first month of travels for less the $250 CAD. Also, KL hotel prices give a very good quality/price ratio which we discovered from our one night stay at the lovely Sunway Putra Hotel for $50 CAD!
We eliminated some of KL’s well known attractions as they were just not going to be enjoyable in the heat, such as climbing the 272 steps to the top of the Batu Caves , the KL Bird Park and others such as the Aquaria KLCC which was just not something unique enough to K.L. for us to devote the time to. We did visit the most iconic landmark Petronas Twin Towers which are the world’s tallest twin skyscrapers. Petronas Twin Towers were once the tallest buildings in the world. Now the world’s tallest twin structures, the 88 story buildings with both towers are joined at the 41st and 42nd floors by a double decker Sky Bridge. Standing 452 metres tall, the Petronas Twin Towers retained its world title claim to fame until 2004 when Taipei’s 101 was built, measuring 508 metres tall. Today, the Burj Khalifa in Dubai (opened in 2010) retains the spot as the world’s tallest building. Located in the KL city centre The Petronas Twin Towers’ architecture is Islamic inspired and the buildings primarily houses the corporate headquarters of the Petronas Oil Company.
We also spent an afternoon at the Central Market which is an art deco style building with local Baroque type trimmings and is one of KL’s most familiar landmarks and a popular tourist attraction. Built in 1928 it’s also called Pasar Seni and it used to be a simple wet market but in the early 1980s was revamped into a handicrafts outlet and is the focus for the city’s artistic community, inside the building is a dense group of boutiques, handicraft and souvenir stalls with traders selling local merchandise such as authentic Malaysian batik prints and more.
Expansive shopping malls like Pavilion KL and Suria KLCC are also among the biggest tourist attractions in the city, hosting a wide range of upmarket labels from all over the world. We were blown away by the abundance of really high end designer shopping which seems to attract a great deal of shoppers from China, Korea and Australia.
Food is one of K.L.’s big attractions and there are thousands of hawker stalls, cafes, and restaurants serving a variety of Malaysian, Chinese, Indonesian, Indian and Thai foods. Nasi Lemak is a dish cooked in coconut milk and pandan leaf and it is commonly found in Malaysia where it is considered the national dish.
One of the premiere culinary areas is Jalan Alor which is basically a strip of atmospheric air conditioned Chinese seafood restaurants, with a row of hawker stalls set up on the five foot walkway on both sides with plastic tables and chairs spilling out onto the road. The variety of food available is amazing with barbecued meats, noodles and desserts recognised as some of the best (and cheapest) in the city.
Although KL’s Chinatown not as big as Bangkok’s it still is a huge part of the heart of KL and is based in Petaling Street, it is also known as ‘Chee Cheong Kai’ (Starch Factory Street), a reference to its roots as a tapioca producing district. Chinatown is undoubtedly one of the most popular tourist spots in Malaysia and is also a well known bargain hunter’s paradise, a place where you can find all sorts of goods from Chinese herbs to imitation goods. At night, its main market area transforms into a lively and vibrant night market, filled with hundreds of stalls offering all kinds of goods at dirt-cheap prices.
Next stop George Town, Penang, Malaysia…
A few parting shots: