Is Kuala Lumpur Worth the Visit?
I feel like I didn’t give Kuala Lumpur a fair chance. I don’t think you’ll find this article about Kuala Lumpur very enthusiastic. Kuala Lumpur was the last leg of our 5 week tour of South East Asia. We went to Kuala Lumpur after a very long and action-packed journey. After such a relaxing week in Bali, J and I were ready to be back in the UK and getting a start on our new life together as well.
Now, before you think I’m crazy not to like Kuala Lumpur, let me add to my point above (in my defense). To be honest, I didn’t do a whole lot of research about Kuala Lumpur . I figured it was a small enough city that it would be easy to figure out once we were there – and I was right. We realized there weren’t too many major sites we were desperate to see other than the Batu Caves, Petronas Towers and a few hawkers and night markets.
Kuala Lumpur is vastly multi-cultural. As soon as you get to the city, you can instantly see the different influences Kuala Lumpur is made up of. As you wander the gritty streets, you can see the population includes native-Malays, Chinese-Malays, Indian-Malays and various other expats. Of all the South East Asians I’ve encountered during this tour, Malaysians were the most reserved. You won’t experience the constant smiles like you would in Thailand or the extreme hospitality from the Balinese people or overly-happy Singaporeans. Instead, Malaysians are quiet, friendly and sort of just treat you with mutual respect for being in their country. No more, no less. It was kind of nice to be left alone by the shop owners or souvenir sellers or tour agencies.
So, overall – yes, I’d give Kuala Lumpur a chance at least once. Longer than 2 nights? Perhaps not.
Interesting fact I learned during this trip was that Kuala Lumpur was once a British colony, then later Dutch. You can see the hint of influence from the Brits and Dutch through the architecture of the buildings all around the city. Very narrow and tall buildings with several floors stacked one on top of another.
Eating out for a meal (especially street food) is extremely cheap in Kuala Lumpur. We did find it tough to find any bars or establishments that served alcohol (I get it – Muslim country). Whenever we did find one, drinks were horrendously overpriced. We ended up completely skipping having any cocktails or beers in Kuala Lumpur. So lesson learned here – save your money and eat more food instead!
Day 1: Exhausted and over it!
Landed mid-morning and took an Uber to KL downtown. The airport is quite a distance from the airport so your choices of transportation are either KLIA train or Uber. We found for two people taking an Uber was much cheaper than paying for a train ticket each (Uber ride = 77 RM/$23 CAD one car, KLIA Train = 55 RM each/$16 CAD per person). The rest of the afternoon was a complete write off since we had a long journey. We were just so over the journey to get here that we decided to nap for as long as we could and just have a very chilled out evening.
We spent the evening strolling through the different vendors and stalls of Jalan Petaling Chinatown. You can tell that this Chinatown was now primarily ran by Indian or Bangal speaking expats selling bad knocks off and souvenirs. There was nothing Chinese about this Chinatown except the restaurants, in which we decided to have dinner.
Day 2: Batu Caves and Petronas Towers
One of the greatest attractions to see in KL are the Batu Caves. It was a very interesting and breath taking landmark. Malaysia is a predominately Muslim country yet on top of the caves sits a Hindu temple where Hindus are actively worshiping. After an easy train ride, we got to the Batu Caves grounds. You can immediately see the 140ft tall golden statue of Lord Murugan, which just leaves your awestruck.
After a fun 270+ step climb while fending off hungry monkeys, you finally get to the top and enter the caves. The caves were still under construction or expansion really. It’s an amazing site to see and gaining popularity with tourists. It wasn’t one of the busiest sites we’ve ever visited but you can see that the keeps of the Batu Caves are really putting effort into making the caves more patron and visitor friendly.
Then we spent the evening making our way to the famous Petronas Towers, which were very impressive. Unfortunately, no one from the public can really go inside and up to see the views since it is an office building. You can, however, enjoying some air conditioned shopping at the bottom of the towers.
After a long evening of walking, we walked some more to Alor Night Market for some dinner. This was one of the biggest and better night markets I’ve been to in South East Asia. It’s extremely large and all of the vendors and stalls offer something slightly different. However, it was mostly Chinese and very little Malaysian. Nonetheless, still very cheap eats!
Day 3: Happy Independence Day, Malaysia
Completely chilled out day. We got to see Malaysian’s Independence day celebrations from our hotel window. We were worried the parade would delay our journey to the airport because of the massive crowd that formed around out hotels. Since we couldn’t really get around, we just walked nearby to try and get in on the festivities.
Getting Around Kuala Lumpur:
The easiest way to get to places is by walking and sometimes the fastest option. The public transportation in KL is one of the more confusing public transit system I’ve ever come across – and things were in English! To be fair, the KL public transit is quiet modern and they are really trying hard to get people to where they need to be. They certainly have more lines than Toronto, so that’s saying something! My main issue with the transit system is how poor signage and naming conventions were. There’s almost no or very little signage to get you to where you need to be. Some stations are not named properly – Google Maps will state one name, the actual station is called something else and the maps in the stations will say another! I am really impressed we didn’t get lost in this city. Also, timing of trains/subways are inconsistent. You’ll sometimes find a train won’t come for another 45 minutes (we experienced that at the Batu Caves – sitting in the station for that long was mind-numbing)
Walking around KL was perfectly fine. J and I had no issues at all and easily found places we wanted to get to. However, walking around KL felt completely different from say walking around Bangkok or Siem Reap. Both J and I had a strange sense of uneasiness walking around KL – even though it was completely fine. No one ever bothered us. I think it was just the feel and look of the streets and buildings around us. You can just immediately feel that this is a city and country you do not want to mess around in.
KL is hot and especially hot during the rainy season. Walking around can get pretty daunting. However, KL has several different malls with cool AC systems and nice shops to cool down in.
Places to see:
Batu Caves (free), Central Market,Suria KLCC for shopping, Jalan Petaling Chinatown, Petronas Towers (free) and Alor Night Market!
We went during the month of August. This is considered the rainy season. It rained slightly but mostly extremely hot weather. Come prepared and stay hydrated.
This budget is based on two people (couple) and converted to Canadian dollars (CAD):
- Accommodation (hotel): $100 for 2 nights
- Food: under $10 per plate. $15 – $20 for premium proteins like shellfish, fish, etc.
- Street food/Hawker-style: $2 – $5 per dish
- Alcoholic beverage: $10 for a 1/2 pint of beer
- Transportation: under $2 per ticket, one way
- Coffee: under $2 – $3 per cup