It is with regret that I have not yet fully explored this amazing country. Yet in the small amount of time I did spent in the capital, Kuala Lumpur, I encountered the friendly Malaysian people and enjoyed my time learning about the history and culture of the country. KL can be visited in a day, as chronicled here superbly by Escape Traveler, however I always think it is best to spend a few nights so you can do a few day trips as well as all of the attractions in the city itself.
Despite the best efforts of some tricksy taxi drivers, transportation in Kuala Lumpur is safe and easy. I would always recommend using the KL Monorail. It is much like the Bangkok Skytrain, and the air-conditioning in the carriage is a godsend to get out of the tropical heat. Everything seems so clean in Kuala Lumpur (at least on public transport, anyway) and you need to be on your best behaviour when using public buses or the monorail – no feet on seats!
Food in Kuala Lumpur – and Malaysia in general – is simply incredible! Regardless of how long you’re here for, and regardless of your budget, you can always find something to suit your tastes. I tasted many new things, such as the national dish of Malaysia Nasi Lemak, and also some familiar things but done in a Malaysian way, like the amazing Magnum Café (in the UK we only get these Magnums in wrappers from the freezer).
The KL Menara Tower is an older structure than its newer skyscraper cousin, the PETRONAS Towers, and it nevertheless remains towering over KL. As such, I did not find it quite as impressive to look at or be around, although the entrance fee to KL Menara Tower is much less than what you would pay at the PETRONAS Towers. The views are amazing up there, and there is also a rotating restaurant. Merdeka Square is the site of Malaysian independence. Lots of governmental and parliamentary buildings are situated here and it can be said that Merdeka Square is like a central meeting place for people whilst in KL.
While I didn’t think Bukit Bintang was quite as impressive as neighbouring Singapore’s Orchard Road, it was nevertheless very impressive, and buzzing with atmosphere like few other places in S.E. Asia. All the major brands are represented here in luxurious shopping outlets and giant malls, which makes it a shopper’s paradise. At night, Bukit Bintang takes on a whole new meaning, as it becomes a hive of action with frenetic pace as the youth of KL come out to party! On the subject of youth, check out this amazing blog from Sarah Elle Grace and read about her gap year experience in KL!
The Central Market and various pasar malams are also highlights of Kuala Lumpur – as well as being full of history. If you have enough time during your stay in KL, then I recommend having a stroll through Central Market early in the morning and checking out the bargains on offer (I had some delicious Bur Bur Cha Cha there for breakfast). In the late afternoon, night markets (known in Malaysia as Pasar Malams) will be setting up, and these have even more bargains with souvenirs, clothing, apparel, handicrafts, and plenty of street food. Make sure you try some apam beras or ikan bakar – you will thank me for it later!
Tickets for the iconic PETRONAS Towers are sold on a first come, first serve basis, and are limited to around 2000 tickets per day. You must really be up at the crack of dawn to begin queuing beneath the Towers at the booth to have a chance of entering to observation platform. Even if you cannot afford this, you can still get great views of the towers while walking around KLCC Park. I had a great time up the PETRONAS Towers and it was a highlight of KL for me. For another opinion on the amazing PETRONAS Towers, check out The Chronicles of Mariane.
A few miles north of Kuala Lumpur are the Batu Caves. This is a nice half-day trip from KL, even if there’s not much to do other than climb the 272 steps and look in the caves. Be very cautious of the cheeky monkeys that you will undoubtedly encounter while ascending your way into the caves! Additionally, located within the Titiwangsa Mountains, Taman Negara is an amazing daytrip or weekend adventure getaway from the capital. It has a reputation for supposedly being the world’s oldest tropical rainforest and is said to be home to a number of rare Malayan tigers. With a tour booked through my hotel, I had a 2hr car journey from KL followed by a 2hr boat journey upriver and this got us to the entrance of Taman Negara. It was a great experience to be in the jungle, with its all its dangers around me! For more info on Taman Negara, check out these blogs from Siri Paulson and Melanie Garrison!