Things we did in Kuala Lumpur | When reading reviews about Kuala Lumpur, it usually sounds like this: “Boasting gleaming skyscrapers, colonial architecture, charming locals, a myriad of natural attractions”. Let’s get that straight. None of it is even remotely true. Malaysia’s Capital does not rank high in most tourists’ bucket lists. The city is crowded, packed with ugly high rise buildings, lacks of sufficient greenery, public transport infrastructure is underdeveloped, and high humid temperatures all year long quickly transform tourists into world champions in sweating. Expect average daily temperatures above 30 degrees celsius (86 degrees Fahrenheit).
Still, KL got some hidden gems to offer. Since we had a stopover anyway, we happily tackled this mega city. These were the things we did in Kuala Lumpur:
KLCC | Kuala Lumpur’s City Center was the first target on our to-do-list. Most iconic sight: the Petronas Towers. Named after Malaysia’s national petroleum company, the Twin Towers once were the tallest building on earth (between 1998 and 2004). The towers feature modern islamic architecture and style. Although this is a fully occupied office building, tourists have the opportunity to walk over a sky bridge that connects the two towers at level 41 and 42. e-Tickets cost US$29 per person. Our advise: skip it! There are better options to admire Kuala Lumpur’s skyline in general and these Twin Towers in particular.
Alternative option #1: take a drink at the ‘Marinis on 57’. It’s just a 5 minute walk away from the Twin Towers. The view will be fantastic, and those US$29 that you would have paid to walk over the Sky Bridge, you can invest into fancy drinks. The rooftop restaurant/bar is open from 7pm-11pm every day.
Alternative option #2: the TV-Tower (Menara KL). For US$12 / 49 Ringgit you can beam yourself up to an observation deck at roughly 400 meters height. Menara KL is located within the Bukit Nanas Forest Reserve – one of the few green spots in Kuala Lumpur’s city center.
Apart from the Petronas Towers, KLCC offers seemingly endless shopping and dining opportunities. And there is a state-of-the-art Aquarium in walking distance. You will see signs leading to the ‘Aquaria’ here and there. Opening hours: 10am to 8pm, admission: 70 Ringgit – that’s approx. US$17.
What else: the public park just outside the KLCC Suria Mall might be your chance to catch a glimpse of typical Malaysian plants.
Batu Caves | Besides KLCC, the Batu Caves are the other site that catched the attention of most tourists. It’s a limestone hill with a series of caves and some Hindu temples. The temples were established in the 1890s. What’s particularly cool about those caves is the fact that lots and lots of Macaque monkeys will guide you up and down the 272 stairs. If you want to pay them for their service, bring an apple or a banana. But hold tight to your other belongings such as sunglasses, phone, camera … whatever is loose, the monkeys might just grab and escape.
Petaling Street (Pasar Seni) is KL’s shopping area for fake brands. In search of a Mont Blanc pilot suitcase for RM500 or a really good Rolex remake for RM200? Petaling Street will be your place to go.
Opposite of Pasar Seni you’ll find the Central Market Building. It was founded in 1888 as a wet market. The current Art Deco style building was completed in 1937. The building is packed with touristy shops. Lot of wood work, fabrics, bottled sand and fridge magnets everywhere. The Central Market Building has been classified as a Heritage Site. It’s a nice landmark for Malaysian culture and heritage with a bit of air con here and there ;)
Kuala Lumpur’s Bird Park is a 21-acre gated garden. According to wikipedia, it is receiving approx. 200,000 visitors per year. It is located close to the National Mosque and Royal Malaysian Police Museum. The Bird Park houses 3,000 birds from 200 species in an enclosed aviary. Most are local birds, 10% were imported. The aviary is quite nice. Not sure if you are willing fork out RM67 per adult. We did that. It was oookeee. Not a mega blast. But what to do if there is no other way of getting a close encounter with the hornbill.
Thean Hou Temple
In case you haven’t had a chance to visit its bigger brothers in Thailand or China: step inside the Thean Hou buddhist temple. That might do the job for you. The building does not have any significant historical or architectural value. It just looks good. I think the Germans say the same about Neuschwanstein Castle :D
The Thean Hou Temple (Chinese: 乐圣岭天后宫) is dedicated to the Chinese sea goddess Mazu. It is located atop Robson Heights on Lorong Bellamy. Year of completion: 1987. The temple was built by Hainanese living in Malaysia.
Jamek Mosque (Masid Jamek)
We did meander in and around this old mosque – the oldest big mosque Malaysia. It was built at the confluence of Klang and Gombak River. The foundation stone was laid by the Sultan of Selangor, Sultan Sir Alaeddin Sulaiman Shah in 1908. It opened in 1909. The construction cost $32,625 – funded in part by the Malay community with contribution from the British Government. Architect: Arthur Benison Hubback. He designed the mosque in an Indian Muslim Mughal style. Jamek Mosque is open for public from 8 am till 9pm on a daily basis.
Transportation in Kuala Lumpur
… can be a bit troublesome. It is definitely not as bad as in let’s-say Bangkok, Jakarta, Mumbai or Dhakka. Still, traffic jams will be part of your daily routine. Grab is the most comfortable way to move around. KL also offers a bit of metro/subway. It goes by abbreviations such as LRT, MRT, KTM, Monorail and Buses. There is no unified public transport system in place as you might know it from London or Paris or Singapore. But with a payment card called Touch’n’Go you can use all these options listed above thru one payment card. You simply upload some funds to this card at a Touch’n’Go counter and swipe it each time you enter or exit a station. The Touch’n’Go card also works at Toll Stations on Malaysia’s freeways, in certain shops and restaurants.
Let’s not forget to have a word about the weather in Kuala Lumpur. The climate in Malaysia’s Capital is of course tropical. The daily average maximum temperature is 32°C (90 Fahrenheit). And let’s forget about any minimum. It won’t happen. Expect 32+/90+. If any online source tells you about an average minimum of let’s-say 23°C (73 Fahrenheit): Don’t wait for it. It won’t happen.
The wettest months for Kuala Lumpur are Oct/Nov/Dec with approx 333.0mm of precipitation falling. The driest month is June with 139.4mm of rain. Means: not much difference actually. It’s raining a lot all year long.
Where to stay in Kuala Lumpur
Booking small scale B&B’s or private accommodation – usually our thing – was not really an option in Kuala Lumpur. But what’s kind of nice in KL is the comparably low prices for upscale hotels. We filtered our search by:
- Budget: US$55 – US$110 per night
- Star rating: only 4 and 5 stars
- Review Score: only Super (9+)
And most importantly we did not want to end up in any traffic jam. Coming from KLIA (Kuala Lumpur International Airport) this was indeed possible, when choosing Aloft at KL Sentral. We took the KLIA Express (a fast train from the Airport to KL Sentral Station for RM55 per person and did roll our luggage some 50 meters towards the Aloft lobby. Price for 3 nights: US$224 ($75 per night). The Aloft is a boutique hotel run by Marriott. It’s modern, not too fancy, clean, got friendly staff and a nice rooftop pool, plus: for exploring KL, this shelter is located in a perfect position.