Kuala Lumpur is a rapidly developing city with a unique blend of cultures, a sizzling food scene and is primed to become a staple in exploratory tours of Southeast Asia.
My experience in Asia has been relatively light to date. I’ve spent a little over a week in Tokyo, Japan and a few days in Beijing, China, but the mere distance of getting to this region from New York City makes it a task.
Luckily, I recently partnered with Norwegian Airlines and discovered that they offer premium flights to Bangkok from NYC, connecting in either Oslo, Norway or Stolkhom, Sweden – so easily I jumped on the opportunity to make the voyage to explore one of the bucket list countries on my list – Thailand. Thailand had a ton to offer, which I’ll get into in another post, but with the difficulty in getting to the region of Southeast Asia, I knew that I wanted to add an additional country to my trip since I was literally on the other side of the world. I wanted a city that wasn’t too big and that we could get a good feel for in 2 days or so, as an extension of our Thailand trip. I narrowed down my options to Malaysia and Singapore and by luck of the draw, we decided on Malaysia.
We stayed at the A Loft Sentral which was, like the name suggests, centrally located in the city and connected to a mall and major train station which made it very convenient to get around. Important to note, uber is huge in KL City and was our main means of transportation, especially considering just how affordable it was with our U.S. currency conversion. Trips that were about 20 minutes long would come up to $5 US, so you can’t be the ease and affordability there.
The city, a cultural combination of traditional Malay, Indian and Chinese, with sprinkles of other Asian cultures like Vietnamese and Thai, was sort of a melting pot in a way that I hadn’t seen before as most of these countries are very homogenous. But it was beautiful to see each country and culture individually represented in Malaysia with areas like Little India and China Town, as well as come together as one in business and leisure.
Admittedly, I did only a slight bit of research on Kuala Lumpur before I arrived, so I didn’t know exactly what to expect. But I was pleasantly surprised by what I experienced. Luckily my colleague Dave was able to connect me with someone local in KL City who used to live in Brooklyn for a while, so I trusted his suggestions off the rip. Here are some things we did and some tips, to make a short trip in KL City a memory you’ll never forget:
Areas To Explore: Little India, China Town, Pavillion Mall near the Petronas Towers and Kampung Baru for a traditional Malay village.
Sites You Can’t Miss: Petronas Towers & Batu Caves
Where To Eat & Drink: Old China Café in China Town – the Sweet & Sour Fish or Pork is bomb. Dindigul Thalapakkatti Restaurant in Little India. We had a few meals at our hotel at the A Loft and they were amazing with a great rooftop/pool view. Also, make sure you visit the night market, Jalan Alore – it opens around 6pm and street vendors sell some of the best and most authentic Malay, Chinese, Indian and Thai food, desserts and drinks you’ll have in the city. We specifically recommend wings from Wong Ah Wah.
In general here are some dishes that the city is known for that you should be on the look out for:
Nasi Lemak – a fatty coconut rice with boiled egg and anchovies.
Bakutay = pork with a mix of Asian herbal seasonings.
Where To Stay: We stayed at the A Loft Sentral which is connected to Central Station and trains. Little India was right across the street and everything we did seemed relatively close. Would definitely recommend this area – there were tons of other hotels connected to Central Station to choose from as well.
Getting Around: Trains are easily accessible especially if you stay central in the city, but if you are traveling from the U.S. or somewhere with comparable currency, it is both cost effective and time efficient to use Uber. With all the zig-zagging we did across the city, our total in uber fares was $45 to split between the three of us.
Some Things To Note: Be careful with your experience in the Batu Caves. There are monkeys everywhere and some are friendlier than others. We saw monkeys grab and steal food and other items from patrons and run off with it.
Vendors right outside of the Batu Caves sell malas, floral garlands to give as an offering at the Hindu temples at the top of the Batu Caves. The monkeys will steal those right off your neck and eat them as well if you’re not careful, so put them away in a bag until you get to the top.
Speaking of the top, the Batu Caves has some of the steepest steps on a tour, ever. So don’t plan on it if you have bad knees or breathing issues. It is a bit of a challenge for most people to get up in one shot.