While I’ve made three visits to both Singapore and Bangkok, I somehow hadn’t been to Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia until just recently. Friends of Ben and I live there and we went for a 4-day visit. I love seeing a new city with friends that live there (Dom is English and Massy is Malay – you might remember we went to their wedding in Singapore a couple of years ago) so I can see it as a local and not as a tourist.
My Travel Diary from Kuala Lumpur (KL)
Sometimes, that means I miss the “tourist” things to do but it also means I see what it would really be like to live there. In any case, this article is more of a travel diary than my usual “guides” to places. But I will quickly lay out the top things to do in KL here so you know! We got around to some of them. At the end of the post, I’ll also share all the basics you need to know about Kuala Lumpur before you visit.
Top things to do in Kuala Lumpur
- Check out the famous Petronas Towers (tallest twin towers in the world) and walk across the sky bridge which connects them and shop below at the KLCC mall and park.
- Go to the top of the KL Tower (the 7th tallest in the world)
- Visit Batu Caves
- Visit Sri Mahamariamman Temple
- Learn about the culture at the National Museum
- Shop at Central Market
- Visit the Blue Mosque (and several other beautiful mosques)
- Wander through China Town
- Visit the Thean Hou Temple (a stunning Buddhist temple)
- Zoos, aquariums, eco-parks, theme parks, botanical gardens, butterfly and bird parks, and more museums
Our visit to KL
Dom and Massy live in a condo in Mont Kiara, just outside the city center near Little Korea and Solaris, where we went for some yummy Korean BBQ! We stayed with them and easily could take Grab cabs anywhere – but often didn’t have to since Dom works for Mercedes and has a company car. We were pretty spoiled getting driven around by him most of the time! You might have read as well that Uber is stopped in SE Asia and the Grab app is now the #1 app to use.
We did do many of the tourist items above but skipped just the caves, temples, and mosques. Dom and Massy are both Muslim and to go to a mosque isn’t a tourist activity for them. I have seen probably thousands of temples and didn’t feel the need to make special trips to see more – and the caves are a Hindu site (Ben and I have explored so many caves on our travels). It would be going just to “check it off the list” which I’m not interested in doing.
The best view of the Petronas Towers is probably from the KLCC park below during the day. At night, you can go to Marini’s on 57 and see them literally right behind your table while you have drinks. They aren’t lit up all night and turn off at I think midnight.
If you drive to KL Tower, keep in mind there is hardly any parking! It’s better to take a taxi and get dropped off. You can pay 50 Ringgit to go to the observation deck, which is not quite at the top. We paid 100 Ringgit (around $25) for sky level observation (as high as you can go – and where you see those infamous glass boxes that go out over the city). Sadly, it was raining, so we could only go to the observation deck. They did end up giving us our money back for the sky level since it was closed when we tried to go up.
We spent some time in China Town and I’ll admit, we bought fake Ray-Bans lol. Ben has lost 3 real pairs, so it was about time he got a fake pair. We also got some to give to our security guards at our complex in Goa. There are about $5 and are actually polarized. They have fake Nikes, luxury bags, jerseys, watches, you name it. Some look really real while others are obviously fake. I almost bought a Puma fanny pack but then snapped out of the daze because WTF was I even thinking?
From China Town, you can walk on to Central Market. You can eat street food along the way like cold stone ice cream, fresh coconuts, and meat on a stick.
Go-karting in Kuala Lumpur at Sepang
The BEST thing we did in Kuala Lumpur was go-karting. Ben and I try to go-kart everywhere we travel and had actually even go-karted in Malaysia before, in Langkawi. We went to the famous Sepang track to go-kart next to the F1 track. These cars hit 100 km/hour (62 mph) on the straight-aways and it’s a 1 km track. It was exhilarating! On the first straight away, going that fast, I actually yelled like I was on a rollercoaster. Dom races motorcycles and even he said it’s the fastest go-karting he’s ever done.
Beyond that, in Goa, we drive slow on curving village roads so whenever Ben and I are on a highway in another country going fast we are like “wow we are flying” when in reality it’s not fast. When I go back to the USA, and my dad is going 70mph on the highway, I feel like it’s way faster than I’ve ever been which my speeding tickets would beg to argue with. So, being on a go-kart going 62 mph was seriously fun. If you go to KL, you have to do this! It’s near the airport, not the city center. It was expensive – and you HAVE to do the series 3.
Food & Shopping in KL
We went to the city center for the tourist things and went to some different neighborhoods there like Bangsar, a kind of affluent neighborhood that many expats live in. While in Bangsar, we had the yummiest breakfast at Antipodean which is Dom’s favorite place for an English fry-up. In this area, you’ll also find shops like Lulu Lemon and various restaurants like Panchos (Mexican), Mikey’s NYC pizza, and tapas bars.
Dom and Massy had come to Goa over Christmas and were not impressed by our “best steak in Goa” places. So, they took us for their “best steak in KL” places. THESE were some seriously good steaks. We had dinner one night at Pampas in an area called Old Malaya. Another night we had steak at The Whiskey Bar and Steakhouse. The steak and ribs were really good. Prices in KL are a little all over the place. For example, if you eat really local it’s super cheap (backpacker budget style). If you go to a nice sit-down steak place it’s more like $100 for two people to eat and drink booze. But you could spend even more if you went to a Michelin place or at a roof-top bar. It’s by far cheaper than Singapore, though!
The road that The Whiskey Bar is on is called Changkat Bukit Bintang. It’s a busy road similar (but not as wild as) Khao San Road. For nightlife, it seems like KL is a mix between Singapore (sometimes classy) and Thailand (sometimes a little trashy). There are seedy areas where you might not want to go out alone or might see some hookers – but it’s not like Bangkok with sex shows and all of that. It seems like a very chill nightlife vibe and this road is a good place to start out. Many hostels are near here and a lot of backpackers stay around here so you’re bound to meet other travelers and locals and expats, too.
We did do a little bit of shopping. There is one mall called the Berjaya Times Square which has a theme park inside – we avoided this one. We did go to the Pavilion mall which is quite fancy, but only so we could go to the food court. We had some really nice Teppenyaki and then because I’m me, I got an Auntie Anne’s pretzel with cheese… twice.
We also popped into the mall at the Petronas Towers to grab what Dom and Massy swear is the best Korean chicken wings ever made. It’s a chain fast food restaurant called 4 Fingers and once we started eating, we stopped talking, because they were so damn good. Please get these! They have them in Singapore, too. If you want more street food options, you’ll also want to hit up Alor Street which is known for great food (but used to be the red-light district).
Near our friend’s place is the area called Little Korea and we went for the famous Korean BBQ where you cook it all on the little hot plate in front of you. So tasty!
We also checked out a little tiny electronics shop, which I don’t have the details for (but message me if you want them), to buy a Chinese knock-off of a GoPro. Dom showed us his when they came to visit and my old GoPro 3 is so outdated. I don’t have the budget now to spend $500 on a new one, so this one for $130 that looks the same and comes with everything and has the same specs, I was down for. It’s called the SJ Cam and it’s quite popular in Asia. I’ll hopefully be making more videos now!
Rafting in KL
If you drive just an hour and some away from the city, you are in the lush jungle. Dom booked us an epic whitewater rafting trip that he had done before. The night before the trip, I got food poisoning which I haven’t had in at least 4 years (and forgot how terrible it is!). I swear it was not the 4 whiskeys I had the night before – definitely food poisoning lol! At first, I thought it was just the booze, but then things got crazy and I was sure it was not the booze – seriously! Someone believe me, haha.
They all went and I was so jealous. Ben called me from the trip and I cried because I had been looking forward to it so much. But, these things happen. The photos look stunning. Ben said it was the best thing he’s done in ages, so I think you should definitely check it out. You can check out some tours here.
Basics to know before visiting KL
Arriving in KL: The airport is about 45 minutes or more from the city center (also called KLCC). You can take a metro or a taxi. A Grab cab will only cost you around $10-15. We flew Malaysia Airlines, which I have flown before twice. They offered us only filtered cups of very warm water and when I asked for a sealed cup of water (those little ones with the aluminum lid you peel back) they said, “okay you can have one but now you cannot have one with your meal”. Umm, okay cheap-asses! Here’s a TIME article about why you shouldn’t drink tap water on planes (even the filtered “drinking” water).
Getting around: They have public transport: Monorail, MRT, and LRT. You can also use oBike to rent bicycles around town and drop them off wherever you are done. To get around, use Grab App. Uber is no longer in SE Asia. Grab is much cheaper and more reliable than using a taxi. Taxis will sometimes rip you off and take you longer routes. From KLCC, you can walk most places.
How long to stay: You can easily see the tourist things in a weekend but if you want to get into the KL vibe, try to stay at least 5 days.
You can visit the tourism office for more information on local tours and to get maps of the city: Kuala Lumpur City Gallery, 27 Jalan Raja, Dataran Merdeka, KL, +60 3-2698 3333
Leaving KL: Make sure know you know which airport you leave from, as there are two.
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