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5 Highlights of Kuala Lumpur

June 17, 2012

Street vendors outside National Mosque in Kuala Lumpur.

When we made plans for me to visit WWW in Beijing for a couple weeks this summer, we knew he’d be ready for a vacation and we would both be wanting to explore somewhere outside China.  Given the heavy rains and astronomically high temperatures that plague most of Southeast Asia– namely Thailand, Vietnam, Cambodia, and Laos–during the summer months, we decided to fore-go some of the places highest on our travel to-do list.  Then, Malaysia came up in conversation.  Unlike the possibilities of Hong Kong or Taiwan, it was a place neither of us had been or knew much about.  When I started doing research on both Peninsular Malaysia and Malaysian Borneo, I wasn’t sure if there would be enough to attract us.  Regarding Borneo, we aren’t divers and we are too fidgety for the typical “relaxing” beach vacations, which seem to be the key attractions of many of the islands.  Mt. Kinabalu and any sort of “roughing it” in Sabah really weren’t what we were looking for this time around either.  So, Peninsular Malaysia it was.

WWW insisted on spending a couple days in the capital (he’s a big-city kinda guy), and I reluctantly agreed, predicting how boring all the skyscrapers and mega-malls were going to be.  Well, I’ll say it publicly (are you taking notes, honey?), I was completely wrong on this front; the bustling city of KL was one of my favorite parts of our time in Malaysia (apparently KL is also the 6th most visited city by international travelers, who knew?).  Spending a few days in the Malaysian capital was a fantastic way to introduce us to the country, which presents an amalgamation of cultures, languages, and religions co-existing side-by-side.  We stayed in an area in the city-center referred to as the Golden Triangle.  This district contains many of the cities high-end hotels, nightclubs, and restaurants.  This proved to be a great jumping off point for many of KL’s famous sights.

1. KL Tower (Menara Tower)

Entrance at the bottom of the hill leading to KL Tower.

We started our first day at the KL or Menara Tower, which was only about a 10-minute walk from our hotel.  The KL Tower is the 7th-tallest tower in the world, ranking just below the Pearl Tower in Shanghai (#5) and the Tokyo Sky Tree (#1).  When you arrive at the base, a van is provided free of charge to take you up the hill to the tower entrance.  We had heard that between the KL Tower and the Petronas Towers (the ubiquitous symbols of KL), it was best to pay to go up the KL Tower (45RM ~ $15/per person), which has a higher observation deck and provides 360-degree views of KL and a great photo-op that includes the Petronas Towers.  In the tour “packages” for the Tower there are several available add-ons (one of which comes included in the base ticket price), including a pony ride, petting zoo, and 3-D simulator.  This aspect seemed pretty ill-organized, and we opted to leave without visiting our “included” add-on.

2. Chinatown

Traffic in Chinatown and one of the busy pedestrian streets outside Central Market.

Next, we grabbed a seat on the Hop-On Hop-Off City Tour Bus (38RM ~ $13/per person for one-day pass) and headed to Chinatown.  Similar to many Chinatowns in North America and abroad, there were many street stalls, small shops and restaurants, and a bustling tempo.  We ate lunch–Char Kway Teow, which is a fried rice noodle dish with egg, beansprouts, chives, and prawns (this is a Chinese dish, but reminded me of Pad Thai)– at the popular Central Market on the edge of Chinatown.  It used to be a wet-market but now serves as a two-story indoor mall of sorts with many small shops selling soft drinks and snacks, as well as a food court and an abundance of souvenir stalls.  This is one of the parts of the city I wish we’d had more time to just walk around and peek in all the little nooks and crannies, but we decided to keep moving.

Shopping center and food court to grab lunch.

4. Sri Mahamariamman

Hindu temple juxtaposed against the buildings of surrounding Chinatown.

Situated within Chinatown is the colorful Hindu temple, Sri Mahamariamman.  Be prepared to leave your shoes outside in a basket with the attendant before you enter the temple complex.  This was both WWW’s and my first visit to a Hindu temple, and I could barely contain my excitement, as evidenced by the slew of photos documenting our visit there.  There was a procession taking place when we arrived.  Stepping in from the busy street with all the chatter and traffic noise, we were quickly overwhelmed by the sounds of flutes, drums, and the temple bell tolling.  The scent of incense filled the air as a procession, led by some sort of priest or initiate, placed the burning particles in front of each of the many temple statues.  Flowers and other offerings were draped on and beside the deities as well.  It was fascinating (and a little taxing on the senses) to experience the entire process.

Offerings of flowers and incense for Ganesha and tolling of the temple bell.

4. Lake Gardens Park


From Chinatown, we went to the Lake Gardens Park, which is the expansive green-space within the city.  There are several notable sites inside the park, including the KL Bird Park, the National Monument, an orchid garden, and many trails and walking paths.  Our time here was cut short due to us being very confused about how to get to some of the sights and spending a good deal of time walking back and forth along the main road.  We were were able to find the orchid garden (right across from the Bird Park, which my irrational fear and valid distaste of these flying demons precluded us from visiting) relatively easily.

The National Monument, which is on the opposite side of the highway from the rest of the park attractions, was a little more difficult but worth the trials to check out.  The monument is dedicated to the Malaysians who fought during the Japanese occupation in WWII and the Malayan Emergency (or the Anti-British National Liberation War) in the 1950s.

Malaysia National Monument across from Lake Gardens Park

5. Petronas Towers

These are the tallest twin buildings ever constructed and have become a hallmark of KL.  The towers are home to the many offices of Petronas and its subsidiaries, as well as the Malaysian Philharmonic Orchestra and the 1,500,000 square foot luxury brand shopping center, Suria KLCC.  The skybridge is free to visit, though you must wait in line to receive a ticket and only have about 10-minutes to spend overlooking the city.  Unfortunately, both the skybridge and the higher observation deck were closed to visitors the day we went (Mondays).

Have you been to Kuala Lumpur?  What were your favorite parts of the city?  Also, have you ever been taken by surprise when visiting a particular city or country?  What places have exceeded your expectations, fallen short, or been entirely different than you predicted?

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9 Comments leave one →
  1. June 18, 2012 5:57 am

    I wasn’t a big fan of KL, but I’m so glad you’re back to blogging! I used to follow your adventures in China, and just before I moved to Paris I read up on your France posts. I hope you continue to write about your life in Asia!

    • Ashley Bruckbauer permalink*
      June 18, 2012 7:14 am

      Hi, Edna. Thanks for the comment! It is always good to feel like you have supporters even after being away for a long stint. It’s interesting to hear everyone’s varying perspectives on KL. When I was first doing research for the trip, I noticed that most of my stand-by travel blogs didn’t mention Malaysia or only talked about Borneo and some of the islands. After living in Beijing and Shanghai, I think we really liked the multi-ethnic feel of the city and its potential for daily living. I’m not sure if tourists would find it as charming, especially after the likes of Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos, and the other stops on the SE Asia trail. I’m looking forward to following your adventures in Paris!

  2. July 14, 2012 1:09 am

    I was only in KL for a short amount of time, but I loved riding the metro rail, eating on the streets at Jalan Alor, and observing all of the durian varieties sold on street corners.

    Oh, and the giant, 6-story mall with a roller coaster in it. No better way to get an appreciation for the youth culture.

    • Ashley Bruckbauer permalink*
      July 14, 2012 9:20 am

      I think the diversity of things to do and see was one of my favorite things about KL. It was really amazing to see Chinese, Indian, and Malay culture and architecture side-by-side. Likewise, it was great to go from shopping in Chinatown to one of the mega malls. KL is refreshingly different from anywhere else I’ve been in Asia (admittedly though there are a lot of places I haven’t been)!

  3. May 7, 2013 3:49 am

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    really found you by accident, while I was searching on Yahoo
    for something else, Anyhow I am here now and would just like to say thank you for a incredible post and a all round
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    don’t have time to read through it all at the moment but I have bookmarked it and also included your RSS feeds, so when I have time I will be back to read a great deal more, Please do keep up the excellent work.

    • Ashley Bruckbauer permalink*
      May 7, 2013 9:28 am

      Thank you, Chelsey! I’m glad that you are enjoying the blog and found this post helpful. I’ll hopefully be back to a more consistent posting schedule over the summer. I have lots of catching up to do on travels to Cambodia, Italy, and Thailand; so, check back for that.

Trackbacks

  1. Batu Caves: An Easy Trip Outside Kuala Lumpur « La Vie en China?
  2. Roundup of Kuala Lumpur « La Vie en China?
  3. Strolling around Penang’s Georgetown « La Vie en China?

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