Kuala Lumpur is a popular connecting hub for plenty other destinations. I can think of quite a few other large cities I like better though, but it is nice as a stopover for a couple days on your way.
As I have been to KL two times before, I felt I had done the “must see” things. And as I was quite tired from the flight, I decided to just go for the “hop on/hop off” tour. Usually this option is quite all right, but to be honest, this route was rather dull! There were long streaks of driving, and the information given was not too interesting. It did of course stop at the major sites KL Tower and the Petronas Twin Towers and a few other attractions, but as I had already visited earlier, I decided to stay on board for the full three hour loop.
As I love trying the local food while travelling, I signed up for the food tour offered for the guests at Back Home Hostel. A great way to combine eating with seeing other sides of the city that I probably would not have visited on my own. Simply because I did not know about them. Eating your way through Chinatown and Little India is also good if you have more time.
If it is your first time in KL and you want to do the “mandatory” things, I would recommend to stay somewhere downtown. I stayed my first night at The Traders Hotel, right next to the Petronas Twin Towers (the world’s highest twin towers). If you book well in advance you can get quite reasonable prices, also for the suites that include entrance to the lounge, offering free snacks and drinks. And of course a magnificent view of the towers and the park in front. If you are more on a budget, Back Home hostel is a good option. It is however one of the more expensive hostels, but also the one with the best ranking. It has a nice reception area and also its own movie room if you want that. If you fancy a party hostel, the Reggae Mansion right down the street would probably fit. I went for one drink at their rooftop bar, and for me that was more than enough.
The last nights a group of friends came, so I joined them at The Nomade Residence in Bangsar. It is a nice area with a local “village” with shops, bars and restaurants. If you have been to the city before and don’t want to hang around downtown it is ok to stay there. But it is about 15 min taxi ride from the Petronas towers.
The blue taxies have better standard and are a bit more expensive than the red ones. However, they fit up to 6 persons without luggage.
I had not been to Batu Cave before, so I teamed up with a few others from the hostel and shared a taxi. The first thing that caught my eye was the massive golden statue and the wide staircase leading up to the cave entrance. Then I noticed the people, swarming like ants…
Appropriately covered up, we started the hot climb, trying to avoid bumping into the other people and watching out for the light-fingered monkeys while taking a break and a sip of water. Entering the huge limestone cave, Hindu symbols were scattered around along the walls, along with a few temples. The inner part of the cave is naturally lit up by the open air hole, while the largest part has ugly streetlight poles, and to be honest, it looked more like a construction site. I was not very impressed…
With that said; one of the other Batu Caves – The Dark Cave – has a rich animal life, including almost 200.000 bats! So if you are interested in that, it might be worth your trip anyway.
New Years Eve in KL
Since it was New Years Eve, we decided to go downtown to watch the fireworks by KLCC. Arriving at 23 (we of course should have been there earlier) it was crowded! We tried to get to the front of the towers, but the closer we got, the more packed like sardines it got, so we decided to abort mission. It was simply too many people, and quite a few of the men around literally grabbed the opportunity to place their hands on places they should not….. No wonder they have separate carriages in the trains for women only…
We decided to try to get around on the other side and enter the park in front instead. Arriving at the back of the towers however, we actually could find space to stand and breath, without standing body-to-body with others, so we decided to just stay there. We figured we would be able to see the fireworks between the towers anyway. That was partly right. We did see some of the fireworks, but quite a lot of it was on the sides in the front and did not get high enough for us to see. So, my tip is to get there early and try to find a place by the lake in the park. As we never got there I have no idea how crowded it was there, but it is a big park, so I am guessing it was not too bad. Correct me if I am wrong… And if I am, there is always the option to go where we were. See for yourself.
An other option is of course to make a booking at one of the rooftop bars (note that they are all inside) and watch it from above.
After the fireworks we planned to take the LRT back to Bangsar to celebrate in the bars there, but again it was so overcrowded that we decided to have a drink downtown instead. It took forever to get it (no idea why, the place was far from full), so by the time we got out of there, it was already 2am and the subway closed before our eyes. The impossible hunt for a vacant taxi started, yet another reason to stay somewhere central so you are able to walk home. Eventually we went to the Mandarin hotel and got one from there. We all agreed next New Years Eve should be spent on a beach somewhere…
Transport from Kuala Lumpur airport to city center:
When arriving at KL you have different options to get into town. There are “luxury” taxis, metered taxis, the KL express or buses. For the taxis, you should go to the counters and get the coupon to ensure the right price. It was a long line at the luxury taxi stand, and the budget taxi counter was closed, so I decided to go for the option with the KL express to KL central, and a taxi from there. On my way down to the train however, I found another taxi stand for the budget taxis. Since I had already bought the ticket for the train, I just asked for the price. It would have been between 70-80 MYR.
The KL express was fast and convenient, 28 minutes non stop to KL central. The price is 35 for one way. However, the price changed to 55 MYR from 1st January 2016!
There is a taxi stand at the central station as well. Again, one luxury and one budget. I went for the budget version. Depending on what zone you are going to, you pay the fixed price in advance and get to coupon to give to the taxi driver. Smooth and convenient. They accept cash only though.
Local SIM card:
I have found it very useful to have a local SIM card while travelling, to be able to navigate from place to place, book accommodation along the way, search whatever I need online, and of course communicate and share the moments with the ones back home. Many of the operators had stands inside the airport (before collecting the luggage), so there is a good chance you will find one that fits your needs.