Kuala Lumpur

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.

Petronas Twin Towers in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

Petronas Twin Towers

View of Kuala Lumpur seen from Petronas twin Towers, Malaysia

View of Kuala Lumpur seen from Petronas Twin Towers

View of Kuala Lumpur seen from Petronas twin Towers. Malaysia

KL Tower in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

KL Tower.

View of Kuala Lumpur seen for KL Tower, Malaysia

View of Kuala Lumpur seen from KL Tower. Photo taken in 2005, so the view is probably quite different now!

Kuala Lumpur Skyline with Petronas Twin Towers and KL Tower. Malaysia

View from the Market Street Bridge in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

View from the Market Street Bridge.

The Old Market Square in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

The Old Market Square.

Street in Little India in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

Street in Little India.

Sultan Salahuddin Abdul Aziz Mosque, Shah Alam, Selangor, Malaysia

Sultan Salahuddin Abdul Aziz Mosque.

The National Palace in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

The National Palace.

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.
Farmers market in Jalan Raja Alang, KL, Malaysia. Food tour in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia Butcher at Farmers market in Jalan Raja Alang, KL, Malaysia. Food tour in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

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.

Batu Cave
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.

The Batu Cave outside Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

The Batu Caves.

Decorations outside the Batu Cave outside Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia Inside one of the Batu Caves outside Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia The nicely decorated roof of one of the Hindu temples inside the Batu Cave outside Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia Batu Caves, with view of Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

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.
Happy New Year! The fireworks seen from the backside of Petronas Twin Towers in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
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.

Rooftop bar at The Traders Hotel in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

Rooftop bar at The Traders Hotel.

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.

Food tour in Kuala Lumpur

I hope you are hungry, Fadly asked. I was, but suspected I would not be for very much longer. I was completely right.

As a service to their guests, Back Home hostel offer different activities. What caught my attention the most was the food tour. I love to try the local food as I travel and having an expert showing me what to try and where, is my favorite. I instantly signed up!

Walking along the busy streets, crossing the roads “the Malaysian way” (holding your hand out in front of the car like the police stopping the car when running after the bad guys in an action movie. Just no running or guns in our version though…) we reaching our first stop, and what Fadly refered to as our pre-dinner snack. Most Malaysians eat 6-7 times a day, so most are snack meals. We were about to do all in just a few hours…

The street by the first stop used to be full of food stalls, but due to construction, sadly most of them had to move. Our first snack was sup Urat or sup lidah lembu at Gerai Mak Teh Aloya (No 1, Lorong Doraisamy). Or soup with cow and quail (small bird) if you, as I, needed translation… The base of the slow cooked broth was the same, so we mixed them both together. Here we also tasted Rojak mixed with peanut butter.

Rojak. Food tour in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

Rojak

Continuing on, we went to the old area where mainly Malaysian live and very few tourists find their way. The old houses in front of the new makes an interesting contrast. Earlier the “poor” houses were made from timber and the richer in brick. Now it is the other way around, as timber has become very expensive.

Old vs. modern in KL, Malaysia

Old vs. modern in KL.

Next up was the Farmers market in Jalan Raja Alang. They open at 17 and keep open until the morning. Strolling around, Fadly told us about the different traditional vegetables, seafood, meat and other produce used for cooking. This included a quick walk through the meat market, where butchers were chopping the meat, including chicken with eggs inside. The video is not for the faint hearted…

Farmers market in Jalan Raja Alang, KL, Malaysia. Food tour in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia Fresh food at Farmers market in Jalan Raja Alang, KL, Malaysia. Food tour in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

Local meat is most popular and almost double price than the imported. Farmers market in Jalan Raja Alang, KL, Malaysia. Food tour in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

Local meat is most popular and almost double price than the imported.

Ok, I lied. We did have a snack at the farmers market. Food tour in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

Ok, I lied. We did have a snack at the farmers market!

Fadly telling about the Farmers market in Jalan Raja Alang, KL, Malaysia. Food tour in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia Butcher at Farmers market in Jalan Raja Alang, KL, Malaysia. Food tour in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

An egg anyone... Farmers market in Jalan Raja Alang, KL, Malaysia. Food tour in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

An egg anyone?….

It was about time for us to eat again (the farmers market was hands off, only looking. And smelling), so at Nasi Lemak City Garden we got to choose several dishes (Beef Rendang, tempe (fermented soybean) with peanut & anchovy, deep fried mashed potato with minced beef (begedil) & calamansi/kumquat lime drink)  to mix with our rice packed in banana leaf. Mmmm!

A lot of different delicious dishes to choose from. Food tour in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

A lot of different delicious dishes to choose from.

It may not look so good, but the taste was amazing! Food tour in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

It may not look so good, but the taste was amazing!

Rice in palm leaf. Food tour in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
Since we had such a “long” break from eating, we went straight to the next place for dessert; Pancake with sweet corn and peanuts, and one with banana and chocolate. And a lot of margarine!!! Just close your eyes and eat, your taste buds will thank you!
Pancakes in the making! Food tour in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia Pancake! Food tour in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
Like burgers? Ever tasted one wrapped with egg? I did not think so. But do not despair, before the end of the tour, you have. The RamIY burger special with egg wrapped around is apparently very popular, so the inventor had to open several branches to meet the demand. I like both burgers and eggs, so I somehow found space for it in my fast filling stomach.

RamIY burger special with egg wrapped around. Food tour in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

RamIY burger special with egg wrapped around.

A short walk away, just long enough to let the gastric content contract to make room for a little bit more, chicken satay and octopus was served. I had already stopped thinking this MUST be our last stop, so I sat down, had a small piece of each, and drank a sip of the large bottle of water Fadly gave us when we started. The message was clear; all of you have to finish the 1,5 liter before the end of the tour. I still had a little left, so I concluded we were not done yet.

Chicken satay. Food tour in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

Chicken satay coming up!

Time to try a traditional breakfast dish. Was it a trick to make us forget about all the other things we ate?… It was hard to forget, but at least we all found room to try the blue colored rice from the east coast with lemongrass, Vietnam basil, long bean, cabbage, daun selom, chili, anchovy sauce, fish floss and grated roast coconut, all mixed well together. The type of breakfast depends what region you are from. Some eat rice, others more sweet. I am not up for very sweet things in the morning, but this rice I could easily do.
A typical breakfast . Food tour in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
From breakfast back to dessert. Our second one, that is. At this point we were all more than full, so Fadly suggested that we took it to go, and brought it Back Home(!). Needless to say, we all voted for! Happy, and certainly not hungry, we got on the train back to the hostel for an ice cold beer. And our take-away sticky rice with mango…