4 months in and I love it here. I’ve seen, eaten and done quite a bit but there’s still more to do. I thought I’d share my must see/eat/do so far by explaining what sites filled my days (and stomach) when I had two months of visitors during December and January.
What should you do in Kuala Lumpur if you have two months of visitors?
I can imagine you sat wondering, or possibly pacing, wanting to know what you could possibly do with two months of visitors in Kuala Lumpur. Well, don’t fear, stop pacing, there’s no need to make that frown line any deeper because I have some suggestions.
As two months of eating, drinking, wandering, photographing, swimming, sunbathing, hiking, driving, shopping… is quite a lot I’ve been debating how to put it in simple, straight forward written form. This is tricky as I’m a rambler when I have a keyboard. Do I break it into sections e.g. food, sites, shops? Do I write it chronologically showing what we did and where we went from December to January? Do I write it in a rated order from best to not quite best?
I’m indecisive, I’ve decided not to decide and just write it in any old order, hmm maybe that’s a decision?
Ok, *drumroll* here we go two months of visitors in Kuala Lumpur, this is what I did in no particular order…
DISCLAIMER – I’d like to point out that I had two months of visitors when I still thought of myself as a visitor. In fact when the first visitors arrived I had only been in Kuala Lumpur about 20 days. This means that there are many great places that we didn’t wander to because I was still brand new. Also all our visitors visited at different times which meant I duplicated a lot of these places e.g. I went to Heli Pad three times and the Pertronas Towers a million. Right, I best get on with it.
It’s not just a funny name it’s a park with a really impressive view of the Kuala Lumpur skyline. This park was really chilled out as despite being close to the city you’re far enough away that the noise doesn’t follow, a treat. This park is definitely worth a picnic trip (*buy some incredible sourdough sandwiches from nearby Tommy Le Baker first and take them with you to the park). Taking a trip to Titiwangsa Park means you get to ride the monorail all the way to the very last stop which for me is a serious bonus. My name is Nicola Fletcher and I’m a monorail addict because it feels like I’m riding a rollercoaster whilst taking in all of Kuala Lumpur’s main sites. Plus in all seriousness the KL monorail is a great, cheap way to get a flying view of the city and gives you a peek into every day city life as well. I must add in typical Malaysian form finding the park was not straight forward at all. We walked from the Monorail stop assuming there would be signs, a clear path etc. there was not, and as with most Asian cities pavements and walking don’t really exist. My top tip would be take a taxi from the monorail stop to the park much less sweat and hassle.
Bangsar and banana leaf
A visit to Bangsar is a treat in my opinion as you can wander a couple of streets shopping and eating OUTSIDE as you go. This may sound completely normal but in Kuala Lumpur shopping and eating is mainly done inside air conditioned malls. We’d all had our fill of the many, MANY malls so to be outside and easily walk between a large variety of food, drink and shop options was a pleasant change. We took in a veg and fruit market, some really pretty clothes shops, a peaceful tree lined street, the INCREDIBLE and delectable Jaslyn Cakes plus the mouth-wateringly good banana leaf restaurant Sri Nirwana Maju (we just beat the queue). The food options in Bangsar seem to range from top quality local mamaks (MUST return soon for Devi’s Corner), street satay and typical Nyonya cuisine (the Straits Food Company is still on my to-do list) to every possible type of Western restaurant. Basically there’s a bit of everything, it’s right on the edge of the city with Nu Sentral being about 1 minute away on the LRT (from Bangsar LRT it’s about a 10 minute HOT, uphill walk to Bangsar Villagewhich you could extend via the excellent coffee shop Pulp). GO.
Food tour with Urban Adventures KL
The Urban Adventures food tour started at the Bangsar LRT and from there we walked 10km, seriously, Tom’s brother in law recorded our trip. We meandered through Brickfields and on to Chinatown (with the LRT and a Pasar Seni city view thrown in). This was marvellous we ate tons of food both in restaurants and along the street. Our guide Gabby was very knowledgeable and she had a great rapport with all the people we chatted to along the way. This was a top way to try lots of food and experience a couple of KLs must-see zones. My highlight was probably the Indian vadai stall in Brickfields which provided very addictive samosas. Oh and the Indian mini donuts which we stopped to sample also in Brickfields. Hang on let’s not forget the crispy noodle dish on Petaling Street AND Selvam’s Corner in Brickfields… I told you I was indecisive!
If you want to impress your visitors this is the showstopper BUT you do need dry weather and a blue sky really makes it 10/10. I think the picture says everything, you’re on a Heli Pad in between the Menara Tower and the Petronas Towers what more do you need to know?! All you need to do is grab a seat and watch the city go from day to night. This is a must, MUST do even if you only have 24 hours in the city, start your evening here (opens at 6pm and you need to be up there before 9pm unless you want to be made to buy a bottle).
The thought of their seekh kebab makes my mouth water. I found BBQ Nights went well after a trip to Sky Bar. We had a few cocktails facing what has to be the best all round, high up view of the Petronas Towers, then wandered to BBQ Nights an outdoor Pakistani BBQ restaurant. I first ate their food at Timeout’s food festival Time Out Dine Out and it was definitely the most memorable. At the moment it’s also bring your own booze.
KL train station
I am a building addict especially if they’re old and grand which Kuala Lumpur train station is. This is worth a view if you’re on your way to the National Mosque or to the Lake Gardens. Kuala Lumpur train station is a KTM stop on my way into the city and its calm colonial charm pulls me in everytime. I much prefer it to the crazy, modern KL Sentral. The only negative is that it looks like it’s being left to ruin, it really could do with a clean up and a fresh lick of paint.
The Petronas Towers at night
In my opinion this is the only way you should see the towers or at least your first view of them should be at night. MAGICAL, OUTSTANDING, STAGGERING… you get the gist, say no more just have your go pro, selfie stick, traditional camera, eyes at the ready.
We didn’t plan to go inside the mosque we were just snapping the outside as we walked to the Lake Gardens. However we spotted a group of tourists putting on purple headscarves and robes and I thought 1. I want to wear that outfit and 2. ooooh we are allowed inside! The National Mosque is smack bang in the loud, busy city centre but despite that as soon as you walk up the stairs and enter the mosque the sound stills and it’s basically a wonderfully calm and breezy zone. Non-Muslims can only visit outside prayer times however you can remain inside during prayer times if you have entered before they started. The mosque provides clothing for you and when we visited there was a really friendly guide handing out leaflets, ready to answer any questions. Fantastic.
Lot 10 Hawker Stalls
We ventured underground to the Lot 10 hawker stalls. They’d caught my eye in the Lonely Planet and I spotted the small escalator entrance on my way from Pavilion Mall to Bukit Bintang (it’s right next to the enormous H&M and the mall above is actually connected to the Bukit Bintang Monorail). This is a wonderfully cramped maze of stalls which you could easily get lost in. Apparently the best of KL’s hawker stalls were handpicked for Lot 10. It’s amazing, there’s dim sum, satay, noodles, pork buns, a bar in the middle, juice, fresh spring rolls…so much, too much for one trip but don’t worry you’ll return more than once. A word of warning though it shuts at 10pm but we found most of the stalls wrapped up around 9pm.
Mid Valley Mega Mall (MVMM) & the Gardens
This is the closest, good quality mall to where I’m staying in Kuala Lumpur, it’s about 4 stops on the KTM. We needed to shop, someone had to buy a camera, we’d heard this mall fulfilled its mega name and had everything inside. The best thing about MVMM in my opinion (if I ignore my Krispy Kreme addiction) are the outdoor restaurants Antipodean and Yeast oh and the excellent Plan B. All the food options next door in the Gardens are pretty good too but they’re back underground. In particular the marvellous Chinese soup dumpling restaurant, Din Tai Fung, please go and order the pork soup dumplings they will change your life (*may not change your life). Also stuff your face even more with dessert at Madame Waffle AND/OR make your own Magnum back in MVMM. Hang on one more thing, if you’re dying for pizza Mikey’s New York Pizza will be everything you want and more. Ok I’ve made it sound like one giant food court but there are all the usual shops too.
It’s outside and in a convenient central location, there’s fairy lights, they constantly refill your tiny beer glass, they serve mountains of pork in all its great varieties including their addictive pork belly, everything’s awesome (sang like in in the Lego movie). We took family to meet friends here and didn’t regret it which is why it’s a common feature on our visitors to-do list.
Birthday in Bijian because everyone’s doing it
Seriously everyone is doing it. We went for my mum’s birthday and I kid you not happy birthday must have been sung 10 times. It became a joke with everyone in the restaurant, you couldn’t finish your mouthfull before the happy birthday tune had started. I wouldn’t say Bijian is a must do but the food is worth at least one visit if you want good quality Malay cuisine in the tourist heavy area of Bukit Bintang.
Jalan Alor and then drinks in Changkat Bukit Bintang
Yes it’s touristy and really, really busy but there is some excellent food on this street. Plus you don’t even have to sit down you can wander eating takeaway dim sum or satay or make your way to the very end and get crispy chicken wings (even if you don’t have the chicken wings just go and look how many wings they have spinning in their rotisseries). I think this street has to be done on a trip to KL and I enjoyed taking everyone there. We often continued our evening along Jalan Mesui, Feeka for dessert (unless you’re already full on Sangkaya coconut icecream), Piscos for cocktails, Nagaba for a pretty rooftop drink, the bar next door to Feeka for funky surroundings and nearby Taps for live music alongside a proper* beer (*if you ignore it’s not a pint).
Eat at a local mamak
I’ve previously blogged about the delightful food at my local mamak. Why do you need to go to a mamak? Because you have to eat roti canai, you can’t visit KL and not eat its signature dish, oh it is so very good. We took all our visitors to our lovely, friendly local mamak which is about 10 seconds away from our apartment. We also took some visitors to the excellent option close to KL city centre Nasi Kandar Pelita. Did I mention they’re also open 24 hours?!!!
I’m sure a lot of KL walking tours start here and why not it’s an important historical location, it has the tallest flagpole in Asia (impressive I know…this may be sarcastic) and it’s close to both Little India and Chinatown. Both sets of visiting parents took in Merdeka Square. I can’t stop staring at the building opposite, it’s bronze dome rooftop turrets are magnificent. Also as you walk from Merdeka Square to China Town you pass another wonderful colonial building which has eye catching yellow shutters (told you I’m a building addict) plus you cross a bridge with a great view point of the two rivers which pass through Kuala Lumpur and Masjid Jamek (currently undergoing a refurb).
With one set of visitors we failed to find the Lake Gardens before they closed (yes, they close). However with another set of visitors I was more prepared, I knew to take a left and not a right and go in the morning! The orchid and hibiscus gardens are stunning and when you eventually gain entry to the lake gardens (not as simple as you think due to a lack of signs and many meandering roads) they are huge and gorgeous, lots of green open space, well planted and they take you all the way to the back of Nu Sentral; we started at Kuala Lumpur train station so plenty of walking.
Pavilion Mall when there’s a holiday/festival
As you’ve probably realised by now KL loves a mall, the city is practically married to them. If you’re visiting KL you’ll probably find yourself near to Pavilion as it’s in the Bukit Bintang area. As it was Christmas and then Chinese New Year we popped inside to see the really impressive decorations, they definitely go all out for mall holiday decorations in Kuala Lumpur, have you seen the size of that monkey???
Brolly – beergeritas
There are tons of delicious food options in multi-cultural KL. On one particular evening we ended up in Brolly, near to the towers. The food was tasty, you ordered from a few different (upmarket) hawker stalls (which did make the long menu a bit overwhelming). The main reason we enjoyed it however was the impressive beergaritas, just look at that picture, odd but in a very good way.
Chinatown, Little India and Brickfields (another Little India)
These were the main must-see zones that most of our visitors meandered through during their visit. The guidebook you’ve got in your pocket will tell you what to see and do. My favourite is Brickfields for the food and Chinatown for the temples (both Chinese and Hindu; definitely try to catch Sri Mahamariamman Temple during prayer time when there’s a ceremony to watch and music playing) and shopping (in particular Peter Hoe and the lantern shops on the streets around Petaling). In Brickfields make sure you eat from the street vidai stalls, you’ll become an addict plus there’s a really cheap chapati restaurant on the street underneath the Nu Sentral monorail, oh and Jassal Tandoori Restaurant…WOW. In China Town eating in Kim Lian Kee is a must, grab a seat upstairs so you can watch the action of Petaling Street below. Oh and if you need a cool down in a funky, hidden cafe we found Merchants Lane near Petaling Street in China Town to be perfect (there’s also a secret speakeasy next door which pretends to be a toy shop).
Thean Hou Temple
So far this is my favourite temple in Kuala Lumpur. If there’s a great city view I’m there, throw in a blue sky and a temple and that’s a perfect site in my book. This temple is pretty huge but for me the trip was brilliant because of the view back to Kuala Lumpur. Make sure you find out your fortune inside the temple, you’ll spot other people doing it. Also check out your Chinese zodiac animal outside. As with all must-see sites the picture says it all.
Ok, I know this is not Kuala Lumpur but we needed to get out of the city for a bit and it’s a very easy road trip north to the coast.
My parents visited for two weeks and for one of those hired a car which we used to visit Penang. Our trip highlights included:
– Old town street art
– Trishaw tour
– China house, amazing bar, restaurant, bakery & music venue
– Street food, street food, street food, street food
– National Park hiking
– Tropical Spice Garden
– Batu Ferrenghi beach time
Our food highlights were some roadside samosas, amazing satay at Kimberley street market and friendly good quality fare inside Heritage Food Paradise. The Tropical Spice Garden was hot, beautiful and educational plus the attached restaurant was worth a bite. I wouldn’t really recommend Batu Ferrenghi, the beaches were ok but the whole place had a slight feel of Benidorm. Overall our trip to Penang was wonderful I’d like to return and stay in Georgetown.
On the way to Penang we stopped halfway at Ipoh. We ate lunch at Plan B, peeked in the attached shops and took a short walk through the tiny old streets. I LOVED IPOH and I was only there about 2 hours. I’m 100% taking a trip back.
We did all that and more with two months of visitors, not forgetting staying by the pool to swim and sunbathe, those legs have to be rested at some point!
It’s April and we’ve just had another visitor! We explored and ate in most of the places above plus we also threw in a trip up the Menara Tower (in my opinion this was better than my trip up the Petronas); Masjid Jamek; a banana leaf in the original Little India; a relaxing pedicure at Boudoir Spa in Bangsar and drunken dancing in Havanas on Changkat Bukit Bintang. We also spent a week in the jaw dropingly beautiful Perhentian Islands, obviously not in Kuala Lumpur so I’ll leave that for another blog!
As I’m still a visitor I also recently loved visiting Kampung Baru, a traditional Malay village which is practically touching distance to the Petronas Towers. It’s pretty and shockingling quiet for a city centre location.