Thailand and Vietnam might get the bulk of travel love when it comes to Asia, but we’re here to tell you why skipping Malaysia — especially its stunning cosmopolitan capital, Kuala Lumpur — would be a mistake.
Make time for this Malaysian capital
Great shopping, fabulous food, colonial architecture alongside ultra-tall skyscrapers and fascinating museums help make KL (as the locals call it) a multifaceted city worth visiting.
Ideally located in the buzzing Golden Triangle area (our favorite spot in KL) PARKROYAL Serviced Suites Kuala Lumpur is a great place to base yourself in the city. The bright, airy suites come equipped with a kitchen, should you want to have a few of your meals in the room (a great way to save a few dollars) or just make a cup of tea or coffee. And there is ample storage space for bags and toiletries, especially convenient if you’re staying more than a few days. Just a few minutes’ walk from Raja Chulan Monorail station, getting to many must-see spots from the hotel is a snap. You can also easily walk to the Petronas Twin Towers, shopping malls and ample bars and restaurants from the property. Don’t leave without unwinding with a dip (or three) in the rooftop pool, which offers stunning views of the city below.
No matter what you’re looking for — from bags to shoes to t-shirts (and just about everything in between), you’ll find it on Petaling Street in Chinatown. Essentially a long, semi-covered lane of stalls selling various items, be prepared to bargain, as most stall proprietors expect it and will offer starting prices well above what most items are worth.
When you’re tired of bargaining, there is no shortage of glitzy malls at which to part with your money. They also offer a nice respite from the oppressive humidity when you need to cool off.
Bargaining can be fun if you take it lightly and remember that there are enough stalls selling enough items that you’re bound to get the price you want, even if it’s not at the stall you started at.
If handicrafts are what you’re after, check out the Central Market, around the corner from busy Petaling Street. Less chaotic and (thankfully) air conditioned, this is the place to look for souvenirs. If you get hungry, the food court on the top floor offers lots of choices for reasonable prices.
Having been to KL several times, we’re always amazed at the array of activities to suit any taste and budget.
Petronas Twin Towers: One of the tallest buildings in the world, these impressive towers are a KL landmark and a must-see on any trip to the city. A trip up to the Skybridge at level 41 and observation deck at level 86 will set you back RM 80 (about $27), and you’ll need to book in advance at the concourse level of the towers. If heights aren’t your thing, a walk around the towers and through the park beneath them is a nice way to spend an hour or two, especially at night when the towers seem to glow with an ethereal quality that makes them even more impressive.
Batu Caves: Located just outside the city (about a 20-minute taxi ride) are the imposing Batu Caves, a series of temples set into limestone caves. Climb the 272 steps to the Temple Cave to get a better sense of the eye-opening size of the cave, along with a closer look at the paintings and carvings inside. Watch out for the many monkeys that scamper up the steps beside you and hang around in the caves. They are cute — but don’t feed or touch them. They may look like toys but they can bite.
Kuala Lumpur Bird Park: Get up close and personal with a whole host of feathered friends in the world’s largest free-flight walk-in aviary. Most of the park’s birds simply walk and fly amongst the visitors, which is fun for bird-lovers of all ages (and great for photos). Once you’ve got your fill of birds, an orchid garden and the peaceful Lake Gardens are also nearby and worth a wander through.
Eat and drink
One of our favorite things about KL was taking in the sights and smells of Jalan Alor, a street dedicated to food. Dozens of stalls and restaurants start setting up and cooking up a storm around 5 p.m. and then it’s up to you to wander down (with a hearty appetite) to choose the meal you’re after. Chinese, Thai and Malaysian eateries vie for your attention, and crowds of locals and tourists navigate the wide but crowded street looking for a spot to eat and drink.
Grab a drink on Jalan Changkat, which is lined up and down with a wide variety of bars and restaurants. The food is mostly Western and much pricier than on Jalan Alor, but the lively atmosphere is perfect for downing a few drinks.
Pack your bags and join us next time, when Frequent Flier heads to Hong Kong.