A wonderful melting pot of culture and food, perfect for a minibreak or longer!
Arriving in Kuala Lumpur, we had planned to jump on the train into the city but after totting up the sums it worked out cheaper to use the airport’s ticket system and grab a taxi. We ended up using Grab (like Uber) the whole time we were in KL, so worth downloading it before you arrive.
A lush green but sprawling city surrounded us on the drive in. We had added Kuala Lumpur to our trip after a whistle stop 72 hours in Singapore the year before, which had left us eager to see more of Malaysia. However, we still weren’t sure what to expect of KL!
We’d booked to stay in a private apartment at Ramada Suites City Centre, in Bukit Bintang – where several of the floors are let out separately to the hotel. We thought we’d got a steal at the time – £30 per night – but were disappointed with the damp, unclean room. Fast forwarding ahead to that evening, we ended up changing rooms at midnight, into a Ramada hotel room, in the same building. The hotel were very helpful and we were so happy with the huge, clean room and super comfortable bed! The hotel has a pool on the 9th floor, washing facilities (super handy if you’re away for several weeks like we were) and living / dining areas in the bedrooms. It was slightly tired around the edges, but we slept so well! We also ended up with a great view of the KL Tower.
Back to our first day – after checking in we headed to Jalan Alor; famous for night time street food but we took a gamble and a handful of stalls were open. We chose a slightly ramshackled stall that was full of locals and wolfed down a tasty plate of Nasi Goreng and Mee Goreng.
Narrowly missing a tropical downpour, we booked a Grab to Merdeka Square – aka Independence Square, where Malysian independence was declared in 1957. The square was used as a cricket ground and so alongside the grass sits the Royal Selangor Cricket Club. Although of obvious great historical significance, the square was rather unassuming.
Luckily, sitting alongside the square is the Kuala Lumpur City Gallery, which kept us entertained for an hour or so. The gallery is a museum of Kuala Lumpur’s past, depicted by imagery and Insta-friendly recreations of some of the city’s highlights. Continuing through the museum, we joined a queue to enter another room, cordoned off by a curtain. Behind the curtain lies a huge built model of KL, which was accompanied by a presentation on KL’s present and future plans, growth and economy, complete with a lightshow and illuminations of the city’s buildings. Aka ‘The Spectacular City Model Show’ – it was pretty interesting, albeit perhaps more suited to a corporate audience!
Leaving the museum (don’t miss the beautiful, intricate buildings lining one side of the square) we headed to the Central Market. Feeling a bit peckish, we were easily stopped in our tracks by the pandan smells wafting from Putu Bambu Tradisi – so we grabbed some Putu Bambu – a delicious steamed, chewy pandan sweet. The market was mostly souvenirs, the odd piece of clothing and food – good for a quick browse. The best bit was a lovely ceramic shop at one end of the market – I would have bought half the shop if we hadn’t had several upcoming flights to lug our cases on!
Sticking with the market theme, we walked to Petaling Street Market, aka Chinatown – which was sadly more knock-off market than Chinese market! Worth a visit – and great if you need a fake designer watch, novelty lighter or mini Petrona Towers! We then struggled hailing a taxi to get home, as some won’t drive into certain zones of the city – and we didn’t have mobile data to book a Grab. After a long walk to a station that was only one stop from our hotel, we wished we’d just paid for data!
After a quick swim, we headed out for dinner – back to Jalan Alor, which was now in full swing and much buzzier. A lot of the restaurants had very similar menus, so we jumped in the first one that grabbed us – Restoran Dragon View. The menu was huge, so we picked a few things at random – chicken and mutton satay, gong poh chicken (which we thought was a new revelation, but on Googling discovered it was just Kung Pao!), BBQ prawns and fried bee hoon (noodles). With 3 large beers, the whole meal cost around £20 – not quite as cheap as other places in SE Asia, but still pretty reasonable! The food was tasty but with a bit more research, there are probably better finds on Jalan Alor.
A sudden, torrential downpour resulted in all of the restaurants quickly bringing out oodles of umbrellas and reshuffling the tables to keep everyone undercover!
The next day, we headed to the canopy walk at the KL Forest Eco Park. After a quick visit to the museum, we headed up to the treetop forest walk, with several interconnected walkways offering amazing views of the city through the lush trees. It was the perfect escape from the bustle of the city, albeit extremely humid!
Just a few minutes from the end of the canopy walk, we stumbled upon the KL Upside Down House. All of the furniture in the room is stuck to the ceiling, for silly photo opps. A bit gimmicky, but it was only a couple of pounds, was quite fun and the air con was very welcome!
The KL Tower was about 150 metres from the house, but with a slight fear of heights, we decided to just admire it from the bottom!
Having skipped breakfast, we were super hungry and had set our sights (stomachs) on some Malaysian/ Indian food. After a quick search, we found Syed Bistro, so jumped in a Grab to take us across town. We picked the food from the counter, not really knowing what we were having but it was delicious nonetheless! Our food was accompanied by Teh Ais – basically black tea, sweetened with condensed milk and served on ice – a revelation! We went on to drink several more over the next 24 hours and tried to recreate when we got home, but failed!
We then ventured to Perdana Botanical Garden – a huge park with lots to see. We were flagging a little, so had a mooch around the beautiful Orchid Garden, ducking into the shade where possible! Leaving the park, we wandered past the National Mosque of Malaysia. We would have loved to go inside but unfortunately had arrived at prayer time, so were unable to.
Ticking off as much of KL as possible, Brickfields was next on the itinerary – the home of Little India. There were many shops selling Indian clothing and we saw some street filled with beautiful floral garlands, but aside from that we didn’t find much to do.
The Buddhist Maha Vihara temple is walking distance from Brickfields – a very serene, peaceful place, but only really worth visiting if you’re nearby.
Before dusk, we walked through the beautifully landscaped and bustling KLCC Park and then settled into the Sky Bar at the Traders Hotel, polishing off a couple of cocktails whilst watching the sun set on the Petronas Towers. Although not quite the rooftop bar we were hoping for, the seats do surround a swimming pool! We managed to snag a couple of stools by a window, so had a pretty good view of the towers however the bar retains the best window seat booths for hotel guests – several of which remained empty whilst we were there, which was a bit frustrating! Regardless of this, the cocktails were great (East & Zest was our favourite) – and they were also giving away free cocktails for women, which was a bonus (albeit slightly sexist…). Afterwards, KLCC Park was perfect for nighttime shots of the towers and the lit-up fountains.
Looking to sample a few more Malaysian dishes, we went to Tapak Urban Street Dining, not far from KLCC Park – a collection of food trucks, with a huge array of different dishes. Slightly overwhelmed with the number of different stalls (and wanting everything) we settled on Char Koay Teow Kambing – fried rice noodles with prawns and Mi Goreng – spicy fried noodles – both incredibly tasty! We were unfortunately full after these, but we could have easily stayed there all evening sampling much more!
Our final morning in KL arrived and we wanted to squeeze in a bit more food! Restoran Al Sarifa had good reviews for Indian-Malay breakfasts and was just around the corner from out hotel. I’m sure the waiters thought our selection was incredibly random, but there were a few things we wanted to try before we left! Starting with Nasi Lemak, one of Malaysia’s national dishes, a combination of fried chicken, rice, cucmber, boiled egg, peanuts and sambal (chilli sauce). We then had a cheese roti, which was accompanied by a curry sauce and sambal, and Murtabak Daging, a pancake stuffed with beef. A strange but delicious combination for breakfast, with Teh Ais on the side, costing a grand total of £4.50!
Having checked out, we walked around Bukit Bintang to kill some time and stumbled across Lot 10 Hutong – a Chinese foodcourt underneath a shopping centre, which is designed to replicate the streets of Beijing. We chose a stall at random and had a tasty combo of Har Gau dumplings, Char Siu buns and Cheung Fun (rice noodles rolls), with a Teh Ais! Althought quite touristy, it was the quick snack we needed and a delicious last meal in KL.
And that was it! Our whistle stop trip of Kuala Lumpur was over. We had eaten our way around the city, sampling as many dishes as possible. 3 days was just about enough time to see the major sights, but we’d love to return again soon!