KUALA LUMPUR - In a weekend
Updated: Jul 26, 2019
Malaysia is a country unlike any other: Full of promise and fragility. Its history, cultural and religious diversity make it a rich, compelling and surprising land.
Kuala Lumpur, or simply KL as it’s known locally, is the capital city of Malaysia and one of the most culturally diverse cities in Southeast Asia. Through the ages, people have settled here from all over Asia and the Indian Subcontinent, creating the vast mix of peoples, cultures, religions, traditions and foods (a mixture of Thai, Vietnamese and Chinese) that make up the city today. As a result, there is loads to experience and a huge variety of things to do in Kuala Lumpur.
From the iconic Petronas Twin Towers which dominate the skyscape at 451 metres, to the colourful and wonderful at Perdana Botanical Gardens and the sweet (and sour) smelling street food metropolis at Bukit Bintang, there is truly something for every wanderer. Despite being hard to navigate the congestion on foot, KL plays host to one of the more efficient public transport systems in Asia. With its metro and railway network you can be anywhere in the city within a matter of minutes. Fares can vary but short hops can cost as little as 1.90 RM (37p) to get to major tourist hotspots.
Before I (scarcely) planned my summer adventure to Southeast Asia, I contemplated how long I should spend in Kuala Lumpur before advancing to Singapore. Several (less interesting) travel blogs recommended a 3 night stop - so naturally I completely ignored all prior advice and booked 2 nights Friday - Sunday. As it transpired, my 'fender weekend' in Kuala Lumpur actually turned out to be just the right amount of time to explore the city and 'dip my toes' into the culture. Disclaimer: if you are not 100 mph 24/7 and are not a big fan of walking, I would suggest 3 nights would be more appropriate instead of belting around the city like a lunatic.
If I were to condense my weekend into 5 'must-do' activities they would look as follows:
Top 5 highlights from Kuala Lumpur:
1. Petronas Twin Towers: by day and by night (see below) for 'that' snapshot of the most iconic aspect of the Kuala Lumpur skyline - If you are feeling brave then take a wander along the sky bridge (Floor 41) which connects the two towers @ 52 metres. Photographs will never do this scene justice.
2. Heli Lounge Bar @ Menara KH Tower: probably the most dynamic skyline view of Kuala Lumpur going and with FREE admission to the Helipad rooftop bar (yes you heard correctly) it is by far one the best spots in town. Grab a drink and chow down on a meal 34 floors up whilst enjoying a truly 360 panoramic view of Kuala Lumpur. Disclaimer: don't turn up in shorts after 9pm unless you look good in a dress - honest.
3. SkyBar and pool @ Traders Hotel KL: a very close second place in the race for 'best skyline view in KL', mainly due to the lack of a 360 panoramic view and often a fight for a seat. But if you do manage to get your bum on a highly revered seat, the SkyBar here can proudly claim that it has by far the best view of the Petronas Twin Towers (see below). Again, with FREE admission is as simple as operating an elevator to floor 33. A true winner.
4. Batu Caves: grab the KTM Kommuter train North 11km from KL Sentral to find a 100 year old temple burrowed into the side of 400 million year old limestone karst. Climb 200 steps to explore a flash-flood of colour and extravagantly displayed Hinduism, whilst looking back at the distant city centre. Beware the mugger-monkies.
5. Jalan Alor food market: you simply cannot come to Kuala Lumpur and miss this part of town. Located within Bukit Bintang, Jalan Alor is called the cultural heartland of local cuisine and for good reason, it is a haven for delicious street food ranging from grilled meats, smoked fish and freshly juiced fruits. Eat your heart out.
Side note: If using the Kuala Lumpur LRT then please do observe all cultural standards and check which carriage you are allowed to sit and where you are not... that is correct. See below photograph which will help clarify why I was rather sternly 'asked' to disembark, much to the amusement of the locals and embarrassment of myself.
Where to stay in KL?
Traveller Pro: like many Asia cities KL has a fantastic hostel scene with an abundance of highly-revered locations which can make decision making a dilemma; I will make this easier. I read A LOT about the different hostel options based on pricing, facilities and location in relation to public transport and hotspots. The BackHome Hostel was a clear winner for me and I was not let down by my choice.
The BackHome Hostel staff super friendly, speak amazing English and are fully of stories, tips and recommendations which are priceless for a first-time traveller. The hostel itself is exceptionally clean and cosy, with reliable WiFi and comfortable communal areas (which is really important for blogger like myself... or you Instagram lovers). Rooms are spacious but most importantly, for a minimalist nightly fee, the beds are comfortable. Miracle work for a hostel! The hostel sits directly beside the (red) LRT number 5 line which connects KL Sentral to KLCC where you will find the Petronas Towers and most major stops on the way; the local station is Masjid Jamek.
The BackHome hostel is my tip for overnight accommodation that will not cost you an arm or a leg and gets a strong review from myself - but find a location most suited to your expectations, needs and BUDGET!
See you soon Kuala Lumpur.