Top 10 Things To See And Do In Kuala Lumpur
We’re back from our amazing trip to Malaysia! We had such a great time soaking up the city life in Kuala Lumpur, then escaping for a few days to the Island of Pulao Rendang for some much needed sun sand and sea. Such a beautiful island with spotless beaches and a sea so blue it made your eyes ache! Truly beautiful.
Kuala Lumpur was so much fun with lots to do and see. I loved its energy. It’s an exciting metropolis with a melting-pot of people, cultures and languages. Super-sized mega-malls stand alongside futuristic sky-scrapers whilst bustling markets, mosques and temples reflect a rich, local diversity that colours this modern, tech-savvy city. Its swaying palm trees, leafy parks and manicured gardens frame a colonial history that still stands to this day. I loved it so much, I put together a mini travel guide for you. So here are my top 10 things to do and see in Kuala Lumpur.
1) Visit The Petronus Towers Day Or Night
Designed by Argentinian architect Cesar Pelli, the Petronus towers dominate Kuala Lumpur’s skyline standing at a dizzying height of 452 metres. This 88 storey structure comes alive at night, dazzling the city with its lights and architecture. You can walk across the Skybridge for great views of KL or visit the Observation Deck for views of the towers spires close up. We chose to view the Petronus Towers from the Menara Tower which in my opinion is the best view of this iconic landmark. Inside you’ll find Suria KLCC, one of the largest shopping malls in Malaysia, the Petronus Philharmonic Hall and a staggering 300 or so shops. KLCC park below the Petronus is also worth taking a stroll around. With its 50-acre lush gardens, wading pools, jogging tracks, children’s playground and footpaths, its a a peaceful oasis to rest and relax.
2) Food heaven
A delicious fusion of Malay, Chinese and Indian – food is central to the experience of being in Malaysia. There are so many places to eat and one of my favourites is Jalan Alor street. By day there’s not much going on, but as the sun goes down, this street comes alive with rows and rows of open-air restaurants and roadside stalls. Head to Wong Ah Wah for their iconic and delicious chicken wings. Just off Jalan Alor you’ll find a very lively strip of bars and clubs open until the early hours. Alcohol is heavily taxed in Malaysia so don’t be surprised if you pay almost London prices for a beer.
The markets, roadside cafe’s and stalls in KL are great for delicious, cheap food. Here you can eat the infamous Roti Canai - a deliciously soft, fluffy flatbread served with a tangy South-Indian curry, washed down with a cup of Kopi Susu (sweet milky coffee).
Other great locations for amazing food are Little India. In particular Sri Paandi for their to-die-for Chilli Crab and of course Chinatown. If you’ve got your heart set on a Beef or Chicken Rendang - pop over to the very charming Precious Old China restaurant, located in Central Market. Amidst the nostalgic and old-wordly surroundings they serve up a heavenly Rendang rich with coconut, lemongrass and galangal. Delicious!
3) Take a Cooking Class
I took a class at the Lazat Cookery School the first time I visited Kuala Lumpur around four years ago. Sadly I didn’t get time for another class on this trip, but still to this day, I use the recipes to whip up a Malaysian feast at home. If you want to know the secret to what makes Malaysian food taste so great, it’s worth taking a class. The day starts with a fun and educational trip to the market where they show you all the common ingredients used in Malaysian cooking, then its off to the cookery school to cook a three course feast.
4) Shopping Galore in Bukit Bintang
Bukit Bintang, also known as the Golden Triangle is the main shopping and entertainment district. Here you’ll find the major retail stores with landmark shopping centres, bars, restaurants and night markets. There’s also a growing community of middle eastern eateries, spas and indoor theme parks within shopping centres. If you want to be in the heart of the city, this is a great location to book your accommodation and explore. Just like any other Asian metropolis, KL has huge mega-malls and shopping centres ranging from high-end luxury to bargain basement and of course fake goods galore. I love Berjaya Times Square as its got everything under one roof and a great food court that reasonably priced. The more upmarket Pavilion is for you if you love designer brands. KL is also great for tech-shopping. You can find everything from the latest phone, camera or drone which I’m told are really taking off (if you pardon the pun)! Head to Low Yat Plaza in Bukit Bintang, if you love gadgets and technology.
5) Visit The Batu Caves
In less than an hour you can get out of the city and visit the Batu Caves - giant limestone caves housing Hindu shrines and deities. If climbing up 272 steps in the heat whilst dodging monkeys doesn’t put you off, you’ll be rewarded with the amazing site of the huge Temple cave with its ornate shrines and singing prayers of local worshippers.
It’s an interesting way to spend a few hours and the sheer size of the caves with flying bats and yes, more cheeky monkeys, are amazing. Make sure you bring lots of water as the caves become really hot inside and be wary of scammers touting for tickets. You can visit the other caves too which house more deities and stories of ancient Hindu legends and stories.
6) Explore on foot
There’s nothing better than to get to know a city than by walking. It’s the best way to get your bearings and explore the nieghbourhoods from the ground up. If you’re looking for a bit of history, KL has its fair share of beautiful colonial architecture. Soak up the colonial history in Merdeka Square where in 1957 Malaysia’s independence from the British took root. Then head east to admire the Moorish-style architecture of the Sultan Abdul Samad Building – once the seat of British administration. KL Railway Station is also well worth a visit for its beautiful colonial architecture.
7) Grab A Cocktail at a Skybar
What better way to get a birds-eye view of the city than just before sunset. KL has so many rooftop bars, where you can grab a cocktail or have dinner whilst watching the sun go down and the city light up. We went to the Sky Bar on the 33rd Floor of the Traders Hotel. Surprisingly its got a pool in the centre with an on-duty lifeguard, which in my opinion is just asking for trouble. I was told they’ve had to fish a few people out of the pool at the end of a night!
8) Get Out Of The City
If the hustle and bustle of KL is just too much and you have about three or more days to play with, why not escape to the beach! The further out you travel across the Peninsular the more options you have. We flew from KL1A2 airport to Kuala Terengganu with Air Asia, took a taxi from the airport to Kuala Terengganu Shahbandar jetty, then a public boat to Pulao Redang. Seems like a lot of travelling but actually the journey was pretty easy. I’ve had worse journeys on the London Underground! Plus, it’s so worth it when you reach the other side. We stayed at called The Taaras Beach & Spa resort renowned for its diving and snorkelling activities. Such a beautiful place, with crystal clear waters, powder beaches and a great spa that offers a whole host of massages and treatment. My therapist had the hands of an angel and I didn’t come out feeling battered or bruised! You have to pay an entry fee for this area that goes towards marine conservation and the great thing was that the hotel uses paper straws and had a plastic free beach. Honestly, I’ve never seen a beach so clean!.
9) Visit the Mosques and Temples
Not surprisingly KL has many mosques and temples of Indian and Chinese heritage. We didn’t get to see them all but Masjid Jamek is on the way to the Sultan Abdul Samad Building so we meandered through. Other places worthy of visiting for a cultural hit are the colourful Sri Maha Mariamman Temple which is the oldest and most decorated. You can also see the very ornate and beautiful Thean Hou Chinese Temple and marvel at the Islamic interior of the National Mosque.
10) Visit the Markets
Make sure you visit the many markets in KL. Central Market and Jalan Petaling in Chinatown are some of the best and you’ll be spoilt for choice. Whilst Jalan Petaling is basically bargains galore and fake heaven (if you like that kind of thing), it does have some great food stands. For something a bit more authentic, Central Market offers a labyrinth of boutiques and handicraft stalls where you’ll find Malaysian batik, sculptures, embroidery, clothes and souvenirs.
This is by no means an exhaustive list. There are so many other activities and places to visit. I think KL is definitely on - par with Bangkok which has been a well-trodden destination for many years and can at times become a little predictable. Though this was my second visit, I didn’t feel like it was over-familiar. In fact I think I enjoyed it more this time. A vibrant city that has a lot to offer!