Two days in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

31 Aug

Kuala Lumpur is a chaotic city, a mix of both high-end architecture and crumbling brick buildings, with patches of jungle, abandoned construction sites and slums thrown in. It’s trying its hardest to be a developed, modern city but it isn’t yet there.

Tourists generally come to KL, Malaysia’s capital, for two pursuits — to eat and to shop. I came for the former. Malaysia is very diverse with Malays, Chinese and Indian ethnic groups making up the majority of the population and their cultures and food strongly represented. If you are a lover of Asian food, as I am, this is the place to be.

The view from Malaysia's National Mosque.

The view from Malaysia’s National Mosque.

Accommodation and Costs

I stayed in the Bukit Bintang area, on a street parallel to Jalan Alor, a well known eating street. The area had both street markets and high-end shopping, all sorts of restaurants and was close to two LRT stations and the Pudu bus station. It also seemed much calmer than Chinatown, where many budget accommodations are located.

Cheap guest houses had very basic private rooms for around 70 RM ($20) a night, which is more expensive than Malaysia’s neighbours to the north. Despite that, visiting the city was incredibly cheap. Most meals I had were around 10 RM ($3). During my first trip on the monorail, I was sure the fare was 12 RM when in fact it was 1.2 RM — around $0.37!

Delicious dining on the street at Jalan Alor.

Delicious dining on the street at Jalan Alor.

In this sprawling city where the temperature is often in the mid 30s, the monorail is a great way to get around the city. Some areas downtown are walkable but the city is divided by large highways. Taxis are plentiful. Most drivers try to ask for a flat fee, generally around 10 RM ($3) for a ten minute trip, but the meter is much cheaper.

A typical street view in Kuala Lumpur -- a mix of old and new.

A typical street view in Kuala Lumpur — a mix of old and new.

Here are some things to do if you have two days in Kuala Lumpur:

Petronas Towers

The most distinguishing part of KL’s skyline, these towers used to be the tallest buildings in the world and are currently the tallest twin buildings. Though they’re owned by an oil and gas company, it’s still a nice sightseeing spot.

The closest LRT station is KLCC. There is a fancy mall under the towers, a good place to escape the heat, and a nice park with ponds and a kid’s splash pool.

A green escape next to the Petronas towers.

A green escape next to the Petronas towers.

Little India

It has women in sarees maneuvering down crowded narrow market streets, browsing fabrics and spices, to the beat of Bollywood tunes and the smell of curries in big pots in shabby restaurants. I haven’t been to India yet, but it surely must feel like this small recreation in Malaysia.

This is one of the best places to eat Indian food in KL and can be accessed at LRT station Masjid Jamek.

Domed ceiling in Kuala Lumpur's Islamic Arts Museum.

Domed ceiling in Kuala Lumpur’s Islamic Arts Museum.

Islamic Arts Museum

In a beautiful stark white building with large domed ceilings, this museum has scale models of famous mosques around the world, many ancient qur’ans and a reconstruction of an early 19th century Ottoman Syrian room.  Unfortunately, the large textile, jewelry and weapons collections didn’t really interest me and there was not much general information about Islam, which I could’ve used.

Really interesting script from a very old qur'an page.

Really interesting script from a very old qur’an page at the Islamic Arts Museum.

Masjid Negara, Malaysia’s National Mosque

Never been inside a mosque? Between prayer times, non-Muslim visitors can visit Malaysia’s National Mosque, covered up in the large purple capes available for free at the entrance. This peaceful place with gardens and fountains is a short walk from the Islamic Arts Museum, near the Lake Gardens area.

Masjid Negara, Malaysia's National Mosque, with it's many pools and gardens.

Masjid Negara, Malaysia’s National Mosque, with it’s many pools and gardens.

Jalan Alor

Though some say it’s a bit too touristy now, Jalan Alor is still a great place for an introduction to the food of Malaysia. It’s a fairly short street, but it’s lined with restaurants and food stalls that spill on to the street at night. As with most of KL, many of the signs and menus are in English, which makes ordering very easy. The restaurant staff I talked to were also very friendly, recommending dishes and explaining what was in them. Jalan Alor is a two minute walk from Bukit Bintang station.

Nothing beats sitting outside of cheap plastic furniture, drinking beer and eating delicious food — at Jalan Alor

Nothing beats sitting outside of cheap plastic furniture, drinking beer and eating delicious food — at Jalan Alor

More photos:

No comments yet

Leave a Reply