Ok, let’s be honest: Kuala Lumpur is not all that interesting. Despite being one of the hubs of Southeast Asia, the capital of Malaysia doesn’t have the buzz of Bangkok or Singapore, nor the charm of Yangon or Phnom Penn. It might be a good place for an expat to live in, but in terms of places to visit, I would put it near the bottom of my list, probably below Manila, tied with Saigon and only above Vientiane. Having said that, there are a few sites to keep a traveler occupied for a day or two…
1- The Petronas Towers: At 452 meters, these were the tallest buildings in the world from 1998 to 2004, and remain the tallest twin towers. These skyscrapers are absolute ‘must dos’, architectural wonders, only comparable to Burj Khalifa in Dubai, or Tapei 101, which marveled me a few days earlier. The Petronas are surrounded by a huge park (KLCC Park) and a luxury mall (Suria KLCC), so I was able to observe them from many angles, and cool off from the classic SEA humid heat. We came back at night to have a drink in one of the trendy bars with ‘tower views’: Marini’s on 57, highly recommended!
2- Merdeka (Independence) Square: The heart of the city, this square is surrounded by many notable buildings, such as the imposing, Moorish-style Sultan Abdul Samad building, several museums, a cathedral and the old railway station. I enjoyed seating in the grass and watching people before restarting my city walk… Due to the heat and the urban design, KL is not an easy city to walk around. Not far from there, I checked out Masjid Jamek, KL’s oldest mosque.
3- The markets: Walking further south, I reached Petaling Street, the Chinatown of KL. The street is covered by an awning, and packed with cheap clothing, souvenirs and food stalls. This market is not very active during the day, and I’m not into shopping, so I didn’t spend much time there. Nearby is the Central Market, an art deco building that has been nicely renovated. It holds dozens of handicraft stalls, somewhat organized by ethnicities, e.g., Indonesian batik, Chinese antiques, Indian saris, etc. Even I was tempted to buy something here.
4- Brickfields: Mainly because we were staying in this part of the city, I ended up venturing into Little India. It was a bit underwhelming to visit, but nevertheless a great place for food and authentic lassi, my favorite drink in the world 🙂
5-Jalan Alor: Probably the other site, together with the Petronas, that a visitor shouldn’t miss in KL. When the sun sets, food stalls take over the street and serve some of the most delicious, ridiculously cheap delicatessens in the world. Try all of them!
Bonus: The Batu Caves are the most common daytrip from KL. 11km north of the city, they can be reached by train, or even easier, by inexpensive uber. The impressive caves are carved in a limestone hill, and contain a Hindu temple and several shrines. A 43-meter golden of Lord Murugan marks the entrance. I ended up not visiting the Batu Caves because Elena had already been there and we were tight on time. But I would love to go for Thaipusam (typically in late January), a festival that brings thousands of devotees to the caves, many of the them in trance and paying penance by piercing their tongues or cheeks with skewers, or hanging themselves from hooks :S