*I spent 3 days in Kuala Lumpur (K.L.) in July 2013 and I had mixed feelings… In this blog post, I am going to give you an overview of the city, and provide travel tips and recommendations for things like culture, attractions, food, nightlife and more. Everything you read is based off my own experiences.
Kuala Lumpur, commonly referred to as KL, is virtually unknown to the Western World (specifically the USA). How many people have you met that has talked about going to Kuala Lumpur? I know none of my friends don’t know a thing about it.
The city, located in West Peninsular Malaysia, is a melting pot of cultures, which makes it stand out as one of the most diverse places in Asia. I had no expectations going in, so I’ll provide you with my complete honest feelings about KL.
I didn’t love it, but I didn’t hate it, either.
KL is much bigger than I was expecting, with densely populated streets and a mesmerizing skyline. Surrounding the city limits are a variety of unique and awesome architectural buildings.
The most prominent skyscrapers, which can be seen from miles and miles away, are the Petronas Twin Towers. They are the tallest twin towers in the world (5th tallest buildings overall), and have the highest sky bridge at 170 meters above street level. The twin towers dominate the skyline in KL and they win the prize for my favorite skyscrapers in the world.
If you want to go up to the top of the towers (which I highly recommend), then you must arrive super early (about 8AM) to wait in line. Only a limited amount of tickets are sold each day, so they sell out fast. The views from the sky bridge and the top are AMAZING!
Alright, let’s dive into some quick facts:
– Currency: Malaysian Ringgit (MYR)
– Language: Malay
– Population: 1.6 million (city), 6 million (metro)
– Kuala Lumpur boasts 66 shopping malls and is known as the retail and fashion hub of Malaysia.
– It is ranked 6th most visited city in the world, attracting some 10 million tourists per year
– The city was founded by a group of Chinese tin miners in 1857
– 61% of the population follows the Islam religion
– The word Kuala Lumpur has been derived from Malay language which means “muddy confluence”.
– Islam is the largest practiced religion in Malaysia, with about 65% of the total population
Culture & People
To be honest, I had a hard(er) time adapting to Malaysian culture than everywhere else in South East Asia. I just couldn’t quite grasp it.
Literally, there were hundreds of different cultures represented on the streets, so I had a difficult time telling who was local and who was a foreigner.
I would like to share my thoughts on the people in KL… In my opinion, the men were a bit rude, sketchy and aggressive. Every time I walked by a store, I was haggled, bribed and sometimes harassed to step inside. I have been to many places and I usually know how to deal with people and situations like this, but my buttons were pressed a little too hard in KL. The women were very innocent, and most of them wear a Hijab (veil) on their head as a part of Muslim culture.
All I can say is be aware of your pockets and purses, because the people are notorious for snatching things. A friend of mine got her purse stolen from her on the street. If you are a girl, beware of the creepy stares that you’ll get from the older men and don’t go anywhere alone at night.
I don’t mean to be critical, I just want to share my honest opinion with you guys. The overall safety is fine, so no need to worry about extreme crime. Just be careful with pick pocketing and verbal harassing, as you always should be in any foreign city.
However, I will still encourage you to step out of your comfort zone and try to make some new local friends. Maybe you will have more success than I did! Click this link to learn the Top 10 Malay Words to keep in your back pocket 😉
What to Do?
You will never run out of things to do in K.L.. As mentioned earlier, the #1 thing to do is go to the top of the Twin Towers. The entire tour is phenomenal and it is an experience unlike anything else.
If you like to shop, then KL is a city for you.
The city is filled with dozens and dozens of shopping malls and street markets, where you can find everything from high-class designer stores to cheap local hand-made goods. My favorite place to shop was at the Central Market. This place was like bargaining heaven! It has been around since 1886, and you can find all sorts of cheap CHEAP things- clothes, watches, clothes, souvenirs, toys, you name it! It is made up of a giant indoor market (like the best mall you’ve ever been to) with several shops outside as well. If you are on a budget and/or you want to buy some awesome local/hand-made goodies, then go to central market!
I also recommend checking out Chinatown for some good Chinese food, and decent shopping. Walk down Pentaling Street (a pedestrian road) and you’ll get a unique experience with a pretty sweet atmosphere.
Lastly, I advise you to take a day trip to the Batu Caves, which are located 13 kilometers North of the city. Basically, there are a bunch of cave temples inside a giant limestone hill. The cave is recognized as one of the most important Hindu shrines outside of India. To enter the main cave (where the giant statue is), you must climb up thousands of stairs. The journey is incredible, where you will see wild monkeys the entire way up and a beautiful view of the city b behind you. Inside this cave are an assortment of religious temples and some crazy looking rock formations.
In the cave beside the main cave, you can take an adventure tour. The cave is completely pitch black. They will give you helmets with flashlights on them to wear. It was fascinating to see inside a cave that is over 400 million years old. You’ll hear thousands of bats flapping from the ceiling above you. It’s a great experience.
For a more complete list, check out my post on 10 Things to do in KL!
The Food in Kuala Lumpur was nothing short of spectacular. Malaysian Food isn’t saying much by itself, because it has many influences from neighboring counties like Thailand, India and China. So the cuisine in K.L. is sort of like a fusion between these three countries.
There is an awesome street called Jalan Alor, which is lined up with street vendors selling delicious and cheap food! It’s sort of like a big outdoor hawker center (Singaporean cafeterias) with nothing else but restaurant after restaurant. This street comes alive at night and it will be hustling and bustling with activity . I ate most of my meals there because it was so cheap and tasty.
If you want to learn more about the best local foods, then please check out my post on 6 Malaysian Foods to Try!
Nightlife in KL is pretty fun!
Luckily, I was in KL on the weekend, so I got to experience some fun bars and clubs around the city. There is definitely something for everyone, whether you want to sip on a few beers, mingle with some new friends, or dance the night away at a massive club.
One of the most popular spots to go out is at the Changkat Bukit Bintang district, which is the shopping and entertainment district of KL. However, prices are a little more expensive in this part of town. Another area with many fun bars is Jalan Mesui, which has lots of restaurants and fun bars. Lastly, bb park is a compact cut-through area with bars and clubs open until sunrise.
In any case, the scene is pretty fun and you will be sure to have a memorable night. And if you want some late night food, head over to Jalan Alor and you’ll be the happiest person in the world.
*Thanks for reading! Have you been to Kuala Lumpur before? Comment Below!