KL, short for Kuala Lumpur, is a modern city full of tall skyscrapers, shopping malls and surprisingly, a small population. But between the new modern skyline, there are also some old treasures that allow you to take a look into the past of this fast growing city. Here are our recommendations as well as some things we tried but think you can probably skip.
The Petronas Twin Towers
These towers need no introduction and are an obvious stop to anyone visiting the city, but we had to mention them because they're f*#king amazing. We went to see the Petronas Towers multiple times on our stay in KL. That is how beautiful they are. They are particularly magnificent at night with the lights showcasing the truly stunning architectural design. Also at night, the KLCC park behind the towers, has a colorful fountain show much like Bellagio in Vegas.
The towers themselves have an interesting history when you read about the design, construction and some significant obstacles that almost stopped the entire construction because of a poor site selection and a batch of bad concrete at one of the towers. Needless to say, we're happy that all these hurdles were overcome because it was truly a memorable experience.
The Tipsy Gypsies Tip: Public transportation is a great way to get around the city. We used the monorail to get to all the tourist sites and it's quite cheap. You can also use Uber and another similar app GrabCar, which is more popular in Asia.
Kampung Baru is the last village in KL city with low rise, traditional Malay homes. The village is very controversial because of the aggressive construction that is happening in the neighborhood. Unfortunately it won't be much longer before the value of this prime property outweighs the value of the locals lively hood and they will be forced out. The land is said to be worth more than 1 billion dollars. It has been an ongoing and a difficult fight between the owners of the land trying to preserve it and the government having different plans, so despite the protests, it's disappearing fast.
Visiting the Kampung Baru was the highlight and most fun tourist activity we did in the city. We joined a great free walking tour hosted by the mayors office. The guide was excellent, spoke perfect english and knew everybody in the neighborhood. It was more like walking around a new town with a local friend, who knows all the cool spots and whom you could ask everything. It was partially a cultural, historical and culinary trip. Kampung Baru is also famous for it's night market. We stopped to try many traditional Malay delicacies for free. Sometimes it can be intimidating to order foreign food, but not with a native who will tell you what you are eating.
We definitely recommend you register for this free tour with Jalan- Jalan @ Kampong Bharu. The tours are every Tuesday, Thursday, and Sunday.
The Tipsy Gypsies Tip: We actually almost stayed in Kampung Baru village because we've read so many great things about it. There is a nice guest house there called Bagasta that is not quite the cheapest for a budget traveler (about $25/night), but our tour guide confirmed it's worth the stay. They have a roof top patio with an amazing view of the towers and there is tons of great food within walking distance.
Chinatown in KL is like every other chinatown in the world, except probably for China. Even during a hot day it was crowded with people and many vendors selling the same cheap junk: iphone cases, fake gucci bags etc. However, the most disappointing was the food. It wasn't terrible but definitely not the best and there were few options compared to other food markets. If you are a foodie, there is way better to be found.
If you're staying near Chinatown then you might as well check it out, otherwise we would not recommend going there.
The Tipsy Gypsies Tip: Despite our lack of enthusiasm, Chinatown is great for cheap hotels and in general is a good central location. If you are planning on staying in Chinatown we've read the Lantern Hotel is nice and moderately priced. We walked by it on our visit. It is located in the heart of Chinatown right next to the market, and it looked very hip from the exterior.
Bukit Bintang is the new trendy neighborhood where the "cool" kids hang out. It has everything teenagers love: big shopping malls, mini malls, cute cafes and trendy bars. Unaware of all these "great things", we stayed in this neighborhood and we actually loved it. It's conveniently located right next to the most famous night market in KL, Jalan Alor and also has some very convenient metro stops nearby. This night market is a very lively place to get food and people watch. It stretches several blocks and after 7, is bustling with hungry patrons sampling all of KL's specialties.
Our hotel, the Hotel Paloma Inn was quiet and the staff was extremely friendly. We're sorry to say though if you want some decent wifi, it sucks at this hotel, so consider yourself warned. On the other hand, the location was great. We were in close proximity to the metro, Chinatown, the night market and all the trendy western restaurants. We found this really amazing brunch spot with killer food right around the corner from us. If you are craving something fresh from the west, VCR is the place to go. We could talk for hours about how tasty the food was but on top of that, the design was cool and the crowd was hip. This might sound bad if you haven't been away from home long, but it felt like we were eating food somewhere in the arts district in LA and for us, that was awesome.
Brickfields, Little India
If you've never been to India, there's nothing wrong with visiting Little India. But since we'd just come from India, we're sorry to say this was probably our least favorite part of town. We went there around lunch time looking for some good Indian food but when we got to the recommended food market, all we were served were some cold flavorless "leftovers" that tasted nothing like in India.
After lunch we wandered on the streets of little India. All we could find were the "iconic" arches painted with bright colors, a small flower market and a lot of cheap, low quality Indian clothes.
We feel it was not worth buying the metro ticket to come here. There is supposed to be a free walking tour of this neighborhood too and we tried contacting them without any luck. If any of you ever do the free walking tour or find something cool to do in Brickfields, definitely let us know. Maybe we were lousy at finding the good stuff.
We only had a few days in KL but we would love to come back and explore some more. There were definitely things that we missed on this trip that sounded very interesting and we would love to try them in the future. Here is our wish list we didn't get to. If you try any of these please let us know how they are!
- Dialogue in the dark: what started as an art project by an artist, is now a life changing experience, where you walk through a complete pitch black space guided by a blind person. They also do "Dinner in the Dark." It's a project to make the general population aware of diversity and disability. It sounds so interest and we would loved to meet the guides.
- Go to Publika, the hipster mall, on Monday for a free movie screening.
- This Kul city discovery walk: for the next 18 months you can participate in another free walking tour of KL focusing on "specific cultural and heritage sites of the city" with guest speakers and more. This just sounds like a great way to discover the city.