As of Fall 2013, I’ve been to KL twice. It was just as exciting the second time around because there are so many things to do. I didn’t want to include all these items in the travel story of the blog so I felt that a separate Lonely Planet list style post would be perfect for this. I’ve tried to include some helpful details about each item. If you like this post, check out my post on 5 awesome things to do in Bangkok here, and Honolulu here.
Shop and Eat at Petaling Market
This market is in the heart of Chintatown. If you’re looking for some nick-nacks for souvenirs, beer tanks or cheap sunglasses this is the place for you. The market is absolutely enormous but you’ll find that the stalls are repetitive. My Malaysian friends said that Malaysians business people are not the most creative in that they will open up a stand selling the exact same thing as the stand next to them. I didn’t really buy anything here but what’s really awesome here is the food. The food stalls sell lots of interesting drinks like soy, tapioca, grass jelly, milk teas and various other bottled drinks.
The food here is out of this world. I could easily spend a whole afternoon here snacking on random things. The smell of roasted chestnuts permeate the center of market, Singaporean style jerky is stacked high on side shops and there are a number of open air sit down restaurants along the Eastern edge of the market. Walk across the street on the Eastern side and you will find a series of open air restaurants selling a variety of rice, noodle, chicken and dumpling dishes. My personal favourite is Pan Mee noodles. The sign is red and its basically a broad noodle mixed with chilis, fried anchovies, cilantro, pork, mushrooms and fried onions. A spicy, very flavourful and very affordable meal. Comes with soup.
Take the time to explore this area. If you’re staying in a hostel nearby, this is a convenient place to grab a meal. They also have a laundry place.
Visit the Petronas Towers. Twice.
There is no other structure that is more iconic to KL than the Petronas Towers. These two administrative towers were in the Mission Impossible movies and on any given day and time there are people taking pictures from the base. The bottom few floors have some high end shops and restaurants, which I tend to avoid since they’re all overpriced. Going during the day is great because you get to see it in full light. However, going during the nighttime is spectacular. The whole thing is lit up, making for a very photogenic building.
Because the towers are so big, it’s hard to get a picture with you inside of it. Try taking the picture from across the street to get further away. Alternatives are the Sky Bar at Trader’s Hotel for a high up view. The lines are long and the drinks are expensive (think $20/beer minimum) but if you really wanted to you could sneak in, not sit down and take a picture. Another alternative is KL tower, which offers the highest view of the Petronas but the angle is not the best. It does however offer great views of the city so don’t go just for the Petronas.
Explore Little India(s)
I’ve mention in a previous post on KL that there is a decently sized Indian population here, which means some sick food and sites to explore. Whether that means checking out some of the cool shops for Indian sweets, finding a cool hole in the wall restaurant to eat with your hands, or just walking around to take it all in, its definitely an experience worth having. Go hungry and keep an open mind. We went to one Little India close to the financial district and found our way into a little restaurant serving curries, rice and sides on a pandan leaf. No utensils! It was so cool eating with our hands. Bring some hand sanitizers!
7-Elevens (and Grocery Stores)
I know what you’re thinking…”wtf if he talking about?!”. Honestly speaking, this is going to be a regular pit stop for anyone traveling in SEA simply because there are so many of them. I drop by everyday just to pick up water or just to soak in some AC for a break from the heat. I will admit that one of my favourite things to do in SEA countries is go to one of these convenient stores (doesn’t have to be 7-11) and looking at their snacks. This is the junk food that people here eat and its always cool to check out what kind of chips, cookies or whatever they have. My guilty pleasure is ice cream. Gotta get my daily dose. In one instance, Mandeep needed to print off some photos for a Cambodian visa and there was a tiny convenient store in the storefront. I found the coolest little ice cream pops here with the coolest flavours. Corn pop anyone? How about durian? They also have coconut, taro and mung bean. Definitely had too many of these for my own good.
Matt Kepnes of Nomadic Matt has said that one of the best ways to get to know a region is by shopping at their local supermarkets. The idea is that you get to see and try some of the local fare sine this is presumably where the locals shops. Although lots of people in KL get their groceries at markets, there are still many supermarkets here and they they’re an awesome way to get a scope of what locals are eating.
Be a Tourist in Bukit Bintang
This is a big tourist hub. It’s close to Jalan Alor so you can get some good grub here and there are tons of massage parlours (legit and not so legit), restaurants, bars, clubs and shisha cafes here. The bars usually charge a hefty cover and drinks aren’t as cheap as you would expect but this is where lots of people are and a great place to people watch. On one of our last nights in KL we found our way to a nice shisha cafe on the second floor overlooking Bukit Bintang and we had a kick ass time using Sam’s ultra zoom camera to find out if one of the ladies of the night across the street was a tranny lol. Her cheekbones (and Adam’s apple) gave it away!
Marvel the Batu Caves
This Hindu cave temple is readily accessible by the train system at KL Sentral. We went here for Deepavali and I’ll be going into more details in a future post about it but even without the festivities, it is a sight worth seeing. A main temple complex is built in the base of a long flight of stairs. There is the iconic golden statue right at the entrance of the stairs and from here you begin your ascent. From the top you enter this surreal cave opening. The inside is damp and dark with a few lights to illuminate the giant cave complex. There are a number of shrines that dot the inside the cave where you might find some worshipers paying their respects. Continue to the back and you’ll find another flight of stairs that lead you to a platform right under a giant ceiling opening, providing light for the whole back section. Watch out for the monkeys!
The ride is in a comfortable tram and it takes about 45 minutes. Bring water because it gets hot and beverages here expensive. Keep snacks well tucked away in case you run into monkeys.
- Many of the sites are accessible through the well serviced transit network. Finding a hostel near KL Sentral, the main transportation hub makes things very convenient. An added advantage to staying close to KL Sentral is that you will save on transportation to your hostel. A cab ride will cost you upwards of $60CAD in traffic. The new KLIA airport line will take you from the airport to KL Sentral in a high speed train for around $12CAD one way. More information about the KLIA Ekspress line here.
- Google maps is your friend. I searched things regularly to find out which trains to take and what not. However, don’t hesitate to use your hostel as resource. They are usually very friendly and more than willing to help you get around.
- The tourist map that the hostels readily hand out is super handy if you’re not planning to have an unlocked phone with you. If you DO have an unlocked phone (recommended for convenience), SIM cards here are super cheap and any corner store will sell them or top you off.
- I learned this one the hard way but definitely leave your valuables hidden. I was stupid and wore a gold chain, which I had ripped off my neck by a passing motorcyclist. Keep that shiet at home! On that note, if you’re planning to wander around at night, make sure you’re with some people. Big cities usually attract sketchy characters. With that said, aside from the robbery we never ran into any trouble.