Our flight landed into KUL just before midnight, which broke our cardinal travel rule of only arriving into new cities during the day so that we can actually see things and make an informed first impression. The ride from the airport was long, windy, and dark. We arrived into the city center and I was surprised to see that a lot of bars were open and still going strong. Honestly, I didn't know what to expect from a primarily Muslim country. I usually do plenty of researching before traveling somewhere new, but I barely read up on anything about Kuala Lumpur. I knew of the Petronas towers and I knew the food would be great. That was the extent of what I knew. Maybe because I had little to no expectations, Kuala Lumpur impressed me. It was so big, clean, and modern. The architecture (Petronas Towers aside) was stunning. Every building was so unique, if it were in any other city it would be the star of the skyline, but in KL it was just another building.
We stayed at the Sahabat Guesthouse, located in the heart of Bukit Bintang. I would highly recommend that area for anyone interested in good food and nightlife. Jalen Alor, the famous food street, was in striking distance as well as lots of restaurants and bars. We spent 4 nights in Kuala Lumpur and could have easily spent more time there.
What We Did
Of course the first thing we did was go to the Petronas Towers. We navigated our way there using public transportation and I was instantly impressed how efficient the city is. It would be easy to kill a full day in the immediate area surrounding the towers. There's a huge mall and tons of restaurants connecting to it. There's also a huge park that offers numerous viewpoints. Bring your bathing suit, there is a mini water park to swim in.
We spent a full day on the outskirts of the city. We took the commuter train to the Batu Caves and walked around the park areas. The area was taken over by monkeys, hold onto your stuff!
From the Batu Caves, we found a cab to take us to Templar Rain Forest and Kanming Waterfall. The waterfalls are tiered with 7 levels, each level supposedly offers a natural swimming area. My goal was to make it to the 5th tier, but after climbing the Batu Caves my legs had turned to jello. We only made it to the 3rd tier and found the best swimming to be on the second tier. There were tons of Malaysians swimming and picnicking. We were the only foreign tourists that I saw. And of course there were tons of monkeys! After a few hours of swimming and exploring we ordered noodles from the Malay stall outside the park. The owner was extremely friendly and offered to drive us back to the Batu Caves so we could catch the train back into the city. Score!
I had to get something notarized so we had to go to the US embassy. The American citizen services department was so ridiculously inefficient, it took a half a day to get one notary stamp. Get your shit together USA. It was interesting to watch all the Malaysians applying for US visas. I just wanted to tell them not to even bother, Kuala Lumpur is way more impressive.
What We Didn't See that I wanted to see
We wanted to go to the Sky Bar at the Traders Hotel to see the towers at night but never made it
What we Ate
Indian food-it's cheap and everywhere!
Malaysian lunch buffet. They have these all over the city. You help yourself to a plate and someone comes over and charges you based on how full your plate is. There is a wide range of food items and the food is delicious.
Samosas the size of your head from the street vendors
Grilled chicken wings from Jalen Alor. Heaven
Shawarma street sandwiches
A plate of nachos that may have been the best thing I ever put in my mouth. This may also be because I haven't had Mexican food in 7 months and was going through extreme withdrawals. Mmmmmm nachos.
Street hamburger stands. There was one outside of our guesthouse and that offered very unique choices. The Burger Queen was something else, 3 patties, a huge fried egg, cheese, and all fixings.
What we Drank
The bar scene in Kuala Lumpur was awesome. I would go back just for the nightlife. We went to a rooftop bar that offered unlimited fresh fruit mojitos for about the equivalent of $15. I didn't expect the mojitos to be anything special but they turned out to be literally the best I've ever had.
We also bar hopped on Bukit Bintang, where there is literally a bar for everyone...Irish bar, Jamican bar, English bar, Shisha bars, live music bars, dancing bars, upscale posh type bars...you name it, they got it.
Kuala Lumpur we will be back!