Malaysia: Making KL much more than just a stopover.

Why Malaysia?

Growing up in New Zealand, the name ‘Kuala Lumpur’ has always popped up in conversation as a flight stopover point, so it was no surprise to begin googling flights between Australia and Sri Lanka and see the name pop up once again as the first option. We decided to book the flight, but added in a few days to explore the city and get as much of a taste for Malaysia as we could. We didn’t venture further than Kuala Lumpur this time, but what we found of KL we really enjoyed!

Malaysian flags adorn the streets everywhere in Bukit Bintang.

We loved…

Batu Caves

Batu Caves is a series of limestone hills and caves on the outskirts of Kuala Lumpur, reknownded for being one of the most popular Hindu shrines outside of India. We called a Grab taxi for the 10km journey from town to Batu Caves, and were relieved to find 8:00am was still before the crowds.

Hindu pilgrims dressed in the devotional colour of yellow carrying offerings to the Cave Temple.

The first thing we noticed was a crowd grouped around a roadside barber stall, where people were lining up to have their heads shaved; men, women, girls, and boys.

We soon learnt that as part of the traditions of Hinduism, pilgrims visiting the giant statue of Lord Muruga and temples at the caves, must shave their heads in a purification ritual at least once in their lives. The men we spoke to sitting in the barber chairs said they come every year, but its most common for children or babies to have their heads shaved on a first visit.

Other Hindu devotees fulfil their vows by carrying hugely decorated carriers on their shoulders, called ‘kavadi’, most commonly adorned with bright peacock feathers and flowers, and palkudam (milk pots) balanced on their heads; up 272 steps to the Temple Cave.

It didn’t take long for us to walk up the stairs to the top, and the views from above are impressive looking back out over the city, and down over the rainbow colours of the steps and temples below. The boys were fascinated by the monkeys crawling and climbing all over the steps, and the caves themselves are enormous inside and home to bats, roosters, birds, pigeons, as well as the brightly adorned shrines and statues that line the walls and nooks of the caves.

It certainly makes for an interesting morning out in Kuala Lumpur, with a lot of cultural and religious activity condensed in one place.


Chinatown
Guan Di Temple, Chinatown.

What started out as a walk from Bukit Bintang to Chinatown, in search of some fresh drinking coconuts and some child-wearing-energy-burning turned into quite a different and far smellier mission….

Fresh coconuts from a roadside vendor in Chinatown.

We found durian!

Have you tried, and/or have you SMELT durian?! Gavin has been on the lookout for some to try since last year, as the only durian we ever see comes packaged in plastic wrap, or dried and packaged. It’s not cheap! And definitely an acquired taste… 

Gavin with his impulse buy of durian from a roadside fruit stall in Chinatown.

But look what we found in Chinatown! 

And, not only was he crazy/brave/mad enough to buy it and try it… he also managed to convince the kids to have a bite as well!

Oscar, bravely/madly trying a bite of durian.

Little India

We did Chinatown, so it seemed only just to visit Kuala Lumpur’s Little India as well! We liked the bright and colourful streets adorned with sari’s and Indian colours and patterns, found Indian sweets and drinks, and wandered along past shops blaring different tunes of Bollywood.

The boys trying to decide whether the first bite of Indian jelly sweet is as worthy as it looked on the shop stand!

KLCC Park

We cant believe we only found KLCC Park and most amazing playground AND splash park on our third day! The park is huge, with walking tracks and running tracks around an enormous playground and water splash park; perfect for kids to cool off in the heat (and even more perfect to make friends and burn energy at the same time!). Definitely a great place to head with kids while in KL!


Lot 10 Hutong – Food Court

In Bukit Bintang we stumbled across Lot 10 Hutong; a food court that is more like a heritage treasure of Malaysia’s best loved eateries, from countries and cultures all across Asia. We found Chinese steamed buns, Macau pork rolls, Japanese okonomiyaki, Malaysian Nasi Lemak, Singapore Prawn Mee, Hainan Chicken Rice and soooo much more!

Nasi Lemak for dinner (plus, you think we would have learnt about taking LEGO anywhere near rice by now! See post about Uzbekistan for clarifications on THAT!)

One thing that challenged us?

Jet-lag! [But is it justified as a traveller to on occasion be thankful for jet-lag? Surely if it makes way for exploring it must be!].

We woke up early on our first morning in Malaysia, and decided to grab the opportunity to head out for a wander to take in our first feelings of Kuala Lumpur… There is nothing quite like the buzz and activity of Asia in the early mornings!

Oscar outside our guesthouse in Bukit Bintang, KL.

Where we stayed

  • Kuala Lumpur: Orange Pekoe Guesthouse [awesome location; spacious room; tea/coffee, breakfast, filtered drinking water; really friendly staff; very affordable rates for the centre of town!].

We really enjoyed the neighbourhood of Bukit Bintang, where giant modern skyscrapers and malls were juxtaposed against architecture from the traditional eras of Indian, Malay, and Chinese heritage of Kuala Lumpur. It was a great place to base ourselves for a few days!

Our family room on the third floor of Orange Pekoe Guesthouse.

Getting around

We purchased a SIM card before even reaching immigration at the airport (for about $7NZD) as we had been advised by our guesthouse that the easiest way to reach it would be by GRAB taxi. From the airport this cost 65 RMB [$25 NZD] and it was a smooth process, with an entire exit on the ground floor of the arrivals hall dedicated to e-hailing (Uber, Grab, and online taxis).

KL has a range of different transport options, and the centre of town is easy to get around on foot.

The MRT (Mass Rapid Transport) connects the city center with many of KL neighbourhoods. Tickets start at a cost of 1.2 MYR (NZD $0.50) and you can can buy individual tickets at the vending machines inside the MRT stations. (Grab a map from your hotel – it’s colour coded and easy to navigate!).

The KL Monorail goes straight from KL Central to Kuala Lumpur centre. The price starts at 1.30 MYR (NZD $0.60) for one stop and its easy to purchase the blue plastic coin tokens at dispensing machines inside the monorail stations.

Metro stations are easy to find and navigate (as are the 7/Elevens and FamilyMarts that dot the streets in abundance).

Budget

  • Average accomodation: $64 NZD p/n ($41 USD p/n)
  • Average daily expenditure: $97 NZD ($63 USD)

Overall, Kuala Lumpur showed itself to be an affordable and exciting destination for a short stopover and explore. The daily expenses would definitely be lowered stretched out over more days, as our daily expense includes a $40 GRAB taxi to and from the airport (twice within four days), and we actually booked a fourth nights accommodation at Orange Pekoe in order to check out late for a night flight (the original cost of a family room is only $47 per night!).


If we went again we would…

Exploring only in and around Kuala Lumpur was exactly what we had planned for this trip, but it did leave us feeling like we had missed out on exploring a country. It’s definitely a diverse metropolis, but that only left us wanting to see more of the rest of Malaysia!

Would we recommend Kuala Lumpur as more than a stopover though? Definitely!

It is a hive of colours, culture, and bustle – just as any Asian city – and amidst the mixture of modern and tradition it felt safe, and with opportunities for exploration in plentitude.


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