Kuala Lumpur (KL) is the capital of Malaysia and an important hub in the Southeast Asian region. With more than 7 million inhabitants, Kuala Lumpur is the biggest city we have visited since we left Vietnam 2 month ago! Fortunately for us, the traffic in Kuala Lumpur is somehow lighter than in the Vietnamese metropolitan areas. This made it easier for us to wander around the city and discover it by foot.
The Petronas Towers
Emblem of the city, the Petronas Twin Towers are not to be missed. What is there that is so special with those towers you may ask. Well I don’t know to be honest. But there is something.
Actually, the towers have been classified as the tallest buildings in the world from 1998 to 2004 and remain the tallest twin towers in the world. The buildings are a landmark of Kuala Lumpur, along with nearby Kuala Lumpur Tower.
The Petronas Towers were ordered in 1992 by the group Petronas that gave its name. Petronas is the biggest Malaysian oil and gas company. The Malaysian government somehow imposed a 6 years deadline to finish the construction, so the Towers were inaugurated in 1998. With a height of 451.8 meters, the 88-floors building was the highest building in the world until the construction of the Taipei 101, Taiwan, in the year 2004. Today the title of the highest building is held by the Burj Khalifa in Dubai with… 828 meters high!
At the lower floors of the Petronas Towers you will find the KLCC luxury mall. In front of the towers a very pretty park is situated. You can have a walk in the nice KLCC park, perfect spot to take nice pictures by day (it is closed at night); if you have kids they also have a very nice pool area! Unfortunately for us, adults are not welcome unless they are taking care of their kids… makes sense though! They also have kind of a light show in the fountains at night. If you get the opportunity, you should take the time to go admire them (and take pictures) both during day and night time.
You can go up the Petronas Towers to admire the view and even have a drink, but was too expensive for long-term travelers like us 🙂 We were also wondering if it is worth it, since one will actually miss an important part of the Kuala Lumpur sky view: the Petronas Towers themselves! Therefore I would not particularly recommend it. If you are a fan of city views, rather head towards the Kuala Lumpur Tower.
The Kuala Lumpur Tower
The Kuala Lumpur Tower is a communication tower and it its height reaches 421 meters. It was built over the same period as the Petronas Towers and inaugurated in 1995.
You can go up to the Observation Deck at 276 meters (52 RM/$13) or the Sky Deck at 300 meters (105 RM/$26). Another option is to book a table at the restaurant Atmosphere 360 that offers a revolving platform. We didn’t try any of these options as it was too cloudy to actually get a good view (yes we had a storm in the afternoon as we always do!).
At the bottom of the Kuala Lumpur Tower you can find an Upside Down Museum (a house built upside down so you can take funny pictures in each rooms), a weird chocolate shop, as well as some catering options. Honestly, nothing really exciting except for its park.
However, if you do get there, make sure to find your way to Bukit Nanas Forest Reserve: a (very) small patch of rainforest that is a shy tentative to preserve some of the species of the original rainforest in the middle of expanding Kuala Lumpur. They have a few paths as well as a network of suspended bridges that you can explore before heading back to the concrete jungle of the city.
In the afternoon, we hopped onto the KTM commuter train from KL Sentral (the trains are comfortable, clean and with A/C) towards Batu Caves.In May 2018, the commuter train line was interrupted for renovation work but a free shuttle was in place to cover that portion; it seems like it will last for another few months. After 45 minutes of riding the bus and commuter train, we reached Batu Caves, an important Hindu site in Southeast Asia.
Batu Caves are actually a network of caves made of limestone rock. The main cave can be reached by a little climb of… 272 steps! At the entrance of the staircase you will be welcomed by the world’s tallest statue of Murugan, a Hindu deity: 42,7 meters of golden divinity!
While climbing up, please be careful of the monkeys, and don’t dare thinking otherwise: the real masters of this place are the monkeys! Remember that they are wild animals and avoid trying petting them, if you don’t want to risk a bite. Avoid carrying food as they will not hesitate to steal it from you. I would also recommend not to have an open bag (like a tote bag) as this could be an invitation for them to have a look inside see what they can find. We witnessed several cases of tentative and successful robbery. And nothing much you can do afterwards!
On top of the stairs, the main cave, called Cathedral or Temple Cave, is pretty impressive with 100m high and some opening at the top that let the sun shining through. You will reach two “rooms”, each of them having a small temple. An extension of the first temple was under construction when we visited, more precisely they were painting the new building. The temples per se have nothing particularly impressive, especially compared to the splendor of the cave itself.
Other smaller caves can be visited around that contains Hindu statues, one of the most important one being on the far left of the site (close to the KTM station): the Ramayana Cave. You cannot miss it, since there is a 15m statue of green Ramayana at the entrance.
There is also another type of cave to visit. They call it the Dark Cave, a preserved, almost untouched cave that displays the rock formations including stalactites and stalagmites as well as a diverse fauna, testimony of this unique environment. We didn’t visit it as we got there just in time for the last visit of the day that was already full (you can only visit as part of a guided tour) but our friends warmly recommend it.
Wandering in Kuala Lumpur
Just like many of the big cities in Southeast Asia, Kuala Lumpur is not the most pedestrian friendly but there is pavement almost everywhere, which is already a good thing! This does not mean that you can always walk on them. Also, if you get tired you can always grab a taxi and there is probably a subway station nearby!
In addition the the above landmarks, some of the neighborhoods you will want to explore include:
- Bukit Bintang: this is the “touristic” center where you will find many hotels, bus departures, and a lot of shopping options. In particular don’t miss a walk through Jalan Alor in the evening as this is one of the most famous place for street food
- Brickfields aka Little India: this is where we stayed and we enjoyed the atmosphere. It is close to KL Sentral station; from where you have connections to any place in the city. This neighborhood offers many good (Indian) food options at any time of the day and night. There is a big mall if you feel like shopping. We also found a cool barber shop for Silviu and a practical (and cheap) laundry hub 🙂
- Pasar Seni aka China Town: Petal street and the streets around are famous for their market and food area. To be honest it was way too busy for us so we just passed through…
- KLCC: I talked about it earlier as this is the place around the Petronas Tower. You will find more posh shopping and food options around, but what we can recommend is the street food spot nearby that had some interesting international options: Tapak Urban Street Dining, just opposite the Corus Hotel. Also, passing through the convention center (opposite side of KLCC park) we came across the ITEX 2018, the International Invention & Innovation Exhibition, for which we could register and attend it. We even got free candies along with our badges! 😉 We arrived at the end of the event but it was still nice to walk around the stands and read about all the innovations going on: from a goat holder for slaughterhouse (!) to a car cooling system using solar panels. Other interesting projects were into the use of vegetal in building construction and Hydrogel-Based Biosensor for Point-of-Care Diagnosis of Hepatitis B Infection (Gold Winner)… it was unexpected, yet interesting!