Kuala Lumpur was on our radar for a while. In our opinion, no trip to Southeast Asia would be complete without at least a few days spent in this metropolis. Our first impression was exactly as expected. A busy, hustle-bustle city that has way too much traffic and a place that we probably wouldn’t spend much time in.
We arrived in Malaysia after spending a full month on a tiny Thai island. We are talking remote, with only a few restaurants and stores. So coming to the “Big City” was actually a nice change of pace for us. We arrived in Kuala Lumpur after a long (stuck in traffic for many hours) bus ride from Penang Island. Our first priority was food!
This first meal was a last-minute pick from a street vendor just outside our place. The vendor was selling food we had never seen before. We were both starving and Matt was getting ‘hangry’. We took our food to go enjoy by the rooftop pool of our 22 story hotel building.
Yes, hotel. We are backpackers but we heard that “treating yourself” to a place with a rooftop pool was a must in Kuala Lumpur. The sun was starting to set over the city skyline as we took our first few bites of this mystery dish. We were overwhelmed with travel stoke!
The food exceeded our expectations and the view of the sun setting behind the high rises was spectacular. It was at this moment we realized we might be spending a bit more time in Kuala Lumpur than we had planned.
A Special 2 ½ Weeks in Kuala Lumpur
We originally planned on staying in Kuala Lumpur for 3-4 days. This was the advice from many of our favourite travel bloggers who recommended the time frame. But as the saying goes: “each to their own.” We ended up staying in the capital of Malaysia for 2 ½ weeks.
Bukit Bintang was our district of choice for accommodation. We stayed in two different hotels there which were both pretty affordable. Most of our time was spent in front of our laptops working and hiding from the brutal afternoon heat (over 40 degrees some days).
However, we always spent our mornings hitting the tourist attractions. Hannah even ran the Kuala Lumpur City Day Half Marathon which was an awesome experience in a new city.
Everyone we met in Kuala Lumpur was friendly, willing to help and wanted to make sure we were enjoying their country. We had many people actually stop and ask us what we thought of Malaysia and if we were having a good time. Of course, the answer was a resounding – yes!
Our Favourite Place: The Incredible Batu Caves
Kuala Lumpur has no shortage of amazing places to visit. It’s a hard task to pick a favorite place and I hate it to sound like a cliché but we have to go with the iconic Batu Caves and the beautifully colored stairs leading up to it. This place just has magic written all over it.
We got there early to catch the first rays of sunshine lighting up the stairs. It was amazing. After some time exploring the Batu Caves, a group of monkeys came and joined us. We had been promised big groups of monkeys at several locations across Asia for the past few months but nowhere could compete with the cute and playful monkeys we saw here.
They were dancing up and down the rainbow-colored staircase!
Best Things To Do in Kuala Lumpur
Kuala Lumpur, the city of over 2 million people, has so many amazing things to do that it can be hard to know where to start. Firstly, we would say that no trip here is complete without booking at least a couple of nights in a hotel that has an infinity pool overlooking the city.
Once you’re all settled in at your accommodation it’s time to go exploring. Something that we always do and recommend to anyone we can is to take a long, aimless walk around a city.
Sometimes it doesn’t work out. But other times you find things that no other tourist knows about like a local food court or market. Kuala Lumpur is a great city to get lost in. We loved doing this in Chinatown, Little India (Brickfields) and even Bukit Bintang. You can get lost in all the mega malls in Bukit Bintang and the AC is a godsend on hot days.
If you’re visiting Kuala Lumpur for more than a week, we recommend taking a Grab out to Bukit Tabur and hike one of the many routes to the top. It can be a bit sketchy and dangerous in places but the summit is well worth it. Make sure you bring tons of water and only go if you’re a semi-experienced hiker. It’s awesome to get away from the city for a bit.
Best Places to Visit in the Capital of Malaysia
Our number one piece of advice is to do your touristy stuff early in the morning. This way you’ll beat the crowds and the heat. Kuala Lumpur is home to so many incredible tourist attractions as well as hidden gems that will surprise you. Some of our favourite places are listed below:
- The Petronas Twin Towers (Duh) – check out the Symphony Lake Water Show at night.
- KLCC Park
- Central Market Kuala Lumpur
- The ‘Mega Malls’
- Perdana Botanical Garden
- The Jalan Alor Night Food Court
- The Wilayah Mosque – awesome free tour in which they teach you about the Islamic religion and its practices.
- Petaling Street in Chinatown
- Batu Caves
- National Museum of Malaysia
- Merdeka Square and the Sultan Abdul Samad Building
- KL Forest Eco Park
- Heli Lounge Bar
- The Thean Hou Temple
- Jalan Alor Street Art 1
As a couple of passionate photographers, we really enjoyed shooting at the Batu caves, Thean Hou Temple and the Wilayah Mosque. All so different and unique with very different history/stories to tell. Beautiful places to take photos as well as educate yourself a bit.
Amazing Day Trips out of Kuala Lumpur
We actually didn’t end up taking any day trips in Kuala Lumpur ourselves. As we mentioned before, we spent most of our time at home working or exploring the sites of the city. However, we heard amazing things about the following places from other travellers and locals alike.
Melaka is a historical colonial town about 2 hours south of Kuala Lumpur. In the 15th century, Melaka was one of Southeast Asia’s greatest trading ports before it lost favour to Singapore. It’s a cute little town with street art, cute cafes and photo opportunities around every corner.
For another eye-catching destination, head to Putrajaya which is only 30 minutes outside of Kuala Lumpur. The monumental architecture on display here is stunning. Lastly, Kuala Selangor (only 1 hour away) is known for its fishing village and fireflies at night.
The Glorious Food of Kuala Lumpur
The food scene in Kuala Lumpur is extremely diverse because of the many cultures that make up Malaysia. Local Malay, Chinese and Indians all influence the food culture and it’s fantastic. Honestly you can get anything and everything to eat here.
After being in Asia for 8 months, we were excited when we saw a solid, fresh salad shop where we could get a hearty, healthy dinner. We loved eating at Jalan Alor Night Food Court, enjoying Halal Shawarma, local Malay dishes like Roti Canai and Nasi Lemak as well as some of the best Indian food we have ever had.
These are the places that all travellers will love in Kuala Lumpur:
- Walk up and down the Jalan Alor Night Food Court and see what looks/smells good.
- Dine at Nasi Lemak Wanjo Kg Baru which serves delicious Malay food
- Try Roti Canai at Valentine Ro
- Get some delicious Indian food at Tg’s Nasi Kandar
- Grab a coffee at Leaf & co. Cafe in Chinatown
- Taste the local sweets at Nyonya Colors
- Visit the Lot 10 Hutong Food Court and enjoy a huge variety of Asian cuisines to choose from. We actually couldn’t decide what to eat!
Need to Know Before you Go
With city travel we try not to fit too much into one day as it’s easy to get exhausted from commuting and walking around town. We have been super guilty of doing this in the past and then getting tired and grumpy (we know you know what we mean haha).
Our recommendation is to pick different types of activities for the day so you don’t get too worn out. Grab is super cheap in Kuala Lumpur and local transport is cheaper. So you should have no trouble getting around.
Be willing to try new things – especially the food – and try “treating yourself a bit. Whether it be a nice hotel with an infinity pool or maybe some shopping in the malls. They have anything and everything you could ever want. Try some of the smaller malls for cheaper prices.
We like to take our time while travelling but if you are a go-go-go traveller then 3-4 days is probably plenty of time, rather than the 2 ½ weeks we stayed for. Enjoy your trip to Kuala Lumpur! Don’t hesitate to reach out to us for any clarifications, recommendations or advice.