Here’s the thing. When I was visiting Malaysia’s capital city Kuala Lumpur back in February/March, it seemed to me that not many people knew what to visit there exactly. At least that’s the impression I got from most travelers which I met there. And this was probably the main reason why most of them didn’t spend more than a day or two in the city and went on to visit other ‘exotic’ places like Langkawi, Penang, and Malacca. Don’t get me wrong – I’m not blaming them for going to those places at all! But if they knew that there is more to just Twin Towers and Chinatown in Kuala Lumpur, they would’ve definitely stayed longer.
But when I spent 8 days in Malaysia, I stayed all 8 days in Kuala Lumpur. Of course I didn’t use all eight days to visit the city, I have of course been to other places such as Cameron Highlands and Kuala Terengganu. But Kuala Lumpur was my ‘base’. And before you ask how many days one should spend in the city – I’m already going to give you the answer right here. Depending on when you arrive and depart, you would need to plan around 5 or 6 days for Kuala Lumpur. In my case it was total 6 days, including the day I arrived and departed. Sounds like way too much? Well, that’s why this post is here. To inform you how you can make the best out of Kuala Lumpur in 5 days or so. Buckle up (and maybe get a coffee), this is going to be a big one.
Now I know we all have different tastes and interests. Some of us don’t fancy city trips or sightseeing much. Though in my opinion, visiting a city at a new country is a must-do for anyone willing to have first impressions of the country’s people, their life, and their cultures. Plus many cities can provide the best experience to anyone who enjoys city life and architecture of all sorts. There is definitely something for everyone in Kuala Lumpur. If you’re still not convinced, then I suggest you keep on reading 😉 Tell you what, Instead of just explaining what to visit in Kuala Lumpur and make you bored, this is what I’m gonna do. I’m going to tell you how I spent each of my days in Kuala Lumpur!
I just arrived. And I’m exhausted after flying for nearly 13-hours from Frankfurt to Kuala Lumpur with a couple of hours stopover in Doha. I took a shared ‘Grab’ car (similar to Uber – operates mostly in South East Asian countries) from the airport to Kuala Lumpur. Btw, the airport lies around 50+ km outside the city so it took like two hours until I was finally at the doorstep of my hostel in the city. The location of my place couldn’t have been more perfect.
I will write more about the hostel in a separate post later on. After checking in, I really needed to change cash to Malaysian Ringgit. It was around 7 PM by this time and all the nearby exchange offices were already closed. After asking around some people on the street about other open exchange offices, I eventually found one after a 10-min walk or so. And the best part was – they really had good rates (against €)!
After changing currencies, I went into a local convenience store to buy a ‘Touch n Go’ transport card. If you’re staying in Kuala Lumpur for more than a day or two, then I really recommend getting one of these cards. This card needs to be ‘topped up’ with certain amount of money and can be used on any of the city’s Metro and LRT (Light Rail) lines. It can be your life saver when you get easily exhausted after walking a short distance due to the sweltering heat. Local convenience stores like 7-11 and myNEWS sell these cards and can also fill it up for you. After that I had dinner at one of the local ‘mamak stalls’ – these are cheap, ‘open air/open space diners’ run by Tamil Muslims serving mainly Indian and Malay food and they can be found almost everywhere in Malaysia.
No matter how exhausted I am after a long flight or journey, my curiosity to go outside and have a look around to get first impressions always wins. So I thought to myself; now I have a well-fed stomach and a public transport card in my pocket, I wasn’t ready to sleep just yet. I could see the shining heads of the iconic twin towers and my curiosity took me just there after a brief metro ride. The Petronas Twin Towers look even more beautiful and amazing closer to you at night. At the base of the towers is a huge shopping mall, known as Suria KLCC. I went inside and through the passage went out on the other side of the building, where you can enter the KLCC (Kuala Lumpur City Center) Park. And it was a good thing that I did. Because there was apparently a colorful fountain show which I had no idea about! After a short while, the show became even more beautiful as music started to play while the colored fountains danced. For those who love skyscrapers, this is one of the perfect spots in the city to enjoy the ever-rising skyline of Kuala Lumpur!
This was the day I’d start properly exploring the bustling city of Kuala Lumpur. My hostel was located at what you can call the ‘old town’ of the city – here British Colonial influences as well as Chinese and Indian influences were strongly evident. First stop on the agenda was to visit ‘Masjid Jamek’ – one of the oldest and historically significant mosques of the city. Being only a stone’s throw from my place, it was a pretty short walk to the mosque. The outside view of the mosque is really pretty, which was built in a mixture of Moorish and Mughal architecture. Unfortunately a visit inside the mosque is restricted to Muslims only, and that too only during prayer times.
Interesting fact: the architect of the mosque was British by the name of Arthur Benison Hubback.
After the mosque, I headed south along the wide boulevard known as Jalan Raja. If you walk this direction, to your right you will see a large open field with a high mast flying the Malaysian flag known as ‘Merdeka (National) Square’. To your left you will see a beautiful colonial building with copper domes and a high clock tower called ‘Sultan Abdul Samad Building’. This is where the British colonizers used to have their government offices in the past. I also visited the nearby St. Mary’s Cathedral, which doesn’t look huge (especially when you think of cathedrals) or fancy but it is one of the two important cathedrals of Kuala Lumpur!
Although it was starting to get quite hot under the noon sun, I continued walking about 500 meters south to my next stop and one of the most important sights of the city – ‘Masjid Negara’ aka National Mosque. Featuring a modern architecture, this mosque looks quite fantastic from the outside. What makes this mosque unique is the 16-pointed-open-umbrella-like blue dome which complements the single 73-meter-tall minaret whose top looks like a folded umbrella! The interior was okayish, don’t expect it to be as fancy as Arabian or Ottoman mosques. Women have to wear a special gown and cover their heads.
There were quite a good number of non-Muslim visitors at the mosque, and some of them were having interesting and informative conversations about Islam with mosque officials/tour personnel. It was actually nice to see that there were people out there willing to know first-hand information about Islam. I met two German guys there (actually one was French-German :D), who were sitting on the floor listening with concentration to a guy who was explaining them about Islam. I got acquainted with them and after the mosque, we headed together towards the Botanical Gardens nearby.
The Botanical Garden (or Lake Gardens) of Kuala Lumpur is really pretty and beautiful – it felt like escaping into the nature to cool off from the city heat. There is a small lake within the park and there were some umbrella-like structures/shades which quite resembled Gardens by the Bay in Singapore, albeit a mini-version.
By this time, the heat and humidity made us all exhausted so I decided it was time to head back to the hostel and find a place for some lunch. We agreed to meet up later in the evening at ….
…. Skybar in Traders Hotel!
Remember the KLCC Park from day 1? You have to go there first and notice the top of one of the highrise buildings saying ‘Traders Hotel’. It should be right opposite the Suria KLCC exit towards the park. Just follow one of the footpaths of the park leading to the direction of the building and you will easily find your way. Oh right, why did we go there? Because at 33 floors, it’s one of the three best spots of the city where you can enjoy great views of KL skyline and you can see the complete Petronas Twin Towers top to bottom shining right in front you! Entry to the Skybar is free and there is an open pool. Plus the views are superb, so it’s totally worth paying a visit to this place!
We were joined by another German-Russian friend. After I was done with photosnapping, we went for dinner together to a Bangladeshi restaurant (KL is literally full of Bangladeshis) and I introduced my native cuisine to these new friends of mine 😉 The dinner was heavenly and felt just like home! My new German friends even loved it, which was really nice to hear! After dinner, the new friend had to leave, so it was just the three of us again. We headed to one of the many bars and pubs lined up along the Jalan Sultan Ismail Street in Bukit Bintang area. There we had cocktails and played pool. Day 2 was quite action-packed and I was really tired by now. The night ended sometime after 12 AM into ‘Day 3’ after a taxi ride back to my hostel.
My third day in this city of over 7 million people (greater metropolitan area) was also quite full of plans as the previous day. Although it was warm and humid as per usual, this day was unfortunately cloudy/hazy. Nevertheless, no weather could ever diminish my eagerness to explore new places 😉 I started with visiting the other important cathedral of the city. The St. John’s Cathedral was only a few blocks behind my hostel overtowered by the tall KL Tower in the background.
Unlike St. Mary’s Cathedral the previous day, this church was rather big, complete with two spires. But as I went closer towards the church, it seemed already crowded and full of people. It didn’t take long for me to find out that there was a funeral going on. I didn’t want to intrude them in their funeral service, so I had a quick glimpse of the cathedral’s interior (which wasn’t glamorous to be honest) and moved on to my next stop….
…. KL Tower! Nope this isn’t the twin towers the whole world knows about. But it’s perhaps the second most important structure (notice that I’m saying structure and not building, keep on reading to find out) in Kuala Lumpur. It’s not a building, but a communications tower with a 360º observation deck and a revolving restaurant. Some even call it the CN Tower or Space Needle of Kuala Lumpur 😀 At 421 meters high, this is the 7th tallest freestanding structure in the world! An elevator ride to the top is definitely a must-do for anyone visiting KL. There are actually two observation decks – a closed, glassy one and an open-air terrace. The closed terrace is cheaper, costs you 52 Ringgits (~ €10) and the open terrace is double that price. Unfortunately I chose the cheaper option which wasn’t a good idea due to the hazy weather setting a gloomy and unclear view all over the city so if you’re visiting KL Tower in such a weather, definitely go for the open air terrace, especially if you are a keen photographer like me 😉
Despite the conditions, I did manage to take some good shots thankfully! The 360-view is just great, not only you get to see the whole city from top, but also the mountains which surround the outskirts of the city far in the horizon! But hang on, didn’t you just have a view at the Skybar yesterday? Well let me tell you. From Skybar, you get to see only a part of the city and the main point of Skybar is to have a clear view of the Petronas Twin Towers from a height. And you can’t see the KL Tower from there at all! From KL Tower however, you can see the whole city around you, unfortunately though not the tower itself. Because KL Tower looks best at night!
Each night, KL Tower lights up in different colors – so let’s say tonight it has a mixture of yellow-blue, tomorrow red-green etc. If you like me, are curious to see all the colors the tower displays in one night, that’s also possible 😉 Every half an hour, the tower puts up a spectacular show of all the colored lights it can turn into and that cannot be missed! But where to find a spot where we can see KL Tower clearly? Or is there a spot in the city where we can enjoy the views of both KL Tower and Twin Towers? I’m getting to the answer soon.
After lunch at an Iranian restaurant (yes, the food was amazing!) and a bit of rest, I went on to see the rest of the ‘Old Town’ which I couldn’t manage on the previous day. I walked through the famous ‘Chinatown’ (which isn’t really like the Chinatowns in the US for example) and then to the central market, which is locally known as ‘Pasar Seni’. The central market isn’t an open market, but rather a market hall selling different kinds of souvenirs and traditional objects, foods, clothes, and fake branded products.
The old town also has a Hindu and a Buddhist Temple on the same street opposite each other. The Buddhist temple was unfortunately closed, but I did go inside the Hindu temple, which was my first time. It is necessary to take off your shoes and hat before stepping inside. With that, I completed visiting places of worships of all four religions represented in the country, and that’s really a beautiful feeling to see the religious diversity in this city!
The plan for the evening was to go to ‘Helibar Lounge’ at Menara KH with a traveler I’ve met at the hostel. As you may have noticed from the name, this ‘Helibar’ is a bar which is on a helipad! Don’t worry, there is a ‘closed’ bar underneath too if you’re scared of heights 😉 But this helipad, this is the spot where you can have great views of the KL Tower as well as the twin towers and also another 360º view of the city!
Most of the visitors come here around late afternoon to enjoy the sunset and then the shiny colors of KL Tower as darkness falls. Many of the visitors are actually expats working in the city, rather than visitors. The entry is free, although you have to buy a drink (less than €10). And whatever happens, do make sure you enter before 9 PM unless you don’t mind popping a whooping expensive bottle of champagne as your entry ‘payment’ 😉 Spend at least an hour or two here so you can enjoy the show of changing KL Tower lights every half an hour. Btw, if it rains heavy and there is a risk of thunderstorm, the helipad is likely to be inaccessible due to your own safety. A dinner after the visit to Helibar concludes my third day in Malaysia.
Day 4 and 5:
I wasn’t in Kuala Lumpur. Well I was, but only to leave my hostel and come back in the evening. My fourth day was spent at Cameron Highlands while I was on a short day-trip to Kuala Terengganu on the eastern coast of Malaysia on my fifth day. Let’s move on to day number six then!
Many of the fellow travelers I met at the hostel told me that they visited the ‘Batu Caves’. Several caves and cave temples inside a limestone hill just outskirts of Kuala Lumpur. It is also one of the most popular Hindu shrines outside India. I also heard that due to the hot weather, it’s best to go there early morning/late afternoon and that the place is full of monkeys! I thought it could be worth the visit. So on my 6th day in the country, I decided to go and visit there with an American guy I’ve met at the hostel.
We took a ‘Grab’ car to Batu Caves. There standing at the entrance was a 43-meter tall huge statue of a Hindu deity called Murugan. The view of the statue with the stairs to the caves and hill at the background was quite a nice one!
We proceeded towards the stairs to climb up to the cave, and my God the moment I saw the stairs closer, I immediately knew this was going to be an exhausting uphill battle (pun intended…I guess). You literally have to climb 272 steps and the worst part is that they are so fucking steep! Anyway, I took the challenge and by the time I was up there, I was wondering how I was still living. Not only climbing the stairs were hard, there were monkeys all over the place, and they can get scary if you have food or even valuables with you.
Once inside the cave, there is another flight of stairs (although shorter) towards an inner cave. The caves weren’t that exciting to be honest. I was expecting it to be more dramatic actually (yes, even more dramatic than climbing those shitty stairs) 😉 I was really glad when we finally climbed down. Thank God no monkey attacked us. The whole ‘excursion’ to go up, see the cave, and go down again took like half an hour just.
After Batu Caves, we took another ‘Grab’ car to drop off the American friend to the hostel first. Then I took the same car to my next planned trip to Shah Alam. The thing is, most people visiting Kuala Lumpur visit only inside Kuala Lumpur and many have no idea that there are few suburban cities around Kuala Lumpur which are also worth visiting. Thankfully I knew about them before and did my research too. So here’s an advice to my beloved readers, if you visit Kuala Lumpur, make sure to visit two other nearby cities as well – Shah Alam and Putrajaya. If you plan well enough, both places can be visited in a day actually. But I did them on two different days as I had an extra day to spare in Kuala Lumpur.
Shah Alam is the capital of Selangor state and a planned city. From a traveler’s point of view, there isn’t much to do or see there. But there is one place that everyone should visit – the very impressive ‘Sultan Salahuddin Abdul Aziz Shah Mosque’. It is the largest mosque in Malaysia and second largest in Southeast Asia after Jakarta’s Istiqlal Mosque. Because of its blue-ish dome and four minarets on the outside, it is also known as ‘Blue Mosque’.
All of the four minarets are 143 meters tall and the dome is said to be the largest mosque dome in the world! As impressive as it looks from the outside, the interior is not so heavily decorated. Another small ‘disappointment’ in visiting places of worship in this country so far. Still, it’s an architectural masterpiece and is of significant importance to the country. Guided tours are available for non-Muslims and as with visiting any other mosques, visitors have to be modestly dressed and ladies need to cover their heads.
After Shah Alam, I didn’t do much for the rest of the day. I rested until the evening, when I went to visit the KLCC (Twin Towers) for the third time to take some photos with some Taiwanese friends I met. We then went to Pavilion Mall (one of the most fanciest malls I’ve ever been to!) for some Nasi Lemak 🙂
I had only one item left on my Kuala Lumpur itinerary – visiting Putrajaya. What is Putrajaya you ask? Well, it’s a relatively new city initially built to replace Kuala Lumpur as the capital city due to congestion and overcrowding. But Kuala Lumpur still remains the capital and Putrajaya has instead been turned into a city of ‘government headquarters’. So if you’re interested in politics, this may be the place for you. The Malaysian Prime Minister’s offices, residence, and different ministerial and government buildings dominate the skyline of this city. This is probably why many people don’t visit here. But they’re missing out on the most attractive sight of Putrajaya – the Putra Mosque, sometime known as the ‘Pink Mosque’ due to its pinkish exterior and interior!
The best way to get to Putrajaya from Kuala Lumpur is to take the KLIA Transit train (NOT Klia Express) from Kuala Lumpur Sentral. A one-way ticket costs 14 Ringgit (~ €3, return double the price) and once you’re there, the best way to visit around would be to hire a taxi at the train station. You have the option to hire for an hour or two hours. Unlucky for me, after reaching Putrajaya station, it started raining heavily with some severe thunderstorms. So I had to wait at least 2 hours until the rain somewhat calmed down a bit. Then I hired a taxi for an hour (cost about 42 Ringgit or less than 9 euros).
The taxi driver was really nice and he was showing me around and taking me to places I wanted to see there. Most of the places weren’t that interesting, mostly just official buildings. But I was glad when we finally arrived at the pink Putra Mosque, located opposite the grand building which is the Prime Minister’s office and ‘floating’ on the manmade Putrajaya Lake. This mosque was not only pretty from the outside, but also from the inside (finally)! In fact, I loved the interior more and this was finally what I was looking for – a mosque in Malaysia with beautiful interior decorations.
In the evening back in Kuala Lumpur, I went to Helibar once again to try to catch some sunset from the top but it didn’t help much. The sky was rather cloudy and even the bit of the sky where it was golden colored, was partially blocked by a high-rise building.
Day 8 and ‘The End’:
The last day of my Malaysian trip. I’d be leaving to the airport at night, which means I had almost the whole day to do whatever I had or wanted to do. But as I’ve already visited everything, I wanted to use this day to rest so I can have the energy for my return flights later. Unfortunately though, I had some serious stomach problems on this day. It might have had something to do with the dinner I had previous night. So obviously I couldn’t sleep and instead I spent the whole day at the hostel trying to cure myself as fast as possible, which included going to the bathroom several times. Thank God it got a lot better by the evening though.
So here you are ladies and gentlemen, this is how I spent 6 days in Kuala Lumpur. Actually it would’ve been five days if I visited Shah Alam and Putrajaya on the same day. If you’re planning to visit Malaysia, I suggest you could do it that way, unless you don’t mind spending an extra day in the city. But really though, the heat and humidity of the weather there can leave you easily exhausted even if you don’t do much on a day. So it’s always best to have an extra day or two just in case. But I do hope that you at least got to know how to make the best out of Kuala Lumpur by now?
Whew that was a long ass post and I really hope you guys didn’t fall asleep halfway through! Until next time 🙂