Top 5 Things to do in Kuala Lumpur

I love the energy of Kuala Lumpur. It’s an exciting metropolis with a colourful melting-pot of people, cultures and languages. Super-sized mega-malls stand alongside futuristic sky-scrapers whilst bustling markets, mosques and temples reflect a rich, local diversity, adding splashes of colour to a modern, tech-savvy city. Condominiums harbouring expats, rise high above swaying palm trees, whilst leafy parks and manicured gardens frame a colonial history that still stands to this day. As for how you can spend your time in this great city, here are our top 5 things to do in Kuala Lumpur.

1) Petronus Towers

The Iconic Petronus Towers
The Iconic Petronus Towers

No doubt the Petronus Towers dominate Kuala Lumpur’s skyline. At 452 metres high, this 88 storey structure comes alive at night, dazzling the city with its lights and architecture. Opened in 1998 and designed by an Argentinian architect Cesar Pelli, the towers fuse Islamic design with a postmodern feel. You can walk across the Skybridge for great views of KL or visit the Observation Deck for views of the towers spires close up. We chose to view the Petronus Towers from Menara Tower. In my opinion, the best view of this iconic landmark!

2) Food Heaven

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If there’s one thing that sets KL apart from other cities, is the food! It’s amazing! A delicious fusion of Malay, Chinese and Indian – the food is a mind-blowing reflection of the diverse ethnicities that make up the population. In fact, food is a favourite distraction for everyone in KL. In between shopping in glitzy malls, you can’t help but be inspired by the mind-boggling choice of food available.  From roti canai to nasi lemak, the food in Kuala Lumpur will excite you. There are so many places to eat, you’re sure to be spoilt for choice if not confused by the overwhelming choice. Even visiting a cafe will throw up a menu that will make your head spin by the sheer variety of coffee’s available. What to have? Kopi Susu, Hainanese coffee or iced coffee with coffee jelly! Help!  We ate in so many places, but here are just some budget friendly places to eat.

Head down to Jalan Alor food street in the heart of KL, for a taste of some amazing street food. By day there’s not much going on, but as the sun goes down, this street comes alive with rows and rows of open-air restaurants serving Malay, Chinese and Thai food. For post-food drinks, head down to Changkat Bukit Bintang – a lively street crammed with bars, clubs, Irish pubs and snazzy lounges. It’s a great place to get talking to the locals who work and live here and offer an insight into the realities behind living in this twenty-four city.

One of our favourites restaurants was Wong Ah Wah, known for their delicious chicken wings. I have to say they were the best we’d ever tasted! Moist and packed full of flavour, we ate a ridiculous amount of chicken – all finished off with a cool beer!

The Taste of Asia food court in Berjaya Times Square shopping mall was also a great place to eat. Here you’ll find food from all over Asia. What’s great is they give you a card that you add money to.  You buy the food,  they scan the card and if you’re not coming back, any money remaining is refunded. Makes eating and paying so easy!

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You’ll find huge buffets offering a variety of dishes. From curries to satays, spicy fish to noodles, soups to rice – it’s an impressive choice that means you end up trying a lot of things just for the sheer pleasure of wanting to surprise yourself.

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You can’t beat a curry, so what better place to go than Little India in Brickfields. Renowned for its South Asian food, there’s no end to the tasty treats to be had on this road lined with restaurants, clothing and food shops. We had a delicious chilli crab  served on a banana leaf from Sri Paandi. This “banana leaf” restaurant does fabulous Chettinad food. I’m not exaggerating when I say it was mind-blowing tasty AND cheap! The locals were friendly and we had a great time chatting to the staff in the restaurant, who after much badgering from me, still refused to share their recipe for chilli crab! Oh well, you can’t always get what you want!

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Chilli Crab, Dal and Chapatti
Making chapatti
Making Chapatti is the same the world over!

3) Lazat Cookery School

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Making the classic Malaysian dish – Beef Rendang

Where possible, I always try to fit in a cookery class on my travels. So after tasting the amazing food in Malaysia, there was no way I was going to leave this country without discovering the secret behind its most famous dishes. Lazat Cookery School has a great reputation in KL for making sure you have a fun and educational day cooking! I opted for the “Market Tour and Authentic Malay” class. Starting the day with a trip to the market, we got an insight into the traditional foods used in Malay cooking. Then we were off to start cooking. I made Prawn Fritters for starters, Beef Rendang for the main meal, followed by Sweet Coconut wrapped in Banana Leaves. It turned out pretty good!  It was a fun packed day AND I managed to get the recipe for Roti Canai even though I did have to pay a little extra for it.

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Getting ready to make dessert
The Crew at Lazat
The Crew at Lazat

4) Shopping

Chinese New Year at Berjaya Times Square
Chinese New Year at Berjaya Times Square

After food, you’ll find shopping is the biggest draw in KL. In fact you can’t help but get sucked into the mega-malls and markets that dominate the amazing shopping scene in KL. I guess one reason is to get out of the crazy heat and into air-conditioned heaven! The other reason is the shopping in KL is good – very good!  From high – end fashion to the latest tech-gadgets, the only limitation is your imagination and stamina. Here are some of our favourites.

Pavilion KL Shopping Mall – Located in Bukit Bintang, this snazzy seven-storey complex houses international designer labels. A favourite among K-Lites, the polished interiors, glitz and extravagance attract a willing crowd.

Suria KLCC – Located at the foot of the Petronus Towers, Suria KLCC combines the very best of high – end shopping, dining and entertainment. Beautifully designed, it epitomises style and culture and is even home to the Dewan Filharmonik Orchestra – Malaysia’s first concert hall.

Berjaya Times Square – Situated in Jalan Imbi, Berjaya Times Square offers a great day out for the whole family. With 10 floors and over 700 retail units you can buy anything from food to fashion both upmarket as well as affordable.  You’ll even find Malaysia’s largest indoor theme park here.

Low Yat Plaza Shopping Mall – If you’re looking for gadgets and gizmo’s, Low Yat is basically tech – heaven! This 12-storey mall is buzzing with technology and a great place to get your gadgets fixed, stock up on memory cards for cameras or just basically splurge on something new. Remember to negotiate!

Jalan Petaling – Otherwise known as Chinatown Market, Jalan Petaling is known for its fake goods. You’ll find the usual fake watches, clothes, bags, jewellery and much more. Although a market, prices are ridiculously high, so haggle without a conscience!

Running along the historic Central Market is a flea market known as Kasturi Walk. Here the pace of shopping slows down to a gentle stroll where you can browse the more modest range of goods on offer. However you’ll find the prices are reasonable and it’s a great place to take a break for a bite to eat before you head off for your next shopping spree.

 

Central Market – Built in the art-deco style of its time, central market is a maze of boutiques and handicraft stalls. Here you’ll find Malaysian batik, sculptures, embroidery, carvings and restaurants.

5) Explore the Neighbourhoods and Beyond

Discover the many neighbourhoods that make up the rich diversity of Kuala Lumpur. Soak up the colonial history in Merdeka Square where in 1957 Malaysia’s independence from the British took root. Then head east to admire the Moorish-style architecture of the Sultan Abdul Samad Building – once the seat of British administration. Feeling hungry? Head down to Chinatown or Little India for some local fare then finish the evening off with dinner and drinks in downtown KL, known as the Golden Triangle. If the city life is beginning to exhaust you,  a day trip to the Batu caves is the ideal way to escape the big smoke and discover the countries most sacred Hindu shrine located in a vast limestone cave. If you want a taste of nature, visit the Forestry Research Institute Malaysia, where you can take a picnic, go mountain biking or camping in the surroundings of a rainforest.

No matter how you spend your time in Kuala Lumpur, you’re sure to leave this city with great memories and an enduring love for its biggest attraction – the food!

Top 10 things to do in Bangkok

Bangkok – a swirling metropolis with a futuristic edge. It’s as close as you can get to “Gotham City”. A sophisticated urban sprawl where huge shiny mega malls sit alongside street food stalls and sky trains thunder overhead on elevated rail tracks.

This international hub has a positively playful energy with its vibrant street life, flair for fashion and well-known cultural landmarks. As with most other asian cities, its hot, steaming streets are full of people, bustling markets, traffic and chaos. But scratch the surface of this place, wander through hidden lanes and you’ll discover this place is home to thousands of expats who work, live and play in this colourful city. Expect to have a pint down the pub in Sukhumvit or Sathorn, watch a game of football and enjoy a plate of fish ‘n’ chips.

As night falls, Bangkok takes on a new personality. This is play-time! Street food stalls come alive, steam billowing, enticing, fragrant. Night markets bustle with shoppers. Swanky hotels lure the in-crowd into their dimly lit minimalism and impressive rooftop bars – their revolving doors revealing 360 degree glimpses of well-dressed women holding stem glasses. Meanwhile, dangerously young girls lure the grey nomads into the neon-lit bars around Soi Cowboy. Blatant flirtation, cheeky one liners, petite toned bodies – a sexy Thai smile.  Look closely – she was a man! Food stalls by day, pop-up mini-bars by night.

Welcome to Bangkok!

1. The Grand Palace

 

No visit to Bangkok is complete without a trip to see The Grand Palace. The epitome of Thai architecture, the palace dazzles and glitters in all its ethereal splendour drawing crowds of tourists aswell as  devout Buddhists from all over the world.

Built in 1782 on the order of King Buddha Lodfa Chulaloke (Rama I), the palace was the official residence of the monarchy until 1925. Today it is used for royal ceremonies and state functions. You need time to visit this temple. Explore the many courts and pavilions, leisurely stroll through the beautifully landscaped gardens and if the heat doesn’t get to you  – be inspired by the murals of the ancient story of the Ramayana that span a whopping kilometre through the arcades.

Situated within the walls of the palace is the much revered Wat Phra Kaew or Temple of the Emerald Buddha – a gilded chapel that houses an image of a jade Buddha, 66cm tall. Sitting on top of a high golden alter, the Buddha is ceremoniously draped in robes three times a year. Only the King is allowed to perform this sacred duty.

2. Wat Pho – Home To The Reclining Buddha

Home to the Temple of the Reclining Buddha, the largest Buddha in Bangkok, Wat Pho is not only one of the oldest temples in Thailand but also the birthplace of traditional Thai massage. Considered the first public university of Thailand, Wat Pho was established by King Rama III as the centre for education, teaching students in the fields of science, religion and literature. Today it stands as an established school of massage where anyone can go to learn this well-respected and renowned aspect of Thai wisdom. Treat yourself to a massage or learn the art yourself!

Measuring in at 46m long and 15m high, the gold-plated image of Buddha dominates the length of the hall it lies in. Illustrating the passing of Buddha into Nirvana, the Buddha serenely reclines, his feet adorned with mother of pearl displaying 108 symbolic characteristics of Buddha.

Visit www.watpomassage.com for more information on massage courses and prices.

3. Wat Arun – Temple of Dawn

Sitting on the banks of the Chao Phraya River, the Khmer style tower of Wat Arun has every tourist frantically reaching for their camera as they speed past on the many cross – river ferries that herd them to this beautiful site.

Named after the Indian God of Dawn  – Aruna, Wat Arun was built during the first half of the 19th century by Rama II and completed by Rama III. Decorated with intricate floral mosaics made of Chinese porcelain, Wat Arun is a colourful salute to the diversity of Thai architecture.

Pay a visit in the afternoon when you can enjoy the architecture by day and wait for a glorious sunset that really shows off this national treasure.

4. Chatuchak Weekend Market

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View of the outside of Chatuchak Market

This is one of the biggest markets in the world and should be at top of every serious shoppers list. Even if you don’t buy anything from here, which is a virtual impossibility, you just have to experience the sheer size of this place and the amazing diversity of goods on offer.

It’s certainly one of the most impressive I’ve ever seen and as it’s a weekend market it gives you plenty of opportunity to split your days and take it easy instead of running around like crazy.

With over 15,000 stalls you can buy anything from antiques and handicrafts, fashion and food to homeware, pets and plants. This market will have you begging for more! Read our survival guide on how to get through a whole weekend of shopping and beat the heat which can if you’re not careful, cut short every shoppers dream date with this iconic market!

5. Floating Markets

Get away from the urban sprawl and get an alternative shopping fix by visiting one of the many floating markets that Bangkok has to offer.

Damneon Saduak Floating Market in Ratchaburi is one of the most famous – and you can tell. Expect crowds, as this place is one of the most photographed markets around. You’ll see it on almost every postcard!  It’s colourfully chaotic and if you arrive super early to avoid the package tourists spilling out of long-tailed boats, you’ll discover this market reveals a nostalgic taste of traditional Thai culture in days gone by.

Vendors paddle up and down narrow canals with boats laden with anything from fruit and  vegetables to flowers, handbags and tasty snacks. Lining the waterways are endless rows of shops where you can get hold of handicrafts and souvenirs.  Just make sure you bargain hard for that Buddha you’ve always wanted!

6. Khao San Road

Love it or hate, this hippie hang out is a 1km strip of backpacking budget heaven.  Full of cheap guesthouses and hotels, restaurants, bars, massage parlours, market stalls and more, Khao San Road does little to apologise for its stereotypical image of truth – seeking inhabitants. But I guess, why should it?  Enjoy the chilled out, carefree bohemian vibe. Hang out, or if you’ve drunk too much – just hang! Get a foot massage, buy cheap clothes, eat cheaper than cheap Pad Thai and lose in yourself in a book about self discovery. Why not?

7. Chinatown

This 1km strip of restaurants, market stalls and gold shops continues to pull in the tourists. At night the neon signs light up the colourful Chinese characters as the crowds come to dine and take in the energy of this very vibrant community. Come here during Chinese New year and see it at its best when the street comes alive with dragon dancers, exploding firecrackers and families enjoying decadent Chinese banquets.

8. Go Shopping

Bangkok is famous for it’s multi-storeyed, ultra modern and sleek shopping malls that offer a much-needed air-conditioned alternative to the street-side market stalls.

Here you can find fashion stores, global brands, accessory outlets, bookshops, high tech gadgets and luxury designer lifestyle goods.

One of our favourites was Terminal 21 on Sukhumvit Road – a relatively recent addition to the already impressive list of megamalls. With over 600 shops, Terminal 21 brings global fashion together under one roof. Stroll down London’s Carnaby St and by some edgy t-shirts, browse through Istanbul’s souk or walk through Tokyo and bag yourself some quirky dresses.

Terminal 21 is also great for food. Thai, Japanese, Chinese, Malaysian, Korean – the list is endless and there’s something to suit all tastes and pockets with the food court a good option if you’re really on a travellers budget. After you’ve indulged in some tasty treats, check out the latest film release at the cinema situated here.

9. Eat your way through Bangkok

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Think of Bangkok, think of food heaven! Think of the streets and restaurants as a journey into all things delicious! There is so much choice here, I guarantee deciding what to eat will become a confusing challenge.  Thai street food or dim sum? Malaysian Laksa or Japanese Curry?  Add to that options for deciding where to eat are limitless; budget friendly food courts, riverside eateries, food markets, dinner cruises, teak houses – its mind-boggling. But whatever you decide, you can be sure that the journey will be both inspiring and utterly blissful!

10. Take a hike!

That’s right – you heard! Take a hike! Walk, stroll, saunter, meander – however you like to travel on foot, there’s nothing like discovering a city more intimately then walking through it.

Turn down an unfamiliar lane, stumble upon a hidden alleyway or take the wrong turn and experience new sights and sound. New neighbourhoods. Linger, slow down, look around you, let your senses heighten – there’s an excitement to everyday life!

The street is the heart of any city and it deserves to be experienced on foot. There’s no justice to it if you commute across and by-pass all the life taking place there. You’re missing out on so much.  Be part of the action, part of the crowd that makes up the vibrant, multi-ethnic city of Bangkok.

 What’s your favourite place in Bangkok?