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
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
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!
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.
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!
3) Lazat Cookery School
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.
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!