TRAVEL GUIDE TO KUALA LUMPUR
The capital city of Malaysia, Kuala Lumpur is vibrant, modern and yet it retains its history. The iconic symbol of the country, Kuala Lumpur boasts of 8.9 million visitors every year. It is one of the most visited cities in the world today.
The city is a cultural mix of Chinese, Indian and Malays and its geography is characterized by the huge Klang Valley. It is bordered by the Tingwasa Mountains in the east; the Strait of Malacca in the west; and several minor ranges in the north and south.
Kuala Lumpur has a tropical rainforest climate. The city has abundant rainfall but it is also warm and sunny. The monsoon season is from October to March while June and July are good months to travel there because these months are relatively dry. However, flooding is a frequent occurrence whenever there is heavy downpour. Smoke fires from the nearby forests of Sumatra also sometimes cast a haze over the region.
Currency in Kuala Lumpur is the Malaysian Ringgit.
GETTING A BUS FROM SINGAPORE TO KUALA LUMPUR
As I am an advocate of budget travel, I took the bus to Malaysia. The bus ride was 5 hours long. However, if you want to get to the city quickly, you can always take the plane. Various budget airlines operate in the region, Tiger Airways and Jetstar being the most popular. For those who have more money to spare, you can opt for national carriers such as Singapore Airlines and Malaysia Airlines. Round trip bus fare from Singapore to Kuala Lumpur costs less than $100.
Do not worry as you will be very comfortable during your 5-hour trip. Classy coaches constantly ply the route and booking is easy as most companies offer online bookings.
GETTING AROUND KUALA LUMPUR
Kuala Lumpur is a modern city with trains, buses and taxis so traveling from one place to another will not be very difficult. However, you will notice that the city’s transport systems are largely unintegrated.
Train. KL has a streamlined train system called the Rapid KL. For just RM2, you will get a ticket which will allow you one day’s unlimited travel on Rapid KL’s 15 different routes in the city.
Bus. Most buses in KL are also provided by Rapid KL although there are smaller bus companies. Rapid KL are arguably the easiest to use because they display the destinations clearly. Rapid KL buses are divided into 4 and tickets are only valid for a day on the same class of bus. Most routes start at RM2.
Taxi. KL has plenty of air-conditioned taxis and fares are also very affordable.
Tip. From midnight to 6am, there is a surcharge of 50% on the metered fare and extra passengers (exceed 2 passengers) will be charged 20 sen each. An extra RM1 will also be charged for luggage placed in the boot.
WHERE TO STAY
During our trip to Kuala Lumpur, we stayed at Tropical Guesthouse Kuala Lumpur. A hostel located near Puduraya bus station, the rates are quite affordable and there is a friendly and easygoing ambience. Guests from all over the world enjo drinks and share stories about their adventures with each other.
For a night, we paid only $24 for a twin room sharing a bathroom with other guests. The bathroom was clean but the towels provided were a little too thin for me.
If you find the Tropical Guesthouse not to your liking, there are other accommodations in the city. Some of the most reasonable are Hotel Sentral Kuala Lumpur, Hotel Capitol KL, Sarang Vacation Homes and The Green Hut Lodge.
WHAT TO EAT
A cold dessert which you can easily find in street corners, chendul, also spelled cendol. Is a green jello-ish made from beans which has been colored or stained with pandan. It is similar to the halo-halo of the Philippines, albeit a lot less sweet and with fewer ingredients. The ingredients are red beans, pandan, coconut milk, palm sugar and a big lump of ice.
Satay is grilled meat on skewers and you can see ubiquitous stalls on the streets of Kuala Lumpur with their own version of Satay. You can find pork, chicken and beef satay which are grilled and served with cucumber chunks and white onion.
- Teh Tahrik
Any Malaysian will tell you that a trip to their country is incomplete without tasting their teh tahrik or pulled tea. Mostly sold in Indian cafes, it is a basic black tea bag mixed with condensed milk. It is the so-called “pulling” of the tea which makes it special. The tea is poured back and forth between two metal cups to cool it and make it frothy on top.
- Nasi Lemak
A staple in Malay, as well as Singaporean cuisine, nasi lemak is a breakfast dish which comes wrapped in banana leaves. The small banana leaf has marvels inside once it is opened. It contains fried anchovies wrapped in shrimp paste and chili sauce with rice cooked in coconut milk, a hard-boiled egg, some cucumbers and sometimes fried chicken.
5. Hookkien Mee
A very popular noodle dish, hookkien mee will satisfy all your cravings. The dish originated from China’s Hokkien province and most commonly the dish consists of egg or rice noodles which is stir-fried with egg, pork, squid and prawns. The dish is garnished with vegetables, lime and sambal sauce.
WHAT TO SEE
- Batu Caves
Just an hour away from the city, Batu Caves is an Indian heritage site. It is also the most famous Hindu temple in the country. The temple is dedicated to the Lord Murugan and to get to the top, you must go up 276 steps. The limestone caves are filled with different Hindu shrines which tell the different stories of the Hindu gods.
Caution: Beware of the mischievous Macaque monkeys. They tend to grab food, water bottles, or anything shiny.
- Petronas Towers
Any trip to the city of Kuala Lumpur would be incomplete without the obligatory photo with the Petronas Towers. The most iconic building in the country, Petronas held the record of being the world’s tallest building from 1998 to 2004. At the base of the towers is the KLCC Mall where you can do a bit of shopping.
Tip: If you want to go up the tower you have to be early as tickets are limited to only 1,000 people and you have to pay RM80.
- Chinatown KL
The shopping scene in Chinatown KL, found in Petaling Jaya street is vibrant and full of life. You can great bargains at cheap prices and wherever you turn you will see knockoffs of popular brands. You can buy keychains, bags, clothes and other accessories.
Tip: Haggle! Walk away and they will give you lower prices.
- Muzium Negara
The National Museum of Malaysia, or Muzium Negara, is located in Jalan Demansara. It provides visitors an overview of Malaysian culture and history. Entrance fee is only RM2 per person.