Don’t know what to do in Kuala Lumpur? Here’s a guide to Malaysia’s underrated capital complete with the best eats and the must-sees., all doable in four days time. It’s a melting pot of people with ethnic Malay, Indians, and Chinese coexisting in the same space so make it your mission to sample a bit of each culture whether your eating Nasi Goreng in Jalan Alor, making your way to a Chinese Tea House, or offering a lotus blossom to Lord Madruga at the Batu Caves. And if you find yourself falling in love with Malaysia like I did, there’s plenty more to see and do!
- Watch out for the monkeys darting across the steps at the Batu Caves, a Hindu shrine dedicated to the Lord Madruga, located outside of Kuala Lumpur in the Gombak district where a colossal golden statue of the deity towers over the mountain side
- Walk the double-decked Skybridge on the 41st and 42nd floors, connecting the two units of the Petronas Towers, KL’s most recognizable symbol, although this iconic monument cannot be missed once in the city proper
- Cage yourself in with pelicans and peacocks and the vividly colored red ibis at the world’s largest free flight walk-in aviary, KL Bird Park, which is also located near other tourist attractions such as the Butterfly Park, the Orchid Garden, and the National Planetarium
- Browse through a collection of Malaysian goods from traditional batik textiles to Chinese candies, all at the Central Market, and haggle your way towards a deal
- For nightlife, Changkat Bukit Bintang is the go-to spot for a great line-up of flashy clubs, Irish pubs, salsa dancing, hookah bars, and posh dining lounges; don’t miss out on the amazing happy hour hookups
- Wander around the sleepy neighborhood of Kampung Baru where tradition reigns as ethnic Malays continue to preserve their country lifestyles and eat among non-English speaking locals
- Eat every dish under the sun at Jalan Alor, the walking street synonymous to Malaysian cuisine lined with eateries serving everything from stir-fry to barbeque to hotpot, as you eat outside by the light of red paper lanterns (try char kway teow, a bed of flat rice noodles doused in soy sauced and stir-fried with vegetables, egg, and meat)
- Pore over a well-kept collection of Islamic artistry at the Islamic Arts Museum showcasing the most beautiful religious relics from Malaysia’s predominant faith
IF VEGETARIAN IS YOUR STYLE
- Rani Vilas Restaurant Vegetarian Food (at the base of the Batu Caves) Not only does this South Indian restaurant provide the friendliest service, but it also serves up the best roti I’ve ever tasted in my life; it was buttery, flaky, and chewy all at once and with a bottomless serving of chutney and daal soup, my eyes were literally drooping by the time I finished the meal.
IF YOU’VE ALWAYS BEEN A FAN OF FOODCOURTS
- Tang City Food Court (Jelan Petaling, Chinatown) While the winding streets of Chinatown pose an issue for the directionally-challenged, I have stumbled upon this food court, not once, but twice – and everytime, this canteen selling food by the pound always left me with a grossly overflowing plate costing only 10 ringgit (roughly $2.5).
IF YOU DON’T MIND A WALK THROUGH THE GHETTO
- Hussen Cafe (Jalan Dutamas 1, Wilayah Persekutuan) Despite the fact that location is not the most ideal (or safe for that matter), you will get the most authentic feasting experience at this locals-recommended café. With a seemingly loyal customer base, you have to have faith that the meal will be good after being handed a Malay-only menu. Even though we didn’t know what we were eating, every dish that came out surprisingly satisfied us. Don’t be confused: there is a Hussen Café right next door but the better one is the one with the larger seating space.
IF YOU’RE WANTING TO THROW A ROTI PARTY
- Restoran SK Corner (Jalan Rembia, Bukit Bintang) For a perfect drunk-dining spot, head to this Indian joint, where their servings of roti (unleavened flour bread) are varied and cheap. Don’t miss out on Roti Pisang (Roti with banana), Roti Tisu (Roti shaped into a cone that’s crispy and is paired with a sugar-infused, melted butter sauce) and regular Roti (to satisfy your sweet tooth, ask for a side dish of condensed milk and for those craving salt, try the chicken curry dip).
IF YOU NEED A BREAK FROM RICE
- Burger Bar by Fatboy Concepts (Jalan Dutamas 1, Wilayah Persekutuan) With a menu catering Western taste buds, this pseudo-food stand allows you to order specialty burgers or create your own. However, the sides are truly the highlight of the establishment — with a selection of unique items such as their ‘Disco Fries’ (French fries covered in gravy and topped with melted cheese) and‘Spam Fries’ (thinly cut spam battered and deep-fried), you’ll want a second helping or two. Just a forewarning: it gets very messy!
- The Helipad Lounge was named after its original function as a helicopter landing pad but has been converted into an unrestrained rooftop drinking area; surrounded by a breathtaking 360-degree view of downtown KL with the Petronas Towers on your left and the KL Tower on your right, sip your cocktail and relax while you watch the sunset (come an hour before sunrise to get a seat)
- Don’t be deterred by the long lines at KL’s hottest club Zouk; this five-story dance complex is well worth the wait provided the free-entry for foreigners if you bring your actual passport
- On the 6th floor of Pavilion, there is a space called Tokyo Street, selling Japanese-themed merchandise and goods; if you’re hankering for some aesthetically pleasing goodies or a relatively-inexpensive Japanese meal, this is your retreat
- For that cheesy photo opp and a free souvenir, the “I Love KL” sign is found outside the Kuala Lumpur City Gallery
- A hidden sanctuary from the urban madness, KLCC Park is a 50-acre green space, featuring spectacular water fountains and 74 species of flora, perfect for a nice stroll or jog at dusk when it isn’t too hot
- Arriving in February? Take part in the Thaipusam Festival where thousands of Hindu devotees make a pilgrimage to the steps of Batu Caves carrying pots of milk in great procession.
Classic Malay Guesthouse (https://www.airbnb.com/rooms/3587097) had surpassed every expectation we had in terms of accommodations. An actual “guest house” belonging to a Malaysian couple named Sharifa and Amin, this two-story classic Malay space is painted in a cheery yellow and blue color scheme built around the base of a mangrove tree, surrounded by a tiled courtyard shaded by palm trees and bubbling water fountains. Book weeks in advance as the calendar gets full. $60 per night for the entire house.
Pod Backpackers (http://podsbackpacker.com/) is only a few meters walk away from Sentral Station, the major transportation hub in KL. Situated in Brickfields, KL’s Little India neighborhood, the rooms are fairly cheap and you are given the basic amenities like a towel and fresh sheets. If you splurge for a private room, don’t expect any privacy: the walls don’t extend to the ceiling. Otherwise, the common area has a large flatscreen tv, perfect for nights in getting to know other guests and the night staff is the sweetest. Starting at $8.42 per night.
- 10 Things To See
- 101 Things to Do in KL
- Top 10 best things to do in KL
- The 5 Best Thing’s To Do at Night
- 10 Places in KL
👉Have you ever been to Kuala Lumpur? Share your tips for seeing the city in the comments below!
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