Over our years of travelling a pattern has emerged. Paul finds really cheap flights, decides immediately he wants to take them, I refuse due to impracticality, then not so reluctantly give in. Our 2012 trip to Kuala Lumpur was one of those cases. We were living in South Korea at the time when Paul found really cheap Air Asia flights from Seoul to Kuala Lumpur. To be honest I really didn’t take much persuasion for this one;. We had already visited Kuala Lumpur (or KL as it’s commonly known for convenience) during our backpacking round the world trip in 2008 and memories of night markets, glittering Petronas Towers and the smell of spiced curries enticed me back.
I’d always had a particular fondness for Kuala Lumpur as it was the first proper city we had visited after months of travelling round beaches and small towns in South East Asia. I remember the bus pulling into the city centre and feeling relief at seeing the concrete skyscrapers. I’m a city person, and and Kuala Lumpur was a proper metropolitan city. After months of backpacker communities and dirt streets I couldn’t wait to submerge into the crowds.
This is what we did in Kuala Lumpur.
Where we went in Kuala Lumpur
Merdeka Square is a massive square of manicured green lawn flanked by buildings of various historical significance. These buildings include the Sultan Abdul Samad Building which once housed the British colonial government and the Selangor Club which was a social club run by British colonials who held cricket matches on the manicured lawns. Merdeka Square was where the Union Jack was lowered and the Malaysian Flag raised for the first time in 1957 (on one of the biggest flagpoles in the world where the Malaysian flag still flies).
Brickfields (Little India)
A significant part of Kuala Lumpur’s melting pot is made up of the Indian community and the city’s Brickfields area is known as Little India. We visited the area’s market, wandered around and took photos of the candy coloured buildings and archways, visited the Hundred Quarters (tiny streets of terraced housing which used to house civil servants during the colonial era) and ate curry.
Another large piece of Kuala Lumpur’s international mosaic is their Chinese community. They have their own area of the city in its Chinatown, complete with Chinese gate and red paper lanterns strung from building to building. We wandered around soaking up the chaos and visited the flea market, the Guandi Temple, the Sri Mahamariamman temple and the Chan See Shu Yuen Temple.
Ah, the magnificent Petronas Towers, definitely up there as one of the most impressive pieces of architecture I’ve ever seen. You can go up them but we opted not to, instead going to the KLCC at sunset time to take photos of them both during the day and at night when they’re lit up like spaceships.
Titiwangsa Park is notable for one thing – you get a view that includes both the Petronas Towers and KL Tower. As we often do when we have a skyline photo we went to take, we went just before sunset to get daytime photos then another photo of them lit up at night.
A traditional neighbourhood with rickety houses made with tin roofs right in the shadow of the Petronas Towers.
Times Square Shopping Centre
A shopping centre with a roller coaster in it. And it had IRN BRU. IRN BRU. After living in Korea almost two years without it.
A really cool monument which commemorates those who died in Malaysia’s struggle for freedom.
Islamic Arts Centre
Not usually a huge fan of galleries and museums but I really like Islamic art.
We took photos of Pudu Jail, a former prison, which was really cool and derelict when we visited but has sadly now been demolished.
Day trip to Putrajaya
Putrajaya is a new city that was built to be the administrative capital of Malaysia. You can travel from KL in half an hour. It was so weird – eerily quiet and clean. Huge freshly paved roads with no one on them.
Ride on the monorail
I don’t care what The Simpsons says, I like monorails. And Kuala Lumpur’s glides past the Petronas Towers and through the heart of the city centre.
Where we ate
Kuala Lumpur has a lot of street food markets with fresh dishes served up on plastic chairs and tables on the road immersed in the chaos. We ate in Jalan Alor Market and the Wet Market in Chinatown. We also had a few amazing, reasonably priced curries in Brickfields.
Where we drank
I had fond memories from 2008 of drinking in Reggae Bar so we paid a few visits there (couldn’t escape Korea though – KPop on the tv screens!) I also enjoyed overhearing the conversations between those on the South East Asia backpacker trail. Took me back to my backpacking days.
Bukit Bingtang is an area with lots of pubs, but to be honest I found it had a bit of a sleazy expat vibe. We drank in the Green Man pub.
How we got there and where we stayed
We got return flights from Seoul to Kuala Lumpur with Air Asia. We stayed in Tune Hotel Downtown Kuala Lumpur for six nights. The entire cost of flights and accommodation for both of us cost 809,000 Korean won (which was a bargainous £452 at the time but with the current exchange rate is £544).