2 Days in Kuala Lumpur: Itinerary & Sightseeing Ideas
KL (as you'll soon start to call it) is a humid, hectic, colourful mish-mash of a place, full of scooters, street carts and shopping malls. It's a place to fully realise what a beautiful invention air conditioning is, and was a great welcome to the South East Asian chunk of our featured writer Sally Taylor’s trip! Here she provides ideas and recommendations for what you can do for two days in Kula Lumpur...
Where I stayed
Our hostel was right behind the enormous Berjaya Times Square shopping complex - and when I say big, I mean big! Berjaya has 6 floors, a gym, a useful travel desk, a rollercoaster, and (my personal highlight) a piano staircase. These retail behemoths can be found on almost every corner and offer icy respite from the humidity outside. Once you get your bearings you can use them as shortcuts to beat the heat. Sometimes it seems there aren't many people on the streets, when in fact they're just pounding the indoor pavements! The shopping malls also tend to have really good food courts, worth bearing in mind for an authentic local dinner on a budget. Especially if you're still trying to psyche yourself up for the open-air hawker stalls! Staying near Berjaya Times Square is highly recommended and made it easy to get to see the main sights.
The first thing to learn about KL is how to cross the road. Don't let the lines painted on the road deceive you - that may look like a zebra crossing but it's definitely more decorative than functional! If you wait for the cars and scooters to stop, you'll be waiting all day. And it's way too hot to do that. Be bold, keep checking, and when in doubt - go when the locals do!
KL is a huge, sprawling jungle of a city, but getting lost in shopping malls aside it's very easy to get around. There's a very good MRT network that's cheap and easy to use. It's around RM 1.30 for a single trip, with prices increasing depending how far out you travel. Like the Tube, but warmer!! The MRT is also pretty useful if you're on foot, as walking around the city centre you can literally follow the track as it snakes overhead.
Best Attractions to See in 2 Days
The biggest sight in KL (literally) is the Petronas Twin Towers. "The Twins" are 1483 feet tall and were the tallest buildings in the world from 1998 to 2004, when they were bumped off the top spot by Taipei 101. But they remain the tallest twins! They are about 20 to 25 minutes walk from Berjaya, or if you want to beat the heat (and occasional lack of pavements) you can take the MRT to KLCC. Now, I've seen my fair share of Tall Stuff in my travels, but the Twin Towers are genuinely awe-inspiring! Not to be missed, even if you are feeling a bit landmarked-out. I'd especially recommend returning to see them at night, when they're even more beautiful, lit up from every tier like two twinkly wedding cakes. There is a little irony in the fact that they're the offices of an energy company...
It's quite pricey to go up the towers and cross the famous Sky Bridge (around RM 80), but there's another spot where you can take in the view of the towers themselves. The Menara KL Tower is about 20 minutes walk away (or MRT stop Bukit Nanas) and is a much cheaper way to get soaring views over the city at around RM 45. Be warned - the walk to the base is easy, but the unexpected hill you then have to climb definitely is not! It's worth it though; it takes just 54 seconds to whizz to the observation deck over 900 feet up (my ears popped!). At the top you can enjoy 360 degree views over the city, and check out which of the fancy hotels has the fanciest pool.
The next day we ventured slightly further out to see the Batu Caves, one of the most popular Hindu shrines outside of India. It was very easy to get there and was about an hour in total - take the MRT to KL Sentral, walk around the corner to the LRT station, then jump on a direct train to Batu Caves. There are around 200 steps up to an enormous limestone cave, guarded by a 140ft golden statue of Lord Murugan. To ladies, take something to cover your shoulders with, and to all - don't feed the monkeys! While you're there you can also take an ecological tour of the imaginatively-named Dark Cave next door for RM 25. The MRT passes through Chinatown on the way back to Imbi, and we stopped for a quick kopi o and a browse of the very convincing fakes on offer.
Our first evening in KL just happened to be New Year's Eve, and if you're in town at the end of the year, be warned - it gets messy! Everyone crowds into the KLCC plaza to watch the fireworks from the Towers, then after midnight, people go crazy spraying silly string and fake snow all over each other... a wacky way to welcome 2014! If you're after a few beers, alcohol is expensive in KL (and in Malaysia in general), but there were a few good bars along Jalan P Ramalee.
Recommended Places to Eat
If you're hungry and want a real taste of Malaysian KL, head for Jalan Alor. This whole street becomes seemingly one massive restaurant once the sun goes down, with stall after stall of Malaysian, Chinese and Thai food to try. It's a real dining experience, not to be missed! If you're not sure, pick the one that looks the busiest. I had a deliciously spicy mee goreng followed by piping hot satay I had watched the guy barbecue. The food is what I think best sums up KL - hot, different, and with a little bit of everything on offer!
By Sally Taylor