As the capital of Malaysia, Kuala Lumpur is a diverse melting pot of both ethnicity and culture.
I honestly didn’t know what to expect from Kuala Lumpur, especially after talking to other travellers that had visited before. Many had mixed emotions about it, and I often received the heads up that it’s a very different feel from the rest of Southeast Asia.
Arriving in KL, I instantly felt what everyone was talking about. It’s hard to explain the feeling and I would hardly draw it up as fully negative. I was definitely more aware and on-guard when I was exploring on my own. Not that I felt truly unsafe, but one thing I noticed was that there were not many local women on the streets. Whereas, there were hordes of men just hanging out and possibly living in public spaces.
Like many travellers, most of my time in the city was spent around the Chinatown area, where most tourist attractions are. However, I soon learned when looking for a place to stay this was also a “dodgy” area in town.
I had to buzz into most of the hostels and there were security cameras everywhere. Talking to a hostel owner, I learned that at his hostel, they screened everyone looking for a place to rest for the night. They also separate international backpackers from local travellers. Apparently, it was for the safety of backpackers – though he didn’t elaborate on the dangers.
Taking the warnings in strides, I still ventured the city alone. And honestly, it wasn’t as bad as everyone made it out to be.
Here’s what I saw.
Petronas Twin Towers
Obviously, I couldn’t go to the capital of Malaysia and not pay a visit to the world-famous Petronas Twin Towers. I decided to marvel at the towers in the evening, when they’d sparkle against the dark night sky.
Another great way to enjoy the sight is to head to a rooftop bar. There are not as many rooftop bars as there is in Bangkok, but they do provide a good view nonetheless.
There’s a big Chinese influence in Kuala Lumpur and that’s highly showcased in Chinatown. Petaling Street is the star of Chinatown, where most of the action takes place. On this street, you can find a market filled with souvenirs and cheap clothing.
I have to admit, many sellers were less than interested in bargaining and many of the goods just looked and felt cheap and tacky.
The Central Market felt like an extension of Chinatown, just in a building instead. Situated only a few streets away, it carried similar goods to Chinatown, with sellers holding similar sales tactics. When I visited, many of stores were closed and the building felt dead.
A short walk from Chinatown is the Old Town of Kuala Lumpur. There are some impressive Moorish-styled buildings, including the grand Sultan Abdul Samad Building. Unfortunately, I don’t think visitors are allowed to tour the inside of the building. When I went, there was a lot of construction in front of the building, diminishing its grandeur.
One of my most frequent destinations in Kuala Lumpur was Jalan Alor, a.k.a the food street. There’s not a whole lot happening during the day, but when the sun goes down, the grills comes out! This street is transformed at night into a foodie’s paradise. There are so many options available, I went every night and tried something different!
A short ride away from city centre, the Batu Caves are considered one of Malaysia’s holiest shrines. It’s a nice way to spend an afternoon, just be wary that the area is full of smart little monkeys!