Not many cities have surprised me the way that Kuala Lumpur did. I didn't have particularly high expectations when I visited, but I was completely blown away by the character of this city. Often overlooked for Hong Kong, Bangkok or Singapore, Kuala Lumpur is one of the best examples of old meets new and a must visit city. It has incredible food, jaw dropping architecture, it's cheap and there's a decent Sikh population out there. I had quite an adventure in KL and my detailed review can be read here. You can also read top 5 lists of other cities that I have visited here. As with most places I enjoy, it's difficult narrowing the list down to just 5 things I loved about KL, but I've given it a go.
5. Views from the KL Tower
At £20, it's one of the more expensive things you will do in Kuala Lumpur, but it's definitely worth the money. Price wise it's similar to observation decks in most major western cities, and it's worth paying a little extra to get the outdoor deck right near the top of the tower.
At over 1,000 feet high, the tower provides unparalleled views of the city, particularly the beautiful Petronas Twin Towers. I'd recommend visiting just before sunset so you can see the city in both the daylight, and the lights of the city during the night.
Quite uniquely, the observation deck also has two glass boxes which hang over the side of the tower. These take the concept of the leaning glass in the John Hancock tower in Chicago one step further. The glass boxes have a view straight down, and I watched in amusement as a lady in front of me almost collapsed when she looked down. It isn't for everyone.
4. The calm at Thean Hou Temple
A short 20 minute drive south of the city centre is the beautiful Thean Hou Temple.
The temple is situated on a hilltop and is built in a mix of styles borrowing on elements of Buddhism, Confucianism and Taoism. Although it looks ancient, I was surprised to find the temple is only 30 years old. It's one of the larger temples that I visited, spread over a number of floors.
The main altar has sculptures of a number of deities, with a large golden sculpture of Thean Hou in the centre. The open area outside the main prayer room is covered in lantern type decorations. Around the edges of the prayer hall is a garden with a number of sculptures dotted around, the most beautiful being a sculpture of the deity Guan Yin under a canopy of flowers by falling water.
Another staircase leads you to the roof of the temple where you can really admire the incredible architecture of the temple. The roof also has views of KL city centre, with all of its skyscrapers. The dichotomy of the quiet green hill and the temple, and the city in the distance makes for a nice visual. It's not surprising that this temple is a haven for marriage registration and photos.
The only problem - given its location outside the city centre, it can be very difficult finding a taxi. If I ever visit again, I'll definitely be pre-booking a cab in advance.
3. The grandeur of the Batu Caves
Okay, so technically this isn't KL, but there is no way I could make a list without mentioning the Batu Caves (which you can read in detail about here). You can get to the caves from KL city centre in less than an hour, and as with the Thean Hou temple, the large golden statue of Murugan, the Hindu deity is actually very modern. But that doesn't make this place any less impressive.
The large ceilings of the Temple Cave makes you feel like you're in a Tomb Raider film. The high ceilings, the rays of sunlight entering through a gap surrounded by greenery makes this all feel a little surreal.
There are 272 steps steps from the base of the cave to the entrance, and it's a pretty steep climb, although not too difficult, and remember, you can't wear sleeveless tops, nor can you wear shorts above knee length. Try not to mess with the monkeys, who will undoubtedly try to mess with you on the climb up the stairs - and definitely bring some water, it can get very humid.
The Ramayana Cave, located a short walk from the Temple Cave might be tacky for some, I enjoyed it and it's definitely worth the visit, although it lacks the charm of the Temple Cave. The inside of the cave tells the epic of Ramayana and it's done very well. The narrative is illustrated by a number of statues that walk you around the inside of the cave.
2. Evening strolls in KLCC Park
It's odd how a little bit of greenery can take you away from a large city. The KLCC park is located right next to the Petronas Towers, but feels like an absolute world away. A visit during the evening is quite nice as you have families playing around the lake, tourists trying to take the perfect photo in front of the dancing fountains, and office workers going for a post-work run through the park.
But the reason I loved this park so much? The views of the towers! Ever since I was young, I've been fascinated by the Petronas Towers, they are built in a way, and on a scale that was completely different at the time, and still is very unique. Unlike some other skyscrapers (I'm looking at you Gran Torre Santiago), this is architecturally stunning and more than lived up to the hype of the last 20 years.
1. The chaos at Jalan Alor
During my first taxi ride in KL, the driver asked me if I had visited Jalan Alor yet, I told him I hadn't and he replied that I shouldn't leave without checking it out, he told me I'd love it, then gave a slightly creepy laugh.
This place is insane. It's a little like Khao San Road in Bangkok, but on steroids. It's one long straight road, filled with food stalls on either side. At the top of the road are bars, clubs and massage houses. It's an absolute assault on the senses. The food is amazing, if not a little overpriced compared to other places in KL. At around £6 an hour, massages are cheap, although to be honest, they aren't that good (particularly compared to a couple I had in Chiang Mai, Thailand where it felt like they reshaped my body). That being said, I ended up returning on a couple of occasions because the vibe is just so crazy.
Want something slightly less touristy and a little more chill? Head over to Tapak Urban Dining. Located a short walk from the KLCC Park. It's actually a food truck park that brings together cuisine from around the world, although the focus is on South East Asian cuisine. I got there about 10pm and the whole park was busy. Food trucks surround the perimeter, there was a band playing and in the middle was a large seating area. Food was reasonably priced, more expensive than some of traditional local restaurants but cheaper than Jalan Alor. I didn't see a single tourist during my time there either..
For food, both of these are better than Petaling Street and Kampung Baru, the famous night market that I found slightly disappointing.
The thing I really love about KL is all the stuff you see as you go from place to place. On my way to Petaling Street, I walked through the gorgeous old town, ate at the very cheap Kedai Kopi Lai Foong, and stopped off at the Sri Mahamariamman Temple. Or, the walk to Jalan Alor that takes you through the 'Times Square' of KL. Even Tapak Urban Dining was an accidental discovery as I looked for a place to eat after visiting the Petronas Twin Towers.
Is there anything I've missed on the list? Leave a comment below.
British Sikh, born in the Midlands, based in London, travelling the world seeing new cultures.