Destination Guide: Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia (Part 2–Things to do)
In our previous blog post we covered some of the basics of Kuala Lumpur – how to get around and some of the key things about the city. This time we want to cover some of the key areas to check out and things to do. This is by no means an exhaustive list and it is compiled through our experiences in the city so for KL regulars we may have missed something you enjoy. If so please let us know. Otherwise we hope you enjoy this and it helps to peak your interest in this unique city.
Things to do
Chinatown is most known for Jalan Petaling Markets, where you go to get all your genuine copies – Handbags, wallets, watches, pens, clothes, dvds, shoes, sunglasses etc. – it is all there. The markets are open from around 10am and go well into the night. The market vendors swap at 3pm and they take seriously the need to sell to their first customer, so the best bargains are had early in the morning or around 3pm. For most items, the vendor will have cheap versions (vinyl) and the better quality (leather) at the back of their stall. Cheap versions cost between A$10 and $50 depending on what it is and the better quality is up around A$200. They will set the bag on fire to show you it is leather. I am pretty sure you can treat vinyl not to burn and smell like leather, so be sure to feel the item and make certain you are getting leather. Also hold on to the item and don’t let them put it in the bag away from you. It might be swapped for the cheaper version.
As a general hint take the first price and take off at least a half, I will usually start at about a third of what they first offer. When you are looking at an item have a rough price of what you would reasonably expect to pay for it – and what you are happy to pay for it. I always go to a ridiculously low price and work back up. Have a price you are happy to pay and remember the exchange rate. It can be you are bartering over cents not dollars in the end and it’s not worth the time. Generally when bartering starts, you are committed to buy. If there is more than yourself at the stall, a calculator will come out and negotiations will be done on a calculator.
Just remember that this is meant to be a light hearted experience, keep your temper and play along a little. This is the way that these sellers make their living, and despite what they might say to you, they are never going to sell something to you at a price that they are not making a profit on. So relax and have a joke with them – I always get a better deal from sellers who I have a joke with or use exaggerated facial expressions. Raising your voice or showing anger is something that does not happen in Malaysia and it just embarrasses everyone and makes you the butt of all jokes. Try to have small notes to pay. Big notes can lead to just one more and sometimes they dash off to find smaller change, leaving you standing there wondering if they are ever coming back. Finally, if you can put your purchases in a dark bag the sellers can’t see through. Otherwise everyone will keep asking “Want one more”.
Chinatown also has some of the best Chinese food in KL. The streets surrounding Jalan Petaling is full of hawkers selling cheap and amazing food. Also the area to stock up and taste Chinese tea.
Chinatown’s other attractions are temples. Chan See Shu Yuen Temple is one of the oldest Buddhist temples in Malaysia and the entrance is at the end of Jalan Petaling. Sri Maha Mariamman Temple is located on Jalan Tun H.S Lee and is one of KL’s main Hindu shrines. During Thaipusam festival, devotees walk from this shrine to the Batu Caves and the chariot used is on display.
How to get there:
Monorail: Disembark from the Maharajalela stop and follow the signs to Jalan Petaling markets.
LRT: Disembark from the Pasar Seni station (Kelani Jaya or Putra line) and follow the signs.
Little India (Brickfields)
As the name suggests, the Brickfields was where bricks were made after a huge fire swept through KL, burning the wooden houses to the ground and taking out a large area of KL. The area went on to become the heart of the Malaysian Railway and in more recent times, has become the heart of Little India. Jalan Masjid India is a street to walk along to soak up the atmosphere. Venture down any of the streets in this area, and you will find sari’s, Indian jewellery, aromatic food and also a great area to get a Henna tattoo done.
How to get there:
Monorail: Disembark at the Tun Sambanthan stop and follow the signs.
LRT: Disembark at KL Central station (Kelani Jaya or Putra line) and follow the signs.
Bukit Bintang (the Golden Triangle) and Kuala Lumpur City Centre (KLCC)
This is the tourist area of Kuala Lumpur. Most of the big shopping centres are found here as well as the bars and restaurants. Bukit Bintang is the main street, with multi storey malls lining the street while massage and reflexology shops are at ground level. This area is all about the shopping and the food.
There is now a really handy walkway opened between Bukit Bintang and the Petronas Towers. It is Air-con most of the way and importantly avoids the traffic. It goes above ground from the Pavilion Shopping Centre to the KL Convention and Exhibition Centre, then onwards underground from the KL Aquarium through to the Suria KLCC shopping centre. This is a great way of getting from the Petronas Towers to Bukit Bintang.
The main attractions:
Pavillion: Is the shopping centre of KL. All the big names are here; Coach, Bvlgari, Prada, Tiffany & Co and I am pretty certain you can even buy a Bugatti here. Some English and American brands have there flagship stores here. There are of course, more reasonably priced stores found amongst the lower floors as well as a restaurant precinct and a reasonably priced food court – The Food Republic. I highly recommend a meal here, the food court is set up as a number of different stores each selling a particular type of cuisine – for example, a Vietnamese stall, a Thai stall, an indian stall etc. The meals are all very reasonably priced – expect to pay about 4-9RM per plate. http://www.pavilion-kl.com/content/
Suria KLCC: The other big shopping centre of KL under the Petronas Towers. I find this to have the high end stores, but a lot more reasonably priced stores. Marks and Spence, Parksons, Isetan, Zara, Gap, Giordano, Guess and Uniqlo are just some of the stores under this roof. It’s over 6 floors and has a great food court overlooking the gardens. A word of note – during lunch time most of the workers from the Petronas Towers come down to the food court – so it can get very busy. http://www.suriaklcc.com.my/index.html
Sungai Wang: This is an older shopping mall on Bukit Bintang, but if you aren’t after brand names, bargains can be found. http://www.sungeiwang.com/index.html
Fahrenheit88 mall: This is one of the newest malls in Bukit Bintang and is still establishing itself. If you are walking past, go in as there are some bargains to be had. http://www.fahrenheit88.com/content/index.php
Berjaya Times Square: This shopping centre is huge and I have lost 10 hours in here. It has seen better days and will no doubt be getting a face lift and revamp, but it has bargain stores. A lot of small vendors have set up from the markets selling fake bags, jewellery, clothes, wallets, sunglasses and all the rest. Prices are the same, but you can shop in air-conditioned comfort. http://www.timessquarekl.com/
How to get to Bukit Bintang:
By Monorail the Raja Chulan station is in the prime position near the Pavilion Shopping Centre. From the KLCC Area take the walkway through to Bukit Bingtang.
A quick word about safety. This is the #1 most populated tourist area, as a result it has a reputation of attracting those people with less than honourable intentions. Just be aware of your suroundings and don’t take any unneccesary risks. Simple things like keeping your bags close, if you have a handbag keep it on the opposite side to the road. You don’t have to be too worried, but just exercise the same caution you would in any high city.
This is a real “Eat Street” in KL and if you can’t find a meal to eat here then there is a serious problem. There are conservatively 80 different restaurants and food vendors along the street. Jalan Alor runs parallel to Bukit Bintang, it you turn right down the side street at the KFC Chicken on Bukit Bintang you will come to the top of Jalan Alor. When the sun goes down, the streets are taken over by tables and local restaurants serve the hungry hoards cheap hawker food. Some of the best meals in KL have been had at Jalan Alor. The Satay sticks are a must. Open til the wee small hours of the morning.
As you walk down the street every single restaurant vendor will be out trying to tempt you into their restaurants. As a general guide look to the busy ones, especially those with a few locals eating. It is easy to get a bit overwhelmed with all the touts, just smile and keep walking until you see something that interests you.
Generally meals are pretty cheap I would say an average of about 30-40RM per person will get you a good meal.
Petronas Twin Towers
You can’t miss the Petronas Towers and at night the glow engulfs the whole city. Standing at 459.1 metres, the towers are home to Petronas, Malaysia’s oil company. You can buy tickets to go up to the Skybridge, which is the bridge that joins the two towers at 170 meters above the ground. You can also visit the Observation Deck which is on the 88th floor and about 370 meters above the ground.
You can buy tickets at the Twin Towers, but there is a limited number per day so get in early. You can pre-purchase for future days, so if you want to go up, probably best to go and book ahead. They have recently now started offering the ability to buy your tickets in advance online so this is much easier than having to queue up.
Ticket Prices are:
- Adult: RM80 ($25 AUD)
- Child: RM30 ($10 AUD)
The weather can turn quickly in KL, so a word of warning, your beautiful view over KL may be ruined by an afternoon storm.
If you are happy to admire from the ground, the best time to see the towers is around 7pm as the sun sets and the lights go on. The best free vantage point is from KLCC park, just in front of Suria KLCC.
If you would like another unique experience and a great place to see the Twin Towers is the fabulous SkyBar at the Traders Hotel. The SkyBar is the #1 destination for a sunset cocktail, it is advisable to book at least a month in advance, especially if you are wanting a Saturday night. There is a dress code so do pack something smart casual.
How to get there
Petronas Twin Towers are the most dominant sight in the KL Skyline so it is hard to miss them, but if you are coming from Bukit Bintang you are best to take the new airbridge that they have built from the Pavilion Shopping Centre all the way to the KL Convention Centre, you can then walk through from the Convention Centre to the Suria KLCC Shopping Centre. All in dry, air-conditioned comfort.
If you are travelling by train there is a station at KLCC so quite convenient.
Menara KL Tower
also known as KL Tower and Menara KL Communication Tower
This is a 421 metre tower with an observation deck towards the top at about 276 metres, looking over KL. On a clear day you can see far and wide. Most view the KL Tower as the best option for seeing KL as you don’t need to plan too far ahead, and not letting the weather spoil your plans. At night the tower lights up and can be seen from most parts of KL. There are a number of other attractions at the tower – especially a number suitable for children.
Opening Hours: Observation Deck – 9:30am to 9:30pm 7 days a week.
Cost: Observation Deck: Adult – 47RM / Child – 27RM
How to get there: The Menara Tower is located on Jalan Punchak off Jalan P. Ramlee. The closest Monorail station would be either Bukit Nanas or Raja Chulan. As you get to the entrance to the tower you will see a Security guard station, if you wait here there is a Free Shuttle Bus which will drive you up the hill to the foot of the tower.
National Mosque of Malaysia (Masjid Negara )
The Masjid Negara is the national Mosque of Malaysia. It has a capacity of almost 15,000 worshippers and is set amongst almost 13 acres of gardens. The mosque is open for non-Muslim visitors outside of prayer times.
If you are visiting please be dressed appropriately, the helpful staff will provide you with robes and scarves if you are not attired correctly. However, try to cover your shoulders and dont wear shorts if possible.
Generally the Open times are:
Monday – Sunday:
- 9:00am to 12:00pm – Open
- 3:00pm to 4:00pm – Open
- 5:30pm to 6:30pm – Open
Friday tends to be a fairly big day for Muslim worship so access to the site to visit is a little tougher, the open times on Friday are:
- 3:00pm to 4:00pm – Open
- 5:30pm to 6:30pm – Open
How to get there: The Masjid Negara is located in a convenient spot around a number of other tourist attractions. Within a walking distance of Petaling Street Markets,Central Market and the Merdeka Square.
Merdeka Square (Dataran Merdeka) and Sultan Abdul Samad Building
Merdeka is Malay for independence and it was here on August 31, 1957, that independence was declared. It was a cricket ground and padang (field) and now is used for Independence Day celebrations. The Royal Selangor Club can be found on the western side of the square. To the south of the square is a 95 metre flagpole, is supposedly the tallest in the world.
Across the road from Merdeka Square is the Sultan Abdul Samad Building. It is regarded as one of the most significant landmarks build by the British. It was completed in 1897 and originally housed the Selangor State Secretariat and later the Supreme Court. It now houses the Ministry of Heritage, Culture and Arts. The building is lit up at night and is easily distinguished by its ornate 40 metre high clock tower.
How to get there: This is best reached either by foot from Central Market, it is also a short walk from the Masjid Jamek LRT station. I often find that if we are feeling energetic we will walk from Petaling Street Market, to the Masjid Negara, then walk to the Merdeka, before walking onwards to the Central Market
The Central Market is located beside the river; located in a Art Deco inspired building – it was originally founded in 1888 as a Wet Market. The current building was completed in 1937. It is home to a very wide range of shops selling a wide range of typical tourist product as well as some unique art and craft pieces.
As this place is popular with tourists do expect to pay a little more for most items than elsewhere in KL. However in some stalls you will see things that you wont see elsewhere in KL.
On the second floor of the main building is a food court which is popular with locals and provides a wide range of food offerings. The area around is also full of authentic restaurants.
How to get there
LRT: Disembark from the Pasar Seni station (Kelani Jaya or Putra line) and follow the signs. It is also within walking distance from Petaling Street so well worth combining a visit to both areas.
Approximately 13km outside of KL City are the fabulous Batu Caves. The Batu Caves are located in a large limestone hill. They are actually a collection of caves which contain a number of Hindu shrines. To access the main caves you must ascend 272 steps which rise up almost 100 metres. During key times in the Hindu calendar the site is very popular and attracts upwards of 1 million pilgrims.
Besides the natural sights and the spectacular Hindu shrines the site is also home to a large number of Macaque Monkeys. These energetic monkeys are only too happy to take advantage of the unsuspecting tourist – gladly relieving them of any food they are carrying.
The most visible structure and the most recognised part of the complex is the large statue of Murugan (a Hindu deity) – standing 140ft high, it doninates the landscape and sits at the foot of the 272 stairs.
Access: As mentioned the caves are reached by climbing 272 steps – do be aware of your fitness and limits. Take some bottled water up with you and if needed take regular breaks. You can leave you shoes on – you will notice many of the Hindu devotees will take the stairs in their bare feet, some on hands and knees. Make sure though that once you get to the top you stop and appreciate the glorious view back to KL.
Also consider visiting in the morning or the afternoon, this will help you to avoid the heat of the day.
How to get there: The Batu Caves are reached easily by the KTM Komuter trains – catch the train from KL Sentral station, the train station is located just a few metres away from the caves site. The cost for the train is only around 2RM per person and takes around 30 minutes.
Alternatively you can take a taxi from the city, and arrange for your driver to wait whilst you visit the site.
Royal Selangor Visitor Centre
The Royal Selangor Visitor Centre is on the outskirts of KL. It is the factory where Royal Selangor pewter is made. The Visitors Centre takes you on a tour to show you how pewter is made and the step by step process of how to make a tankard. They show you the different techniques used to get the different finishes and of course the tour ends in the most beautiful showroom full of all there creations. There is always a creation that can only be purchased at the Visitors Centre, so look out for it.
The Visitors Centre also has a hands on class called the School of Hard Knocks. Here for a small fee, you take part in a class using the tools and a piece of pewter to make your own creation. It can take about half an hour, but is a heap of fun and you get your own memory to take home.
How to get there
LRT: Disembark at Wangsa Maju (Kelani Jaya or Putra line) and catch a cab to the Factory.
Free shuttle bus: Jump on the Royal Selangor website and check for your hotel as there is a free shuttle bus from some hotels in KL.
So there you go. That is just a brief summary of some of the places we like to visit in KL and some ideas for things to check out. We will add some more over time to further build on our Destination Guides.