When I had to cancel my trip to the Philippines, I quickly decided on Kuala Lumpur as my next destination. The reason? Actually, lots of reasons:
- Kuala Lumpur can be reached on a direct flight from Taipei with AirAsia (taking AirAsia means that the price for the ticket was reasonable)
- Germans (and many other nationalities) don’t need to apply for a Visa when going to Malaysia. You will receive a free Visa-on-Arrival, valid for 90 days, no questions asked, no return or onward flight necessary
- Traveling through Malaysia by public transport seems convenient and the distances between the destinations I want to visit are not too big
- I can reach my next destination, Thailand, conveniently by crossing a land border (taking a bus or train) or by entering by ferry from Langkawi
- In case my rash returns, I believe the medical standards are high in Malaysia and I feel on the safe side to travel here
- There are a few destinations I wanted to visit in Malaysia anyway and I heard the food options (even for non-meat eaters) are great (can already confirm this)
- Kuala Lumpur has the same initials like my name, KL
Getting to Kuala Lumpur
My flight wih AirAsia from Taipei was very pleasant. I pre-ordered a Vegetarian Biryani, which was tasty for airline food. There was no on-board entertainment on the plane, but I was reading my book and lost in thoughts anyway. The four hours to KL went by pretty fast. Arriving at the Low Cost Carrier Terminal (LCCT) of KL, I was greeted by over 30°C – even though it was already 9pm. The immigration process went smoothly and fast. Usually, you have to enter your fingerprints when entering. I wasn’t asked to scan my fingerprints, but maybe they already had them from my last visit to Malaysia in 2008. I don’t remember if they took them back then.
After collecting my backpack and getting some Malaysian cash from the ATM, I went to look for the SkyBus, AirAisa’s airport bus which drives you to KL Sentral in one hour. I had booked the ticket for the bus together with the plane ticket, which turned out to be very convenient. No need to look for a ticket counter, I could just enter the bus and enjoy the air-conditioning until we set off. From KL Sentral, I decided to take public transport to my hostel and walk the last stretch. It didn’t occur to me before that it could be dangerous to walk around with my bags in the dark around 11pm, but I had a safe feeling about it and just did it. Which was totally fine. There were still lots of people on the LRT and walking on the streets. If I had taken a cab from KL Sentral, I’d have to pay around 10 MYR. The LRT only cost me 1.30 MYR. Awesome, saved some bucks
Where to stay
I pre-booked my hostel (BackHome) about a week in advance and chose one which was definitely not the cheapest option. But it just looked very appealing to me, they have 4-bed female dorms, the rooms are quite big, the lockers huge, breakfast is included and it comes with air-conditioning (which I was very happy about later). I did not really check if the area was convenient, I only knew that it was easy to get there. It turned out that the location is perfect, there are a few of the sights in walking distance (like Chinatown, the Central Market and the Merdeka Square) and from the closest LRT station (Masjid Jamek) you can basically go anywhere of interest.
If you happen to be in Kuala Lumpur, I can recommend the area around Masjid Jamek and the BackHome Hostel to stay.
Bonus for Vegetarians: There are a few Indian Vegetarian restaurants in walking distance. One which is very popular: Bakti Woodlands, just in the next street of the BackHome Hostel.
Sights to visit
The lazy ones (and I oftentimes count myself as one) can just buy a ticket for the Kuala Lumpur Hop-on Hop-off Bus and conveniently get a tour of the city and all major sights. Since my budget is very limited on this trip, this option was too expensive for me and I chose to go around by public transport and walking.
Petronas Towers and KLCC
This is probably the most-known landmark of Kuala Lumpur and a sight which no one wants to miss. You can go up the Skybridge and enjoy views of Kuala Lumpur, but be prepared to wait in line for a long time. I didn’t want to go up, since I already saw KL from above when I visited in 2008.
There’s a huge shopping mall on the first floors of the Petronas Towers, similiar like Taipei 101, if you’re interested in shopping. I found a nice Frozen Yogurt shop in the shopping mall, which was for sure the highlight of the shopping mall to me
There’s a nice park around the Petronas Towers where you can take great pictures, just enjoy the view or dip your feet in a swimming pool to cool off.
KL Tower (Menara KL)
The TV tower is probably the second landmark of KL. I went up there in 2008, so I didn’t want to go up again. There’s rain forest around the TV Tower, if you want to get away from the busy city for a while. I enjoyed walking through, although at some point I got scared that I couldn’t find the exit again.
Chinatown, Central Market and Bukit Bintang
I put these three attractions together because they represent the same for me: Shopping. Shop till you drop.
You can find all high-class (and middle-class) shops in the area around Bukit Bintang. I myself only went to Forever 21 and H&M. Besides that, I did not find it interesting, but I don’t enjoy shopping in general.
Chinatown is where you go if you want some cheap sunglasses, shoes, souvenirs, phone cases, handbags, perfume and so on. I was disappointed in Chinatown, I imagined it with more food and less shops. However, I found a great food place there and ordered Kimchi Jeon (Kimchi Pancake) for only 7 MYR (1.55€).
The Central Market is where you can also find souvenirs, food, art ans local handcraft. I just passed through quite quickly.
Merdeka Square, or Independence Square, is where the Malaysia flag has been hoisted the first time in 1957 after the Union flag came down. It’s situated in front of the Sultan Abdul Samad Building and is just nice to visit for a quick stroll and some nice pictures.
The Batu Caves are a Hindu shrine. They are set into a limestone hill, thus you have to walk up 272 steep stairs to get up there. As always, I took my time to go up. As I’m not Hindu, this sight was kind of boring to me, because I didn’t think the caves are nice. The most interesting part of my visit were the monkeys. They were everywhere. It was the first time I saw monkeys in real life (meaning not in a zoo or out of a car like in South Africa).
After climbing up an down all 272 stairs, I bought a fresh coconut. It was the first time I drank fresh coconut, but to be honest, it was not really my thing. I probably don’t have to repeat it. Although I like coconut in general.
General Thoughts and Feeling
Kuala Lumpur is a very multi-cultural place. It’s amazing to see that different religions and backgrounds can live together peacefully. However, it can also be a bit overwhelming. When you walk the streets, people just look so different. Malaysia is a Muslim country, but there are also many Chinese and Indians living here. I was surprised by how many Westerners I saw around and I frequently heard German spoken, but then I found this map, showing that Malaysia is the 10th most visited country in the world.
When I first arrived at my hostel, I felt out of place. For one reason, I was just not prepared to see so many Western people. I was sad to not see many Asian faces. I’m missing the Taiwanese already I got so used just to being around Taiwanese/Chinese looking people in Taiwan. Moreover, I realized that I really am not anything like a typical backpacker. I look different, I dress different. Since Malaysia is a Muslim country, I carefully choose what I wear. When I go out, I always cover my shoulders and knees, meaning I’m wearing leggings and long-sleeve dresses or a cardigan. My skin is pretty white and I do a “regular” ponytail with my hair. The other backpackers? Most of them are pretty tanned. The guys always wear shorts and either tank-tops or no shirt. The girls wear short shorts, skirts, dresses, tank-tops or hippie-pants/hippie dresses. And the hair has to be in a bun.
I admit, they look cool. But also, so alike. And confirming all the stereotypes one has about South-East Asia Backpackers. I understand that it’s fu**ing hot outside and everyone just wants to wear as little as possible. But it just doesn’t fit in here. They just don’t seem to be culture-sensitive. It makes me feel ashamed of my fellow Western travelers.
Although, they probably think the same about me, wondering why I always wear so many clothes in this heat. I don’t look cool. I look like Taylor Swift. Seriously, every time I see a picture of Taylor Swift, I swear she wears the same clothes from H&M And no, I’m not a fan of her, I actually don’t know anything about her besides that she’s a singer and wears the same clothes as I do. But at least, my clothes cover up more parts of my body.
Adding to my ridiculous Taylor Swift outfit, I also do like the Taiwanese do in heat: I use an umbrella. And my umbrella is pink. Not that I don’t want to get tanned, the problem is I have a sun allergy and just have to be careful not be exposed to sun too long and too intensively. I didn’t follow my own advice on Wednesday when I was exploring the city and instantly got sick in the evening. So when I went to the Batu Caves, I was the only one using an umbrella to climb up those many stairs. On the way down however, there was a group of Malaysian teenage girls, also using two umbrellas, and they were so excited to see me, they wanted to take a picture together. I assume, it was not because I’m a Western blond girl, there were many other Western blond girls around, but I was a Western blond girl, with a pink umbrella
Gettting out of Kuala Lumpur from the Masjid Jamek area is quite convenient. If you’re heading to the airport, you can either catch the airport bus or airport rail link at KL Sentral, which is only 2 stops on the LTR. Same for regular trains running to Singapore, other parts of Malaysia or Thailand.
If you want to take the bus to a southern destination, head to Terminal Bersepadu Selatan (TBS), accessible directly from the LRT station Bandar Tasik Selatan.
If you want to take a bus north (to Penang or Langkawi for example), buses leave from the Puduraya Bus terminal, which is only a couple of blocks away from Masjid Jamek.
Further information about train travel in Malaysia: www.seat61.com/Malaysia.htm
My next stop is Melaka, 2 hours south by bus from Kuala Lumpur. I heard it’s famous for piracy (in the Malacca strait) and food. Since I don’t plan to engage in piracy, the only thing I plan to do in Melaka is eat food. Yay!