This year we sucked it up and paid a bit more for our flights to be able to escape Shanghai for Golden Week. Last year, we’ve spent the national holiday in Shanghai as we didn’t know we had to book long in advance to be able to afford anything and also as we were new in the city we felt there was still lots to explore. But with the crowds everywhere, as most Chinese people are off for the whole week mid-October, it’s not enjoyable doing anything sightseeing-related in China during Golden Week.
We decided to go to Kuala Lumpur as we’ve heard lots of good things about it from friends and colleagues and with the temperatures dropping in Shanghai, there’s nothing better than escaping to a tropical country.
From the first moment we started exploring Kuala Lumpur, I felt that it is true what they say – Malaysia is a really culturally diverse country with lovely people. And that’s what makes this place so interesting! Here are our top 5 things to do in Kuala Lumpur:
1. Explore the street food markets
We were fortunate to live close to Jalan Alor, the famous night food street. Here, you can stroll along in the evening and late at night for a huge variety of outdoor Asian (especially Thai, Malaysian, Vietnamese and Chinese) restaurants. Even if you decide not to eat anywhere, it’s just fun to see the lively atmosphere. Just around the corner, you can also find a huge Pattaya-style bar and club street, which you’ll love if you’re into loud music and cheap drinks.
Another market that we loved was the Indian market ‘Little India’. If you’re a foodie and like cheap bargains, that’s the place to go. With lots and lots of delicious food and fabric stalls, this market gets very busy and has a very unique atmosphere to it. We just bought a new camera before traveling to KL and just couldn’t stop taking photos of all the interesting looking people and food offerings.
More commercial, but great for souvenir shopping is Central Market, which comprises textile and locally crafted goods shops in an old market hall. There are less food options here (despite one amazing pick n mix fruit stall), but this is the perfect places to buy gifts and souvenirs of Malaysian handcrafted items. The Central Market is enjoyed best late in the afternoon when it’s less busy!
2. A day at the Perdana Botanical Garden, Bird Park and Islamic Arts Museum
As the headline already gives away – around the Perdana Botanical Garden, there’s lots to do! When we went there, most of the gardens were actually closed so we made our way straight into the Islamic Arts Museum as it was pouring down with rain. The museum is not too big and has a classy yet cosy feel to it. The displays contained luxurious fabrics, jewellery and other eye catching items and it was interesting to learn how Islamic culture spread throughout the world in history and how it influenced the arts.
Right next to the museum is a huge Bird Park, which is an amazing big tropical areal with some birds that walk around freely and some are in big, bird-friendly cages. I loved the tropical feel of this area which also had a pond, waterfall and forest area. Despite earlier fears, walking along the birds wasn’t scary at all, as those that were ‘free’ were very friendly. The bird park certainly became one of our highlights and you can easily spend 2 hours there – but only go if it’s not raining!
At the end of the day we wanted to go into the National Mosque and we had packed long trousers, only to find a big sign that only muslim tourists are allowed to enter it. How disappointing!
3. Petronas Twin Towers & KLCC Park
As the Petronas Twin Towers are listed as one of the tallest buildings of the world, this is a must see when visiting KL. As with all those modern, magnificent buildings, it’s worth seeing them at night. At dusk, the towers are glamorously lit up and the beautiful KLCC Park behind it offers a fountain show ‘Lake Symphony’ that creates a magical atmosphere. The garden behind Petronas Twin Towers is a very peaceful place to go and seems to be the perfect spot for a little picnic. Those, who’ve been up the towers rave about it, but we just wanted to look at the architecture of the tower from below rather than looking at the city from above.
4. Daytrip to Melaka (aka Malacca)
I know, this activity isn’t actually IN Kuala Lumpur, and actually geographically quite far, but it makes a great day trip if you want to see more of Malaysia in a limited time frame. You can take a bus with super comfortable seats at the coach station in KL that brings you to Melaka in just 2 hours! The historic port city impresses with colonial architecture and little backstreet cafes. At first, starting at the Dutch square felt very touristy, but as we went a bit off the beaten track, we found small vintage cafes, Chinese temples and impressive architecture. The whole town has a unique feel to it and is a contrast to modern, urban city life in KL. Hopefully we can write a separate blog article with more details on that soon!
5. Eat, shop and enjoy!
Probably the best advice that one of our colleagues gave us, was that KL is a city where you can just wonder around, eat lots of delicious Asian food and enjoy the vibrant atmosphere. We loved walking around the Sultan Abdul Samad Building at sunset when all the lights around the river came on and it felt truly magical. It is also true that Kuala Lumpur is great for shopping, especially if you live in China. We visited the Bangsar Shopping Centre, which has been recommended to us, and first we felt like we don’t really want to spend time in a mall on holiday, but then we spent a good hour in a bookshop selecting English books and magazines (which you can’t do in China!) and wondered around a drugstore, buying long forgotten cosmetic items at good prices. Of course, my highlight was a macaroon at TWG at the end of our mall visit and again, we stumbled upon an amazing outdoor restaurant with happy hour cocktails and Moroccan and Turkish style dishes.
So, you can see that if you like Asian food, tropical vibes and sightseeing in a vibrant city, Kuala Lumpur is the place to go!