One week in Kuala Lumpur
Kuala Lumpur (KL) was by no means a lock in our around the world travel plans, however, if the flight prices were right and time allowed, we decided that we’d definitely stop by and visit the home of the, not so long ago, tallest buildings on earth. I’m talking about the famous Petronas Towers or ‘Twin Towers’ as they are commonly called in Asia.
Well, the stars aligned and we ended up spending a week there. Yes, a whole week. Many people asked why on earth we needed a whole week and rightfully so. You can certainly rush to take in the sights of one of Asia’s most cosmopolitan cities in a weekend, but we had some time to kill so decided to find nice accommodations with our main criteria being a pool, where we could split our time relaxing and taking in the sights.
Similar to a day we had way back in September in Prague, we spent one full day watching movies. With the exception of an hour spent at the pool, the entire day was spent on the couch. Why? Because we could!
The Petronas Towers were on the top of my list and they didn’t disappoint. Yes, they are just massive skyscrapers, but for me, they represented this city. I had no idea where KL was until I watched a documentary about the world’s tallest buildings way back in the early 2000s.
Ever since then, I wanted to see them in real life. Our accommodations actually had a view of the towers from its 31st floor balcony. We visited the towers a couple of times, but opted not to visit the sky bridge that connects the towers at the 41st and 42nd floors as you can’t actually get a view from there anyway. The twin towers are visible from just about everywhere in the city and are most notable at night as they are covered from top to bottom in lights.
Located just north of the city centre are the Batu Caves, which are set in a limestone hill. The caves are said to be more than 400 million years old and home to one of the biggest Hindu shrines outside of India.
It turned out that our visit to Batu Caves would also involve witnessing Thaipusam, which is an annual Hindu festival that involves a pilgrimage and takes place not just in Malaysia, but other countries such as Singapore, Indonesia and India. In KL, people come from all over to make the trek from the City Centre to Batu Caves. They will often carry ‘kadavis’, like the boy in the picture below, while others will carry silver jugs of milk on their heads. Some even place hooks in their flesh.
The procession can take up to eight hours and ends with a climb of the 272 stairs and finally, through the entrance of the caves. It was incredible to witness, with a lot of music, drumming and dancing along the way.
Eating in Kuala Lumpur
Kuala Lumpur might not be recognized as the healthiest city in the world (many cars have a McDonald’s Drive-thru ‘VIP’ sticker in the front window), but it could be the most flavourful. Reason being, it is made up almost equally of people of Chinese, Malay, and Indian descent. Needless to say, there is endless selection of cuisines from those countries plus a mix of restaurants combining any number of them. One in particular that we visited a couple of times was Pelita. Pelita was close to our condo, was cheap and most importantly, delicious. The order: two young coconut and two Masala Dosa, please.
Our Airbnb host, Sean, drove us to the grocery store as soon as we checked in. This was a godsend for us because getting anywhere in KL without your own car is an absolute nightmare. Taxis will only take you if it is convenient for them, or in a direction that they want to go. Anyway, that evening, Sean and his wife invited us for dinner at a local steam boat restaurant and brought us to a local night market, the Taman Connaught Pasar Malam.
If you haven’t heard of steam boat, it consists of cooking your meat and veggies in boiling water or broth, right at your table. You shop for your meat and veggies, just like at a grocery store then the waiter brings them to your table where you cook them yourself. We’d have never found this place ourselves!
As for the night market, was it ever local. We were definitely the only tourists there, and it was packed. I tried some local food like the oyster omelette, but stayed away from the ‘stinky’ tofu, which you could smell for what felt like a mile away.
It was an authentic Malaysian experience that we will never forget. Thanks again to Airbnb and to our amazing hosts!
Gluten Free in KL
We weren’t sure what to expect in terms of gluten-free eats in KL, but upon arrival at the airport, Jess was in her glee. There was a grocery store in the arrivals area that was FULL of gluten-free products. As we had access to a kitchen during the majority of our stay, we cooked most of our meals, and found a lot of gluten-free goods at two grocery stores – Cold Storage and Village Grocer.
When we weren’t cooking for ourselves or eating Masala Dosa at Pelita, there were plenty of Nando’s restaurants around town. Nandos’ online menu clearly indicates which items are gluten free (which includes all of their sauces!).
While we didn’t have much luck finding gluten-free local food, there was no shortage of delicious eats during the week.
Heli Lounge Bar
Our condo was about a 15-minute ride into the center of KL, however our last two nights were spent at the JW Marriott KL right in the city center, thanks to a sponsored stay. We spent most of that time at the hotel pool, but we did take time to visit Heli Lounge Bar, where we had a panoramic view of the city including both the twin towers and the communications tower.
Heli Lounge Bar is situated on the roof (literally) of the Menara KH office building in KL City Center with only a tiny rope railing, like the ones used for the check-in lanes at the airport, separating you from the ground below. It is free to get in, but in order to access the rooftop, you must buy a drink. The view is great, but I would definitely check out one of the several other ‘sky bars’ in KL on a return visit.
All in all, we are glad we got to see Kuala Lumpur and most importantly, to experience Batu Caves during Thaipusam. We will also remember our gracious hosts, Sean and his wife, for treating us to an awesome night of Malaysian culture.
So, yes, you can do KL in a few days, but then there’s no time for a movie day!
jess + trickett