Around The World Trip: Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

*By Whitney*

Malaysia was the 9th country on our trip!

If you haven’t already, check out my posts on our adventures at the other stops: 

Timeline: October 29-November 4

When we left Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam, we flew to Kuala Lumpur, the capital of Malaysia. We weren’t really sure what to expect because this was in a different area than Thailand, Laos and Vietnam which were all kind of smushed together, and not all too different from each other. We didn’t originally plan to go to Malaysia on this trip, but when we were in Chiang Mai and had to finish booking everything for September-November, we decided to squeeze in a week there. We had heard some recommendations to go outside the mainland of Malaysia to Borneo, but for the sake of not moving around too much we decided just to go to the capital.

Where We Stayed

Accommodations were a little more expensive in the heart of the city, so we went with an Airbnb just a little outside the main tourist area. We stayed in a room within a 4 bedroom condo, where the owner rents out all the rooms, so we got to meet a couple other travelers in our unit. The only downside was sharing the bathroom and living areas, but it wasn’t too bad. Interestingly, I prefer to stay at an Airbnb in someone’s home where the host is there, rather than in the situation we were in, because with the host you have reviews on that person, but with guests you don’t know anything about them.

The condo itself was really nice, with a rooftop pool, a small gym, a restaurant and convenience store in the building. Because there was so much right there, we spent a good amount of time just at the condo. And, unfortunately, the condo was not conveniently located to be able to walk to anywhere, so we pretty much had to get transportation when we wanted to leave because it was off of a main highway. We’re used to staying places where we can walk around a lot, so that was kind of a bummer. There was a commuter rail that was located nearby, which involved about a 10 minute walk on a main road to access. We used that a couple times, but it was not a great experience. The staff member never seemed to be there; the ticket machine was broken; and the trains never ran on time. On top of that, it only went to a few key stops, otherwise you had to get off and connect to a completely different railway, which involved a different rail card than the one we purchased for the commuter line. Overall, even though the trains are cheaper, the easiest way to get around was using Grab (SE Asia’s version of Uber).

Side note: looking back at the pictures below I recalled that it was very rainy the whole time we were there! But it made for some cool views from the condo!

What We Did

Besides lounging at the condo, we did get out to do a little sight seeing around town, but not as much as we normally do because of the lack of easy transportation. And, because we were lazy some of the time. We did spend some time at yet another fancy Asian mall that wasn’t far from where we were staying. This one was called a “mega mall” and it was huge! We went to two movies there as well and enjoyed cheap tickets and popcorn.

The best thing we did in Kuala Lumpur was go to the Batu Caves which is an ancient set of caves where they have built Hindu temples inside. It was a beautiful and fascinating place! We climbed hundreds of colorful stairs and saw lots of wild monkeys. This was I think the first time we’d seen a Hindu temple, and it was amazing.

We also did some sightseeing around the city including visiting the Central Market; the night market; a few famous buildings around town including the Petronas Twin Towers and the Sultan Abdul Samad Building; KLCC park; and the National Monument. We also went to the Malaysian National Museum and learned more about the history of Malaysia.

We had hoped to go on a day trip somewhere outside the city to get a better feel for what Malaysia was like besides the capital, but we honestly drug our feet until the second to last day and it just never happened.

Impression of Malaysia

It was quite different than our experiences in all the other Southeast Asian countries. I think part of the reason was that we were in a big metropolis. If someone came to the United States and only went to Washington DC, I don’t think they’d get a true feel for what America is either. But the other reason it was different was because of the diversity in Malaysia. Unlike Thailand, Laos, and Vietnam where we’d already been, and Cambodia to follow, there is more of a mixing of cultures and heritage in Malaysia. In some ways, it’s like a “melting pot” just like the U.S. We learned in the National Museum that Malaysia has a large immigrant population, and for centuries there have been influences from India, China, Nepal, as well as other areas of Southeast Asia. They now have even more immigrants from other parts of Southeast Asia, Singapore, Europe, and America. Because of this, it was hard for us to see what was really “Malaysian” traditional food and culture while we were there; but I guess in reality, the culture is everything we saw!

Language was also an interesting one there. Usually we try to learn basic greetings in the local language. So we studied a little “Malay” online. But we found that everyone spoke English in Kuala Lumpur. And, even if we wanted to try to throw out our Malay words, how did we know that the person we were talking to spoke Malay? Maybe they were immigrants from India, or Thailand, or Indonesia. So for the week we were there, we ended up just speaking English the whole time.

Overall I wouldn’t say that Kuala Lumpur was on the list of our favorite places we’ve visited. There was nothing wrong with it, we just like a lot of other places in Southeast Asia better. I think next time we would enjoy seeing more of Malaysia outside of the capital.

Next Stop: Siem Reap, Cambodia!

Insider Tips for Kuala Lumpur:

  • US Citizens don’t need a Visa to enter the country for a stay of less than 90 days
  • They drive on left side of road.
  • The currency is the Malaysian Ringgit (exchange rate is approximately 4 ringgit to 1 dollar).
  • Grab is the easiest way to get around.
  • Trains are okay, but keep in mind if you have to use the Komuter rail, it’s different than the main rail systems. If you have to get a card, it will only be valid for the Komuter lines, not the regular lines.
  • Ticket counters at the Komuter line can be hit or miss. At ours near our Airbnb, the clerk was never there and the machine was broken. On more than one occasion we had to get on the train without a ticket, then explain it to them and pay at our destination.
  • Almost everyone speaks English in Kuala Lumpur.
  • In KL you will find a diverse culture, including food, people, architecture, and goods.
  • Not mandatory, but to avoid stares, women may want to cover up more since it is a majority Muslim country.
  • Avoid buying things at the night market in Kuala Lumpur, unless you haggle a lot. There is a huge mark up for items that you can easily find a few blocks away for less.
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