Kuala Lumpur: more than just a stopover

by - Friday, February 19, 2016


We recently had a week off for the Lunar New Year and you know I had to get to gettin'.

Originally I was to visit Bali, Indonesia but those plans fell through. Always one to bounce back, I settled on Phuket, Thailand instead. Settled; guffaw :-)

First of all, I survived four Air Asia flights. Hallelu:

Air Asia Business Class: I'd rate it a B-
Even in Business Class you get nickel and dimed to death.

That's right. I flew AirAsia for the first time, and I flew in Business Class for the lengthy parts of the flights. They were running a great deal from Seoul to nearby regions like Kuala Lumpur for the holiday, so I hopped on it. Again, the plan was to get to Bali from KL, but those tickets sold out extremely fast.

Air Asia Business Class was comfy but ridiculous. It's a budget airline, and they do nickel and dime: you pay extra for prebooking seats, you pay extra for all meals and drinks and you pay for checked baggage. So when the Optiontown offer came through to upgrade to a Premium Flatbed in Business for a really good price, I was all on it. Imagine my disappointment when I learned that nothing in Business was complimentary; like, where they do that at?! I got a complimentary meal but I had to pay extra for all drinks and dessert. I had a chai tea before my meal and later had a Prosecco and butter cookies. The meal was a traditional Malaysian meal, and it was bomb for airplane food. So I will give them that. After my nap (I actually slept on a plane yall!) I was craving the meal, so I paid for an extra one. My meal plus the dessert and libation came out to the equivalent of about $14. Not bad, damn it this is Business Class! I will say those butter cookies were some of the best cookies I have ever, ever, ever had! I will be flying AirAsia again to the Philippines for my birthday in May, hopefully they will have them.

Ramble over: on to the trip deets.

The flight from Seoul to KL is 6+ hours. Since KL was my jump-off point, I began my trip there before heading one hour up to Thailand.

I arrived midday and felt super tired, so I wanted to get to my hotel and rest. I literally had all of the next day to explore since my flight to Thailand didn't leave until the evening.

For the first leg of this trip in KL, I stayed at the Concorde Hotel. I was in walking distance to the central business district, KLCC and Binkit Bintang, all very popular shopping and nightlife areas in the city center.

Unbeknownst to me, I was also walking distance to the Petronas Twin Towers, an AMAZING sight to see in person:

View from my room of the Petronas Twin Towers, nice.

The night time is the absolute right time, for seeing the twin towers that is. Intrigued, I took the 15 minute walk over to see them for myself. Not surprisingly, it was crawling with (presumably) tourists, as it was the Lunar New Year. 

View from the bottom.
Skywalk in the center, which I later learned is accessible to the public as a viewing point, for a fee.

Glowed up

My time at Petronas was cut short. I just don't do well with crowds plus there were several, odd men trying to sell me an iPhone 6+, which I already have, which gave me pause. Time to go. I do think it's better during non-holiday times. I went back during the day, and it was still a lot of people, but nothing like the evening.

Near Petronas, you can shop at KLCC, or Suria Shopping Centre. There were street vendors and high-end vendors all in the same space. 

The next day I went out to see some of the city. Kuala Lumpur has a Hop on Hop Off bus, but the traffic there is so awful you'd fair better creating your own itinerary. It was scorching, ungodly, hell runneth over hot this day, so I settled on getting to the Batu Temple Caves, one of Kuala Lumpur's most famous attractions.

From my hotel, I was able to take the trains to the caves; it was about a 40 minute journey, including wait times.

Lord Murugan, the Hindu God of war & victory, towers over the temples and the caves.

I did not spend much time here since it appeared that there was a religious ceremony of some sort happening while I was there. Also, I heard the monkeys near the cave are savage, so I skipped hiking the 277 steps up to them and went on my merry way instead. Did I mention the heat??

Glowing was a theme on this trip :-)

The Twin Towers and the Caves are a must-do in KL; Malaysian food is also scrumptious, so eat at your heart's desire. If you have the time, the HoHo stops go to all the main attractions but be warned these buses are usually overcrowded and late. You can also do a private tour or create your own using the monorail system.

I would recommend a trip to the KL tower, day or night, for views of Kuala Lumpur from 80 feet in the air. There is also a rotating restaurant at the top.

The KL tower at night. You can pay to go to the top and see views of KL.
There's also a rotating restaurant up top.

As previously mentioned, KL and Malaysia in general have an enormous Muslim population. While I don't believe Islam is the official religion of the region, it is definitely the majority, and one should be mindful of how they're dressed here. The vast majority of the women that I encountered wore an abaya. They're conservative, but not judgmental. Many of their prominent sites are rooted in Islam, and are worth a visit:

Sultan Abdul Samad Building
Jamek Mosque
Istana Budaya Palace of Culture (kinda resembles the Sydney Opera House)

Titiwangsa Lake Gardens are near the palace. You can get some reprieve from the heat there.
KL Sentral Station has massive shopping and eateries, and has a train that zips you to the airport. This is also where you catch the train to the Caves.
Visit Chinatown on an empty stomach.
Hit Bintang Walk for great night life, more food and entertainment.

Now. If I could talk about this AIRPORT right quick. Kuala Lumpur International Airport (KLIA) is one of the best airports I've seen in all my travels. If you love food and shopping, you could easily spend the day here. From Ralph Lauren, Crocs, UniQlo to Hugo Boss stores, this place may as well be a massive mall. There are several, several American eateries such as KFC and Texas Chicken (Church's) but with Malaysian flavor; there's a POPEYE's!! And yes, it is just like the Popeye's in the U.S., unlike the one here in Korea! I also saw a Dairy Queen, two or three Starbucks, McDonald's of course, Dunkin Donuts, several cafes, Burger King, Baskin Robbins, Famous Amos cookies, Johnny Rockets and even a sports bar here and there. You may be thinking "what's the big deal?" but western style eateries are not always this plentiful in the eastern hemisphere. Malaysia has a very large Muslim population, so seeing a sports bar was interesting as well.

Mashed out TWICE here. So very goot.
Tip: international travelers taking the KLIA Ekpres train to the airport should depart at KLIA2

All in all, Kuala Lumpur is a bustling metropolis, and there's a lot to do despite being known as a stopover city in SE Asia. I was really surprised by all that there was to offer. I'm going to figure out a way to get back to KL and Malaysia in general to spend more time in both places, especially since the won does well there.

Just as soon as I figure out when their cooler months are, I will be back!

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