Our trip to Malaysia starts in Kuala Lumpur, where we visit famous sights. We shop in Chinatown, wear a sarong at Hindustan temples, admire gold in Buddhist temples, eat delicious Indian food, and take pictures with the ‘I love KL’ sign at Merdeka Square. At night we watch the sunset from the Heli Lounge, enjoy the watershow at Petronas Towers and eat local street food. We hop on the train to Batu Caves and use Uber to get to Kanching Falls. Then by bus to Kuala Selangor, to visit famous Monkey Hill and see the fire flies by boat at night.
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We land in the middle of the night at Kuala Lumpur airport, Malaysia, and we’ve booked a hostel at about 30 minutes from here. After we collect our bags and get our free 3-month visa stamp, we get an Uber to the hostel. We have a private dorm at the Step Inn Guest House, which was the same price as two beds in a dorm. It’s a big, simple, but neat hostel and it’s nice that we don’t have any room mates that will wake up because of us. We booked beforehand on booking.com (click here for a $15 discount!), so we don’t have to look for a place to sleep in the middle of the night. Of course you do have to keep in mind to book a hostel with a 24 hours reception, otherwise you probably won’t get in.
In the morning we eat as much as we can from the free breakfast so we don’t have to eat again any time soon. Then it’s time to explore the city. I did some research on the internet and put some points of interest in my Maps.me app. Kuala Lumpur isn’t the standard Asian capital. It’s still quite cosy, despite it’s large size. What you notice immediately is the Islamic architecture. Of course we already knew this from Java, but here it’s a lot more than just some mosques. A lot of other buildings also have the well-known ‘dome’.
It’s not hard to see most of the points of interest on foot, but because it can be very hot in Kuala Lumpur, it might be worth it to catch a bus every now and then. If you’re lucky you can even catch one of the free buses, which are the pink ones. They even have free WiFi! The easiest way to find out which bus to take is to ask the driver.
Our hostel is very close to Chinatown, so this is where we begin our sightseeing tour. Chinatown in Kuala Lumpur is basically only one street with a very nice, Chinese decorated entrance and exit. In this car-free street you’ll find a market with mostly fake brand stuff, like ‘Gucci’ bags, ‘Prada’ shoes, Hhilfiger’ clothes and ‘Rolexes’. The salesmen and -women are quite annoying, since they keep asking if you need any of their stuff. If they see you walking around with a random bag they immediately yell “bag, yes, you need bag I have!”. If you’re lucky you can walk past them without them pulling your arm.
From Chinatown we walk to the Sri Maha Mariamman Temple, a large, Hindustan temple. You can only enter without shoes and wearing a sarong. You have to store your shoes next door for a small price, but then you get the sarong for free. The temple is quite old I think, because all of the colours used to decorate the statues are faded. In the middle of the temple there’s an altar with a nice statue of a Hindu God, which is still colourful and well maintained, probably because it’s not exposed to sunlight. In a small room we find a collection of little stone statues, decorated by fresh flowers, made into necklaces. Later we see that local men make these necklaces just around the corner. The flowers are used as a sacrifice to the Hindu Gods, together with scented candles. They immediately get replaced when they don’t look nice any more, so making the necklaces is big business.
When we exit the temple we walk a little bit further and see the Guan Di temple. This is a Buddhist temple, full of gold and bright colours, mostly red and yellow. It reminds me of the Chinese culture. There’s incense burning everywhere and in the back of the temple is Buddha statue, surrounded by coloured flowers and fresh fruits. These are offers for Buddha that people bring by every day.
We have some lunch at one of the many Indian restaurants. Since there’s so many Indians here, their food is well represented. It’s a little bit spicy, but so very delicious. It’s an absolute must, to have some Indian food when you’re in Kuala Lumpur. We especially love it because we’ve had so much rice and noodles, that we’re happy to eat some roti (bread). The food is very cheap, together our two meals didn’t even cost us 2 euros.
Merdeka Square and Sultan Abdul Samad Building
We walk some more towards Merdeka Square, which was quite tricky to get to, because of all the construction work in the city. Kuala Lumpur clearly is developing quickly. Merdeka Square is a large, green square marked with the largest flag of Malaysia. From here you have a pretty nice view on the Sultan Abdul Samad Building, which looks very much like a palace. It’s huge and it has beautiful Islamic architecture. Unfortunately we can’t see it from the inside because it’s closed.
Close to Merdeka Square you find the Kuala Lumpur National Gallery. Outside you can make the famous picture with the I LOVE KL sign. Not the most original picture because it’s very touristic and cliché, but still fun to make.
Via St. John’s Cathedral and some street art (both not really worth a visit, but this way you can follow our route in Maps.me) we walk towards the Heli Lounge, a bar located at a Helipad which opens up at 6 pm. During daytime the platform is used for helicopter landings, but at night this becomes a very popular tourist spot to watch the sunset. The entrance is free but you are advised to make reservations to get a nice spot in the front. If you don’t make reservations you should get there early like we did, which is around 5pm. At the top level there’s a bar where you can have some drinks while waiting for the Sky Bar to open. The Heli Lounge can be found in the Menara KH building. Upon entering, security will point you in the right direction. They instantly notice that we are tourists and that we’re here for the Heli Lounge, haha. The sunset is definitely worth it, as the sun sets behind KL tower and the Petronas towers, which are both very close.
Water show@ Symphony Lake, Petronas Towers
We continue our walk towards Petronas Towers, the newest towers of Kuala Lumpur, that look modern and shiny because of their architecture. Right in front of the towers there’s a lake with a water show every night at 8pm, and then every half hour. The best place to take nice pictures is from the park side, this way you will see the towers in the background or have the colours and reflections of the towers in the water. We really liked the show and it’s definitely worth a visit.
Jalan Alor Food Street
All this walking has worked our appetite, so we decide to visit one of many food markets, the Jalan Alor Food Street. Most food markets open at night, so sometimes you’ll find one on your map, but there’s nothing to find during the day. Walking the food street is really a sensation of scents, from barbecued meat to durian, a strong smelling fruit which is very popular here (we don’t really like it though).
In this street you can choose to have a ‘fancy’ dinner in one of the many restaurants. Food is very cheap everywhere and a lot of people come here to really stock up, foodwise. While we’re having trouble finishing our small portions of beehun, the people next to us each order a large portion of Bami goreng, a large portion of sea food each, a fried fish and 2 portions of vegetable curry to go with the beehun. We are truly amazed and wonder where they put all this food.
If you don’t feel like waiting for your food in a restaurant you could also get some fast food at any of the small food stands here. Even cheaper and just as good. The major advantage is that you get small portions and can try a lot of different things. For us it’s time to get to bed, since we’ve been exploring the city for over 12 hours already.
We check out at our hostel and head for our next stop. A luxurious apartment in the Regalia Residence with and infinity pool on the roof and a view on the entire city. We found this through Airbnb. It’s quite cheap, only 20 Euros, but for us this is almost a full day budget. But it sure is worth it for once, with 2 swimming pools, a gym and a super fancy apartment. And hey, we are still on vacation so sometimes we get to spoil ourselves a bit. This also is one of the few possibilities to swim in a rooftop infinity pool in Kuala Lumpur, because all hotels and residences that have one, have a ‘guest only’ policy. Even if you want to pay for just swimming, you are denied access.
During daytime we visit Batu Caves, a huge cave that takes half an hour to get to by train. According to the internet there should be lots of monkeys, but unfortunately we only see a few at the train station on the way back. For us the huge, free cave was quite disappointing. All ruined by tourism. Inside the cave you find lots of electricity cables, ugly lampposts and stands selling food, drinks and souvenirs. A real shame.
There’s also a dark cave that you can visit. Here you can do a guided tour to see spiders and bats. Most people that got out were quite enthusiastic about it, but spare our budget a little bit, we skipped it. It was getting late already anyway and we didn’t feel like paying to go inside a dark and dusty cave to disturb the animals with our flash lights.
Close to the train station there’s another cave though, that looks quite interesting from the outside, with a huge statue at the front, so we decided to go in here. The entrance is only a few ringgit and the inside of the cave is nice. Even though it’s fully decorated with drawings and figures depicting a Hindu story (at least that’s what we think). On the bright side, there are hardly any tourists here and inside the cave it’s nice and cool. In the evening we see the sunset from our infinity pool and of course have a swim and take lots of pictures.
Berjaya Times Square
On our last day in Kuala Lumpur we meet a friendly guy. through Couchsurfing Hangouts, named Samir. We get along pretty well and the afternoon seems to fly by. We go to Berjaya Times Square Mall, which is inspired by Times Square, New York. Every story in the building has it’s own New York theme, from Central Park to down town New York. There’s even an indoor attraction park with a rollercoaster! Really funny to see and definitely worth a visit with kids. In the evening we go to Mika’s place, a friend of Samir who has offered to host us for the night.
Mika welcomes us “with open arms and an open heart” as she likes to say herself. We have some nice conversations and a lot of fun together and therefore we decide to stay another night at her place. She’s so generous, she even got us breakfast and we really should make ourselves feel at home and eat ice cream haha. She also has some great advice about where we should go today: Kanching Falls. About 20 kilometres north of Kuala Lumpur. Here we see a lot of monkeys with a lot of babies and they are very cheeky as well. As soon as we put our bag down and reach inside, the monkeys show up out of every corner, curious to see what kind of food comes out of the bag. You really have to be careful when leaving your bag unattended, because if it stays unattended for too long, the monkeys will take it, open it up and play with your belongings.
From Kuala Lumpur, our next stop is Kuala Selangor, about an hour by bus from the city. It’s a small town where a lot of locals go to escape the busy city. We are lucky that the weekend has just ended, so all of the hotels have vacancies again. On the other hand the village feels quite abandoned. Besides the 3 major attractions here there is absolutely nothing to do.
At the coast there’s Monkey Hill (Bukit Kalawati), the only mountain in this village, which is known for the large number of monkeys. There are 2 types of monkeys here, Silver Leaf Monkeys, with beautiful orange young, and long tail Macaques. During the day all monkeys are hanging around here because there are many tourists coming up to feed them.
The Silver Leaf, in contrary to the Macaques, are very polite and non aggressive. They gently wait for you to hand them some food, gently take this from you and then sit next to you while eating. If you hold the food up high they jump on your shoulder and eat the banana there. Macaques on the other hand, they just take the food. If you carry a bag that contains any food, make sure to hold it high and tight, otherwise a macaque will run by and snatch it, eating everything inside. You can of course also feed them, but if they think it takes too long they will start growling and maybe even bite.
Since the macaques eat all kinds of stuff, even trash, a bit from one of them should be followed by paying a visit to the doctor to get an injection. The Silver Leaf on the other hand are vegetarian, love green bananas and they don’t bite. If you do get bitten though, it’s harmless. At least that is what a local guy here told us. He’s has been ‘working’ with the monkeys over 35 years. He knows a lot of them by character like the king and the kissing monkey, a Silver leaf that he taught to kiss people in exchange for a banana. It sounds very funny, but unfortunately he wasn’t around this time. Silver leafs apparently are very sharing. You are allowed to touch or even hold their babies and they would just sit next to you and observe or eat some food. If you were to touch a Macaque baby, it would be instantly killed by the mother once it gets back to her. At least I think it was the Macaque species, but to be safe, don’t ever touch any of the baby monkeys!
Kuala Selangor Nature Park
Another tourist attraction is at the foot of Monkey Hill; Kuala Selangor Nature Park. At first sight this looks like accommodation, which it is as well, but when entering the park you can follow a jungle track through the abandoned park. The track takes you through dense forests and swampy areas. Make sure to wear some mosquito repellent when you go here, even during the day. It’s easy to spend a full day in this park because it is quite big. If you do, bring some food and drinks, because in the park you can only get this at the entrance.
The third and final attraction we visit at night, the Kampung Kuantan Fireflies. We take an Uber there, who even waits for us to come back. You can rent a boat for 4 people (if you are less than 4, it’s cheaper to find more people to fill up the boat) to take you up the river searching for fireflies for about 20 minutes. This is fairly easy because you can see their flashing lights in almost every bush. They look like a huge line of Christmas lights! Despite the many tourists, this attraction is quite fun, also because the money raised goes to the protection of the fireflies. It wasn’t even that expensive. Only 53 ringgit for the boat.
Well, after all this city sightseeing it’s time to see some nature. Tomorrow we are heading out by local bus towards Cameron Highlands, known for their tea plantations.