Alice Sullivan is an aspiring writer currently based in Prague as an English teacher. She has travelled to 25 countries and counting!
Kuala Lumpur is the capital city of Malaysia and was the first destination on my year-long trip backpacking South East Asia. Booking that one-way flight was one of the best decisions I ever made but, in hindsight, we were pretty clueless about the backpacking lifestyle when we first arrived.
Our choice in the hostel could have been better, as I later learned to prioritise the social atmosphere and listen to amazing recommendations on the road. Learning how to find restaurants (most local restaurants wouldn't have a vegetarian option without prior research) and finding some friends to experience the different tourist attractions were skills that came later. Luckily, we still had a fantastic time visiting Kuala Lumpur and easing ourselves into the travel life.
1. Petronas Towers
One of the most recognisable landmarks in KL is the Petronas Towers. I will admit that we didn't actually go to the top of the towers, but a ticket to do that is 80 MYR (about £15). There is a park with a view of the twin towers close-by and it is a pleasant walk through the fountains.
Pro Tip: At the base of the towers, you will see a bunch of guys trying to sell lenses and selfie sticks for your phone. They will let you try out a lens on your phone for free, so that is a good way to get your Instagram shot.
2. KL Forest Eco Park
There is actually a huge green space in the center of KL and it's free to enter! There are multiple trail options including canopies up in the trees. It is definitely worth a visit while in KL.
There are multiple entrances to the park and it can be a little confusing as Google Maps is not my friend when travelling. Maps.me (offline maps) is another option, but we found that the directions were not very reliable either. I am very bad with directions, but we found one eventually!
3. Batu Caves
This is one of the most iconic places you can get to during your trip to Kuala Lumpur. It is only a 30-minute train journey from the city and it is really simple to find. It also only costs 2MYR which is less than 50p. Absolute bargain!
This trip will only take up either a morning or afternoon, but the earlier you go the more likely you can get those Instagram photos. Climb the stairs to visit the temple and see the monkeys around.
What Else Is There to Do in Kuala Lumpur?
- Walk through Jalan Alor. This area has loads of street art. We enjoyed walking around, again getting those Instagram photos. There is a street food night market in this area too! The hawker-style food courts were great because we could get two completely different types of food and still sit together.
- Visit one of the city's many temples. There are Buddhist and Hindu temples, as well as a large mosque. You can learn about the different cultures in the city by doing the self-guided walking tour which takes you to these places by following information plaques and arrows.
- Check out the malls! We did have a day where we just went shopping and we liked the Pavillion mall. They had a really nice dessert cafe. Usually, I would only buy from markets but I hadn't figured out the sizing of clothes yet. As a plus-size woman, it can be incredibly hard to find clothes in Asia and my comfort zone was just a size L from H&M.
- Grab a bite in Little India. The best food, in my opinion, was found in Little India. This applies more if you head to Penang after KL, but the Indian food in Malaysia was incredible. Malaysian Indians account for about 7% of the population and these Indian districts in the cities have amazing food. I could eat Roti Canai all day.
- Sip a cocktail at Heli Lounge Bar. On another day, we went to a bar where you can drink on top of a helipad. From there, you had a view of KL Tower and the Petronas Towers. You have to buy a drink to be allowed entry to the helipad, but the cocktails are amazing and the place had good vibes.
- Climb the KL Tower. I don't really think this experience was worth it. When you climb one of the more impressive parts of a skyline, you are missing out on seeing the building you are in. That said, the views were beautiful!
- Walk Petaling Street. Our hostel was in the Chinatown district. Petaling Street market was a nice spot to walk through, but I found most of the street food options weren't vegetarian and the clothes were much too small for me. It was a good central area to be in, though, and within easy walking distance to the metro system.
I was excited to write about the first spot in our first country on a life-changing trip. It feels like a very long time ago now, but on our second night, I remember sitting on the helipad drinking my cocktail and thinking that I was so lucky and happy to be there. It was the embodiment of my Instagram bio: "All I want to do is travel the world, do fun things, and finish every day with a good cocktail."
Kuala Lumpur has a lot of charm. You can visit temples, you can see the impressive skyscrapers or you can even find the forest tree canopies in the middle of the city. It was a great place to start our trip, and I am glad we got the chance to visit.
© 2020 Alice Sullivan
Liz Westwood from UK on November 21, 2020:
This is a well-illustrated and interesting article. It sounds like you had a great trip.