A Traveler's Guide to Kuala Lumpur Attractions and Sightseeing
Find out some interesting things to do in Kuala Lumpur, the second largest city in Malaysia – from an "Entrapment" style experience at the Petronas Twin Towers to strolling around the exquisite landscaped gardens of Lake Garden. Batu Caves is a not-to-be-missed attraction, and for those interested in visiting local places, try Little India or Chinatown to sample some excellent quality street food or shop for unique bargains.
Having travelled to Malaysia recently and spent a week in Kuala Lumpur, checking out the attractions from recommended tourist spots to off-the-beaten track sights, I’d like to share with you my pick of cheap, yet fascinating things to do in Kuala Lumpur to enhance your holiday.
Petronas Twin Towers
The Petronas Twin Towers, as seen in the movie “Entrapment” (starring Sean Connery and Catherine Zeta-Jones) are known throughout the world as THE major landmark of Kuala Lumpur. If you plan to visit the Twin Towers, find out from your hotel or tourist info place about getting there early, in order to take advantage of the 1,000 free tourist tickets given away each day (yes, couples can get a free ticket for each person). By early, I mean before 8am. The earlier the better, as there’s a very long queue involving sitting for two hours on the floor before being admitted. Whether you pay or get in for free, you’ll still have to go through the same queue, so you might as well try for the free entry. You’ll get bored, so take a walkman, a book or some other distraction.
But it’s worth the boredom to be escorted up to an amazing view by security guards carrying guns and giving you a brief but succinct tour speech about the architecture and lifts in the Towers. Looks just like the views from the movie and you get the feeling of wanting to conduct a bank heist there to see the Tower security features in action.
A holiday in Kuala Lumpur would not be complete without a visit to Batu Caves – home of Hindu religion in the region. You’ll need a taxi for a few hours to travel there (or there is a bus service) – negotiate a taxi price for the whole trip as opposed to per hour. If you get a nice taxi driver, he’ll give you a free tour as well (Indian taxi drivers know all about the religion and will happily share it with you).
I first saw Batu Caves featured in a television documentary, where everyone pierced their bits in a competition for self-mutilation during the festival of Thaipusam. However, I decided to avoid the crowds and climb the 272 steps with less obstruction so I went out of season. I’m pretty good on stairs but was panting by the top in the humid Malaysian weather. You do get rewarded with a great view though, and some interesting limestone caves to walk through before reaching the ultimate surprise – a Hindu Shrine with hourly services in Temple Cave.
Everywhere on the stairs and in the caves are small Malaysian monkeys helping themselves to leftover tourist snacks. I saw monkeys eating bananas, potato chips and one even drinking leftover coke from a can! At the base of Batu Caves is a huge tourist market with street food, gifts, a Hindu Art Gallery Cave and Museum Cave and an Indian music school. You have to pay for the Hindu Art Gallery, but if you are visiting with an Indian taxi driver who will provide a tour, you’ll reap the full benefit of finding out more about complex Indian religion and practices. Plus, the Hindu Art Gallery offers a great photo opportunity with beautiful surroundings and ponds of goldfish (you can buy a cheap bag of pellets to feed them).
As a bonus, I asked my taxi driver where he'd like to go for lunch and he took me to a great little Indian cafe with good prices and banana leaf platters - much better than the rip-off tourist fast food vans at the front.
Menara Kuala Lumpur (KL Tower)
For sweeping photo shoots of the city, visit Menara Tower, otherwise known as KL Tower. It’s the second tallest freestanding tower in the world and contains a revolving restaurant as well. The entry price for the tower is a bit steep at A$20-A$40 per person, but for this you get a 360 degree view of Kuala Lumpur on the observation deck.
There’s a “tallest tower” display, free fixed binocular stands and some tourist shops to buy souvenirs. At the base of the tower and possibly included in your ticket will be a mini zoo, “pony rides”, and car gaming. Everywhere I went in Malaysia I was offered “pony rides” from men on the beach to places like the Menara…something to do for the kids I guess…
Where to go shopping in KL
- Kuala Lumpur Shopping: A Shopaholic's Guide to Exciting Purchases in KL, Malaysia
If you’re a shopaholic looking for places to shop in Kuala Lumpur, you’ve come to the right place! There's quite a few shopping malls in KL...
If you’re looking for a half day of very cheap entertainment, you can’t go past the gem that is Lake Gardens. It’s a fair walk from Kuala Lumpur, or you can catch a bus or taxi there. For just AU$4, you get entry to the whole park, containing 91.6 hectares of landscaped, ornate gardens that are breathtaking. There are also many attractions inside the Gardens, some of which you pay for and many which are free, including the National Monument, Deer Park, Butterfly Park, Bird Park, Carcosa Seri Negara, The Forest Research Institute, Orchid Garden and Hibiscus Garden (containing Malaysia's national flower - the Hibiscus).
The first place I visited (upon the recommendation of my sister) was the Butterfly Park. Now, in Malaysia you are going to run into a lot of Butterfly Parks but this one in particular is pretty good because it has a large insect museum, containing enormous spiders and beetles, and the best selection of souvenirs I saw in Malaysia. At AU$15 for the entry, it was a little pricey, but I felt that the museum was worth paying for and the butterfly park itself was a standard size with the standard native Malaysian species of butterflies.
After the Butterfly Park, I visited the Hibiscus Garden, set in beautiful and exquisite gardens that you can wander around in. I even found a gorgeous temple, tucked away inside, which looked like something you’d only see in a fantasy game like Myst. Absolutely stunning and a must-see!
After a lot of walking to explore these these two attractions, along with countless gardens on the way, I was completely worn out and my legs ached. It only goes to show that the size of Lake Gardens will satisfy any traveller looking to relax in tranquil surroundings for a few hours or a day.
Merdeka Square (Independence Square)
Merdeka Square is a large square (although you probably guessed that) in front of the Sultan Abdul Samad Building and is surrounded by buildings of interesting Moorish architecture, including the Royal Selangor Club and the National History Museum. Beware the busloads of tourists which stop here hourly for photo opportunities - they're in a hurry! While it's not the biggest card in the deck for Kuala Lumpur tourism, there's plenty of room for everyone to admire the 100 metre high flagpole signifying Malaysian independence from British rule in 1957.
© 2013 Suzanne Day