[This post was first posted in Rappler. See: 10 places to see in Kuala Lumpur]
Kuala Lumpur (KL) is a city of rapid socio-economic and cultural development. It serves as an iconic symbol of Malaysia’s future as well as the future of the region. It boasts of 8.9 million tourists a year, making it among the most visited cities in the world.
The city is a cultural mixing pot of Malaysia’s 3 races – Malays, Chinese, Indians. It’s very Southeast Asian because of its service-driven economy, and yet it’s very Western because of its developed infrastructure.
Last November, I visited KL with my family, staying with our relatives based there. Here are 10 places in KL that I recommend especially when traveling with your family.
Culture, history, religion
Located near KL Sentral Station, Little India (Brickfields) serves as a center to the Indian population of the city. It is also a famous destination for tourists who want to explore Indian culture and tradition.
We visited Little India 2 days before the Deepavali Festival (Festival of Lights) so we were able to witness the festive spirit of the Hindus – shops were on sale, lively Indian music was playing, and fireworks were sold on the streets.
For those who want to buy Indian clothing and try authentic Indian cuisine, Little India is the place to go to. Visiting the place transports you from the bustling center of Malaysia to one of the streets of India. It’s as if you visited another country!
Another Indian heritage site in KL, Batu Caves (Rock Caves in English) is the most famous Hindu temple in Malaysia and is dedicated to the Lord Murugan. Indians frequently go here to practice Hindu religious rites.
At the base of the mountain is a temple where tourists can enter to get their blessings from Hindu priests. There are 3 shrines inside, one for each of the 3 prime gods of Hinduism – Brahman, Vishnu and Shiva.
After going through the temple below, you can go up 276 steps to get to the Temple Cave on top of the mountain. The cave walls are filled with different Hindu shrines that tell stories of Hindu gods. There are no fees to enter any of the temples but donations are accepted in the shrines.
A word of caution: Be careful with the monkeys. They tend to grab food items from guests. My mom and I were victims to this.
Merdeka Square is famous as a historical and recreational park in KL. It is in this place where the Malayan flag was first hoisted in 1957. The wide and green field beside the square makes it a good picnic spot and a spacious playground for kids.
The vicinity of the square is also home to many historical buildings in KL that tourists can visit. Among these are the Old KL Train Station, Galeri Kuala Lumpur, Royal Selangor Club Complex, and the Sultan Abdul Samad Building.
I recommend going to Merdeka at night. The well-lit vicinity and the cool night breeze makes it a good place to rest and relax after a busy day going around KL.
Malacca is not inside KL but is nearby. It is actually the 3rd smallest state of Malaysia, located 150 km southeast of KL. It is also known as “The Historic State” because of its rich cultural and historical heritage.
During the time of their colonization of Malacca, the Portuguese and the Dutch made the city their port because of its geographic location. This is why there are many European-like infrastructure – old churches, forts and houses– that can be found there.
Among the famous attractions in Malacca are the river cruise, which costs around MYR 15 for tourists, Fort A Famosa, and the Malacca Tower, which gives tourists a 360 degree panoramic view of the entire city for MYR 20.
We got to Malacca by private car so I’m not sure how to get there by public transportation. I heard you can go to Malacca from KL for a day trip by bus. The price range is from MYR 13 to MYR 15.
A visit to KL is incomplete if you do not go to the towering skyscrapers in the city. I recommend these two because of their iconic significance and the majestic view that they offer.
Standing at 421 meters above the ground, Menara KL is the 7th tallest telecommunication tower in the world and the tallest one in Southeast Asia. The tower is mainly used for communication and broadcasting purposes but it has also become a tourist attraction for its height.
Tourists can pay MYR 30 to go up to the observation deck (276 meters) for a 360-degree view of the city. Souvenir shops are also located on the observation deck. Above the observation deck is a rotating restaurant which serves fine dining meals and drinks.
The other attractions in Menara KL are the traditional Malay village, the Blue Coral Aquarium, and the Formula 1 shop, all located at the base of the tower.
The Petronas Twin Towers is, perhaps, the most iconic building in Malaysia. It held the record of being the world’s tallest buildings from 1998 to 2004, until Taipei 101 was built. (Read: 9 places to visit in Taipei)
At the base of the building is the KLCC mall and park, which are famous shopping and recreation centers in the city, respectively. Those who want to go up the towers can go to the skybridge (558 ft above the ground) that connects the 2 towers or the observation deck (360 meters above). It is not easy to get a ticket since they are limited to 1,000 people per day. You’ll have to line up at the earliest possible time to get a slot. Plus, you have to pay around MYR 80.
Don’t worry though if you were not able to go up the towers. You can always shop in the KLCC mall!
Speaking of shopping, your vacation to Kuala Lumpur won’t be complete without it. After all, KL like Bangkok, Taipei, and Seoul are highly regarded as shopping capitals in the region. Aside from Little India and KLCC, here are other famous and cheap places to shop in KL.
Chinatown KL, found at Petaling Jaya street, is a famous shopping place for tourists and locals alike. Everything can be found here – from keychains to clothes to bags. The best part about Chinatown is that you can haggle with the storekeepers. With the right skills, you can get something for half the original price that it was offered.
If shopping here made you tired, you can always go to one of the tea shops in the area offering exquisite Chinese tea.
A few meters away from Chinatown and you can see the Sentral Market. This is another famous shopping place for tourists. This is also where you buy traditional Malaysian batik and other Malaysian artifacts.
Chocolates are also sold cheapest here compared to all the places I’ve visited in KL. We actually bought 5 kilos worth of chocolates in here alone. Prices in the Sentral Market, as compared to those in Chinatown, are fixed. There is very little space for haggling but the quality of the products are much better.
For shoe lovers, this mall is a paradise! There are many shops inside that offer discounted prices for original shoes. You can choose from a wide variety of shoes here – from their local brands to imported ones.
Aside from shoes, clothes are also sold cheaper here for the same quality. There are also many restaurants inside that offer food from different regions of the world.
Lastly, I recommend that tourists go to Bukit Bintang. The entire district is full of shopping malls that sell branded and high-end products. Much like Seoul’s Myeongdong district, this is the place to shop for original make-up, branded bags, and imported clothes. There are also a number of good restaurants in the district so you can take a break whenever you like.
If you’re tired of going around the city and shopping, you can always go to Changkat Bukit Bintang. It’s a whole street of night bars and clubs where you can party and drink. Alcohol is expensive in Malaysia but partying in KL is something definitely worth trying.
There are many more places to visit and things to do in KL that I wasn’t able to cover. For one, I wasn’t able to go Putrajaya or see the beautiful Muslim mosques in the city. Definitely, this city deserves a second visit.
Terima kasih, KL! AM+DG!