IN TRANSIT: A Kuala Lumpur walkabout

During my trip to Kathmandu, Nepal in July 2016, I had to transit in Kuala Lumpur twice since there are no direct flights from Manila. I was actually excited to have a stopover in the city since my last time in KL was in November 2013 and I wanted to catch up with some friends there.

On the way to Nepal, I had 16 hours in between flights. I decided to stay in the airport and save money since I had a longer time in the city on the way back home. As a solo backpacker, I’ve gotten used to sleeping in airports. I’ve done it in Manila, Vietnam, and Sri Lanka – and for this trip, I did it Kuala Lumpur International Airport.

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I love how Kuala Lumpur International Airport utilizes natural lighting.

I arrived at around 1AM in KLIA2 and was easily able to find a good quiet spot to nap in. I woke up to the airport buzz after 5 hours, refreshed and ready to do some more waiting. There are a lot of good restaurants in the airport so I was able to get a hearty breakfast. 

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Nothing like hot teh tarik from Old Town White Coffee to wake you up in the morning.

The 16 hours went by fast – partly because I had a good book with me – and before I knew it, I was on board my Malindo Air flight to Kathmandu! (READ: How to get a Nepal tourist visa on arrival)

Kuala Lumpur, a second time around

On the way back, I decided to stay in KL for 2 full days. During my first trip to the city in 2013, I wasn’t able to visit some of the city’s tourist spots during daylight. I didn’t have a picture in the Petrona Towers nor in Merdeka Square.

I arrived in KL Main Terminal at 5am and had to wait until 9am to catch a bus to the city. I booked a room in Ceria Bukit Bintang Hotel, which was right in the center of the bustling Malaysian capital.

Since I arrived in my hotel 2 hours too early I decided to get lunch in Petaling Street before checking in.

As I walked through the center of KL, I realized how I missed Malaysia. I missed the smell of satay and Malaysian curry in the streets of Petaling, and the cheap shops that sell every kind of souvenir. The city’s unique blend of its major races is so apparent in every corner and street.

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Petaling Street is one of the famous shopping areas for tourists in Kuala Lumpur.

From Petaling Street, I walked to the iconic Merdeka Square, where the Malaysian flag was hoisted for the first time in 1957. There was a food fair when I went there so there were many tourists and locals roaming around despite the hot midday sun.

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The Sultan Abdul Samad Building In front of Merdeka Square.

I wanted to enter Masjid Jamek, one of the oldest mosques in Malaysia, but unfortunately, it was under renovation when I visited. My only good view of the mosque was from across the confluence of the Gombak and Klang rivers.

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Masjid Jamek

After Merdeka Square, I decided to go back to my hotel to check in. I told myself I’d take a nap but it ended up a 4-hour sleep. I was really exhausted since I didn’t get to sleep in the 5-hour flight that morning – it was hellish because of the turbulence.

To end my first day, I had dinner with a friend in the food court inside Berjaya Times Square, which was really near myhotel. This is where my family and I shopped for shoes in 2013 so it was nostalgic to go around the mall.

A walking tour

After a good night’s rest, I was all set for my walkabout. My first destination was KLCC, where the Petronas Towers are. It took me around 30 minutes to walk from Ceria Bukit Bintang to the sight. It was a good exercise though and it was worth it after I saw the Petronas Towers.

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The twin towers of Malaysia.

I must have taken almost a hundred selfies in the towers. Afterwards, I went inside the KLCC mall and looked for a good restaurant. I remembered having our first meal in Nando’s when we arrived in 2013 so I looked for the place. Nando’s Peri-Peri chicken is a must-try fast food chain in Malaysia and I heartily recommend it to anyone visiting.

From Petronas Towers, my next stop was the National Musuem of Malaysia. This was halfway across the city, a good 4-km walk. If you’re not the walking type, there are trains across Kuala Lumpur. Walking is just my way to immerse myself in a country’s culture, and I enjoy the sights of the streets. Besides, I was mulling over some life decisions then and walking helps me think better.

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I passed by the National Mosque of Malaysia on the way to the museum.

The entrance to the National Museum of Malaysia cost MYR 5. This is another place we weren’t able to visit back in 2013. Back then, I didn’t have much appreciation for museums so we prioritized shopping – as most tourists usually do in KL.

The National Museum featured Malaysia’s story – from the stone age to its ancient glory as one of the biggest trading ports in the southeast to how it became an Asian tiger. There were a lot of good exhibits about the country’s political system (sultanate) and how it transformed through time.

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One of the many exhibits inside the National Museum.

A note about walking in Kuala Lumpur: the weather here is unpredictable. One minute you’re getting sunburnt and the next, you’re drenched in heavy rain. This is what happened to me after my trip to the museum. There was a heavy downpour that got me stuck in the museum for an hour. After it cleared, I had to go back to my hotel and get my things. I took a train this time because there was still a drizzle.

Before I left for the airport, I met with another Malaysian friend in NU Sentral. Zakwan is a youth leader I met way back in Bangkok in November 2012. Four years after, we’re already thriving in our own careers. We talked mostly about the change we wanted to see in our countries and how hard it was to keep one’s idealism in the real world. It was just the right conversation I needed to end my Nepal-KL self-reflection.

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My good friend  and fellow YSEALI fellow Zakwan.

As we ended dinner, he invited me to come back to KL – this beautiful metropolitan city that is one of the regional centers of Southeast Asia. I thought to myself and said to him smiling, “I know I’ll come back here again many times in the future.”

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