Of all of the countries we’ve visited in Asia so far, Malaysia has been my favorite, second only to Vietnam. It’s hard to explain exactly why that is, there’s no concrete reason, but between KL, the Cameron Highlands and Penang I absolutely fell in love with this country.
We started our adventure in Kuala Lumpur (KL), which is as easy and obvious a place to start as it gets. The biggest city in Malaysia, KL is known for food, incredible shopping, and fantastic city tours. If you’re spending some time in this metropolis, here are a few ideas to kick off your stay.
This is just a reoccurring theme with our posts from Asia so far but we can’t help it - the food here is such a huge part of their culture and it’s so. damn. good.
The classic hunting around until you find a restaurant you like will serve you well here - you’ve got endless options. But if you’re looking for cheap eats in KL, you’re going to want to check out one of two places: the street markets or the malls.
Sounds weird to say, but the malls in the major cities throughout Asia have absolutely bomb ass food. The food courts are enormous, relatively inexpensive, and you can find almost anything you want and chances are it’ll be delicious. If you’re like us and have a hard time with the daytime heat in Asia (shit is intense) then the mall is the perfect place to cool off, maybe swap a few items out of your backpack, and grab a delicious meal.
The mall we haunted was called Pavilion, but there’s also The Gardens Mall, Fahrenheit88, Suria KLCC and more. If you do take my rec and head over to Pavilion, you’ve got to go to Grandmama’s - Flavours of Malaysia. Order the hot pot, order the curry, order whatever you want and thank me later. It was SO good.
The other obvious choice for cheap, good eats is one of KL’s markets. Night market, morning market, daytime market if your brave and can handle the heat better than us. You can’t go wrong. Grab some fresh fruit off the street and wander until you’re tempted into one of the many stalls and restaurants lining the streets.
At night, there’s the Connaught Night Market or the Alor Street Food Night Market (where we went). During the day, there’s Central Market, where you can shop for not only for food but for souvenirs too, or Lot 10 Hutong, which features 34 food stalls in the packed food court. Streets like Jalan Imbi, Jalan Sultan Ismail, Jalan Raja Chulan or Jalan Alor are all great places to start!
The best part? Anywhere you could want to eat in KL is also where you can shop for those last minute souvenirs you promised everyone that you’ve forgotten about until now.
One last thing. We are the queens of brunch, so I can't leave out our favorite brunch place that we found in KL - Merchant's Lane. You may have to wait but it is WORTH it.
Exploring the “7 Wonders of Kuala Lumpur”
This famous backpacker tour takes you on a whirlwind day tour of the most famous highlights of KL and can be booked through any hostel you’ll find yourself staying in.
On your tour, you’ll visit the following seven wonders:
Thean Hou Temple: one of the oldest and largest temples in Southeast Asia to the Chinese sea goddess Mazu
Little India Brickfields: a wide street with Indian stores and restaurants run by the country's Indian community
Batu Caves: a limestone hill that has a stunning series of caves and cave temples
National Palace: official residence of the monarch of Malaysia
National Monument: a sculpture that commemorates those who died in Malaysia's struggle for freedom
City Gallery: information hub with souvenirs & art for sale, maps, cultural exhibits & a gift-making workshop
Selangor Pewter: the Royal Selangor pewter museum
The tour costs a grand total of RM85, roughly 21USD. The same company that offers this tour, Backpacking Malaysia, also offers tours to Taman Negara, Malaysia’s oldest rainforest, the cultural gem of Malacca, and boat trips on the Selangor River.
Whatever kind of adventure you’re interested in, KL’s got something for you!
PS: They may or may not be a part of your tour, but you can’t miss (literally you can’t miss them, they’re enormous) the famous Petronas Twin Towers. Day or night, these two massive architectural masterpieces tower of Kuala Lumpur and are absolutely worth a visit, up close and personal.
All right. Before we even got to Malaysia, we met a couple of travelers who told us that we would have a really hard time going out in KL. That there wasn’t much to do at night and that we were probably going to be disappointed. In fact, they told us that the best place for us to go out in all of KL was going to be Reggae Mansion, the hostel we were staying at that does have a kickass rooftop.
Granted, in those travelers defense, it’s definitely not obvious where to go out. We had an inside source (one of my best friends from college is from KL) who pointed us in the right direction and that direction was to…
Changkat! This street is lined with lively bars, restaurants, and small clubs that bump great music, offer terraced views of the street, and more happy hour deals than you have time for. You can’t go wrong, just duck in where the music sounds best and hop from one to the other.
Still looking for something more after that (we weren’t…)? Head down to TREC, where you’ll find Zouk, the biggest club in KL. This club goes from 5PM to 5AM Friday and Saturday nights and will stay open for you during the week until at least 3AM.
So grab your pals, or just take your lovely self, order a hookah, hit a happy hour, and dance the night away.
If you’re still looking for a party at 5AM…I can’t help you. Go to Bangkok.