You would be forgiven for finding Kuala Lumpur somewhat of an enigma. Chinese, Japanese and British influences mingle with the identity Kuala Lumpur has shaped for itself since gaining independence in 1957. Even if you’ve travelled south-east Asia, you’ll find Kuala Lumpur uniquely rich and layered. It’s often used as a stop-over for trips in and around Asia but it’s tapestry of cultures, religions and the collision of old and new makes it worthy of extending your layover.
Here are the best things to do in Kuala Lumpur:
1. Marvel at Batu Caves
Nothing demonstrates the diversity of this city better than the Hindu temples of the Batu Caves. Leave early in the morning to beat the heat for the 45 minute trip to the towering golden statue which guards the 272 steps up to the caves. This is the world’s tallest statue of the deity Murugan and the temple itself is one of the most popular Hindu shrines outside of India.
2. Party at Changkat Bukit Bintang
My favourite way to experience the variety, chaos and colour of Kuala Lumpur at night is to enjoy drinks at Changkat Bukit Bintang. With a bright and celebratory energy, this area is often described as the city’s answer to Bangkok’s Koh San Road. Bars lining the street offer everything from a classy gentlemen’s club feel at The Whisky Bar, to rum punch and walls tattooed with scribbled messages from patrons at Reggae Bar Changkat.
3. Have a quiet moment at Sin Sze Si Ya temple
A wonderfully bright building, the Sin Sze Si Ya Chinese Temple lights up Petaling street with it’s vibrant red walls and colourful shrines. Visitors are welcome to respectfully enter the temple and take photos as locals come to light incense and enjoy quiet moments of prayer. Although the temple itself is relatively small, there is so much to see in its feng shui geometric design and never-ending detail.
4. See Kuala Lumpur by bicycle
A great way to see Kuala Lumpur is by bike slipping down the side roads and back alleys avoiding roads gridlocked by cars. Mike’s Bikes offers both morning and evening tours, both lasting around four hours and with at least one extremely enthusiastic and knowledgeable guide to lead the group. The sunset tour is definitely my pick as the city has cooled down a little by then, and with dinner included in the price of 210 MYR, it makes for a really fun activity.
5.Visit Little India
Directly translating to ‘Indian Mosque Street’, Jalan Masjid India is known as the ‘little India’ of Kuala Lumpur. During weekends makeshift stalls selling sarees, scarves, snacks and henna join the permanent stores lining the streets. I recommend joining the crowds on a weekend evening ready to enjoy all the street food on offer while being surrounded by the bustle and energy of the markets.
6. Climb the Petronas Twin Towers
For fans of awe-inspiring modern architecture and want a stunning view, the Petronas Towers are more than worth a visit. Even when surrounded by the bustle of the city centre and shopping malls, the towers are hard to miss, standing at 452 metres tall. Purchase tickets at 80 MYR to travel by elevator up to the Sky Bridge, and then ascend even higher to level 86 for views that are breathtaking both during the day and at night.
7. Chill in KLCC Park
Take a break from exploring the teeming city centre by wandering down to the nearby KLCC Park. Cool off by the water in the shade of the park’s many leafy trees, providing a welcome oasis in the middle of the surrounding sky scrapers and hectic traffic. Views of the Petronas Twin Towers also make this spot a wonderful scenic escape.
8. Enjoy drinks on a helicopter pad
Perhaps the most memorable and brag-worth drinking experience to be had in this city is at Heli Lounge Bar in the Menara KH building. Or should I say, on the building. Heli Lounge is a genuine helicopter pad transformed into a small, casual bar in the evening, overlooking central Kuala Lumpur. Arrive between 6pm and 9pm to enter for free, and if you can time your visit on a clear evening to coincide with the sunset, you won’t regret it.
9. Explore a rainforest in the city
Even if you don’t have time to travel outside of the city to immerse yourself in Malaysia’s lush rainforests, you don’t have to miss out. The hidden gem that is Forest Eco Park will give you a flavour of Kuala Lumpur’s wild countryside with just a short trip from the city centre, and no admission fee. As you hike up above the treetops keep an eye out for the tropical birds, monkeys and butterflies that call Eco Park home. Just don’t forget your bug repellent!
10. Eat like a local
There are a variety of local food tours on offer to guide you through the lesser known districts and restaurants. I recommend the Eat Like A Local tour by Food Tour Malaysia, in which you’ll enjoy an all-you-can-eat experience at three casual restaurants with an incredibly knowledgeable guide, for 250 MYR.
11. Float down river amongst fireflies
You don’t need to travel far outside of Kuala Lumpur for things slow down just enough to let nature creep back in. Making the journey to Selangor in the late afternoon will allow you to experience one of the most simple yet magical experiences nature has to offer; fireflies. Book yourself onto a boat at Kampung Kuantan Firefly Park for a gentle evening floating down the Selangor River surrounded by the beautiful twinkling lights.
About the author
Thea is a British adventurer with a particular interest in the strange and unusual. Her life goals include spending more time in the sea than on land, and eating enough pineapple that she eventually turns in to one.