Away from the skyscrapers and shopping malls of Kuala Lumpur, expats Lauren and Vaughan McShane share some of the vibrant city’s lessor known gems.
Nestled in the heart of South East Asia, Malaysia is fast becoming a top destination for divers, shoppers and heritage seekers. With a cultural core consisting of Malays, Indians and Chinese, this is a country you can never quite put your finger on. In Kuala Lumpur alone, you’ll find an intriguing contrast of modern skyscrapers alongside pre-war structures, holy places and old architecture all telling the tale of a rich past. Most visitors don’t make it past the Petronas Twin Towers and the golden triangle of shopping malls, but there is a lot more on offer for the discerning traveller if you’re willing to explore.
Guide to Kuala Lumpur: Getting Creative.
Try your hand at the ancient art of Batik Painting
If you’re looking to shop Central Market is an indoor market selling everything from Chinese antiques and traditional handcrafted Malay kites to quality batik fabrics and jewelry.
Thanks to Royal Selangor’s worldwide production of hand-crafted pewter products, Malaysia is world-renowned for its pewter and offers all assortments of tableware, wine accessories, gift items, tea sets and more. Visit the School of Hard Knocks at Royal Selangor Visitor’s Centre to make your own pewter plate or bowl using traditional pewter crafting tools.
Make your own pewter dish
Visit Studio at KL and explore just how far your hidden artistic flair may take you with a blank canvas and paint. This is a fun, relaxed environment where you can paint with friends to the sounds of music and also receive some advice from the experts. Use all the paint you want and go wild, you never know what might develop on your canvas.
Lake Symphony by night
KLCC Park (Taman KLCC)
Amidst the towers and KL’s most luxurious hotels, lies the small green lung of the city; KLCC (Kuala Lumpur City Centre) Park. This park boasts over 1900 indigenous trees and over 66 palm species. It offers a quiet green haven where walkers and joggers can enjoy the rubberized footpaths and jogging track, children can splash in the kid’s pool and people can picnic beside the fountains and lake.
If you’re in search of grand architecture and a snapshot of Malaysia’s past, then a stroll around Merdeka ( Independence) Square is definitely worthy of your time. Marvel at the copper domes and 41 meter clock tower of the Sultan Abdul Samad Building, the 100 meter flag pole and the Victorian Fountain brought over from England which is still in daily use over 100 years later. A Musuem often overlooked is the National Textile musuem, a red and white Moorish-inspired structure giving insight into the origin and progression of Malaysia’s textiles within each culture.
Catch a glimpse of Malaysia’s burgeoning street art scene by walking along Jalan Raya Chulan to see the country’s largest street art mural ‘Brave’ by artist Akid_One. Just around the corner outside the Putra LRT station you’ll see a 3D Interactive art mural inviting the community to get involved in the piece and sit on its seats. The dynamic canvas of street murals down beside the Klang River can be seen from Pasar Seni Station. Street Artists keep it fresh by painting over each other’s work every so often, so snap a few shots while you are there as the art probably won’t be around very long.
Guide to Kuala Lumpur: Outdoor Adventure.
SUPPing on the lake.
Rock Climbing at the Batu Caves
Whilst tourists arrive at the Batu caves in their droves, you’ll find absolute serenity on the opposite side of the mountain at Gua Damai Extreme Park. Kids, beginners and expert rock climbers can scale the walls of this mountain with shoes, ropes and all safety equipment provided. Abseil down from a small cave or climb up as far as your arms will allow. Either way you’ll get a great workout and feel it all through the next day.
Cycling along Seminyak Dam
Looking out over the Seminyak Dam, you can almost be forgiven for imagining that you’ve crossed over into a pristine alpine region. Local fishermen cast their lines into the glassy dam and seasoned cyclists make their way along the winding roads – far away from the city’s traffic and smog. Cycling the overpass to get here should be left to advanced cyclists and even then you should accompany a group who knows this mountain as the bends can be quite treacherous. Those looking for a leisurely morning cycle can simply drive over with their bicycles and cycle alongside the dam. Head out early (before 8am) to escape the heat.
Skytrex Forest Ziplining
Zip lining through a rainforest is an activity the whole family can enjoy. Kids can choose the beginner routes whilst the adventurous can take it up a notch to intermediate or even the advanced routes. It’s a great chance to get active in a new environment and give your adrenalin a spike.
Watch the Sunrise from Broga Hill
For the early birds and those wishing to feel somewhat cooler in KL’s humidity, drive out to Broga Hill in Seminyah, Selangor. It will take you about an hour to get there and once you do another 40 minute walk to reach the top. Walk up (with torches and good shoes) to arrive at the top of Broga Hill by 6:30am and enjoy watching the sun wash over the city and the lush, green hills that surround you.
Guide to Kuala Lumpur: Dining Out.
- Espresso seekers: Coffee Société, Journal by Plan B, Artisan Roast Coffee, Coffee Stain.
- Trendy and light: Journal by Plan B, Antipodean, Konscious Café.
- Restaurants and bars with a view: Sky Bar at the Traders Hotel, Heli Lounge Bar at Menara KH, View Rooftop Bar at the GTower Hotel, Atmosphere 360°, Marini’s on 57 and THIRTY8 at the Grand Hyatt Hotel.
The Public Transport system in Kuala Lumpur is extremely efficient and offers a variety of affordable options for both residents and tourists alike. The Train network has various components that intersect with each other – the Monorail, the LRT, ERL and the Komuter are different types of trains. Buying tickets and getting from A-B is extremely easy and hassle free.
If you plan to commute around the city often with the trains and buses best buy a Touch ‘n Go Travel Card which is available at most train stations. For day trips out of the city, rent a car or use cabs (Premier or Budget). If you don’t want to haggle, take a coupon fixed-price cab from KL Sentral.
You can rent a taxi by the hour to take you to various city spots. The taxi driver will wait for you at each place. Expect to pay between 15-25MYR per hour. Keep track of the time from which you first entered the cab to the time when you leave so that there is no price dispute.
When travelling to and from the airport, use the KLIA Express which goes non-stop between KL Sentral and Kuala Lumpur International Airport-KLIA1 and KLIA 2. You can also use the buses and taxis.
- Art Jamming
- Blue Cabs
- City Bus & Train
- Central Market
- Coffee Société: +60 3-6211 5523
- Fat Spoon: +60 03-7728 3323
- Journal by Plan B: +60 3-6205 5318
- Konscious Café: +60 3-7710 0129
- Limpaulo- Baba Can Cook: +60 3 2698 3268
- National Textile Museum
- Rock Climbing at Gua Damai Extreme Park
- Royal Selangor Visitor’s Centre. (School of Hard Knocks)
- Sky Bar @ Trader’s Hotel: +60 3-2332 9888
- Spice of India: +60 3-2164 9221
- Suria KLCC Park and Attractions
- Tourism Malaysia
- Oxbold Extreme Sports Malaysia
- Zip-lining with Skytrex Adventure
Phoebe Choong says
I’d like to offer another tip to travellers looking to explore Kuala Lumpur that’s often overlooked. A simple act could save you up to 30% of your travel budget: CurrenSeek app helps travellers compare currency exchange rates on the ground and locate the best currency exchange office around them in just a matter of seconds. It’s seriously easy to use and could save you a lot of hassle, running around to compare and find reasonable rates. I’d highly recommend it to travellers wishing to make the most informed currency exchange decisions and save a lot!