This abundantly diverse and vibrant city heralds much attention as one of the most glamorous Asian metropolitans. Indians, Chinese and Malays all call this home and other than the Malay language, celebrate their own unique cultures through their food, music and religion. Skyscrapers and luxury malls dot this cityscape alongside mosques, Indian temples and Chinese markets and offer a bit for every consumer. Kuala Lumpur is so dynamic in nature that it’s hard to put your finger on it, but I found the pulse of this city electrifying. Here’s some of my highlights and lowlights of KL:
WHAT I LOVE…
1. The food
Having grown up in Cape Town where Cape Malay food forms a huge part of the food I ate, I was over the moon to be reunited with this truly scrumptious cuisine. True to form, KL’s diversity is perfectly presented in its array of choices. We ate roti canai, mutton curry and chilli chicken and drank kopi rose and tarik meaning ‘stretched tea’ which is poured from one mug to another to extract its aroma before mixing it with condensed milk. Other scrumptious dishes included Nasi ayam curry kentang, mee jawa and curry mee. I enjoyed Indian confectionaries such as fudge and what we call ‘slangetjites’- little snakes in Cape Town. These are crisp-like snacks made from jeera, chilli, yellow pea flour.
2. Public transport
As I currently reside on a Thai island with no public transport other than a red van which shows up haphazardly, it was a breath of fresh air to be able to choose between buses, subway (LRT) or monorail. Aside from getting orientated with the signs for the right direction, buying a single token at the station’s machines was quick and easy and I would never have to wait long. Trains were fast, clean, and comfortable and blasted the essential air conditioner which was the biggest joy of all given the humidity. You’ll find a rail map at most stations or you could go to jp.myrapid.com.my for assistance in planning your quickest route.
3. Diversity of people and architecture.
I love visiting countries where the locals all look different, enjoy their own culture’s music and food but all unite as a nation. This is truly what I found in Kuala Lumpur. Chinese, Indian and Malay people all settled here years ago and form an integral part of this country’s economy by pooling their various skillsets and trades. The Indians who first arrived made their money as merchants, traders and money lenders. The Malays worked in rice cultivation, boat building and fishing whilst the early Chinese were traders and intermarried with Malays to form the Baba Nyonya community who form a prevalent part of society. One minute we were walking through Petaling Street (otherwise known as the Chinatown of KL), then through Little India with its saris hanging in the windows, temples and samoosas sold on the corner before seeing giant mosques (masjid) inspired by 16th century Ottaman architecture.
4. Subway and street art
Whether I was strolling through the streets or about to catch a train, colourful and artistic expressions were all around me. Graffiti added life to an otherwise dull and directly landscape beside the waterways running through the city. The subways were emblazoned with funny messages and clever advertising to encourage you to keep walking up the mass amounts of stairs and to brighten up the drudgery of daily commuters.
5. Signs and wonders
One can tell so much about a city through its signs. Whilst some cinema’s in Seoul had ‘No squid’ picture signs, ‘No Durian fruit’ signs could be seen in KL and judging from the pungent smell and taste of it, I fully understand why. The train yielded ‘No indecent behaviour’ warnings (such as kissing) whilst the woman’s toilets had friendly reminders not to stand on the toilet seat in attempts to squat. Just when you think you’ve seen it all…
THINGS I COULD DO WITHOUT…
1. Batu Caves
Whilst I don’t regret taking the long journey to see these iconic caves, I was slightly disappointed. Once inside the gigantic caves, it was smelly, dirty and we had to fight off unruly monkeys who now expected food from all the tourists traipsing up the steps. The best part of it all was witnessing parts of an Indian wedding, the fudge from an Indian stall (before a monkey stole it right out of our bag) and the view from the top of the 272 steps.
Interesting cave minus the violent monkeys, smell and rubbish left lying around.
2. Big price tags
They don’t call KL a shopper’s paradise for nothing. Most people’s main reason for visiting is to shop. Perhaps it’s because we came with our measly Thai baht, but most malls, shops and products were geared towards the rich consumer. Most malls were not-budget friendly and boasted brand names which cost my entire salary. Most restaurants served their culinary delights at prices way too steep for the average traveller.
Malls for rich and well-heeled.
Pavilion Mall where you’ll need to dig deep into your pockets.
3. Too much choice
Whilst this is debatable and most of us love the ability to choose and select what will make us most comfortable, most happy and most broke, some malls were redundant in their offerings. Having lived in Seoul, I know all about the mass panic which ensues when you walk into a mall selling just women’s clothing, shoes and bags on 10 floors. There are only so many beautiful garments you can look at, try on and choose from. After a while, your brain and card will short circuit leaving you overwhelmed and guilty. Whilst my husband fell in love with the tech mall, Plaza Low Yat, I only lasted about 2 hours. Yes I love cameras, lens, laptops and phones, but if I cannot afford to buy them now, why look at them and torture yourself. Each level offered the exact same selection of electronic goods and it wasn’t long before I got dizzy. My husband will tell you a different tale.
Low Yat PLaza (aka Gadget heave)n but eight levels of the same products sold at slightly different prices.
Petaling Street: where nearly every stall offers the same items as the vendors two stalls down.
4. The long walking distances in the humidity.
This is my laziness talking, but after living where a scooter will take you to the doorstep of where you need to be, KL’s big city wore me out. When new to the city you often won’t know the quickest routes and you’ll have to navigate your way around. In a gigantic city with suffocating humidity and constant construction all around, you don’t want to be walking for long. Even with the use of Google maps, we got lost in the myriad of buildings and roads and the subway stations were not always close to your desired destination. Needless to say, I hopefully sweated off some weight, left with sore feet and should have brought better walking shoes.
Why use a step machine when you can visit KL instead?
What did you enjoy and dislike about the wonderful city of KL?
All photographs are my own and subject to copyright.