Kuala Lumpur: A unique flavour of Asia
The Top 10 in What to see, do and experience in Kuala Lumpur was a difficult selection to make because there are so many more sights which also warrants a visit. My decision rested upon selecting experiences that will give my readers a flavour of Malaysian multi-ethnic multi-cultural society, it’s rich Islamic heritage, and a unique history that was influenced by the British Empire.
Kuala Lumpur, literally translates to “muddy confluence” originated from the fact that the city was founded near where the rivers of Klang and Gombak intersect. Today, you can see this “confluence” just behind Merdeka Square. As the capital city of Malaysia, Kuala Lumpur boasts gleaming skyscrapers, a blend of modern and colonial architecture, warm, welcoming, charming locals, and a myriad of natural attractions. Divided into districts, the City’s main hub is the Golden Triangle – Bukit Bintang, KLCC and Chinatown.
An Introduction to Diversity and Culture in Malaysia
Having grown up in Malaysia prior to moving to the UK, I know first hand the culture of this nation. Malaysia’s rich culture is reflected by each ethnic group who preserve and maintain their unique cultural identities yet live together respecting the differences that exist between them. It is the same rich culture and its heritage that dictates the cuisines and gastronomy in Malaysia.
I grew up experiencing one of the most flavourful cuisines in the world. A country which is often referred to as “the crossroads of Asia”, Malaysian cooking uses ingredients and cooking styles which reflects a fusion of Indian, Chinese, Indonesian and Thai.
Although, they are not spicy-hot, they are full of flavour and has contributed to me having an adventurous palate when it comes to culinary delights and the mouth-watering dishes I get to enjoy during my travels.
In my selection of places to visit, I have suggested a couple of activities where you can experience the fusion and flavourful cuisines of my homeland.
A brief background to Malaysia
Kuala Lumpur is the capital of Malaysia. Malaysia is located in South East Asia and consists of thirteen states and three federal territories, separated by South China Sea into Peninsula Malaysia and East Malaysia. It is home to over 30 million and is the 44th most populous country. Tanjung Piai in Malaysia is the southernmost point of continental Eurasia. Malaysia is one of seventeen megadiverse countries, home to large numbers of endemic species.
As mentioned, Malaysia is multi-ethnic and multi-cultural. About half the population is ethnically Malay. The other half consist of Malaysian Chinese, Malaysian Indians and indigenous peoples. Each play a large and influential role in Malaysian politics. The government system is modelled on the UK parliamentary system and the legal system is based on common law.
On religion – Islam is recognised as Malaysia’s established religion. The constitution grants freedom of religion to non-Muslims.
Being multi-ethnic and multi-cultural means Malaysia is also multilingual. The official language here is Malay, also referred to as Bahasa Melayu. English is an active second. As a visitor, you need not worry about language barrier as Kuala Lumpur is well versed with tourists and almost everyone in the touristy places speak and/or understand English.
If you are visiting Kuala Lumpur for longer than a day or two, you may want to consider purchasing a City Pass. There is no doubt that the City Pass is great value for money where you can skip the line, and visit attractions at a discounted price – a huge saving on time and money. However long you choose to spend your time in Kuala Lumpur, make the best of it by ensuring you experience the following unmissable top ten activities.
The Unmissable Top 10 Experiences in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
The following list of top 10 in Kuala Lumpur are listed in no particular order. They are all popular tourist attractions and should top any itinerary if you are visiting Malaysia.
[KLCC – Kuala Lumpur Convention Centre]
1 | Petronas Twin Towers, KLCC, Kuala Lumpur
Petronas Twin Towers is Kuala Lumpur’s crown jewel and dominates the City’s skyline. The Twin Towers are an iconic landmark and are the tallest twin towers in the world. The postmodern architecture and style of a pair of glass-and-steel-clad skyscrapers uniquely designed with Islamic motifs stands at 451.9 metres. This majestic eighty-eight storey twin structure offer a public sky-bridge connecting the two towers and an observation deck. A visit to this iconic structure is highly recommended.
This is a popular attraction and prior booking is advisable. Skip the line and buy your tickets now. Click on the links below to find out more on what the ticket includes and not.
2 | A stroll in KLCC Park, Kuala Lumpur
Just below the Petronas Twin Towers, is an area of much needed green space in the city of Kuala Lumpur – KLCC Park. It is a specially designed park that stretches 20 hectares. It has jogging and walking trails, a large lake and fountain features. No visit to Kuala Lumpur is quite complete without a visit to this peaceful haven in the middle of the City.
3 | Suria, KLCC, Kuala Lumpur
No visit to Kuala Lumpur is complete without a shopping experience in the heart of the City. Kuala Lumpur is neither New York nor London but the shopping complexes here will definitely give the larger cities a run for their money.
Suria KLCC is a six storey shopping complex that sits within the gigantic Kuala Lumpur Convention Centre that is also home to the Petronas Twin Tower. There are varieties of high-end fashionable labels such as Gucci, Chanel, Louis Vuitton, cinemas and food courts. If you are looking for labels, this is the place to be – to shop till you drop!
See what’s more is offered by Suria KLCC, here
3 | Menara KL Tower
The KL Tower or officially known as Menara KL is the seventh tallest structure in the world and the tallest in South East Asia. It stands at 421 metres, atop Bukit Nanas, surrounded by the oldest forest reserve in the country, Bukit Nanas Forest Reserve. The forest houses age-old trees as well as flora and fauna indigenous to Malaysia’s tropical climate.
Menara KL has been outshone by the Petronas Twin Towers but remains an important architectural marker. A visit to the viewing deck here will give you spectacular views of the city. The viewing deck is at least 100 metres higher than the Petronas Tower’s Skybridge, so it’s worth a visit. The visitor’s deck is also the highest point of the city that is open to the public. Popular times are at dusk as you witness the sun set over the city’s skyline.
TTS tip: Have a meal or enjoy high tea with spectacuar views over Kuala Lumpur’s skyline at the famous revolving restaurant, Atmosphere 360. Book Early to avoid disappointment.
The Tower is another unique architecture which reflects Malaysia’s vibrant Islamic heritage. with Arabic scripts, Islamic tiles, and archetypal Islamic floral and abstract patterns.
There are a couple of Best Seller choices here for you to choose from should you decide to visit this iconic landmark for a memorable experience. Highly recommended that you purchase your tickets before the start of your vacation as some of these activities may be sold out.
Buy our Bestseller – A combined ticket giving you access to the Observation Deck + A Buffet at the infamous revolving restaurant serving local cuisines. Find out what it includes and what it does not with free cancellation up to 24 hours before activity starts.
Menara KL Tower Information:
Address: Jalan Puncak, Off Jalan P. Ramlee, Kuala Lumpur City Centre
Opening Hours: Daily 09:00 – 22:00
5 | Chinatown in Kuala Lumpur
At the heart of Kuala Lumpur, is the colourful and vibrant Chinatown, a part of the City that never sleeps. Chinatown is based in Petaling Street, and is deeply immersed in Asian culture, history and heritage. Undoubtedly, it is one of the most popular tourist spots.
Chinatown is a bargain-hunter’s paradise – you will find all sorts here, from Chinese medicine shops to imitation goods of high brands such as Chanel, Rolex Yves Saint Laurent and many more. Just remember not to pay the asking price!
At dusk, Chinatown turns into a vibrant market stall, offering all kinds of goods at very low prices. It’s a kind of nightlife that is quite different to other parts of the country. More happens here at night than during the day.
TTS suggests: I would highly recommend a visit to Chinatown, both during the day and at night as it offers two differing experiences for you.
Chinatown is practically filled with Chinese restaurants and hawker stalls! You will find all sorts of delicacies from steamed buns to seafood, barbecued meats, steamboats, stir-fries and delicacies which are unique to this particular Chinatown than anywhere else.
The best thing about this part of Chinatown is that it is open till late, until the wee hours of the morning.
You might want to take advantage of the following Best Sellers and experience the authentic cuisines of Malaysian culture.
6 | Central Market, Kuala Lumpur
A short walk from Petaling Street, along Jalan Hang Kasturi, is the Central Market, a cultural landmark and a designated World Heritage Site. It is one of the familiar landmarks for tourists and boasts local artistic community of handcrafts, boutiques and souvenir stalls. These are authentic local crafts, mostly handmade and a great selection of uniquely designed Malaysian batik.
One thing to note when visiting the Central Market is the “zoning” of the market. The Market is divided into different zones and each is distinctive by race/culture. The reason for this zoning is to let visitors experience and get an insight into the diverse culture of Malaysians.
Central Market, Kuala Lumpur Information:
Address: No. 10, 1st-3rd floor, Jalan Hang Kasturi
Opening Hours: Daily, 10:00 – 22:00
7 | Alor Street (Jalan Alor), Bukit Bintang in Kuala Lumpur
For the best hawker food experience, head to the cultural heart of Kuala Lumpur’s local cuisines, Alor Street. You will find it just behind Jalan Bukit Bintang and a short walk away from Changkat Bukit Bintang. Alor Street is a food haven! The variety of food available is amazing, from barbecued meats to desserts and most of these dishes cannot be found in restaurants – even if they are, they are not as tasty.
Jalan Alor serves you not just authentic tasty food but also traditional charm of bright fluorescent signage lighting, mini red Chinese lanterns, plastic tables and chairs spilling out onto the road and food served on plastic plates. The place is loud and vibrant with hawkers furiously fanning grills of chicken and beef on skewers, the clanging of metal pans, frying woks, the thick air with charcoal smoke and the seemingly endless row of stalls on a five-foot walkway – all adds to a memorable experience of Kuala Lumpur not to be missed!
Although Jalan Alor is popular, it is in a hidden spot and not many tourists find this location easily. From the Bukit Bintang monorail stop, you can head north along Jalan Bukit Bintang and Jalan Alor is about a minute’s walk.
8 | Batu Caves, just outside of Kuala Lumpur
Batu Caves is located just a stone’s throw away from Kuala Lumpur, about 13 km north of City Centre. It is a 400 million-year old limestone hill and is home to a 100 year old temple carved within it. The caves and temples are Hindu shrines and is a focal point of pilgrimage for the many Hindu residents of Malaysia. In particular, it is a focal point of the annual Hindu festival of Thaipusam.
Thaipusam is an annual Hindu celebration by the Tamil people. Devotees of the Hindu god Subramaniam pay homage by carrying “kavadis”. “Kavadis” are colourful framework, decorated with peacock feathers and flowers carried on the devotees shoulders or head. Some of these “kavadis” can weigh up to 100 kilos. These devotees also have various metal hooks and skewers pierced through their skin, cheeks and tongue. Some walk on a short trail of fire barefooted. It is a colourful celebration and one that attracts up to a million visitors, making it one of the largest celebrations in the world.
Date for the celebration of Thaipusam in 2021 is January 28. At time of update, February 2021, there are no dates available for 2022.
Read more on Thaipusam here.
Outside of Thaipusam celebration, visitors can marvel at the huge 42.7 metres high gold painted statue of Muruga standing at the base of the 272 steps leading to the temple within the caves. Explore the limestone cliffs that are dotted with caves and carved temples such as Cathedral Cave, Dark Cave, Ramayana Cave and Cave Villa.
While exploring, be mindful of the cave-dwelling bats. Keep your belongings close as the wild monkeys that inhabit the area will not hesitate to help themselves to it!
To get to Batu Caves seamlessly from Kuala Lumpur and to experience one of the major attractions in Malaysia, book one of the Best Seller tours below. For me, these are such great value for money tours and I am certain Batu Caves will not disappoint. Click on link to find out more on what it includes and does not!
Batu Caves Kuala Lumpur Information:
Opening Hours: Daily, 06:00 – 21:00
Address: Batu Caves, Sri Subramaniam Temple, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
How to get there: Located 13km north of Kuala Lumpur
Public transport: Take Intrakota bus No 11D from the Central Market or the Cityliner bus No 69 at Jalan Pudu to get to Batu Caves. Taxis are also available anywhere around the city.
9 | Sultan Abdul Samad Building, Kuala Lumpur
Sultan Abdul Samad Building is one of Kuala Lumpur’s famous landmark which was originally built for the colonial British administration in 1897. Today, it is home to the offices of the Ministry of Information, Communications and Culture of Malaysia. It is conveniently located next to Kuala Lumpur Railway Station. Despite the changing skyline of Kuala Lumpur, Sultan Abdul Samad Building remains a popular tourist attraction.
It’s attraction features a construction entirely of brick, strong gothic, western and an earliest Moorish-style architecture. Beautiful arches, curved colonnades and a 41.2 metres clock tower makes this Building a “must visit” destination when visiting Kuala Lumpur.
Take a City Tour and learn all about the Old and New Kuala Lumpur, Click on link to find more.
10 | Sunway Lagoon Theme Park, Petaling Jaya
Sunway Lagoon Theme Park is located in Petaling Jaya, about 15km southwest of the Kuala Lumpur city centre. It’s slogan, “Come Feel the Fun” and visitors can truly experience the fun this theme park offers – from whirl and twirl waterslides to man made surf beaches, a 360 degree revolving pirate ship and places to relax to grab a bite plus a zoo! Sunway Lagoon sits in an 80 acre site and has activities to suit everyone!
Sunway Lagoon Theme Park, Petaling Jaya Information:
Opening Hours: Daily 10:00 – 18:00
Location: Sunway Resort Hotel & Spa
Address: 3, Jalan PJS 11/11, Bandar Sunway, Petaling Jaya
You may also wish to consider these other attractions in Kuala Lumpur
Aquaria KLCC – A state of the art aquarium located beneath the convention centre. Read more here
Kuala Lumpur Railway Station – No longer a railway station but a museum. It is now home to antique fire engines and steam trains. For me, it was the architecture that won my heart, somewhat fairy-tale, a mix of European and Asian built around 1886.
Address: Kampung Attap, 50000 Kuala Lumpur, Federal Territory of Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
Royal Selangor is somewhat a hidden gem. Founded in 1885, a visit here and you will be welcomed with a free guided tour and a journey through its history.
Kuala Lumpur Butterfly Park – If you are looking to have a slow day, do nothing else than head over to the Butterfly Park and marvel at over 120 species of colourful butterflies with educational information. This attraction is set within a modelled jungle-forest experience with walkways, lakes and ponds.
Take a look at the following tours to enhance your experiences in Kuala Lumpur
Day Trips from Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
Malaysia represents a unique flavour of Asia – its colours, the science-fiction like sky-scrapers, ancient Thaipusam celebrations, the dignified architecture and cling-clang of metal pans accompanied by thick air of charcoal smoke will all paint a kaleidoscope of memories of traditions, religions and bright smiling faces. Enjoy this wonderful country!
Happy discovering Malaysia!