Kuala Lumpur: A City of Diversity

January 1, 1970

by Lauren Himes

Malaysia is a unique country with an interesting blend of cultures and beautiful landscapes.  Although I only spent four days in the fascinating city of Kuala Lumpur, I now have to consider this my favorite place that I have traveled.

I fell for this city immediately. Upon riding into the city from the airport, right away I felt like I was surrounded by jungle. Entering into the city, one of the first things that really captivated me was the unique blend of different cultures. Malaysia consists of three distinct ethnicities and religions: Malay Muslims, Indian Hindus, and Chinese Buddhists. Along with these three distinct groups comes a whole array of interesting culture – places of worship, food options, languages, traditions, clothing, etc.  It makes for a vibrant colorful feel as the city is surrounded by so much diversity.

Along with the cultural diversity, the city seems to have a pleasant contrast between city and nature.  Although it is a huge city which is home to some of the tallest skyscrapers in the world – THE tallest twin towers in the world, and the tallest tower in Southeast Asia – the city still seems to retain a jungle-like tropical feel which is one of the things that I absolutely love.

I took this trip during my time living in Thailand with my main goal was getting a new visa.  For this reason, I didn’t set my hopes too high and I wasn’t expecting this city to be anything special so I was pleasantly surprised when I fell in love with this city.  Most of the people that I knew that had visited posted a lot of pictures at the Petronas Towers – which don’t get me wrong were INCREDIBLE, but I didn’t see a whole lot else so I thought that maybe that was the main attraction for the city and personally, I am more interested in cultural and natural sights.  Once I arrived in the city, I discovered there was SO much more to the city than that.  During my four days there, each and every day was filled with unique and unexpected adventures!

I’d highly recommend Kuala Lumpur to anyone planning a trip to Southeast Asia.  So if you do, in fact, take a trip to Kuala Lumpur, please take advantage of all that this city has to offer:

1. Batu Caves:

The Batu Caves were easily my favorite tourist attraction of my trip! Just an easy 20-minute train ride from KL Sentral (the center of KL), you can visit this beautiful cave temple!  It combines a fascinating cultural experience with some beautiful nature sightseeing as well.  Just make sure you bring comfortable shoes and be prepared to get in a good workout in the blazing Malaysian sun.  Batu Caves is a Hindu temple inside of a cave.  There are two different caves which are available for sightseeing.   The upper and main part of the cave requires you to climb up about 300 steps where you are greeted by many monkeys as you enter into a beautiful cave with several Hindu shrines.  The lower part of the cave is filled with several figures portraying traditional scenes of Hindu gods and people.  Despite the ridiculous amount of sweat I accumulated during this tour, it was well worth it! My friend and I even were asked to get into a selfie with a Malay family on our way down!

2. National Mosque:

Later that same day that I saw the Hindu Cave temple, I had the opportunity to visit the National Mosque.  The mosque and the surrounding areas alone were breathtakingly beautiful and picturesque.  My friend and I got all covered up in traditional Islamic clothing in order to enter into the mosque and take a tour.  There was an overall peaceful energy that surrounded me upon entering into this mosque.  I learned a lot about Islam from a volunteer guide who was working in the temple and I got to stay just long enough to hear the sundown call to prayer which was super cool to experience amidst the hustle and bustle of the city. There are also some other mosques which are open to tourists which I did not get a chance to visit but make sure to check the hours as they are only open during certain times of the day (generally when prayer is not in session).  If you’ve never seen a mosque before, I’d highly recommend a visit!

3. Lake Gardens Park:

A huge park which is located very close by to the national mosque, Lake Gardens Park is a great place if you are looking for an escape from the busy city and in need of a healing nature walk.  Within the park, there are numerous botanical gardens, and animal areas including a bird park, a deer park, and a butterfly garden.  In the center of the park, there is, of course, a giant lake! You could spend an entire day just walking around this beautiful park and exploring.  I didn’t even get the chance to see many of the different attractions inside the park but I really enjoyed my experience walking around the area. Another nearby attraction in this area is the Islamic Arts Museum.

4. KL Tower:

An iconic building you will notice right away upon arriving in the city is the KL Tower. Although the city is most well-known for the Petronas Towers, the KL Tower is a very beautiful tower – and the tallest tower in Southeast Asia.  It is particularly beautiful at night as it is lit up with many different colors.  If you get a chance you can climb up to the observation deck (or even the sky deck!) and get a fantastic 360-degree view of the city.  I found this tour to be relatively cheap in comparison to some other tours – and well worth it!

5. Petronas Towers:

The most famous and iconic symbol of Kuala Lumpur is, of course, the Petronas Towers!  So it is essential that you make at least one visit to the Petronas Towers during your stay! They are also very easy to get to by train from KL Sentral station.  I would recommend visiting once during the day and once at night in order to get the dazzling glistening view of these fantastic works of architecture.  It’s a pretty impressive sight and even better when you are there in person!

6. Try new foods:

One of my personal favorite things about Kuala Lumpur was the food! I found right away there were a plethora of food options available – everything from Indian, Malay, Chinese, Thai, Middle-Eastern, to Western food options and McDonald’s.  Surprisingly, the food was also incredibly cheap most everywhere and of similar prices to what I found in Thailand (equivalent to about $2-5 USD).  I got to try some authentic Chinese food (which is very different from the “Chinese” food which has become popular in the states). For me, my favorite foods I tried were at some of the many Indian restaurants! I really loved some of these places because I FINALLY was able to find an overabundance of vegetarian food options – and extremely delicious ones! This is something that is surprisingly hard to come by in most places in Southeast Asia. Here are a few of the delicious meals I had the opportunity to try:

7: Petaling Street:

Petaling Street is a well-known market in Chinatown where you can do a lot of shopping.  You can buy all sorts of souvenirs from clothing to figurines to handbags for a reasonable price.  Nearby to this market, you can find plenty of Chinese restaurants if you’d like to stop by and get a real taste of Chinese cuisine before or after your shopping!  I’d recommend a walkthrough on this street if you’re hoping to find some cool souvenirs to take home.

8. Central Market:

Central Market is another cool market where you can do some souvenir shopping and enjoy some delicious street food.  They have several interesting shops of which represent some different cultures in Kuala Lumpur.

9. Little India:

I only got the chance to pass through Little India area during my train rides as it is very close to the KL Sentral Station.  I’ve heard from others that this is also a really great place to try out some authentic different types of Indian food as well as get a unique experience of Indian culture.

10. Nightlife:

Kuala Lumpur also has a great nightlife scene.  Along the famous Bukit Bintang, you’ll find countless restaurants that transform into nightclubs and bars as night sets in.  It’s a great place to join in on a bar crawl (as I did) or just go out for a night on the town!  There are plenty of other cool spots dispersed around the city including rooftop bars and escape room games.

Despite my limited time in this city, I really connected with it immediately.  I found there to be a vibrant mix of cultures and a wide variety of activities and sightseeing opportunities available. I remember before my trip to Thailand and my travels in Southeast Asia, someone had recommended Kuala Lumpur, mentioning it to be one of the most interesting and unique cities.  After spending some time there, I would have to agree with that statement and wish I could thank that person!  This is definitely a place that is worth a trip for at least 3 or 4 days if you are traveling in Southeast Asia.  I definitely hope to make a return trip here in the future, but for now, I can reminisce about the unforgettable experiences I had there.

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Chris Watson

January 4, 2019

Thank you for sharing your experience!