Kuala Lumpur (KL) or any part of Malaysia was never in our travel plans. However, with the visa situation in Thailand (read all about our first impressions of Thailand), we quickly decided and booked a short visit to KL. After this visit, we returned and stayed for three weeks.
Landing in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, we were pleasantly surprised by the instant contrast from Chiang Mai, Thailand. We were already excited to travel to a new destination and seeing the extensive stores and people at KL’s airport brought even more excitement.
Kuala Lumpur A Metropolis
Kuala Lumpur is a bustling metropolis with old world charm and new world conveniences.
We were stunned with how modern Kuala Lumpur is with it’s huge skyscrapers, efficient transit system, and its vast variety of foods and restaurants.
Coming from a relatively big city in North America, the massive malls in Kuala Lumpur trumps those of Toronto’s. There’s every brand that we’re familiar with both luxury and discount, as well as local brands and neighboring Asian brands.
Also, there are the local hawker food stalls that Southeast Asian countries are known for. In addition, you can find local franchise restaurants along with high end 5-star restaurants. The selection is varied and available for all budgets.
Getting Around Kuala Lumpur
It was so easy to get around the different neighborhoods of Kuala Lumpur. It’s definitely a walkable city, with sidewalks that are nicely paved (a stark contrast from our time in Chiang Mai).
We also utilized Grab, Asia’s well known ride sharing app. It was quick, efficient and very inexpensive. We would go from one district to another for a few dollars only, even though in traffic it could possibly take 30-40 minutes for a 10km ride.
Grab made it so convenient that we didn’t even try the transit system. Although we were told great things about the public transit by several locals.
Kuala Lumpur also is known for it’s epic rainfall. This is noticeable not only from the massive rain crates on the roads and sidewalks, but from the lush greenery. The trees are extensive and deep green in color.
There is also an eco park in the middle of the city where you can witness the lushness as you walk through the canopy walks.
Kuala Lumpur has a tropical climate and it’s normally hot and humid all year round. It may experience rainfall throughout the year. It’s dry season is said to be from May to July.
As mentioned, KL has epic rain showers. Luckily for us, we have only heard and read about them. However, after seeing the huge storm drains, when walking over them we thought our feet would slip through the spaces.
Kuala Lumpur’s population consists of three main ethnic groups with Malays being the most prominent, followed by Chinese and Indians.
Although we found the locals to be kind, we did not find them to be overly friendly nor helpful. We felt that they mostly kept to themselves, minding their own business.
However, in looking back, this may have been because they didn’t speak English? Or maybe they thought we were also locals?
With the diverse cultures occupying KL, each with their own unique cuisines, be prepared to try various popular and delicious dishes. But first, be forewarned about the menus.
We visited several local hawker food stalls and found that some (probably more like most) did not have English menus nor pictures. At one place we actually asked a local to order for us. Lucky for us, it turned out pretty good.
However, at food joints in the malls, you may find the names (we’re assuming that it’s the English name) of the food items with no description. Therefore, you must have Google readily available to provide a description from the name of the meals.
We were told by many that most locals speak English in Kuala Lumpur. Unfortunately, we did not find this to be true. We did, however, stay outside of the city for a majority of our visit.
However, within the main city, especially at the big malls, we did not have any issue with English speakers. These areas were definitely seamless to navigate.
All in all, we really enjoyed our time in Kuala Lumpur. With the variety of foods, as well as the availability of the modern amenities. We found that it was a place that was suitable for us for longer stays.
Sometimes, the places that are unplanned can be a pleasant surprise. We’re glad that we stumbled upon KL and recommend it as a place to visit if you’re looking for old world charm but require new world conveniences.