I have a confession to make: when I was in Bangkok I’d met this girl who kept talking about a place called Kael. I kept nodding when I actually had no idea what she was talking about. It seemed so obvious that I had to know it that I didn’t dare ask. This happened again with other people I met along the way. Turned out, I was now heading there without even knowing it.
Kuala Lumpur, or KL (K-L, for Christ sake!), was the first mega metropolis (exaggerated much?) I was going to encounter since leaving home 2 months ago. I was excited. I loved my month and a half island-hopping in Thailand, but a part of me, even if it’s small, will always be a city girl: the lights, the chaos, the feeling of being alone surrounded by thousands of people and the certainty that there were lots like me out there.
Going around by foot in KL is difficult and most people just don’t; when we asked for directions for things we eventually realized were 15 blocks away locals would emphatically point that walking was not an option. Then again, you have… MONORAIL! So why would you want to walk? The monorail is tiny and often smelly but it’s a must and it offers a great way to see the city while enjoying AC. However, I recommend walking around the Petronas twin towers area while every so often lifting your gaze, it’s like they are playing hide and seek between other buildings. And you always win.
Aside from the twin towers, you can visit the KL Menara to get a view of the city. We chose to go up the twin towers because we wanted to see them from the inside. A renowned Argentinian architect was involved in the design, so we have a soft spot for it. If you want to go up, you have to go buy your ticket a couple of days before or go at 8 am. Access is limited each day so it doesn’t matter if you’re leaving the next day, if it’s sold out, you’ll miss it.
Most of our time in KL revolved around the towers. By day. By night. For breakfast. For lunch. For dinner. They are just so magnetic! And it made it obvious that we were where we where. It was a little traveling milestone: I´m in Kuala Lumpur, I´m on the the other side of the world. Happiness.
The other option is to go up the Menara and get a look at the twin towers from a distance and seeing them immersed in the whole grand scheme of the city. Or, if your budget and time allows, do both!
KL is a great place to indulge in a bit of comfort while backpacking. They have everything you need and want and more! Need tech gear? Hit Low Yat Plaza near Imbi station. Need a new change of clothes? Hit H&M, Forever 21 and tons of other, affordable and not so much, choices in Bukit Bintang station. If you get a chance, stroll around Pavilion: it’s a gigantic mall with over the top decorations year round. I got to see both their Christmas and Chinese New year’s ones. While you’re in there, go to level 4 and head to the 5 RM store. It’s the Malaysian version of a Japanese store called Daiso and we learned about it through our Japanese friend, Takako. We wanted to buy some stuff at Muji and she suggested we checked this other store first. She was right. Everything in the store is, you guessed, 5 RM (1.5 usd) and you can get kitchen ware, Japanese snacks, toiletries, blankets, stationary, batteries… you name it, it’s there!
Near Bukit Bintang you have Chinatown. During the day is a market that bases its existence on knock off merchandise. You can get gorgeous Celine bags, that of course aren’t Celine but they look so much like the real thing! The same with Chanel, Prada, Chloe and many more. Being a recovering bag junkie it was hard to walk away empty-handed. But there’s no place for a faux designer bag in my backpack and in my life and they were still a bit out of budget. By night, on Petaling street, there’s an incredible street market that revolves around FOOD! Amazing pork, duck, seafood. It’s packed with people and waiters chase you down the street to get you to sit at their table. It can be a little overwhelming, but just stare at what other people are eating and when you see something you like, try to seat nearby, that’s what we did.
We had the chance to visit the National Mosque. To get in, it was mandatory to be covered from head to toes so they gave us a purple robe. We met a man that explained most of Islams basics and we then got into what I consider a complicated subject: women and Islam. We asked him a few questions, thanked him and just left the thing be. Gave back our robes and roamed the city one more time.
We were there during rainy season, meaning it was hot and sticky and it rained every day so when we were in need of some cooling down, we just entered the first mall in sight and enjoy the free AC.
We left KL feeling renewed, with the adrenaline rush only a city can provide and ready to tackle our next destination: Melaka.