Kuala Lumpur is approximately a 4-hour plane ride from Manila. We traveled via AirAsia at noon, arrived at the Kuala Lumpur International Airport (KLIA) around 5PM, boarded the KLIA Express train to KL Sentral (around 35 minutes), and took Uber to Chaos Hotel in Bukit Bintang.
Bukit Bintang is KL’s shopping and entertainment district, a busy area where you can find KL’s popular shopping centers (the Pavilion Mall, Sungei-Wang Mall, Berjaya Times Square, etc.) and several exciting and unique dining spots.
Where to Stay: Chaos Hotel
This is a small hotel with a modern and somewhat industrial look. It appears a bit average at first glance as it kind of disappears amid the shops and establishments surrounding it. The hotel has a small reception area, an adjoining cafeteria, and a rather tiny elevator. However, I was pleasantly surprised by how well designed the room was–small, yes, but well built and arranged, and it had a certain charm and warmth to it.
We got 2 double rooms on our first 2 nights and a triple room on our last night. Both rooms were equipped with AC, mini-fridge, hot-and-cold shower + basic toiletries, water heater + complementary coffee and tea packs and bottled water.
Most of the office staff were Filipinos, which was a treat. They were all really nice, friendly, and helpful—gave us useful tips on how to tour the area, where to buy affordable souvenirs, and where to eat. We also had to leave our luggage after check-out, and they had no problem with it. They even lent us adaptors and hair dryer when we needed them. Great experience!
Touring Around KL: The Hop-On, Hop-Off Bus (MYR40 when you buy online, or approx. Php500, for 24 hours)
There are several ways to tour Kuala Lumpur and see places, and one of the best ways is via the hop-on, hop-off bus. You can buy ticket online or in the bus station, for 24 hours or 48 hours, and then just hop on the bus to see the sights. There are several buses that go around the city and stop in several scenic spots (total of 24 stops). You can just hop off in one stop, explore and see the sights, and then hop on the next bus to get to your next destination. Buses come and go at an interval of 30 minutes.
Other options for touring around KL include the monorail, taxi, and Uber. We haven’t tried the monorail, but based on our experience at the KLIA Express train, it’s easy to see that Kuala Lumpur has a very efficient rail system.
There’s Uber in Malaysia, so getting transport is not a problem. However, if you don’t have internet connection and you’re in an area with no wi-fi, this can be a challenge. We encountered this problem a few times when we booked an Uber and couldn’t contact the driver or see where the car is because we have left the wi-fi zone.
Taxis are everywhere, but we got advice to avoid them as much as possible because they usually charge a hefty price. According to one Uber driver we met, there’s also this ongoing clash between Uber and taxi drivers in KL and that Uber drivers are often harassed by taxi drivers. Too bad. We only tried taxi a couple of times, but I guess we were lucky because we were not treated badly during both times—and the drivers used taxi meter. I guess one possible glitch you can encounter is meeting a driver who doesn’t speak English well (happened to us once). In such a situation, just have a map ready to show to the driver.
What to See:
The following are the places we visited during our hop-on, hop-off bus tour:
National Museum (Muzium Negara)
This museum houses several galleries that offer a glimpse into Malaysia’s rich history and culture. It’s one of the must-see destinations for first time travelers to the country. The entrance fee for foreigners is MYR5.
This is the former residence of the King of Malaysia, a 13-acre property that showcases unique architecture and great scenery. The main grounds are actually closed to the public, but tourists can take photos in front of the main gate.
This is one of the highlights of our KL tour, a spacious and quiet park that treats visitors to a wide range of interesting features—lovely path walks, a deer sanctuary, a huge lake, tall trees and plants, and a lot more. Perfect for a retreat or a chill time.
This is another lake that we love. It’s not as serene as the Lake Garden, but it also has a lot of space for biking, which we did. They have bikes for rent at MYR10 per hour.
Kuala Lumpur Convention Center (Petronas Towers)
The famous twin towers of KL are frequented by a lot of visitors. You can go up to the bridge connecting the two towers for a fee, or you can simply walk around and take photos with Petronas in the background. Because the towers are quite tall, you might not get a photo of the entire tower at first try. There are vendors in the area selling a specialized wide lens that is supposedly designed for clipping to your mobile phone so you can take a better photo. Warning: try first and make sure that it works with your phone before you buy–didn’t really work with ours.
This is a tall tower whose most popular feature is its revolving restaurant at the top. We didn’t get to try the restaurant, but we were able to get a photo of the structure. It’s an interesting landmark that can be seen from various areas in Kuala Lumpur.
Just like all other China Towns in various places around the world, this one is a popular shopping center for cheap items. It’s located in Jalan Petaling, and you can buy a wide assortment of products in this area—from fake goods to precious stones, clothes, toys, and a lot of other stuff and food items.
There are many other places in KL that we were unable to visit, such as the Central Market, Little India, the Bird Park, etc., but these are easy to see and visit when you board the hop-on, hop-off bus. I think if you want to see everything, the 48 hours pass would be a great choice.
Where to Eat
There are several eating places in the Bukit Bintang area, and so many good food to try, too. The prices are relatively cheap; you can have a meal for MYR10. We tried a local, straightforward, no-frills version of the nasi lemak, a local meal that consists of rice topped with egg, peanuts and small dried fish (dilis), and a spicy sauce wrapped in banana leaves which cost only MYR1.50, a vegetable spring roll with a sweet wrap for MYR0.50, finished off with a can of juice that cost MYR2. It was one of our best, cheapest meals from a store inside the Lake Park. Somewhere in the vicinity of the Lake Park, there is also a stall that sells a local waffle called ‘apam balik’. It’s waffle/pancake with corn cream and different flavors to choose from—cheese, chocolate, banana, peanut butter, etc.
The basement food court in the Lot 10 Hutong mall is one of the must-try eating places in the area. Vendors converge here to sell various types of local food—from dry and wet noodles to various rice meals, pastries, and a lot more. This was where we ate dinner on our first night since it was just a few walks away from the hotel.
Another great location is Jalan Alor, which is probably the most popular street in KL for foodies. It’s an entire street that comes alive at night as street vendors open to sell a countless variety of local street food—from giant dimsums and roti to curry rice meals, coconut ice cream, and delicacies such as frog porridge.
The Pavilion Mall has a food court that features both local and mainstream food, though the meals are a bit more pricey than the food outside. China Town also has markets that serve noodles. The place is far from fancy, and it might have looked a little unclean, but it’s the real experience.
For those who want to eat in fancy restaurants, there are also too many of those in Bukit Bintang—you won’t run out of options.
Where to Buy Souvenirs:
Of course, this is one of the highlights of our trip—shopping for souvenirs for our families back home!
- China Town. As mentioned earlier, this is the best destination for cheap items. Haggling is encouraged!
- Sungei-Wang. This is a shopping mall where you can buy I Love Malaysia/KL t-shirts, ref magnets, key chains, and other stuff, too. My travel buddies were able to buy t-shirts for approximately Php90 (yes, in Philippine pesos!).
- Giant Supermarket. This is a grocery store inside Sungei-Wang, a bit hard to find but worth the search. It appears to be popular for the Old Town Coffee that it offers. It also sells discounted chocolates (i.e. Cadbury for only a little less than MYR6).
Tip when buying souvenirs: don’t buy on your first day. Look around before buying anything. Trust me; this is proven. I still can’t get over the fact that a ref magnet set that we bought for MYR25 was offered at MYR10 in another store, so…