3 things to do in Kuala Lumpur

ruben-150x150by Rubén Hornillo Rodriguez

Kuala Lumpur, the capital of Malaysia, is a very interesting and contradictory place despite an apparent lack of cultural exports. It’s not that nothing interesting goes on there, it’s just that for most Westerners, the Formula 1 GP of Malaysia and the Petrona Towers are about the only things of interest. Well, this is what I’m here for… to let you know a bit more about this country where a beer is more expensive (about 25 Ringgit -$8-) than an entire pizza (20 Ringgit -$6.50-).  Kuala Lumpur is a great and cheap city to travel to, one of the few places in the World where you can turn a corner and feel like you’re in China, cross the street and believe you’re in India and then walk into a store and be surrounded by people from countries all over the World. You’ll definitely get by speaking English or Arabic, as most of the vendors there speak it.

Chinatown 2

1) CHINATOWN

I recommend you find accommodation in KL’s Chinatown. Chocked full of hostels, I recommend that you totally ignore them, as Malaysian standards are a bit lower than what you normally expect. They’re extremely cheap, but you may find yourself having to share a bed with someone with no AC, which is a no-no in a tropical country like Malaysia. However, there are a couple of decent 3 star hotels that will give you a great room and breakfast for two for about $50 a night. Apart from cheap accommodations, in Chinatown you can find cheap everything… as long as you don’t mind purchasing counterfeit goods. The quality of the product, overall, is much better than what I saw in Hong Kong. If you enjoy haggling, you’ll have a ball. If you’re not interested in filling up your suitcase, you can enjoy the tasty food at great prices for Western standards. Malaysian food is very similar to Thai food, a mash-up of Chinese and Indian cuisines. You can purchase fresh, typical fruits from the region, like dragon fruit or durian, which smells like hell but tastes like heaven. If you don’t want to spend a dime eating, look for Sri Mahamariamman Temple, a Hindu temple that serves free food every day, as it’s a Hindu tradition.

 

Batu Caves 2

2) BATU CAVES

If you want more spiritual experiences in an environment away from the city, hop on a taxi (by far the most convenient way to get there) towards the Batu Caves, a limestone hill full of awe-inspiring caves. It is also a Hindu shrine dedicated to Lord Murugan, God of War and Victory, a 140 ft. statue that salutes visitors at the entrance of the caves. It is a great place to spend a morning, seeing the religious artwork made by men and the artwork made by nature in the caves. Bring along some food to keep the monkeys happy. You’ll see how they, like so many of us, prefer Cheetos to fruit. Not feeling generous? Don’t worry, the monkeys will steal the food from you if they must. From the top of the stairs that lead to the shrine, you can see KL in the distance (about 13 Km south). But if you want a better view, head to….

 

KL Tower 3

3) KUALA LUMPUR TOWER

In reality, Kuala Lumpur Tower is the best place to take in the full view of the new skyscraper laden city, contrary to the general belief among tourists that the Petronas Towers are the best observatory in town. Besides, you won’t have to waste an entire morning just to get into the tower like you do in South East Asia’s most famous twin towers. This tower is the 7th tallest telecommunications tower in the World and is 1,381 ft. high. It is located at the top of a hill in the middle of Kuala Lumpur, and is surrounded by parklands. You can take a 30 min trek through a natural forest reserve from the Bukit Nanas train station all the way up to the tower. A shopping mall and zoo can be found at the base of the tower, as well as many more activities. From the top of the tower, you can catch a view of the entire city and look at monumental works of architecture such as the KLCC Park and the Petronas Towers or Malaysia’s futuristic National Mosque, which is, architecturally, the most fascinating mosque I’ve ever seen in my life.