Kuala Lumpur (affectionately abbreviated to KL) is known as the Garden City and the cosmopolitan capital city of Malaysia. It is also being called the new gateway to South East Asia and it is easy to see why. The city is a central hub for visitors travelling to Asia and beyond, as well as a city with an interesting history, great culture, amazing architecture, fabulous food, wonderful shopping, and some of the world’s least expensive five-star hotels!
I’ve been lucky enough to have visited KL many times over the past year. My inaugural visit was a one-night stopover between flights and, on that occasion, having arrived late to see the Petronas Towers at night, lighting up the KL cityscape in all their shiny splendour, I sincerely wished right there and then that I’d factored in little more time to explore this city.
My wish came true just a couple of weeks later, when a typhoon cut short my planned trip through the Philippines, and I unexpectedly had to return to KL. On this occasion, I stayed right in the heart of KLCC – the city centre – for a whole week and during this time I made sure to get a ticket to ride to the top of the glittering Petronas Towers and also to walk across the famous sky bridge that has been the location for so many action movies. These famous twin towers are such a fabulous metaphor for Malaysia’s thriving economy.
My most recent visit to KL was just a few weeks ago when my husband and I were enroute from Japan to Thailand and we used KL as a four-night stopover and a central meeting point to catch up with our son and his wife who live in South Korea. We stayed in the Golden Triangle – just steps away from the Petronas Towers at the Intercontinental hotel.
So, you’ve planned your stopover in KL. What now?
Where to stay?
As I said before – and it cannot be overstated – hotels, including the five-star ones, are all incredibly affordable in KL and boutique hotels for those who prefer a more personal ambiance are also sited in convenient city centre locations. Do your research and book with confidence knowing that the fabulous transport systems in KL (more on that to come) will whisk you comfortably and affordably to your destination hotel.
Where to go?
#1. The Petronas Twin Towers
I can’t help it – I get a rush of adrenaline every time I see these twin towers, particularly if I’ve arrived in the city at night. Lit up, they truly are breathtaking to behold. They are the tallest twin structures in the world with both towers joined one hundred and seventy-five feet above street level by the fifty-eight-meter-long sky bridge. At the base of the towers is the Suria Mall – a very popular high-end shopping mall – and at the top at level eighty-six is the observation deck. Do note that a pass is required to enter the observation deck and the sky bridge and visitor numbers are limited each day so do plan ahead. Your hotel will be able to help.
#2. The Menara KL Tower:
The Menara Tower is another of Malaysia’s most recognisable landmarks. Built in the Bukit Nanas forest reserve, which is home to age-old trees including a hundred-year-old Jelutong tree and other plants indigenous to Malaysia’s tropical climate, it stands one hundred meters taller than the Petronas Towers, and it is visible from almost anywhere in KL . The Atmosphere 360 revolving restaurant is in the top section of the tower and the views from there are incredible!
What to do?
There is so much to do in this city and in its surrounding areas that it is hard to know where to start and indeed where to finish. Online research is the key. The Batu Caves are KL’s most frequented tourist attractions. The cave, said to be some four hundred million years old, houses an important one-hundred-year-old temple. If you are looking to do a little shopping in KL then you’ll be spoiled for choice. There are so many areas and street markets and air-conditioned malls that can turn your shopping experience into a retail therapy session. Pavilion Shopping Centre in Bukit Bintang is a luxurious shopping complex featuring all white marble, while at the entrance is the Pavilion Crystal Fountain, one of the most commonly photographed structures in the city. For an evening cocktail when the sun goes down I recommend the Trader’s Hotel sky-bar for its uninterrupted views of the Twin towers and the Golden Triangle that is the stunning city centre of Kuala Lumpur.
The metroplitan transport system makes KL such a fabulous travel hub.
With its a mono-rail system, scheduled buses and affordable taxis (even more affordable are Uber taxis) and in particular its excellent rail network, including a modern express train service linking the airports of KLIA and KLIA2 (the latter being the hub for budget airline Air Asia) with KL Sentral main railway station, swift access into the heart of this cosmopolitan city is a real option even if you only have a limited or overnight stopover between destinations.
For travellers and adventurers with a little more time to spare and with a flexible agenda, it’s possible to use KL as exciting hub from which to fly on to so many other places relatively inexpensively. We recently flew out to the Indonesian islands of Bali and Lombock and onto the beautiful Gili Islands. On another occasion, we flew to Singapore for the weekend to enjoy a Singapore Sling at the Long Bar at Raffles. On another trip we flew off for a few nights to the Malaysian duty free island of Langkawi. Penang is another popular destination within Malaysia that is well worth experiencing and exploring from your base in KL. And that is why I absolutely agree with the new and popular opinion that KL is the new gateway to so many exciting cities throughout South East Asia and indeed the world!
To conclude… Kuala Lumpur is a fantastic place to schedule a stopover while transiting through South East Asia for sightseeing, dining, relaxing, and of course for shopping in its fabulous malls and street markets. There are hotels aplenty to suit every budget and, it has to be said again, that a luxury treat in KL and in Malaysia in general – is far more affordable than you might think with such a favourable exchange rate on the Malaysian Ringgit (MYR). KL is absolutely our number one go-to for visa runs too as it is so centrally located for South East Asia.