Kuala Lumpur: Sightseeing for pros
Kuala Lumpur has a strategically very interesting location for travelers in Asia. Flying to just about any asian destination is very convenient and cheap. But not only within Asia, even on flights to Europe you can find really good deals. So it often happens that you end up passing through Kuala Lumpur. Many would say that there is not much to see and do there. But that’s simply not true. Kuala Lumpur has a lot to offer. You just have to look a little closer. Many different cultures and religions come together: about 50% of the Chinese meet 39% Malay, Indians, and some minorities, which creates a multicultural charm and above all it influences the cuisine. Kuala Lumpur is more western than most asian cities and a lot of people speak English, which makes it easy to get along and forget about being in Asia.
To cover the typical touristy things you need to visit the Petronas Towers, the KL Tower and the Batu Caves as well as some very nice mosques and museums. For those who are happy to admire these sights in passing or simply perceive them in the overall picture of the city, there is much more to KL than that.
The first thing I usually do in a new city is just walking around. Without a plan and completely disoriented, just getting lost. That way I discover the most interesting things and experience the city, its people, sounds and smells in a special way. Unfortunately, I have to say that KL is not particularly pedestrian friendly. Often there are no footpaths and all of the sudden you find yourself stuck in the midst of huge intersections you’ve got nowhere to go. Even after 6 weeks I wasn’t able to understand the traffic light system and I’m not sure if the locals understand it either. Not to mention this oppressive heat between skyscrapers and smog. To make it short: Walking in Kuala Lumpur is not fun.
Therefore the most important information beforehand: The 4 GoKL bus lines are completely free and of course air-conditioned. Thanks KL at this point! A good start is to simply jump on one of those buses and explore the city this way. Whenever you see something interesting during your bus ride, you can get off or change the line. All lines are loops, so you don’t have to worry about “getting lost”, because if you only stay long enough, sooner or later you will arrive where you’ve started. The buses also drive to all sights, KL Sentral (main train station) and Chinatown, which is an absolute must even for non-tourists. From there you can walk to Kasturi Walk and Central Market, which is a nice indoor market with souvenir shops, traditional craft shops and food court.
In Kuala Lumpur, there are many ways to get away from the concrete masses, such as the KL Forest Eco Park around the KL Tower. A small jungle in the middle of the city with insects, monkeys, suspension bridges and interesting views of Kuala Lumpur’s skyscrapers. Make sure you bring water and mosquito repellent! Admission to the park is free, but right below the tower are a few paid attractions such as an inverse house and a zoo.
For market fans, Chow Kit is an absolute must-see. One of my favorites in Kuala Lumpur. The entire district is a market (indoor & outdoor). Food, fruits, vegetables, fish, clothing, fabric, jewelry … actually everything and, above all, much cheaper than in the center. You hardly see tourists and everything is so lively and much more “asian” than downtown.
Not far away is Titiwangsa Lake. Nice destination, but a bit tough to get there and not recommended on the weekends, as it is way too crowded. During the week you can go for a chill stroll, lie down on the lawn and read a book or borrow a bike and ride around the lake or even make a helicopter flight over KL.
For those, who have got a little extra time and a desire for a little outdoor adventure should do a half-day trip to the Kanching Falls. A peaceful and tranquil natural paradise about 20 km from Kuala Lumpur. You should definitely prepare for sweating, because the 1-hour uphill hike is a bit challenging, but you walk along a beautiful waterfall with 7 levels, in which you can jump in the water for a short refreshment on your way up. The higher, the fewer people. We stayed for a while at the top level, where we were completely alone for 2 hours. The trail is mostly made of stairs and is quite steep, but the higher you get, the easier it gets and the more adventurous it is. Hiking boots are not absolutely necessary, but would probably have saved me from a bad fall. Water, snacks, bug spray, bathing suit and towel are recommended. A really great destination and the fresh, crystal clear water makes up for every effort. In order to enter the park you will have to pay a fee of 5RM (1€) per person. Catch bus number 43 from Central Market to get there (about 3RM).