“Travel makes one modest. You see what a tiny place you occupy in the world.” – Gustave Flaubert
PRINT & GO
Before your departure, do not forget to check/bring with you :
– Boarding Pass and Hotel Reservation
– Visa (if applicable)
DAY 1: VISIT KUALA LUMPUR – CHINATOWN, CENTRAL MARKET, BOTANIC GARDEN
It took me years to decide to add Asia in my “to go” list: I have always been reluctant, thinking that there was nothing special and that wherever I would have gone I would have found the same things. My decision to go to Malaysia was indeed not intentional at the beginning: I was trying to find the best flights to reach West Australia and most of them stopped in KL or Singapore. Finally what was supposed to be just ” a few days stop before heading to West Australia” became a main trip and definitely one of the best trips I have ever done. In 2-weeks-time, I managed to visit Malaysia, Singapore, and Indonesia. For practical purpose, I am going to split the itinerary into different posts per country. The time spent in each country was enough to visit the main places and enjoy the life over there, although if you have more time I would strongly suggest to stay longer and explore other corners of the country. The first country that I have visited in Asia is Malaysia, specifically Kuala Lumpur and Melaka. Kuala Lumpur (usually called KL) is a huge dynamic city that has been knowing a fast development in the last years. At a first glimpse you can already notice how – especially in the city center – the old structures left place to massive high buildings, most of them hosting international companies’ offices. While walking around KL you can indeed experience the Malaysian people, culture, religion, food, and at the same time its international trend, its corporate offices, its tourists and expats, its worldwide food chains, its influences from the other Asian countries. You can expect to see very old houses, streets in bad conditions, and poor people, and at the same time modern skyscrapers, huge streets, and wealthy people. Although a Muslim country, you can find Hindu or Buddhist temples, Christian churches, a very large freedom of expression and behavior. It is impressive to see how different cultures and religions can co-exist, it should be an example for many of other countries in the world. And then you take all these ingredients, and you mix it with a high level of safety and very good infrastructures…bingo, a great cocktail! KL is definitely a city to enjoy. I managed to visit it in 3 days time, but if you want to spend more time there I am sure you will not regret it. On my first day in KL, I tried to enjoy the multi culti aspect of the city. First of all, I went to visit the KL Central Market. This is a very nice indoor (and a part outdoor) market located at one stop metro from KL Sentral (Central Station). In this market you can find a lot of products (mainly art crafts, clothes, jewels), all coming from Malaysia, China, or India. It is not a food market unfortunately, but still enjoyable.
In the same area you can reach Chinatown. The heart of Chinatown consists in 2 main streets, packed with food kiosks (in a part of those streets you can also find clothes, tech, souvenirs, etc), where you can taste good Chinese food. You can walk there day and night, it is always crowded. Nevertheless the charm of Chinatown is in the very small and hidden streets around, at first impression they can be scary but just give it a try and have a tour there, explore the food kiosks and the people playing or chatting there.
After a lunch break in Chinatown, you can go to Merdeka Square. Merdeka Square (Independence Square) is the core of KL’s history. You can find buildings like the Sultan Abdul Samad Building, the Royal Selangor Club, and the National History museum. Some of them peppered with Moorish flavour. A 100 metre-high flagpole marks the spot where the Malayan Flag was hoisted on August 31, 1957 signifying the independence of the country from British rule.The most beautiful building at the Merdeka Square is, without any doubt, the Abdul Samad Building. The predominantly Moorish appearance of the building suitably reflects the cultural background of Malaysia.
The unique Moorish-style building has a 41m clock tower, dubbed ‘Big Ben’.
From Merdeka Square, you can walk 2kms or take a taxi (especially if the temperature is very high and humid, do not hesitate to take a taxi, they are very cheap and they will avoid you to suffer from the heating) and reach the National Mosque. This is a beautiful and modern building, unfortunately not accessible to non-Muslim.
Opposite the mosque is the beginning of the Botanic Garden. KL’s Botanic Garden is huge, its visit will take you the entire afternoon. The tour will start with the Orchid garden, then with the Bird Park and eventually the core of the garden. Being inside the Botanic Garden means isolating yourself from the loud noises of the city (KL is indeed a very noisy city: the traffic is quite high, therefore you will always be surrounded by vehicle’s noises) and find some quiet time and harmony with the nature. The garden hosts all kind of flora that you can find only in that part of Asia (for someone living in Europe, it is completely another world!), together with nice waterfalls and lakes.
After this long day I am sure the energy will be almost gone, therefore I would suggest for the night to do something relaxing and perhaps have dinner or drink near your accommodation.
DAY 2: VISIT KUALA LUMPUR – BATU CAVES + KLCC
The second day will start with the visit of one of the greatest places in KL (in my opinion, the best): the Batu Caves. In order to get there, you need to take the public transportation, which is excellent in KL. Basically you have standard buses or underground system. The underground system includes Monorail, MRT and KTM (commuter). The tickets can be purchased in each station and they are very cheap. The public transportation takes you literally everywhere!
The cave is one of the most popular Hindu shrines outside India, and is dedicated to Lord Murugan. It is the focal point of Hindu festival of Thaipusam in Malaysia. Rising almost 100 m above the ground, the Batu Caves temple complex consists of three main caves and a few smaller ones. The biggest, referred to as Cathedral Cave or Temple Cave, has a very high ceiling and features ornate Hindu shrines. To reach it, visitors must climb a steep flight of 272 steps. Make sure you borrow something to cover your legs at the main entrance and while you climb the stairs watch out the monkeys who can come to you and steal your food. The best is to have just water with you. At the base of the hill are two more cave temples, Art Gallery Cave and Museum Cave, both of which are full of Hindu statues and paintings. The Ramayana Cave is situated to the extreme left as one faces the sheer wall of the hill. On the way to the Ramayana Cave, there is a big statue of Hanuman and a temple dedicated to Lord Hanuman. The visit of the Batu Caves will take a lot of time and energy (especially if the heating is unbearable…consider that inside the caves the humidity reaches even higher levels!), but it is definitely worth.
Once the visit is over, take the KTM again and get off at KL Sentral: on one side of the station (Brickfields area) is Little India. The colors of the streets are simply amazing. You can see vendors lugging bales and bales of saris through the traffic. You can find saris of any colors and designs here. Glass bangles too are aplenty. There are shops selling traditional Indian candies, savories, and so on. A tour in this magic area is mandatory and it can be also a good stop for lunch.
After a good lunch break you can head to what is called KLCC (Kuala Lumpur City Center) and which is actually the modern part of the city. Once you get off KLCC underground you will feel like in a big American city: big streets and skyscrapers everywhere! Among all contemporary architectural marvels, one in particular will catch your attention: the famous Petronas Towers. These are the highest twin towers in the world (and before 2004 they were the highest buildings in the world as well), formed by 88 floors. Visits inside are possible.
The Petronas Towers host a huge shopping mall on the basement (yes, this is something that you might know: KL has shopping malls everywhere! And most of them are located in the underground, therefore it might take you ages to exit): if you go opposite the main entrance you will find yourself in a more quiet situation, a pedestrian area with a beautiful lake. This beautiful lake is the beginning of the KLCC Park. You can have a enjoyable walk in this green and quiet corner in a concrete area.
After this tour, you can either go back to your hotel for a rest before the night, either stay in KLCC and wait for the sun to go down and see the Petronas Towers by night (they are absolutely wonderful!). Afterwards you can do one of the coolest KL activities by night: experience the delicious street food in Bukit Bitang. This is an area mainly known for its shopping malls, designers stores, but honestly there is nothing new, you can find the same shops everywhere in the world now! So you can skip the shopping part and experience something much more local. At the end of the shopping street there is another street with plenty of delicious food truck on both sides. You can experience local food (fish is fresh and delicious! I strongly suggest to taste the crabs!) in a very nice cosy atmosphere.
DAY 3: VISIT THE FRIM
Two days in a big noisy city with very high temperature and horrible humidity can exhaust you at some point. So for the 3rd day we take a break from the city and we go to the FRIM, a place that is very hard to find in tourist boards (actually it was suggested to me by a local). The FRIM (Forest Research Institute of Malaysia) is located in Kepong, around 30kms from KL. You can get there by train and then taxi, although it is better to do all the way with the taxi (if you take a taxi make sure that the driver will wait for you at the exit of the FRIM, the place is located in the middle of nowhere). The FRIM is a government based forest reserve which has been around since before Malaysia gained independence in 1957. It is a government agency which is responsible for biological, botanical and other scientific research and development pertaining to the preservation of Malaysian rain forests. However, despite being a center for forestry-based research and education, FRIM also opens its doors to visitors who want to experience firsthand, what it is like to be in a Malaysian tropical rain forest without traveling too far from the city. When you get there, you can be part of several guided tours that will make you explore the wonders of the Malaysian nature. The best experience is the canopy walkway, a 150m long walkway that is built 30m above ground level. Originally built for its researchers and scientists to study above-ground flora and fauna more effectively, this walkway is opened to public whereby visitors will literally feel like they are hovering above the forest grounds, taking in views and landscapes that is unknown to the eye at ground level. You can even see a glimpse of Kuala Lumpur’s skyline if the skies are clear. The idea of walking at ‘tree level’ may be disorienting to some at first but it is certainly a spectacle that should not be missed.
If you prefer to stay in the city, I would suggest to take a taxi (around 10mins from KL Sentral) and visit the Thean Hou Temple. This is a fantastic Chinese temple, located on the top of a hill, and surrounded by a nice garden with all animals of the Chinese horoscope. This temple with elements of Buddhism, Taoism and Confucianism is a grandiose structure and represents a successful combination of modern architectural techniques and authentic traditional design featuring imposing pillars, spectacular roofs, ornate carvings and intricate embellishments.The front entrance of the temple features a multi-arched gateway with red pillars, the color symbolic of prosperity and good fortune. From the prayer hall (located on the 4th floor) you can also enjoy a very nice view of the city.
DAY 4: MELAKA
On day 4, it is time to leave the beautiful KL and take a bus to Melaka. To reach Melaka, you can take take a bus leaving from the Terminal Bersepadu Selatan in KL and you will be there in around 2h00-2h30mins. Buses are modern and with AC and they operate every 30mins. Melaka (also Malacca) is a UNESCO world heritage site, thanks to its rich cultural and historical background. At the beginning, Melaka was a simple village of fishermen, but later it has been conquered by Portuguese, Dutch, and British. The influence of these populations is very clear in the buildings, especially in the beautiful small red houses in the centre, in the small windmills, and in the shopping streets (the most famous is Jonker street). You can visit Melaka on foot, since everything is nearby. Compared to KL, Melaka is smaller and quiet, although assaulted by tourists.
With the visit of Melaka my trip to Malaysia is finished. Of course if you have more time, you can enjoy many other fantastic destinations that this great country can offer.