Three Days in Kuala Lumpur
I learned many lessons in Kuala Lumpur.
- Cities aren’t my thing (at least with traveling)
- Don’t tinder
- Pod style beds are cool until your dormmates start hooking up like it’s college again
Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
Trip Duration: 3 days/3 nights
Accommodations: Reggae Mansion, THE PARTY HOSTEL OF KL
Goals: Chill (LOLOLOL)
HistoryAbout KL: Here’s the wikipedia page. Kuala Lumpur, the capitol of Malaysia and ranked the safest city in the developing world, is home to over 1.7 million people. It’s known for being one of the most harmonious and openminded cities in southeast Asia with good reason—its residents are among the most diverse in Asia. Though Islam is the official religion of Malaysia, KL is a melting pot of people who practice Hinduism, Buddhism, and Christianity (in addition to Islam). Most KL residents are multilingual, speaking English, Tamil, Cantonese, Mandarin, Hindi, and a number of Malay dialects.
I will say off the bat that my experience in KL is not reflective of KL as a whole. I was in a funky mood and pretty exhausted from traveling, which limited my exposure to the city.
1A. Reggae Mansion
“Reggae doesn’t belong in mansions.” —Anonymous
Reggae Mansion is THE party destination for visitors to KL’s Chinatown/Petaling Street. Located a short walk from the Masjid Jamek LRT Station, it houses a bazillion rooms, laundry service, a restaurant, super clean and uncrowded bathrooms, posh pod beds, very reliable wifi, and a rooftop bar with a view. They have freeflowing beer every night for 35 MYR and dancing until 3am.
To be fair, I knew exactly what I was getting into when I checked in. The room agreement form they had me sign explicitly stated in bold and highlighted text: “This is a party hostel, so don’t leave us bad reviews on TripAdvisor.”
Being that I would be backpacking through the quiet paths of Java for the next three weeks, I thought, Okay, I can rally. What else is there to do in KL?
My first night there, I spent all but five minutes on the roof before deciding I wasn’t feeling it, then disappeared into the recesses of my pod and chatted with friends from Chicago / Philippines the rest of the night.
On my second night, I vowed to try and last an hour. One of the bar staff chatted me up and invited me to go clubbing after his shift ended. Since I had yet to experience any city nightlife, I decided to take him up on it. So I had a couple drinks, then retreated to my room to take a nap (gosh, aren’t I exciting?) before meeting him after his shift.
We grabbed a car to Bukit Bintang (see #2 on the KL city map above), at which point he bought me dinner and I realized I was on a date. He was a complete gentleman though, and made sure to ask if I was enjoying myself every ten minutes. Dinner was good too (beef curry, YUM).
KL nightlife is on point, and I highly recommend it for people who are into that sorta thing. I, on the other hand, confirmed that the only type of clubbing I enjoy is the type where you dress up according to a theme with a bunch of girlfriends.
The third night, I matched on Tinder with a local guy who had noticed me on the rooftop those FIVE MINUTES from the first night, but was too shy to say hi. I didn’t have the energy to hold a conversation, much less go out again, so I let the conversation die. Then he messaged me saying he was at the mansion (WHAT?) and I promptly went to sleep until several hours later when I was woken up (see bulletpoint #3, above).
KL: 2, Me: 0
1B. Petaling Street / Chinatown
Petaling Street is a Chinatown neighborhood known for its bargain street goods. It’s where I had my first haggling experience. Do I like haggling? Sure don’t! But I came away with a shirt, scarf, and skirt for under 80 MYR, which is probably still overpriced but whatever.
The nearby Central Market is also home to a lot of higher end goods and artwork, so this was a pretty cool area for people who like shopping.
The self-guided Malaysian Heritage Walk and Merdaka Square are also within a short walking distance, which provides a good overview of the neighborhood and its history. You can do all this within 1-2 hours.
3. Batu Caves
My favorite part of KL was taking a half day to tour the Batu Caves, a series of four caverns, including one of the most popular Hindu temples outside of India. Because this is a religious site, women are required to cover their shoulders and knees. The temple rents saris out for those who need them. Visiting the temple is free; the only cost is walking up 100m via 272 steps.
My favorite cave, however, was the Dark Cave. A 45-minute tour costs 35 MYR, and you’re able to learn all about the cave’s ecosystem and see different types of bats and insects inhabiting the cave.
Our tour guide was pretty awesome. She tried to rescue a centipede tangled in a web and about to be eaten by a spider. Then she pulled a dead baby fruit bat from the wall with her bare hands (later bringing it back to their research lab to study). We also got to see a pool of bat poop that was one meter deep that insects feed on.
But the best part was near the end of the tour, where we stood in the pitch dark for five minutes and just listened to the bats flying above us as the wind blew through the cavern.
A local rock climbing company in KL offers a tour where you get to climb and rappel down one of the cave walls. Unfortunately, I was unable to book a tour on time.
Batu Caves is located 30 min north of KL and is usually accessible by train from KL Sentral. The train was closed when I was there, so they recommended I take a bus to the next train stop. KL Sentral is massive and doesn’t have great signage, though, so I ended up taking a taxi (word of advice—be prepared to negotiate!). I was actually able to negotiate a trip there and back to my hostel, plus 2 hours of waiting time for 70 MYR. A one-way trip shouldn’t cost more than 40 MYR, depending on where you’re coming from.
As I mentioned, my experience in KL shouldn’t be reflective of KL as a whole. Most of the Malaysians I met were nice, if not a little disinterested in the tourists, but can you blame them? I also skipped many of the iconic sites, such as KLCC and the PETRONAS Towers. Much like clubbing, they were sites I knew I wouldn’t particularly care for. Whatever floats your boat, though!
If I could have a do-over, I would book a daytrip to Penang or the Cameron Highlands instead of spending so much time in the city. This was the kick in the butt I needed to reprioritize how I was traveling (more outdoor activities, less city life), so some good came out of this leg of the trip!
(Also note: KL is part of Peninsular Malaysia, which only makes up 40% of the country’s landmass. Malaysian Borneo makes up the other half, which I’m personally VERY EXCITED to see!)