Things to do in Kuala Lumpur – Exploring Malaysia’s Capital City

We’ve spent the last four days in Kuala Lumpur (KL) – a city not being our usual choice to blow a few days, but it’s been Hari Raya – the celebration that comes at the end of the Muslim month of fasting – and by all accounts trying to travel during this time isn’t a good idea, so we got here before the celebrations began and we’ve been waiting it out until our flight to Borneo later today.

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We’re camped out near to China Town, where most of the back packer places are, although the fact that we go for a room with an attached bathroom 99.9% of the time counts us out of most places – as shared bathrooms are the norm here, so we’re in the A-One hotel which sits on a square by HSBC, the Masjid Jamek and which is just a few minutes walk to the famous Petaling Street.

Where to Stay in Kuala Lumpur

There are a host of places to stay in Kuala Lumpur – here’s our pick of the luxury places to stay in Kuala Lumpur, mid-range places to stay in Kuala Lumpur, and budget accommodation in Kuala Lumpur.

Grand Millennium Kuala Lumpur, Kuala Lumpur: Located right in central Kuala Lumpur, the Grand Millennium Kuala Lumpur provides world-class service. KL’s Grand Millennium’s modern-style rooms are furnished with air-conditioning, cable TV, floor-to-ceiling windows with spectacular views, a seating area, a desk, an iron/iron board, free WiFi, and a private bathroom. Totally chill out in the city at the outdoor pool or in the sauna. This top Kuala Lumpur hotel also has four dining options, The Mill Café, Lai Ching Yen, Haryana Japanese restaurant, and Bistro 160. There’s even a well-equipped gym and air-conditioned racquetball courts. The Grand Millennium Kuala Lumpur is a gorgeous luxury hotel in Kuala Lumpur. Check out room rates and availability here.

Expressionz Suites by iHost Global, Kuala Lumpur: The Expressionz Suites is 30-minutes away from central Kuala Lumpur. Each room at KL’s Expressionz Suites is equipped with a flat-screen TV with satellite channels, a dining area, a microwave, a fridge, an electric teapot, free WiFi, and a private bathroom with a bidet and hairdryer. This mid-range Kuala Lumpur accommodation also has an outdoor swimming pool, a garden, lake views, a fitness room, a sauna, and free WiFi. Expressionz Suite also has an outdoor and indoor play area for children, a karaoke room, and a Jacuzzi. The Expressionz Suites are a great mid-range hotel option in Kuala Lumpur. See rates and available dates here.

Hotel A-One, Kuala Lumpur: The Hotel A-One is situated right in the center of Kuala Lumpur. This budget-friendly accommodation features rooms with a flat-screen TV, free WiFi access, air-conditioning, a dresser, a telephone, and a private bathroom. The budget KL hotel also has daily housekeeping and baggage storage. Hotel A-One is the perfect place to stay if you’re watching your budget and if you want to easily explore more of Kuala Lumpur. Read more reviews, and check room rates, and available dates here.

The Best Things to do in Kuala Lumpur

The square in front of the hotel in KL is interesting, during the first two days of Hari Raya its been filled full of single males. Well, one assumes that they’re single. It looks like this is the hang out for all the immigrant workers on holiday times. They’re all just kind of standing around, some are talking to each other, some at just, well standing around. Where they stand depends on if the sun has come out from behind a cloud and you can track the shade movement by the crowds. It looks rather like Hong Kong on a Sunday, when all the immigrant domestic workers hang out together in the city’s parks, and underpasses.


It’s a little like being back in India with the all male groups. But there’s no feeling of intimidation and they’re not staring. There’s a big Indian community here – and we’ve benefited from some amazing Indian food here in KL.

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We’ve wandered through food courts near Petaling Street, sat and listened to a beer drinking expat Brit and his Filipino wife, who are here for the weekend because its cheaper than the Philippines, which we apparently wouldn’t like, its not nice. (It’s one of those “no need to talk, we can just listen and nod occasionally” conversations)

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We’ve munched our way through mee goreng, sizzling pork and nasi goreng while we waited for the laundry to wash on a small street on the edge of China Town.

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Kuala Lumpurs Museum Bank Negara

We spent a good few hours at the Museum Bank Negara – where we learned about Islamic Banking and attempted to play the games that they’ve incorporated into the museum to help with learning – some worked, some didn’t, some were bizarre.

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The money tunnel was cool and the Yap stones were huge!

A Yap Stone - currency on the island of Yap
A Yap Stone – currency on the island of Yap

We headed also to the Twin Towers, because, while they might have been closed because of Hari Raya, we couldn’t visit KL and not see them.

When we travelled there was very little online booking available for buses, trains and ferries in Malaysia and South East Asia – the folks at Easybook have now remedied that – check timetables and book tickets online now – its WAY easier!

Petronas Twin Towers

The Petronas Twin Towers, stand at a height of 451.9 metres with a Skybridge on the 41st floor – it’s the highest double decker skybridge in the world. It’s also a steep price to get up there – 80 RM for non Malaysians, but we’re glad to have the Hari Raya excuse as to why (apart from the price) that we can’t head up there.

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Hari Raya (or Eid al-Fitr or a host of other names including Feast of Breaking the Fast, the Sugar Feast, the Sweet Festival or Lesser Eid, is celebrated by Muslims worldwide and marks the end of Ramadan, the Islamic holy month of fasting.

Many Muslims will travel to their home towns, they will spend time at the grave sites of family, paying respects and then visit with friends and family. Most museums and public services are closed.

The National Museum Kuala Lumpur

We were inducted into the history of Malaysia by spending several hours at the excellent National Museum at a bargain 5 RM for non Malaysians to enter. It follows the theme that we’ve seen throughout all the museums in Malaysia so far.

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  • There are huge amounts of space and money dedicated to museums in Malaysia.
  • They don’t seem to apply the concept of readability to signage, either in Bahasia Malay or English.
  • There are vast swathes of signage and information. Encyclopedia’s full. You won’t want for information, you’re tire before you run out. Or your feet will ache from standing still while you’re trying to digest all the information.
  • It probably won’t answer your questions, you’ll have more questions than answers because of all the information.
  • There won’t be a logical flow through the museums, you’ll have to back track and dart backwards and orwards and just try and figure out if there is a right or wrong way to go through.

Merdeka Square (Dataran Merdeka)

On 31 August 1957 at midnight the Union Jack was lowered for the last time, at this spot, to mark Malaysia’s independence from colonial rule.

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This is Independence Square, in front of the Sultan Abdul Samad Building – one of the most significant landmarks that were built by the British, it was completed in 1897 and use to be home to the Selangor State Secretariat and then the Supreme Court. It now houses the Ministry of Heritage, Culture and Arts.

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The square used to be known as the Selangor Club Padang and was originally the cricket green of the Selangor Club (now the Royal Selangor Club) and it was here that the Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi shouted “Merdeka” at the midnight celebrations on 31 August 2007 – when Malaysia hit 50 years of nationhood.

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Close to Merdeka Square is the Masjid Jamek – KL’s oldest surviving mosque, built in 1909 and opened by the then Sultan of Selangor.

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The design of the mosque was inspired by Mughal architecture – it’s pretty during the day and glorious at night.

The Batu Caves

We also headed out to the Batu Caves – using the KL Komuter Train – which is the rattliest set of lines we’ve been on since Sri Lanka, but it’s cheap, just 2RM from KL Station and the train takes you directly to the caves.

The Batu Caves are a series of caves and cave temples inside a limestone hill, some 13 kilometers north of KL, they take their name from the Batu River (Sungai Batu) which flows past the hill.

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Dedicated to Lord Murugan, the main cave is one of the most popular Hindu shrines outside India. It was an Indian trader, Thamboosamy Pillai, who, inspired by the entrance to the main cave, dedicated a temple inside the caves.

While the limestone that forms the Batu Caves may be around 400 million years old, it wasn’t until 1860 that the caves became famous after being recorded by British and American colonialists. It was an Indian trader, Thamboosamy Pillai, who dedicated a temple within the caves. Wooden steps to this main, Temple Cave were built in 1920 – they’ve now been replaced by 272 concrete steps.

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You’re not allowed to use them for exercise, although there’s an Asian man with inappropriately tight shorts for what he has almost contained within them who’s going up and down in an exercise like way while we’re there. I suspect the officials are too wary of his shorts package to question him.

There are three main caves and some smaller ones. The first one that we find on exiting the train station is the Ramayana Cave where a 15 meter high status of Hanuman can be found.

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There’s also a temple dedicated to him – the devotee and loyal aide of Lord Rama. But there’s an entry fee, so we give it a miss, cinch the day packs tighter onto our backs while we skirt the long tailed macaques, who I live in fear of (I’m convinced that I’m going to be bitten and end up with rabies or have just half a hand left) and head to find the “big tall gold statue.”

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This is the statue of Lord Murugan. It’s the tallest statue of a Hindu deity in Malaysia at 42.7 meters and it was unveiled in January 2006 after three years of construction.

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Once we get to the top, we might not be able to enter with bare shoulders, or show our legs but we can most definitely buy tacky souvenirs. Religious rules are interesting – I can’t show my shoulders, but I can blow all the ringgits I want on tat. There’s no wonder my cynicism grows with each gold encrusted donation site that we visit.

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We’re arrived in time for the 4pm puja (ceremony). There are perhaps 15 people taking part in the puja in the small temple here in the open are in the middle of the mountain.

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Batu Caves – been there, done that, got the photo, didn’t buy the T Shirt, back to KL for us.

Petaling Street (Petaling Jaya)

Each night Petaling Street, in the heart of China Town, comes alive. It’s a series of connected streets under Chinese lanterns that are full of stalls of T shirts, watches, sun glasses and more watches. If you want a watch, this is the place to come. There are food hawker centers around too, places to buy fruit, cold drinks. Oh and watches.

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As you head deeper into Petaling Street, the walk ways get narrower and the stalls more dense, your ability to see “which is the way out” declines and declines. We backed out and headed to the food.

The Nation of Malaysia

Malaysia is now made up of 11 different states, three Federal Territories as well as the states of Sabah and Sarawak on the island of Borneo.

Malaysia

There’s a population of 28 million, with Malays making up 57% of the population, with Chinese, Indians and other ethnic groups sharing the remaining 43%. Bahasa Malaysia or Malay is the national language, but English is widely spoken – and extremely well. Islam is the official religion, but we’ve seen more diversity of religion in Malaysia than any other country in South East Asia so far.

Plan Your Trip to Malaysia

And now we’re heading off to Malaysian Borneo for the next three weeks and we’re flying into Sandakan on the northern tip – we’ll see you on the other side!

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