Kuala Lumpur is the capital city of Malaysia and one of the fastest growing cities is Asia with over 2 million residents in the city proper, and 8 million people living in the metropolitan area. This city is home to the tallest twin towers in the world, the Petronas Towers which have become the iconic symbol of the city. In my opinion they are two of the most visually appealing buildings I have ever seen, the exterior metal shines in the sunlight, glows at night, and is the most eye-catching building in the entire city. Luckily our apartment faced the towers so for 16 days I was able to soak in the views, and take a few pictures!
Prior to arriving in Malaysia travelers are required to apply online for a Malaysian Digital Arrival Card within 3 days of your arrival date, no earlier. The application process was easy and we got our registration confirmation within the hour. The only interesting bit was departing Singapore when we were asked for proof of when we were leaving Malaysia. Hmmm, not sure why we were asked for this but I hear it can be a random request from the airline check-in staff. No problem, I fired up our laptop and showed the details of our onward flight to Thailand and all was good. Going forward I think I will have onward flight tickets saved on my phone for easier retrieval. Having completed the Malaysian Arrival Card application prior to arrival meant that clearing immigration at the Kuala Lumpur airport was unbelievably fast and efficient.
When the Petronas Towers were completed in 1996 they were the tallest buildings in the world, until 2004, as well as the tallest twin towers in the world, which they still are. Soaring to a height of 452 meters, the 88-story twin towers are Malaysia’s proudest icon and architectural wonder, designed with a stunning steel and glass façade to resemble motifs found in Islamic art. Each floor is in the shape of an 8-pointed star representing the Islamic principles of unity, harmony, stability and rationality. The two level skybridge acts as a connector between the towers and is not attached but slides in and out of the towers as they sway to prevent it from breaking. We toured the skybridge back in 2014 and it was an interesting experience walking on a ‘floating’ bridge 41 stories above the ground!! We did not go up again this time but tickets can be bought online here.
Kuala Lumpur, or KL as everyone calls it, is one of the leading cities in the world for tourism and shopping, home to three of the world’s ten largest shopping centers. There are 66 shopping malls in KL with more being built all the time. One of our Grab drivers told us that Asians love to go walking in malls, it is more of a social event than actual shopping. Our apartment was ideally situated between two of the largest malls, Suria KLCC and Pavilion KL. Not only are the malls a popular meeting place, but they also provide a welcome escape from the heat and humidity of the city. At the base of the Petronas Towers is the upscale Suria KLCC mall, one of the largest shopping malls in Malaysia with a huge selection of shopping, restaurants and food court stalls. We came here regularly for lunch and/or dinner and on the lower lever there is a Cold Storage supermarket where we bought most of our wine and groceries.
In 2014 on a pre-nomad holiday, we visited KL for 4 days, this time we had 16 days in this mega city. Time to relax and explore at our leisure, swim in our 51st floor pool, hit the gym and meet up with a few fellow nomads (more on that later). This visit also coincided with the monsoon season, which I kind of missed in my research, so we had thunderstorms in the early evening most days and once in while during the daytime. Kuala Lumpur is prone to severe thunderstorms and the Klang Valley, where KL is located, is one of the places on Earth where thunderstorms are most frequently observed. Late day thunderstorms corresponded to very humid days which prompted us to get out sightseeing early and be back home by early the afternoon. We seemed to have a few things going on while in KL and did not do a lot of sightseeing, but we did get out to a few interesting places in the city.
Not far from our apartment is the impressive Merdeka 118 building, and when completed, it will be the tallest building in SE Asia. It will also be the second tallest building in the world after the Burj Khalifa in Dubai. Kuala Lumpur has one of the highest concentrations of skyscrapers in the world and many of the buildings have such interesting architectural features it’s hard not to walk around all day looking skyward. That can be a mistake because although the skyscrapers are modern and plentiful, the sidewalks could use some improvement. We had to be constantly on alert for holes and crumbling pavement!
To get a birds eye view of all the tall buildings in the city we went up the KL Tower. Opened in 1996, it is the world’s 7th tallest communications tower. We purchased tickets to the outdoor observation deck, which included access to the two plexiglass boxes extending out from the deck. The views from the tower are well worth going up, and surprisingly I was not all that freaked out standing in the plexiglass boxes, well maybe just a little 😂 Tickets cost MYR 88 (USD $18.90) each and can be bought at the ticket office at the base of the tower.
Batu Caves was less than 30 minutes away from our apartment, so we ordered a Grab at 7am and headed out before the crowds. As we had hoped, there were very few people there at 7:30am so we enjoyed our visit. That’s not to say climbing those 272 steps was easy, because even at that time of the morning, it was a hot and humid climb to the top. Last time we were here (in 2014) the steps were not painted the vibrant colors they are now and from a distance they look great, but up close they are sorely in need of a new coat of paint. The limestone cave complex is estimated to be over 400 million years old and is one of the most popular Hindu shrines outside India. The shrine is dedicated to Murugan, the large statue at the base of the stairs. The caves are well known for the numerous long tail macaque monkeys, and have been known to bite tourists. Interestingly, they were not around when we arrived and began to appear around 8:30am as more tourists appeared, go figure! Our two Grab rides came to MYR 48 (USD $10.30) and entrance to the caves is free.
On one side of Merdeka Square is the Sultan Abdul Samad Building, completed in 1897. The building originally housed the offices of the British colonial administration and currently houses a variety of Malaysian ministries. The 41m clock tower is topped by a shiny copper dome and considered a major landmark in the city.
Behind the government building sits the Sultan Abdul Samad Jamek Mosque, opened in 1909 it’s one of the oldest mosques in Kuala Lumpur. We found the interior very uninspiring, the more interesting views are of the exterior and it’s location at the confluence of the Klang and Gombak rivers.
Just beyond the confluence of the rivers heading towards Chinatown was this amazing mural that caught our attention:
Petaling Street Market in Chinatown is actually two streets in the form of a cross. The area has dozens of restaurants, food stalls and retail stalls. This is the place to buy counterfeit branded products such as Rolex watches and designer name clothing and handbags. The street is crowded with tourists and locals haggling for the best prices.
On the edge of Chinatown is the Sri Maha Mariamman Temple, founded in 1873 and the oldest Hindu temple in Kuala Lumpur. In 1968 a new structure was built featuring an ornate 5 tiered entrance tower in the style of South Indian temples. The tower is decorated with depictions of Hindu gods sculpted by artisans from south India.
One of the reasons we did not sightsee all that much was I spent an extraordinary amount of time working with my IT consultant moving my website to a new hosting site. This project took much longer than he or I thought, and fortunately I had the time to focus on the transfer and not have to deal with this while trying to move locations.
I also had to avail myself of medical services here in KL. It turns out that the eye and ear infection I had in Sydney had not fully resolved and needed further treatment. The Prince Court Medical Centre was a 5 min walk from our apartment and is a highly rated private medical facility. When we went to the emergency department on a Sunday morning, we were the only ones there, I saw a Dr right away, got new prescriptions and because I mentioned a blurry spot that moved in my left eye, I was booked with an eye specialist the very next day. That was fast!!! The eye specialist requested a barrage of eye tests and determined I have what is called a vitreous detachment where the gel in the back of the eye detaches from the retina. Nothing serious, just one of those things that happens as we reach a certain age!!! But it was worrying enough that I wanted to see an ophthalmologist while we were in KL. She confirmed there was nothing else of concern going on behind my eye, the end result being that this will resolve over the next 6 to 12 months and not to worry 😊 Total cost of the emergency room visit, ophthalmologist appointment, tests and prescriptions was MYR 1,600 (USD $345) Not inexpensive but exceptionally quick service which is worth something these days, plus the peace of mind that this is nothing serious. This gettin old ain’t easy!!!!
Another reason we did not stray too far from our apartment building is the fact that we had a 40m rooftop pool and a good size gym in the building. I got back into swimming regularly and we kept up our gym routine, for us these are important lifestyle goals even while traveling 💪 The rooftop pool was on the 51st floor and cantilevered out over the building, which was a little disturbing when you think about it, but I soon forgot about that little detail and enjoyed my swim and the views.
Malaysian cuisine is primarily a fusion of Malay, Chinese and Indian influences. As a result of historical migrations many other cuisines have been introduced making Malaysian cuisine highly complex and diverse. Our meals while here reflected the wide variety of food choices available from Malaysian Nasi Lemak, to Chinese Dim Sum, Indonesian Nasi Goreng, Indian curries and Thai food were enjoyed as well. And for a dose of familiarity, there are pubs and restaurants serving western food. We were impressed with the wide variety of food choices available here but below are a couple we did not try 😂
I mentioned earlier about meeting fellow nomads, these meetings came about when we saw on a couple of my Facebooks groups that others were here at the same time. KL is a very popular place for nomads to hang out because it’s inexpensive and medical procedures are much less costly than North America. Messages were sent and meetings were arranged!! Our first meeting was with Christine & Tom, they are staying in the same building as us and she was here for knee surgery. We met at Suria KLCC for an early dinner and more than 3 hours later we were still chatting! Our second meet-up was with 8 other nomads for lunch in a nearby food court. Once again, 3 hours later and the conversations were still going strong. Both get togethers were a lot of fun meeting fellow travelers and hearing their nomad stories.
In a nutshell we were happy spending just over two weeks here in Kuala Lumpur and don’t think we need to come back, unless we are passing through or have a reason to come back. It’s a great city but exceptionally busy everywhere. Our preference is to be in the countryside and have a car, but that does not seem as appealing here as it does in Europe. Leaving Kuala Lumpur we flew 3.5 hours north to Chiang Mai, Thailand, a new city and a new country for us…..
We had never used Grab (the Asian equivalent of Uber) before and with so many comments on Facebook about it being the best way to get around, we signed up and it was the best thing we did. We got a bit flustered when we arrived at the airport with my phone not working and mistakenly took a ride for cash with a Grab driver, that ended up costing us double what the ride back to the airport cost when we used the Grab app. Live and learn!!! Kuala Lumpur is not a walking friendly city so Grab was the easiest way to get around. The prices were very inexpensive with most rides being under USD $3 What I love about Grab is you know your fare before you even get in the car. I can’t believe it took us this long to get on board with this app!!!