Kuala Lumpur was our first stop on our 3 country holiday. We had traveled 19 uncomfortable hours and couldn’t wait to get to our hotel. Navigating through the airport was simple and passing through immigration was no hassle in spite of the disappearance of MH370 just a few days prior. They did scrutinize our passports more than I felt was usual though. South Africans receive a 90 day tourist visa on arrival at no charge. Yay!
We used the airport taxi coupon service as taxi touts in KL are notoriously overpriced and shady. Not to say that the transfers are not expensive. They range from R250 – but it is far less than the transfer the hotel offers. KL airport is approximately 60km from Bukit Bintang (The Tourist hub) and time taken to travel to the airport varies from 40- 80 minutes- traffic dependent- and there can be crazy traffic. Why you would put Cape Town Airport in Paarl is beyond me.
When we arrived it was storming. That is the norm there. It storms for an hour or 2 and is sunny or overcast the rest of the day. The threat of rain constantly loomed while we were there, with big grey clouds filling the sky. It was still 30+ degrees though. They have a tropical climate. To put it in perspective, their total annual rainfall averages at 2600mm per annum, compared to Cape Town’s 515mm.
Our hotel, The Park Royal was located in the main tourist district of Bukit Bintang. BB has about 9 malls within a few kilometer radius ranging from the low-end Sungei Wang Plaza to the ultra high-end Suria and Pavillion. Petronas Towers and KL tower is all in the area so it is definitely the place to be. The view from our room was decent – considering its a view of a concrete jungle. Day One (or a half)
We arrived at the hotel at about 5pm, weary from our long travels. All we wanted to do was rest but we couldn’t waste a whole evening. So we explored the immediate surroundings of the hotel. Sungei Wang Plaza was just opposite our hotel. We were surprised to see a Nando’s staring at us. But you don’t travel halfway across the world to eat at a SAffer joint. Sungei Wang Plaza is like a mini MBK in Bangkok, more low-end, market-like items. We ate at the food court that night, nothing spectacular.
On the second day, we had to decide whether we were going to Petronas Towers or not. It was our only day to go as they are closed on a Monday. The cost is RM80 (R240) per person for about a 20 minute tour and time on the viewing deck. You need to be there by 6am to get tickets as they only take a certain number of people per day. Online booking is available but needs to be done in advance.
At this point we were just too jetlagged to wake up early so we decided not to go. Hopefully in future we will get to go. Anyway, we decided to explore the many surrounding malls and walked via the air-conditioned skywalks and made our way to to the Petronas Towers to get some shots. Note to self: flip-flops are not ideal if you are walking several kilometers in the rain.
The BB area absolutely buzzes at night. Its such a vibrant area filled with tourists and trendy locals. We walked around to the night market, we ate at a place called Killiney and had overpriced coffee at Starbucks.
Getting Back to the Airport
We had a very early flight the next day so we decided to book into an airport hotel as the Park Royal was very far from the airport. We thought we would make an adventure out of it. We took the Monorail to KL Sentral station and the Air Asia Skybus to the hotel. In theory this was a great idea, costing less than R100 for both of us. In practice, it may have been more effort than it was worth. We weren’t exactly travelling lightly. We had to lug our 20kg suitcases up the very many stairs to the monorail in the KL heat, which was exhausting. Once we reached KL Sentral, we had to pull our suitcases on the pedestrian filled pavements and the traffic filled street. The Skybus took about 90min to reach the airport in KL traffic. Fun. I would definately recommend this method if you are travelling light, have lots of time on your hands and want to save some money. If you are pressed for time, rather take a taxi.
I really wish I could sound more enthusiastic about KL but we unfortunately did not have time to get a real taste of KL and especially the food on offer that everyone raves about. I don’t want to put a city down, especially after only spending 3 days there but KL just did not have the same effect on me that Bangkok does (I compare the two as they are frequently compared on forums). The effect where I want to go back as soon as I leave. Perhaps the “Eat, Pray, Love” tour would have given us a greater appreciation of the city (Its the No.1 Must Do activity on Tripadvisor). I would love to explore the rest of Malaysia next time I’m in SEA.