Ironically, I have met many people who spent a lot of time in Malaysia, without ever really enjoying it. I have been to KL twice now, within the past four years, and I have to say, I really love Malaysia. True, I have yet to venture far outside of Kuala Lumpur. However, I have become familiar with quite a few of the Southeast Asian metropolises, and I have to say KL is among my favorites. I love the fashion, I love the food, I love the slower pace, and I love that everyone speaks at least a little bit of English. That’s why, when I need to get away from Bangkok for a while, I head to KL.
- You should love the food. No, you don’t need to love everything about Malaysian cuisine. Rather, you can appreciate that KL has a wide variety of foods to offer, partly because it’s a metropolis, but mostly because of Malaysia’s diversity. There’s a reason why Malaysians mix Malay, Chinese, Tamil, and English together–that’s their culture. You have a choice between Chinese, Indian, Malaysian, Western foods, and more. Although Malaysia is a Muslim country by default, alcohol is readily available, especially near KLCC. I noticed quite a few happy hour deals when I passed through that area. In KL, you even have access to the different regional cuisines of Malaysia. For example, my favorite Malaysian soup is laksa asam, as opposed to the more popular curry version of laksa which I first tasted in Singapore. This soup is from Penang, but yes you can find it in Kuala Lumpur.
- You should love that everyone speaks English. (And if they don’t, they use body language. What a contrast with Bangkok!) Even if English is not your first language, the fact that English has become the international means of communication means that Malaysia is a valuable place for those on visa runs, passing through, or wanting a break from Asia itself. (For similar reasons, Singapore especially feels like a western city in an Asian land. But even KL comes close to accomplishing that.) For five precious days, I didn’t have to think about saying “kha” at the end of every sentence to be polite, how to give the taxi driver proper directions, or how to remember the correct way to say “how much” or “right” or “left” or “where” or “sorry” or “excuse me”. Instead, when asking a local how to say excuse me in the local language, I was told that I probably didn’t need to say it in Bahasa. As you can imagine, I was able to muster up enough courage to get a haircut, confident I could communicate the complexities of my thick, curly hair.
- You should love how easy it is to get around KL on your own. When you first arrive at the airport, you have your choice of bus, train, or express train to the city. The express train is the fastest mode of transport, and you can get 40 ringgit off if you pay for a round trip ticket by MasterCard. (If you pay with another card, you still get 10 off the usual round trip price of 100 ringgit.) I have to say that the express ride to the city was a surprisingly relaxing ride! Not a bad view either. There are even free bus lines within the city that are available for hop-on-hop-off service. If bus routes are too complex for you, you may find it easier to stick to the train lines and walk by foot the rest of the way. What’s more, it’s pretty straightforward to learn street names quickly because Bahasa is written in in Roman letters.
- You should love many things not readily available in Bangkok–are easily found in KL. For example–Indian spices such as turmeric and coriander seeds are at most markets–I found them at Ampang Park mall. (My name is Melissa, so I definitely need my spices!) Jolly Shandy, my favored beverage of my HK trip in 2013, was at every convenience store I went to. And, most important of all, I was able to stock up on dermaviduals products–the only skin care products I can use since I have sensitive skin and live chemical-free.
- You should love the fashion. Whether you like bright colors, or plain colors, like to dress modestly, or preferred to be more trendy, KL offers great options. Particularly, I appreciate the high necklines. I am especially fond of the beautiful fabrics of Muslim and Indian clothing. They are brightly colored and truly elegant. Head to Central Market for an affordable Punjabi suit or batik fans/coasters/scarves/pretty much anything.
- You should love Malaysia Airlines. Perhaps in response to the Flight 370 disaster of 2014, the airline has since lowered prices and stepped up its perks for flyers. Even short-term international flights include free in-flight entertainment, a ration of free checked baggage, and free meals. You can even check in for your flight ridiculously early, as long as you do self-check-in at one of the kiosks at KLIA.
Where to stay
My favorite place to stay is Beltif Hotel, in Bukit Bintang. It’s affordable, convenient, and located right around the corner from my favorite Egyptian restaurant.
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