5 Awesome Ways to Explore the Best of Kuala Lumpur

My visit to Kuala Lumpur in September 2018 was the first time I was exposed to the beauty of modern architecture of a developed city. I was absolutely in awe of the place, almost like Ted Mosby from ‘How I Met Your Mother’. I had booked tickets barely two weeks in advance and barely had time to do any research about the place before my visit. It was actually a good thing because that ensured I was surprised several times by different things during my trip.

Masjid Jamak, Awesome Ways to Explore the Best of Kuala Lumpur

In this post I am writing 5 awesome ways to explore the best of Kuala Lumpur along with tips for good food options. These aren’t the typical things you would find on every tourist itinerary of the city but they do cover the important points of attraction.

1. Go around town using the FREE GOKL Bus service

Most of the major tourist attractions in central Kuala Lumpur are not very far from each other and are served by the GOKL city bus service. It’s a free bus service that runs on designated routes (Purple, Red, Green & Blue) till 11 pm everyday of the week. The buses are air conditioned and modern and an amazing way to go for sightseeing without spending absolutely any money.

I stayed in the Pasar Seni area near Petaling Street (China Town) and the GOKL buses easily transported me to the Petronas Twin Towers (KLCC) and Bukit Bintang one day, and from the Titiwangsa heliport to Merdeka Square another day. The routes are all inter connected and overlap at some point, so just get hold of a route map from your hotel/hostel (or their website) and easily go around exploring the city for free. The buses of all routes are purple in colour- so check the route name written in front before getting on board. 

Free GoKL Bus route, Awesome Ways to Explore the Best of Kuala Lumpur
GoKL Citybus route map. Courtesy: GoKL Website

2. Take the Dark cave tour at Batu cave

Batu Caves are part of every tourist itinerary of Kuala Lumpur. The colourful South Indian temple looks beautiful and the tallest Murugan statue in the world attracts loads of tourists every single day. You can climb up the 270 stairs to the top of the cave where there is a small temple and beautiful cave formations. It was grand. I don’t know if it was because I am an Indian and have been seeing temples all my life or simply because of the afternoon heat, but I was disappointed with the place. It felt superbly touristy and nothing special to offer.

But then I saw this ‘Dark Cave’ entry mid-way while climbing down the stairs on the right. It is a 45-minute paid tour to see the mostly untouched cave systems and animals found nowhere else in the world. I did the tour and was highly impressed. It was absolutely worth the money. If you are heading to Batu, definitely do the Dark Cave tour.

Batu Caves Dark Cave, Awesome Ways to Explore the Best of Kuala Lumpur

3. Take a Segway ride around KL Bird Park and Lake Gardens

Malaysia is a tropical country and it is hot and humid all through the year. I was surprised to find the gorgeously green Lake Gardens right in the middle of the city amidst all the towering skyscrapers. The Lake Gardens are a respite from the heat. Although it’s in the open, the green cover and shade make it much cooler than the surrounding areas. Take a morning walk in the botanical garden, or better still take a Segway ride and go around the huge park with absolute ease. I took a two-hour Segway tour of the Lake Gardens with Eco Ride Malaysia covering a distance of 8 kms and it was beautiful. Let’s just say I fell in love with riding Segways as much as the beauty of the area.

Do check out this vlog in which I covered the GOKL Bus, the Batu Dark Cave tour and the Segway ride around Lake Gardens:

4. Walk around for the food

Malaysia has a lot to offer when it comes to food. While Penang in the north might be the food haven, Kuala Lumpur brings the best of food from across the world for its cosmopolitan population as well as tourists. There are nice restaurants serving all kinds of cuisine. I personally prefer street food over dine-in restaurants when I am travelling and here are some recommendations:

a. Ramly Burger: You will easily spot small carts at popular street corners selling burgers and hotdogs around the city. It’s freshly made in front of you, tastes great, and is very cheap. I remember trying to figure what to eat at 10 pm after immediately arriving in Kuala Lumpur and coming across one of the Ramly burger carts. I ordered a burger wondering how it would be. It tasted great and I ordered another for take-away. It’s a must-try. (There is a shot of the Ramly cart right at the end of this video)

Ramly Burger Stall, Awesome Ways to Explore the Best of Kuala Lumpur

b. Petaling Street: Located in China Town, this is the haven for street food lovers, at all times of the day. The amount of different food options you will see all around is incredible. Don’t stick to the big stalls in the centre of the street though. Head into the numerous alleys filled with tiny restaurants. This is where the locals eat. Grab a seat and order any of the food items. The food is inexpensive and filling. Although it looks mostly like Chinese food, it actually is a culmination of Malaysian, Korean, Thai and Vietnamese cuisines. I was sad though, because I couldn’t find my favourite Vietnamese sandwich- banh mi. I am sure it can be found in one of the alleys there.

Petaling Street China Town, Awesome Ways to Explore the Best of Kuala Lumpur

c. Bukit Bintang: This is the most hip area of the city and a shoppers paradise. Go to Bukit Bintang in the evening, and enjoy the area with all the dazzling lights. Once you are done marvelling at the modern architectural beauty, you can either head to one of the posh restaurants in the malls or head to the street side restaurants. Right next to the McDonalds near the monorail station, there is a huge variety of Indian, Pakistani and Middle Eastern food restaurants. I had one of the best chicken shawarmas in a Lebanese fast food joint here.

Shopping and food at Bukit Bintang, Awesome Ways to Explore the Best of Kuala Lumpur

d. Indian food: Malaysia has a significant Indian-origin population. The Brickfields neighbourhood right next to KL Sentral station is termed ‘Little India’. If you are looking for Indian food, this would be the best place to try. For some reason, I got recommended the ‘Banana Leaf’ curry several times during my stay. I assume it was because I am an Indian and the general assumption was that I would like to have Indian food. (Or perhaps because Malay people consider it a must-try dish?) In all honesty, I have had food on banana leaf in India and when I am in a foreign country I consciously avoid Indian food completely. What’s the point of heading to a new country and not trying the local cuisine and instead having the comfortable food from back home even there?

5. Take a helicopter tour of the city

If you are looking for a grand way of seeing the city and have a little extra money to spare, take a helicopter tour of Kuala Lumpur. HeliOutpost operates several helicopter rides in the city and it is a joy to take in the views of the iconic monuments from up in the air. I took the short 6-minute ride around the city centre area. More than the sights I was excited about taking my first ever helicopter ride. The views and the entire experience was, I felt, way better than simply heading to the top viewing gallery of the Petronas Twin Towers or KL Tower.

Bonus Tip: Take the Airport Bus instead of KLIA Express Train

Kuala Lumpur International Airport is located way outside the city. The most popular way tourists get in to town is by taking the KLIA Express train that costs 55 Ringgits (January 2019) and takes about 30 minutes to reach KL Sentral. If you are not short on time, here is a tip: Take the airport coach and save a ton of money. Just ask the information counter at the airport and head to the KLIA bus stop located on the ground level and take the bus that goes closest to your accommodation (Again, ask the information desk if your hotel/hostel hasn’t informed you already).

I got to know about this bus service during my hostel stay in Kuala Lumpur and the bus stop for the airport service was located at walking distance (At Pudu Sentral). It cost me just 12 Ringgits and took about 1.5 hours in the afternoon time with negligible traffic. That’s a saving of good Rs. 700!

Please do note that I stayed in Kuala Lumpur for just 3 days and all the information in this post is based on my observation in the limited time I had there. It’s been 4 months now since I went to Malaysia and I am glad I finally sat down to write the first post from the country. Perhaps I will write another post soon about how my entire 6-day trip cost me just Rs.10,000. Tell me if you want to read that.

Have some more tips or food recommendations for Kuala Lumpur? Do write them in the comments below.

Now read: 
1. A 25 day blind date across Malaysia & Indonesia
2. Anthony Bourdain's Best Vietnamese Sandwich in the World
3. Seaplanes, Luxury Train, New Airports- Odisha Tourism to get a boost

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