Jan 21 - Feb 20, 2015
The Kuala Lumpur Experience
GPS waypoint: 3°09'28.4"N 101°42'41.8"E
Location: Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
The Bright Side
Even though my near-perfect 30-day stay in Kuala Lumpur was marred by a failed police-extortion attempt, everything else was wonderful. I was impressed by their urban infrastructure, I was amazed by their multi-culturalism, I was at ease with their command of English, and overall, I really felt the hard work the tourism people put into their jobs to otherwise make Kuala Lumpur a compelling destination in Southeast Asia.
The last destination I went to that had so many freebies for the tourist was Hong Kong. Kuala Lumpur is not far behind and definitely ahead of the game compared to other Southeast Asian countries. For one thing, they have the free bus lines, GO KL. It has four routes along popular streets and spots within the Central Business District. They also offer free walking tours of heritage sites like Little India, Dataran Merdeka (independence site of KL) and Kampong Bharu (cradle of Malay culture).
Even though I met a good number of people, I was mostly by myself exploring the city's cheap eats and ethnic neighborhoods. It is safe to roam around neighborhoods in Kuala Lumpur. It might initially feel unsettling going into ethnic neighborhoods where you might stick out like a sore thumb (although not in Malaysia where you have multiculturalism). But I always remind myself that I always come in peace, that I'm not going to any place to deceive or harm, but simply to appreciate its culture and history. I believe this way of thinking becomes transparent in how they see me. They react appropriately - by being candid about their culture and themselves. This melts the perception of racial barrier. There is no race anymore - just human beings sharing their uniqueness and celebrating their common denominator. As the Cambodians would describe me when I am with them, "same same but different".
While walking within Little India, I chanced on a poster offering free Kundalini Meditation. I showed up only to be told that it's a 3-week program with Tuesdays as the group meeting day. But yes, it's free. Next time you stop by KL with 3 weeks to spare, give it a try. (6:30pm Tuesdays at Vivekananda Ashram on Jalan Tun Sambanthan, Brickfields (Little India) / 03 2722 5051, 53 012 379 1324)
I met a senior Indian guy who took a liking for me and invited me to meet his friends. They were all senior local guys who seem to know the seedy underbelly of the city. They shared their insights about Kuala Lumpur and gave me tips on how to do things. One guy even looked like the Don Corleone of the Indian community as people would come occasionally to him to get them out of a mess. I asked him exactly what service he performs for these people. His lame answer was, "I run a store".
They get along well here - the Malay majority, the enterprising Chinese and the Indians. Or, to put it in the words of an Indian local, they've learned how to give and take. It's not surprising to see a Chinese in the middle of Little India eating roti prata, or an India temple in the heart of Chinatown.
Publicly Kept Secret
The racial integration wasn't always this blissful though. Nobody talks about this, and the tourism banners and glossy booklets never mention this, but the seamless cultural integration of Kuala Lumpur came at a high price - a price everybody paid for and everybody learned from - even if no one talks about. I think it should be mentioned here because this is part of the country's history that explains their struggle in building a nation. This episode is where they learned the hard lesson of being one or being segregated. Below:
In May 13, 1969 as a result of simmering racial tension between the politically entrenched Malays and the economically affluent Chinese, a race riot broke out after the election that left hundreds dead, mostly Chinese. People were killed, houses and cars burned and a national state of emergency declared. No one would want a repeat of this thing - so now, they've learned how to live in harmony with each other. If not harmony, at least there is a give-and-take to make everybody happy.
The universe has been kind to me in Kuala Lumpur. Even with limited and dwindling cash reserves, I stayed afloat with much of my otherwise draining expenditure looked after with free hotel stays including buffet breakfasts and free restaurant dining. Of the 30 days stay in Kuala Lumpur, I only paid for 3 nights in a dorm bed hostel. Increasingly, I feel the benevolence of my universe. Time and time again, it made its presence felt through its nurturing abundance. Call it spacey or abstract, but it's a repeating pattern I could not relegate as coincidence. It doesn't give me any more than what I need and it doesn't provide until the dire need arises. Thank you - I am always grateful.
Yes, I'm still shaken from the police harassment but I cannot allow that to cloud my judgement. Kuala Lumpur is a wonderful place to visit. If not for the police incident, I would not mind staying for a longer length of time. From its humble muddy estuary beginnings, Kuala Lumpur has come a long way in showcasing what a first rate Islamic country can be in Southeast Asia. Its racial harmony is a role model for the region. There is a lot to celebrate about Kuala Lumpur - it is forward-thinking, its energy is infectious and it is progressive but at a pace that keeps human balance in check. And yes, I am angry at the dirty policemen who ruin all this. They are like flies who land on a sumptuous dish. I really hope the authorities seriously address this issue. Kuala Lumpur is simply too beautiful to be ruined by a handful of dirty cops who undermine all the hard work, the forward-thinking and the dedication that honest people of Kuala Lumpur have invested themselves on.
Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
KL Tower - dine at the revolving restaurant (3°09'10.3"N 101°42'13.7"E)
Petronas Twin Towers - once the world's tallest building (3°09'28.4"N 101°42'41.8"E)
Batu Caves -Hindus take pilgrimage to this cave
Kuala Lumpur Bird Park - world largest free-flight walk-in bird park, 920, Jalan Cenderawasih, 50480 Kuala Lumpur, 21 acres (8 ha), 9:00 am - 6:00 pm, phone: +60 3-2272 1010, adult admission CurrencyCurrencyABBR 48, http://www.klbirdpark.com
Aquaria KLCC - ocean aquarium under the Kuala Lumpur Convention Centre in Jalang Pinang, open daily from 10:30am - 8:00pm, check schedule for Piranha feeding, adult admission RM50, +603 2333 1975 / 1976 / 1977 or email at firstname.lastname@example.org
China Town - for authentic Chinese cuisine, night market, bustling activities, history and culture
- Yum Cha Cafe - coffee, food, desserts
143 Jalan Petaling, Chinatown, Kuala Lumpur | 012-639 8222 | 08:30 - 18:30 | 3°08'29.7"N 101°41'52.4"E
- Arabesque - middle Eastern cuisine
92, Jalan Petaling, Chinatown, Kuala Lumpur - 3°08'34.4"N 101°41'52.5"E
- take a the red AirBus to the KL Sentral train station, 48 kms, MYR 10/pax
- from KL Sentral train station, take the purple Monorail (it's actually a 5-min walk outside the station) to Bukit Bintang, 5 stops, MYR 35/pax
- the tourist area where most of the night outdoor hawker-style eateries and bars are located along the Jalan Alor Street area and Jalan Changkat (one of many)
- Train - KL Sentral is the center for the city's urban rail-commmute system although they are not integrated. Tickets are required separately for each system and interchanges are not conveniently connected. The rechargeable Touch & Go stored value card (MYR10 deposit) which are available at all LRT stations, can be used at the electronic gates to the LRT, train and monorail systems. Trains are more practical than buses when commuting within city limits.
- Monorail systems
- KLIA Transit
- KLIA Ekspres
- KTM Komuter
- Bus - At the Jalan Sultan Mohammed bus stop in Chinatown, there is a booth where you can pick up info on routes, schedules, stops and buy season tickets. Maximun single fare is MYR1.
- Hop-on Hop-off - city tour, MYR 45/24 hours and MYR 79/48 hours, 2.5 hours loop, bus frequency every 20-30 mins, kids below 5 years are free
- Metro Bus -
- KL Go City - free shuttle bus around KL. Purple Line ends at KLCC, Green Line ends at China Town (Petaling Street)
- Rapid KL - convenient to use as their destinations are clearly displayed (1 800 388 228 / www.rapidkl.com.my)
- Taxi - meter starts at RM2 for the first kilometre, and 10 sen for each additional 200m or 45 seconds. They are all over the place and relatively cheap. There are designated taxi stops within the city but some empty taxis can be flagged down on the street. rom 12 midnight to 6am, 50% surcharge is levied on the metered fare, and extra passengers over two, are charged 20 sen each. Luggage placed in the boot is an extra RM1 and there's an RM12 surcharge for taxis to KLIA. The airport has a coupon system where you pay in advance.
- the tourist area where most of the night outdoor hawker-style eateries and bars are located along the Jalan Alor Street area and Jalan Changkat in Bukit Bintang, and along Jalan Petaling in China Town
- transit map of Kuala Lumpur
- Petronas Twin Towers - once the world's tallest building (3°09'28.4"N 101°42'41.8"E)
- KL Tower - dine at the revolving restaurant (3°09'10.3"N 101°42'13.7"E)
- Batu Caves - Hindus take pilgrimage to this cave
- Kuala Lumpur City Tour - lose yourself in KL's old neighborhoods and be amazed at the new neighborhoods. Visit Chinatown and the oldest Hindu Temple
- Putrajaya at Night - this well-planned city illuminates at night...perfect for dining by Putrajaya Lake
- Kuala Lumpur Bird Park - world largest free-flight walk-in bird park, 920, Jalan Cenderawasih, 50480 Kuala Lumpur, 21 acres (8 ha), 9:00 am - 6:00 pm, phone: +60 3-2272 1010, adult admission MYR 48, http://www.klbirdpark.com
- Aquaria KLCC - ocean aquarium under the Kuala Lumpur Convention Centre in Jalang Pinang, open daily from 10:30am - 8:00pm, check schedule for Piranha feeding, adult admission RM50, +603 2333 1975 / 1976 / 1977 or email at email@example.com
- Bukit Bintang - aka Bintang Walk or Starhill, a district in Kuala Lumpur known for shopping, entertainment, hawker-type eateries, al-fresco cafés, swanky bars and night market
Jalan Ampang, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
- Ticket Price - adult MYR80, adult (MyKad) MYR25, child MYR30 and child (MyKid) MYR12
- Operations - Tuesday to Sunday (closed every Monday), open on all public holidays with the exception of Hari Raya Puasa and Hari Raya Haji
- Hours - 9am - 9pm (closed from 1pm - 2.30pm on Fridays)
- Ticketing Counter - Concourse level, PETRONAS Twin Towers. Issuing of tickets will start from 8:30am (tickets are limited and issued on a first come, first served basis). Advance purchase is available.
FREE Stuff in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
Kuala Lumpur rivals Hong Kong as one of the most tourist-friendly destinations in Southeast Asia. Wherever you go in KL, you see a free tourist map with guided walking tours, transit info, etc. People have a better command of English than Thailand, Vietnam, laos or Cambodia. But to just to make things even better for the traveler, here are a few FREE stuff you'll find in KL to make your visit more comfortable, more memorable and more engaging.
- FREE bus rides - free shuttle bus around KL's Central Business District with KL Go Buses. Purple Line ends at KLCC, Green Line ends at China Town (Petaling Street)
- FREE wine tasting - at Cronier Wines, every Friday from 17:00 - 18:00, reservations are required, 5-6 The One Avenue, Pelangi Utama Condominium, PJU 6A, Jalan Masjid, 47400 Petaling Jaya, Tel: +603 7722 2252 or +6014 965 1037
- FREE art gallery admission - at Petronas Art Gallery, 10:00 - 20:00 Tuesday - Sunday, Lot 341 - 343, Level 3, Suria KLCC, PETRONAS Twin Towers, +603 2051 7770
- FREE bicycle rides - 07:00 - 10:00am Sundays at The Square, Publika, Solaris Dutamas, 1.2 km loop
- FREE movie screenings
- Palate Palette - classic films, documentaries, shorts and romantic comedies + free seaweed snack, select nights, 21, Jalan Mesui, 50200 Kuala Lumpur, Wilayah Persekutuan Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, 03-2142 2148
- Moontree House - discontinued until further notice!!! Sundays from 18:30 - 21:00 near Petaling Street, Chinatown, feminist-oriented big screen titles
- Publika - call first as this may have been discontinued!!! at Publika every Monday night, Malaysian and regional films, in English or with English subtitles / Level U2, Block C5, Solaris Dutamas, No 1, Jalan Dutamas 1 / 03 6207 9426 or 03 7960 1235
- FREE rock climbing - at Batu Caves, but bring your own gear. Over 160 climbing routes sprinkled on 150 meters of limestone hill face. Come early to get your spot for your level of expertise
- FREE food tasting sessions - weekly at KL's best restaurants, with Open Rice's Makan Ventures. You need to go through a selection process though to qualify. First, be a member of Open Rice.
- FREE walking tours
- Kampong Bharu - the cradle of Malay culture in Kuala Lumpur, Tue/Thurs/Sunday, registration time 4:15pm - 4:30pm, walking tour 4:30pm to 7:00pm, 1 day advance booking recommended, 603 2698 0332, firstname.lastname@example.org
- Brickfields Heritage Walk - Tourism Unit, KL at - 03 2698 0332 - email: email@example.com., Saturdays, meeting at Vivekananda Ashram at 9:00-11:30am, 2.5 hour walk
- Dataran Merdeka Heritage Guided Walk - get the inside stories behind the independence of Malaysia through the historic buildings and monuments around Dataran Merdeka / Mondays-Wednesdays-Saturdays / 8:30-11:45am at Kuala Lumpur City Gallery / 603 2698 0332 / pelancongan@@dbkl.gov.my
- FREE garden park admission - on weekdays (weekends are not free) at the Kuala Lumpur Lake Gardens, 230 acres including the Hibiscus Garden, Orchid Garden and Deer Park, bring snacks and water
- FREE Kundalini Meditation - 6:30pm Tuesdays at Vivekananda Ashram on Jalan Tun Sambanthan, Brickfields (Little India) / 03 2722 5051, 53 012 379 1324
(US$1 = MYR (Malaysian Ringgit) 3.59 = Php 44.23, as of Jan. 23, 2015)
best place to change US dollars to MYR is at the local money changers, not in airports, specially not from the airport of your departure (e.g. US$1 = MYR 2.95 at Da Nang Airport, MYR 3.35 at KL Airport and 3.55 at the money changers in KL)
- 1.5 liter drinking water
- one hour massage
- noodle soup with meat
- rice meal
- dorm bed
- sugar cane juice
- Petronas Twin Towers ticket
- bus/monorail ride from airport to Bukit Bintang
- Cool Climate of Cameron Highlands June 19-23, 2016
- Overnight in Kluang, Malaysia Aug 13-14, 2016
- Funky Flow Yoga with Lora Lorenzo at YogaOneThatIWant Studios July 27, 2016
- Deja Vu Kuala Lumpur with Karine July 21-26, 2016
- Layover in Kuala Lumpur June 22, 2016
- The Kuala Lumpur Experience Jan 21 - Feb 20, 2015
- Police Harassment in Kuala Lumpur Feb 17, 2015
- Visiting Batu Caves of Kuala Lumpur Feb 18, 2015
- Walking Tour of China Town Feb 5, 2015
- Breaking New Ground in Kuala Lumpur Jan 21, 2015
- A First-Timer in Malacca July 28-Aug 8, 2016
- Art Scene of Malacca August 6, 2016
- The River Charm of Malacca August 5, 2016
- About Malacca July 28, 2016
- Penang (Malaysia) Immersion May 27-Jun 19, 2016
- Exploring the Emergent Cafe Culture of Penang Jun 18, 2016
- Encounters with the Guru-Types of Penang Jun 17, 2016
- Overnight Camping at Turtle Beach Jun 10, 2016
- Yoga, Pranayama and Meditation in Penang Jun 10, 2016
- Daytrip to Batu Ferringhi Jun 9, 2016
- Savouring the Food of Penang May 27 - Jun 6, 2016
- Surreal Glow-in-the-Dark 3D World at Dark Mansion June 3, 2016
- The Animated Street Art of Penang Jun 3, 2016
- Exploring the Lush Greenery of Botanic Gardens May 29, 2016
- Up up and Away to Penang Hill May 28, 2016
- About Penang May 27, 2016
Jan 21 - Feb 20, 2015
»» next Traveling story: Singapore on a Shoe String
»» back to Traveling
»» back to Homepage
Yum Cha Cafe