Just when you think you’re starting to recover from your first jetlag, we have a night flight from Shanghai, leaving at 1:30 AM and arriving in Kuala Lumpur At 6u00 AM. Yes, wasted again… But luckily, we have a fantastic Airbnb apartment, with a shared pool (click on the Airbnb link to receive €30/$35 on your first booking or when you use a new email address). Three bedrooms, a kitchen, two bathrooms, very fast WiFi, everything we hoped for, and for a very reasonable price!
And the icing on the cake, the apartment is very close to Jalan Alor. This is the most famous food street in Kuala Lumpur. Restaurants serving Malay, Chinese, Thai, Vietnamese, … they’re all there. And on top of that, the street is lined up with all sorts of food stalls (hawkers as they are called). They are selling chicken fingers, fried banana, putu piring (rice with coconut) and so much more. The ideal start to discover Kuala Lumpur. We stay here for seven nights, time enough.
Because we are staying for a week in Kuala Lumpur, we have time to work during the day on our blog, swim a little and start the preparations for the homeschooling year to come. And as we have excellent WiFi, we are also able to work for the Wizards. We love our time here because this is what we had in mind planning our long term trip. To work online is possible from anywhere, but now we can work, teach, swim a little, visit something and go out in the evening to eat some local food for very reasonable prices.
Our highlights in Kuala Lumpur
In this article, which is a travel diary, we give you a selection of our experiences here in Kuala Lumpur. We’ve also written a full guide on visiting Kuala Lumpur with kids if you want to read more!
KL Eco Forest Park
Right in the middle of Kuala Lumpur lies the Eco Forest Park, a piece of rainforest functioning as a green lung for the city. Surrounded by sky-high buildings, with the KL Tower being the highest one (not of the city, that would be the Petronas twin towers). Accessing the park is totally free and there are some well-signed walks provided. Don’t come with a buggy however, there are many many stairs. We also did the canopy walk that takes you to the top layer of the rainforest. Our kids, Yuna and Hanne, were, of course, looking out for monkeys and every noise coming out of the bushes was perceived to be a life-threatening snake or a hungry monkey. A pink plastic bag briefly caused some panic but soon it was clear it was the wind that made the bag suddenly appear out of the trees. Eight mosquito bites later we finally spotted a group of monkeys. Everybody was happy…
The landmark of KL are the Petronas Towers, everybody knows them from a postcard or picture, two sky-high towers connected by a sky bridge in the middle. The twin towers, as Hanne kept on calling them. It took us a while to get there (read as Jurgen held the map upside down) but once we were there, the view was breathtaking. Despite our two little grasshoppers who were more interested in the playground nearby, Heleen could take some beautiful pictures. And we were lucky as we discovered there was a nice fountain show going on right at the bottom of the towers. It was a moment to treasure, the whole family watching the fountains changing in all the colours of the rainbow with the twin towers in the back. Funny detail, at the square there is a bar from Delirium Tremens, a delicious beer from Melle, a town very close to our home town. Our Belgian legacy is never far away. Even though the bar was very nice, we didn’t order a beer as you don’t pay €9/$10,5 as a Belgian for a Delirium…
Chinatown in KL is assumed to be one of the nicest neighbourhoods in Kuala Lumpur. And we can confirm it. You’ll see a colourful mix of Chinese, Malay, Indians and four Belgians walking through the streets admiring it all. If you want to go shop, go the Jalan Petaling, a long street lined with Chinese lampions where you’ll find mainly cheap fake stuff. But we promised Yuna some shop time with her mummy, so we split up to go shop, which daddy is really happy about. Jurgen and Hanne don’t bump into the perfect purchase, so they just stick with an apple juice and a KitKat chocolate bar. Of course, Yuna and Heleen succeed in finding a beautiful handbag and dream catcher, which results in an angry face of Hanne. 15 minutes later we can discover the Indian temple armed with two handbags.
The temples and buildings of Chinatown
Hanne is enchanted immediately by Ganesh and all his companions. But of course, it is a colourful spectacle. Why are there bananas laying on the feet of the statues, why do we have to take off our shoes? The first religion lesson of the school year is a fact. The Sri Maha Mariamman temple is definitely worth a visit! Especially for us, as we discovered never to have visited a Hindu temple before.
In Chinatown, you can find a Hindu temple, a Chinese temple (Chan See Shu Yuen Temple) and a mosque just very close to each other. What a wonderful thing it is, this diversity in Malaysia. The Masjid Jamek Mosque is situated next to the River of Life. Just by accident, we bump into a bridge and see this lovely picture of the mosque with the river in front of it. In front of it are hundreds of fountains with the skyline of Kuala Lumpur in the back. The mosque is surrounded by water and looks to be very nice, but unfortunately, we were too late as it closes at 4:30 PM. But don’t despair, right next to it is the beautiful complex of Sultan Abdul Samad. We imagine ourselves to be in 1001 nights. Those wonderful Moorish buildings and pretty gardens alongside the river give us a serene and peaceful feeling. Accept the kids who of course want to jump into the beautiful water structures, can you blame them? But we stopped them anyway.
The central market
A few streets away, you can find the Central Market, an indoor market place with some beautiful shops. They breathe out a lot more authenticity than Jalan Petaling and you can find more arty objects. The offer makes us think about Chiang Mai, where you can also find articles like this. Some of them probably just come straight from there. Luckily, we are just at the beginning of our trip and our bags are already quite loaded. Or otherwise, we wouldn’t have been able to resist those beautiful Hindu statues, Chinese vases, necklaces, … The building itself is also worth a visit. The tiled floors are just wonderful and the atmosphere is nice and serene.
Read more: a complete guide for visiting the Batu Caves
One of the highlights of Kuala Lumpur is just on the city border, 14 kilometres away from the centre. Despite the busy traffic in Kuala Lumpur, we arrive there fairly quickly by Grab and can immediately start climbing the famous stairs. There are 3 different caves they are perceived to be sacred for the Hindu people. You do have to climb 272 steps to get there but it is so worth it. Once you arrive in the biggest hall, the smell of incense meets you. While we visited the temple, we get a blessing by the local priest and a white dot on our forehead. You can also visit the dark cave, but that one you have to pay for. Because everybody got thirsty and hungry, we passed on that one and moved ourselves to a local Indian restaurant. The first encounter for the kids with a ‘roti’ (Indian pancake).
Jalan Alor is a street lined up with good restaurants, hawkers (street-food stalls) were all the Asian kitchens are represented. If you look at some hawkers, you would rather think not to try it. But you really should! Everything is very tasteful and the food is so cheap. All four of us can eat for only €5-8/$6,5-9,5. We even discover a nice local restaurant where they have a very tasteful nasi lemak with rendang, a typical Malaysian dish. They even have french fries for the kids, who appreciate them now and then as a change of rice and noodles. We have eaten in this street every day and never got sick, so definitely go and try out the Malaysian street food!
Jalan Alor is situated right next to the famous district of Bukit Bintang. A very expensive neighbourhood filled with high-end restaurants, shopping malls and stores, of course with the mandatory bright and illuminated billboards. We passed by them on a Saturday evening, not our best plan as it was just too crowded. So we ended up again in our familiar food street.
Through AirBnB we had discovered a drone instruction class of 2,5 hours given by Farizul. We met at the Federal Territory Mosque in KL. Farizul had tipped us we could get a free guided tour of the mosque before we would start the lesson. So there was Jurgens first acquaintance with the Koran… Heleen and the kids stayed at home to avoid we had to call our drone insurance for the very first time. Once Jurgen arrived in the mosque, he got a one-hour private tour on top of his unique robe (a picture that caused a lot of laughter with the kids). It was, however, a very interesting tour and good to see Islam from the other side. As we are in Malaysia for more than six weeks, this could come in handy.
Time for the drone lesson now…
Farizul turns out to be an old school drone pilot and immediately sky-rockets his drown, at double the speed I normally use. Apparently also a good tactic to hold off any curious people, because the drone is invisible in a couple of seconds. Lesson number one is that I need to be less worried and just let the technology do its work. Very rapidly, he reaches 250 metres above the ground and we get an amazing view of the mosque and the skyline of Kuala Lumpur. He teaches me some tricks with the drone and it ends up to be a very interesting lesson. Especially watching somebody experienced catching a drone in the air with its hand while it is still one is an eye-opener for me. A good thing to know, our current drone, the DJI Mavic Pro, also the drone Farizul uses, is one of the top drones for the moment in image sharpness, speed and usability.
What did we really think about Kuala Lumpur?
We really recommend visiting the city! Somewhere we read Kuala Lumpur isn’t worth visiting and you should just use it as a hub to visit the rest of Malaysia. We totally disagree. Everything is in walking distance, for those places that are just a bit further out you can very easily order a GRAB through the app (very cheap). There is so much to see and do and on top of that, a lot is free or at a very low cost. For those who like to eat, there is something for everybody and if you look out you can find really cheap and delicious dishes. Once you enter one of the more Western restaurants or one of the famous sky bars, you’ll pay a lot of money. You are still in a big capital city. Malaysians do eat quite spicy, so be careful what you order for the kids. But there are always enough coconuts to extinguish the heat. Do try the nasi lemak!
Most of the people speak English, which is a huge advantage when travelling with children. Be careful about pickpockets, however. We luckily didn’t bump into one, but we heard rumours you have to pay attention.
It still is a busy city, but nothing in comparison to Shanghai. We definitely will go back to Kuala Lumpur, there is so much more to discover. We still have to visit a sky bar, visit Little India and so much more.