We were making our way from Cambodia to the islands of south Thailand but we were short on time, so we decided to fly. After much research, we realized that flying direct would be very expensive, so we decided to take Air Asia, a discount airline in South East Asia. It was significantly cheaper to buy 2 separate tickets, with a stopover in Kuala Lumpur between flights. We decided to go for it because it would give us some time to check out a new city that we didn’t initially include in our itinerary.
Having only 18 hours between our flights (and figuring that we at least needed a couple hours to sleep), we were off and running as soon as our flight landed in KL (as the locals refer to it). Our first task was to hop on a bus just outside the airport that would take us to the train station, which would take us right into the center of the city (KLCC).
The train ride gave us a bit of time to review our notes and put together a plan of action for our short time in the city. Before we know it, we can see the skyline of Kuala Lumpur out the window.
The train took us directly into Kuala Lumpur Sentral Station, right in the center of the city. This bustling station connects the high speed train lines along with the under ground metro system. The train system here is efficient, clean, safe, and a great way to get around the city.
After connecting to a metro line, we made our way to our hostel. We stayed at the Back Home Hostel right in the center of Kuala Lumpur. Not only was it incredibly affordable, but it had a great location, friendly staff, and ultra modern decor. We enjoyed walking to and from our room on the elevated outdoor walkways with the vegetation growing up all around us; it felt like we were in the jungle while in the center of this huge metropolis!
1. Batu Caves
We checked into the hostel early but luckily our room was ready, so we put our packs away and immediately headed back out. The first stop on our list was Batu Caves, a limestone mountain with a series of caves and temples inside. Outside of India, this is one of the most popular Hindu shrines. We had initially planned to take the train up to the caves; however, after a quick conversation with the worker at the front desk, we decided to change our plans and take a local bus. He said that during this time of day, the bus would be quicker and would provide us some scenery around KL.
Let’s just say that he was only half right on that one. But that bus ride made for a great story. Click here to read more about our crazy bus ride to Batu Caves!
After finally arriving at the caves, we made our way toward the massive staircase leading to the top. We noticed immediately that they were in the process of setting up for a festival that was beginning in only a couple days. We learned later that it was the thaipusam festival (held during the full moon in January / February) which commemorates the Hindu occasion when Parvati gave Murugan a Vel “spear” so he could vanquish the evil demon Soorapadman.
The festival looked like it would be loads of fun — but also pretty crowded. As cool as it would have been to be at the festival, we would not have been able to enjoy the caves on our short amount of time had the festival been going on. So we lucked out a bit here.
At this point, it was blistering hot outside! It was pushing 100 degrees outside, and the midday sun was made even worse by the suffocating humidity. At the base we took a few minutes to compose ourselves and take pictures around the statue at the base of the stairs, then we sucked it up and began our ascent up the 272 stairs.
As a side note, it is critical that you carry lots of water with you everywhere in South East Asia, but especially here in KL, and if you plan to hike these stairs. After every 10-20 stairs there is a flat platform that we could rest at. We made sure to stop at regular intervals to catch our breath, drink some water, and to prevent ourselves from overheating. It’s also helpful to have a sweat rag to keep yourself comfortable by wiping away the moisture from your face. Slowly, but steadily, we worked our way to the top.
It was interesting to see the variety of people at the site. Many visitors like ourselves were having a difficult time with the stairs, while worshippers seemed to have no trouble; some even carrying small pots with water on their heads for the ceremonies taking place in the temples high above. Once we made it to the top, we turned around and were rewarded with an amazing view of Kuala Lumpur in the distance.
Once inside the caves the temperature was much cooler. We wandered around inside and visited a couple of the different temples, one looked like it was built into the side of the cave. We were also lucky enough to watch a Hindu ceremony taking place.
2. Petronas Towers
When we were finished checking out the caves, we hopped on the train (station located right next to the cave entrance) and headed back into Kuala Lumpur City Center. Our next stop was the Petronas Towers. These are the tallest twin skyscrapers in the world. On the 41st and 42nd floors there is a skybridge that allows you to walk between the buildings. The towers are open to visitors (for a fee), but tickets are limited per day and are sold on a first come first served basis.
We decided that the price is a bit too steep for our budget to go to the top of the towers, so instead we take some time to walk around the Suria KLCC — a huge mall at the base of the towers. This place has everything, from high end shopping, to movie theaters, and many different kinds of restaurants.
Upon exiting the mall, we entered a large plaza around a pond. The weather this evening was pleasant and people were buzzing about the area. We noticed many of them sitting down facing the pond. The way in which they were sitting implied that something was about to take place. So we decided to stick around to check it out.
After taking some photographs and doing a bit of people-watching, we heard music blasting from hidden speakers and a water show begins! Ah, so this is what everyone was waiting for. We learned later that the same company that designed the famous Bellagio fountains in Las Vegas also designed this water and light show. It was a perfect moment to sit down and rest our feet while enjoying the show.
After the water fountain show, we did a bit of geocaching in the park and finally make our way to the last stop of the night; chinatown. It seems like every major city has its own Chinatown, and while there are many similarities between them, you can always find something unique about each. We walked this maze of street vendors browsing the merchandise, and tried to identify different types of food that we were seeing and smelling. With this particular Chinatown, we noticed a lot of restaurants that extended out into the street, not just vendors. It was almost like a large food court in an outdoor mall.
And with that — our feet and bodies were officially exhausted! By this time it was midnight, and we had to get back to our hostel. Our flight left super early; so we would only get about 3 hours of sleep that night. Yes, 3 hours.
In order to get our next destination, Railay Beach Thailand, we needed to take a taxi, high speed train, bus, airplane, another bus, then a longtail boat! And all before before 10am. So another busy travel day ahead! Railay Beach was an amazing place, where we actually get to relax for a few days!
To read more about Railay Beach, click here!
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