Well our Indonesian visa ran out, so we came to Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. It is a great place to get anywhere else in Asia. Our original plan in KL is to sort out a visa for India, but it turns out this is an unwanted hassle. The visa is expensive, mine anyway. For US citizens it is about US $90, US $25 for Japanese. The Indian office cannot tell us when it will be ready "a minimum of five working days," which means we cannot buy our airline ticktes yet which means they will be even more expensive last minute. So we decide to scrap India and will stay in South East Asia. Not a terrible option.
View Larger Map
Five years ago we were in Kuala Lumpur for a couple nights of our honeymoon. With a nice 5-star hotel room including lots of food we barely saw anything of the city so we are looking forward to exploring a bit. Walking on the street KL feels like the proverbial melting pot. Besides the Malay, there are very large Chinese and Indian communities. Sprinkle in the Arab, Western, and smattering of African tourists there is a real cultural hodgepodge. It is a predominantly muslim country, but, unlike Indonesia, we are not woken up at 5 AM with the call to prayer (though this might not be the case in other parts of the country).
Malaysia has a pretty good economy. Things are more expensive than in Indonesia. Like Singapore, the city is full of glass, steel and concrete skyscrapers, cars and shopping malls. Construction cranes and large apartment buildings abound. The city is growing up, literally. However, unlike Singapore, KL maintains an active street life and grittiness you find in other Asian capitols. We can still get good meals for under two dollars. Littering and jaywalking are definitely not illegal in Kuala Lumpur.
We start off our visit in the Bukit Bintang area which is sort of downtown. There are many hotels, restaurants and shopping. The low-end hotels are really horrible here. Not seedy, just dirty and not well-maintained. A double room in a windowless cell with shared bathroom and a continental breakfast of toast with jelly and undrinkable coffee will cost 60 Ringgit (US $20) -- a lot of money for backpackers. They use guidebooks to lure in tourist after tourist without the need to maintain or improve their facilities. I really would only recommend them for lone travelers who need the cheapest dorm bed possible.
After bouncing around -- 1st hotel, nice enough but over of our budget; 2nd exactly like description above; 3rd the cheapest we found 40 Ringgit (US $13), but no floor space to put our luggage and the worst laundry service ever. Our last two evenings we find a US $20 hotel online on the main tourist drag in Chinatown. Very clean, our own bathroom, wi-fi and tv in the room, and nice size. Step outside and it is wall-to-wall shops selling fake shoes, purses, dvd's watches, sunglasses...do I need to go on?
Standing above everything in KL is Petronas Towers. Eighty-eight stories high it is the fourth largest building(s) in the world and the iconic image of Kuala Lumpur. Visitors can go up for free to the Skybridge connecting the two towers on the 41st floor. The Skybridge's main purpose is a support to limit swaying. Going up to the Skybridge requires getting in line before 8 AM to secure a reservation for during that day. Tickets go quickly and by 10 AM are gone. We do this, and come back for our time slot, but it is not so interesting. Viewing the towers from the ground is actually a more impressive sight. If you want to go higher, the 84th floor for example, you need to have business or a friend at Petronas, the government-run oil company.
We really like it here in this city. The balance of street hawkers and urban amenities really fits our travel lifestyle. After lots of ping-ponging of ideas of where we should go (India, Mynamar, Laos) we decide to stay in the country and see more of what Malaysia has to offer. This means we will probably eventually make it back to KL for another welcome visit.
A 35 minute bus ride out of the city gets you to Batu Caves. A Hindu temple inside a cave.