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Kuala Lumpur – My First Impressions Of Malaysia

MALAYSIA

Heather Markel, Best Selling Author, TEDx Speaker, Traveler, Full Time Travel and Business Coach

My journey is long. I begin with a 16-hour flight from New York to Korea. With a 23-hour layover until my next flight, I do a first – book a bed in a 12-hour hotel! I am so glad with my decision. I check in at 8pm and have a great sleep, which is good because I then have to wonder the airport until 4pm for my next flight. I arrive into Kuala Lumpur late at night. I collect my bags and look for a toilet. They’re called Tandas. Thankfully, I find one quickly, but the attendant doesn’t want my bags in there.???? She doesn’t understand English so has no sympathy (or understanding) that I’m alone and can’t separate from my bags. On to the next toilet! I’m relieved that there is no issue with that bathroom attendant.

Arrival In Kuala Lumpur

Now I can focus on getting a Grab to my hotel. Thankfully, I set up the app and connected my credit card before arriving, so it’s quite easy. What I didn’t realize is that it’s over an hour away. And, the Digi SIM card I just bought, I will learn, somehow won’t let me talk to Grab drivers. Making a longer story short, my driver is on another level than I am, despite the fact that my app clearly shows I am where I am supposed to be. It’s almost midnight, I’m tired, and I have to find this guy…

Durres port
Street art, Bukit Bintang

Ten minutes and several elevators later, I’m putting my luggage in this guy’s car and we’re off. Barely pulled away from the airport, he asks me if we can stop at a gas station so he can use the bathroom. This has never happened to me. What am I supposed to say? We stop, and I am hyper alert. It’s late, and this seems really risky. He leaves his keys in the ignition. I take off my seatbelt, and am at the ready to dash if someone goes into the driver’s seat. Thankfully, nothing happens, and the driver comes back and resumes the route. Then he asks, “May I call my girlfriend?” This is too much for me, and I tell him I don’t feel comfortable with him driving and using his cell phone at the same time. Thankfully, he listens. We arrive at my hotel at 1am. I check in and get to sleep as fast as possible because I have an early free walking tour.

KLCC

Despite my best efforts to be early, the important thing I forgot since my last trip to Asia is that Grab always keeps you waiting. I end up with an 18-minute wait and am concerned I won’t make it to my tour. Happily, I arrive at the Petronas Towers just on time, and meet my small group. I’m delighted to meet 4 other travelers, younger than me, who are all full-time travelers! Our guide takes us to Chinatown. It’s at this point that I realize I’m starving. My quick hotel breakfast (for $1) was mostly rice. We try a gelatinous goo dipped in peanuts. Seriously, I dont know what it’s called, and it’s like chewy gooey gluten, dipped in peanuts. Not my favorite, but a girl’s gotta eat. When we’re introduced to a tea egg, however, my world is rocked. Best damn egg I ever ate. And, being slightly less hungry than before said gooey appetizer, it wasn’t just my appetite that made it taste so good!

bari port
bari port

Seeing The Sites

As we make our way around the center of Kuala Lumpur, we visit a Chinese temple for praying that kids do well on their exams, an Indian temple preparing for an event, eat at a place called “mama’s restaurant” where I have a ginger coffee (stunningly delicious) , and see 3-dimensional street art. I learn that the discovery of tin is what put Kuala Lumpur on the map, and that the meaning of Kuala Lumpur is “muddy river convergence” which is why locals prefer to call it KL!

Over the coming days I learn to navigate the transit system, which is a bit tough if you want to go outside the center. And I decide that Grab is so cheap it’s best to take taxis to most places I want to go.

Thankfully, I booked a Petronas Tower visit a week before arriving. The tickets sell out fast! I absolutely loved it. I guess growing up with twin towers that I now can’t visit made these that much more special. I end up taking tons of photos from every angle. They’re a beautiful site. What’s really interesting is that each of the towers was built by a different team! A group of South Koreans competed with a Japanese team. Whoever finished their tower first got to build the skywalk. South Korea won!

I do a fabulous tour to the Genting Highlands and the Batu Caves. With four hours at the Genting Highlands I’m worried I’ll be bored. I don’t want to shop (there are outlets there that most people go for) and I don’t feel like an amusemet park (which is ungodly expensive). I grab some lunch, after enjoyng the cable car ride up – well, part of it, because it got really cloudy and a bit scary! Then I ride back down but get off mid-way to see the Chinese temple. I love it! The Buddha is beautiful, and it’s a wonderful area to spend an hour or more, and that’s how I use most of my time.

One other must-do activity – The Royal Selangor Visitor Center! It’s a pewter factory where you’ll learn a lot and you can make your own bowl or jewelry out of pewter! You can see my experiences making the jewelry in the video below! It’s roughly a 25-minute Grab ride and costs about $4 to get there from central KL.

The Batu Caves are quite a site. I have to admit, though, that what stole most of my attention were the monkeys! They run about frolicking, kids in tow, and gladly accept handouts of food. Watching them on the stairs is fascinating and eats up a good deal of my time! Once inside, seeing the temples constructed there, right inside these caves, well, it’s such an interesting place to see.

Bari castle
meeting Jessica

Food

My hotel is steps away from the Jalan Alor market, at which I enjoy a couple of wonderful meals for under $5. But, one of my favorite meals becomes the wagyu beef skewers over at Times Square. One of the guys on my free walking tour told me about them and I can’t get enough! Seriously, I can’t get enough, and go back several times. They make a wonderful light dinner.

I also end up addicted to Feeka for breakfast. It’s right near my hotel. I thought I was just going for eggs, but I made two new friends there in the waiters and ended up returning most mornings.  Lot 20 is another interesting place – a giant food court with every cuisine you can think of.

One day I go to the botanic gardens – I later learn that I’ve only seen half of it. As I’m not super impressed with the half I do see, and it is ungodly hot, I depart after a short visit and decide to try a lunch place recommended by a college classmate who is Malaysian! It turns out to be a buffet. It’s expensive at 50 ringgit per person, but thankfully that’s only around $10. A hostess takes me to all the stations and explains which dishes shouldn’t be too spicy. (Her opinion and mine on that differed on a few dishes!) Overall, the food is great, and I get to sample so many dishes. I think the beef rendang is my favorite.

After my interesting lunch the sky turns black and it pours. So I sit in the restaurant for a while. When it lets up, I walk outside and find myself at the main entrance of the Botanic Gardens, which I missed my first visit! It’s too late to go to the bird park, but I walk around and meet two couples in elegant clothing and learn they’ve just gotten married! I have a lovely walk around and then accidentally find my way to a huge mosque. I meet a lovely woman there who asks if I’d like a tour. They’ve closed for the day, but she has pull! She got three young men to take me around. I learned about muslim religion, saw men and women praying, and spoke a lot about my questions about proving someone is a prophet. Very intriguing!

Inside the Duomo di Milano

I’ve learned a lot about Malaysia in a short time (stay tuned for a future post with tips for coming to Malaysia!) and am ready to see some nature. I’m off to the Cameron Highlands in my next post! (In the meanwhile watch the video below, and it’s follow-up for live experiences of my trip!)

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