We ended up in
by chance. The offer from AirAsia.com to fly their new route from Malaysia to London for under $400 round-trip was too good to pass up. We bought the tickets and organized our trip backwards. The little I’d heard about Kuala Lumpur had not engaged my enthusiam, but once arrived in KL we decided to stay and check out Kuching, Malaysia Penang and Melacca as well as KL.
The population is a mix of native Malay, Chinese, Indian, and various other immigrants. In a store in Malacca owned by Pakistanis, I met the Japanese saleswoman, Mitsuko. “I live with my American husband in a neighborhood with a Muslim mosque, a Chinese temple, and an Anglican church. Everyone gets along well here.”
The country was unified in 1963, having been a checkerboard of English colonial governments for two hundred years. It’s rich in natural resources (palm oil and rubber are the main exports), and is listed as one of seventeen megadiverse countries by the UN. An economic boom in the late 20th century sent
Kuala Lumpur (or simply ‘KL’), Malaysia’s largest city (1.7 million), is a decidedly unromantic place, a hodge-podge of a town, with a handful of English colonial buildings, a moderate sized Chinatown, and a gleaming new, hi-rise business zone, to provide sufficient brochure photos to attract the tourists.
In our hotel room, we watched soap operas in Hindi, and snacked on green pandan cakes. Our 8th floor view encompassed schoolkids in neat blue and white uniforms, a sober Methodist church, and the Petronas Towers, KL’s signature structure, a genuine architectural marvel. It’s image put KL on the map the way the opera house did for Sidney, and the Guggenheim for
Public transportation is limited, and taxis are expensive in KL. I recommend taking the tourist bus, which loops around the city. You can hop on and off all day for $10.
We took the efficient monorail to the Chow Kit market, a rare remnant of Malay village life in the heart of the city. At night, Bintang Walk is the liveliest part of town, but it has a dreary sleeze factor. On the nearby street Jalan Alor, however, the night food market was in full swing--the food we had here was the best in KL.
If you’re traveling with AirAsia, you may end up in KL, their hub city. Malacca makes a more pleasant stop than KL if you’re traveling through, but bus service from the airport is erratic—check at the information desk. You can take a taxi (about $60 each way) or go to KL central station and change to Malacca bus (cheaper but longer) if the direct bus to Malacca is not running.
We stayed at the Ancasa Hotel which was comfortable and near to
I kept looking for a more desirable neighborhood, but didn’t really find one.
Two more that I saw that looked like possibilities for the next time are:
The best food was on Jalan Alor, mentioned above.