When I told my coworkers and friends that I would be taking a week trip to Kuala Lumpur, it felt as strange in my mouth as it did in their ears. The events leading up to our trip are still jumbled in my mind. Although Malaysia has always been a place I've wanted to go to, most do not think that a 17 hour journey (one way!) is suitable for a week's trip. My Shanghai friends and I have the tradition of going somewhere for spring break every year. However, as we are all working now, spring break is when we make it. And so this year it was towards the end of the short month that is February. It was just a month before hour trip that we were spitting out ideas of where we could go. Our past trips have included South Korea (while we were in Shanghai), Puerto Rico, and just last year we spent a week in Budapest (photos soon to come...). And while it is pleasant to think that we can just hop on a plane anywhere, most often our trips have been dictated by plane and accommodation prices. And surprisingly, the function of those two factors were the lowest when calculated for Malaysia- and that was how the decision was made.
Below you'll find food, color, humidity and heat - all ingredients for a perfect trip (except maybe not heat I did not know a place could get that hot).
The biggest price we paid going to Malaysia was definitely in the amount of time we spent in transit. A one way trip to Kuala Lumpur from NY was a lovely 19 hours in planes and airports. Pictured above is our first meal after leaving our bags at the Airbnb in Bukit Bintang, still dirty and exhausted. Bukit Bintang (literally "star hill") is one of the crazier areas in Kuala Lumpur - the night is filled with food markets, restaurants, bars, and tons of inebriated humans.
After a long rest from our journey, we headed out again at night to find what travel blogs and websites had heavily featured of KL: the Alor street food night market. The market contains almost all the Malaysian food that you can possibly ask for. Since the Airbnb was only a street away, we made a stop here almost every night.
Walking around KL the next day and for the remainder of the week, I could not get over how much the city reminded me of Karachi. It was most likely a mixture of the tropical hot air and much of the architecture of the small street vendors along the roads. That being said, KL is (of course) far more developed that Karachi, and it was excited to see that development in progress.
For a look into the main "Chinatown" of KL, we went to Kalan Petaling for a busy market. The market contains tacky knock-offs, some shady looking hotels, and lots of food.
I ate upwards of five meals a day - I suggest the street vendors displaying hot food in huge platters around them. For a few ringgit they will give you a huge plate of rice and your choice of unlimited dishes you can pile on top (as long as they fit on the plate.
Behind the more developed parts of KL and the mass concrete buildings that line the streets is hiding some older, far more beautiful architecture. If you keep your eye out for it, you'll find some stunning structures that seem to be getting forgotten. I do hope that in KL's development there is preservation of these relics - they are always what give their city character. I say that as a New Yorker who has lived in equivalent buildings knowing well that they are also home to rats and roaches. Still worth it for the architecture.
The jumpsuit above is from Pixie Market, an online curation of some incredible statement pieces. This was actually from a sample sale they held in NY a few months ago.
This photo was taken from the balcony of the Troika hotel where Alex, Lily and I shared a fancy dinner and had a long heart to heart talk after a long time of the three of us hustling post graduation. It was a dinner of celebration as we've begun our lives as actual, working adults- and a temporary pause from the constancy that such a life brings. As for this photo - I wanted a quintessential rooftop picture. I added this failure of a shot into the collection just to show how muggy and humid it was at all times of the day.
Lily looking intense and Alex doing directions as we make our way to Little India.
I guess the title of this post is a bit of a lie - the three of us took a day trip to Malacca, a city a few hours south of Kuala Lumpur by car. Malacca is where the first most of the Europeans first settled into Malaya. While we only went there for a day - I would suggest staying there overnight. Malacca has tons of great restaurants, shops, and temples.
Malaysia loves museums and miniature replicas of different buildings. One of the halls of the Islamic museum in KL has over a dozen of replicas of mosques all around the world, from New Mexico to Xi'an, China. I thoroughly enjoyed examining the diversity of them all. I can't remember the last time I went to an Islamic museum (if ever), and it was amazing to see the Islamic heritage of Malysia/Southeast Asia being celebrated in such a thoughtful and careful away.
Pictured above are the Batu caves, which is the most touristy activity we did. The Batu caves are home to Hindu temples and require quite a few stories of steps to get to the top. The most exciting part of the outing was the monkeys that come quite close just to see if you have any food that they can steal. It wasn't my favorite part of the trip but still fun. Make sure to wear pants/skirt that cover your knees, otherwise they won't let you up.
Our last evening in KL.
Overall I had an amazing trip- and not just because it had been over a year since I had gone anywhere. Kuala Lumpur is not the most touristy place. There are not necessarily a ton of strerotypical vacation "things" to do. However, if you are willing to be adventurous and do your research, it can be a rewarding trip and you can get a lot done. And eat. Just eat everything.
Bukit Bintang/ Alor Street - Come here at night with a very empty stomach... or a full stomach I don't think it really matters.
Ah Weng Koh Hainan Tea & Coffee - This is the only place in the world that sells Hainan tea - which is a mixture of tea and coffee. It is the greatest thing I have ever had. Also behind the restaurant is a street hawker market that we went to three times.
Malacca - Malacca is a city two hours south of Kuala Lumpur by car. You can get a cheap bus ticket to Malacca from KL. I suggest staying there overnight for museums, food, temples, markets, coffee shops, and colonialism.
Skybar - For an incredible view of the Petronas towers.
Yut Kee Restaurant - For authentic Chinese food.
Jalan Petaling - Come here for fake designer handbags and shady motels.
Kampung Baru - Kampung Baru houses a market, which I do not know the name of. However, this market has some incredible food and drinks and I suggest making an afternoon or early morning. It gets quite hot and stuffy so maybe not best for midday when the heat is strongest.