Here’s a tip for those of you traveling around Southeast Asia this summer. Flights to and from Kuala Lumpur are the most inexpensive we’ve seen in the region, so when we discovered we’d need to go through KL on our way to Sydney we decided to make a weekend out of it.
Arriving with practically zero expectations or plans for our two day, two night layover we were surprised and delighted at every turn. Kuala Lumpur is the capital and largest city of Malaysia, and also known as the “green capital” of Asia due to the vast number of trees. Our biggest takeaway from KL is how diverse this truly multi-national city is: a blending of Malay, British, Chinese, and Indian.
On our first day in KL, we made our way from our apartment towards the Perdana Botanical Gardens. We always like to see the parks in cities; they tend to say something about the city’s style, and are always beautiful and unique in their own ways. KL’s large, main park was indeed beautiful, and subtly hilly — an unexpected challenging in the extreme heat and humidity. Shortly after entering the park, we stumbled upon the Kuala Lumpur Bird Park – which boasts the world’s largest open-air aviary. David was especially interested in seeing the variety of birds from around the world, so we decided to go inside. It was definitely worth the admission ticket! The park hosts over 300 species of birds from around the world. We especially liked getting close to parrots, peacocks and the dinosaur-like cassowaries from Australia. Many of the birds would eat fruit provided by staff to come closer to the guests.
After the bird park, we made our way east and stopped by Chocha Foodstore for lunch. We tried an assortment of Malay dishes – all spicy and delicious. The restaurant is partially hidden from the outside, but it’s a gem on the inside – the food was delicious and the staff friendly. Later that night, we stopped by Opium for more spicy food and a few cocktails.
The next day, we took a small architecture tour, visiting the old Kuala Lumpur Train Station, a gorgeous example of Islamic architecture, and Central Market which is decidedly art deco. In Japan, David had the idea to collect banknotes from around the world to eventually make into a map of the world’s money in our future home. David used to work in Payments, and talked about how each banknote is beautifully designed to tell a unique story about the country that issued it. The collection is coming together nicely now, and I can’t wait to see how it fits in eventually! We found a collector who specialized in banknotes and found some excellent Malaysian bills from the Straits Settlement colonial times as well as a few bills from Brunei and Papua New Guinea. After, we found a nice local ice cream spot called Inside Scoop in a hipster region west of Perdana Botanical Gardens. For dinner the second night, we tried Penang Laksa – highly recommended from friends. Penang is city not too far north of KL. It’s known for it’s excellent food scene, and it was a common recommendation for us to visit. Unfortunately, we didn’t allot enough time for a day trip. But the food stall Penang Laksa was quite good and now it’s on our list to return to Penang.
Overall KL was a lot of fun, and a safe and well-developed city. We’d love coming back for a week in the future! For a longer trip, we’d make sure to schedule a few days to see the Cameron Highlands (rolling hills with tea plantations) and a culinary tour of Penang.
All photos by David and Stacie Flinner for stacieflinner.com