Kuala Lumpur – Malls, Markets, Friendly Folks & Fabulous Food!

Kuala Lumpur (KL) is the capital of Malaysia as well as the largest city. Greater KL, also known as the Klang Valley, has a population of about 7.2 million people.

Malaysia was not a country originally on our list to visit and we are so happy we ending up including it!  My last 2 blog posts were about Penang and Borneo, both in Malaysia. We spent the rest of the time (about 4 weeks) in KL.

Malaysia, and particularly KL, has an interesting cultural and religious mix. The official religion is Islam but there are also people who practice Buddhism, Christianity, Hinduism, and more. There is a mix of Malay, Indian, and Chinese communities. English is widely spoken. The food is great and is part of the cultural multiplicity and diversity.  The city lays claim to the tallest twin towers in the world. There is an interesting mix of old buildings and modern skyscrapers.  Compared to other countries we have been to in the last 9 months, the infrastructure is great in KL; like the roads, public transportation, sewer, internet, and electricity. There’s been a recent change in government control, the party that ruled Malaysia since independence is out and a new government is in – changes that just took place in May of this year. And everyone seems to be pretty happy with the changes.

Petronas Twin Towers day view
Petronas Twin Towers night view

David and I visited some of the common attractions in and around KL. Went to the Batu Caves, the cave is over 400 million years old.  There are over 400 steps to get all the way up to the top cave.  There was some renovation going on and visitors were “humbly requested” to support and help out by carrying a brick or pail of materials to the upper cave.  So we did!

We visited KL Forest Eco Park, a 66-acre urban rainforest with a canopy walk.  So interesting to be looking out at thick trees and up at tall buildings.  “Green spaces” are so important in cities and KL seems to have a number of them.  We brought our yoga mats with us to another park and got to practice on the grass with beautiful trees and flowers around us….and even a monitor lizzard!

Urban canopy walk!

We explored markets, neighborhoods, bookstores used and new, mosques, temples, towers, and restaurants.  As I mentioned, Malaysia is a Muslim country so it was a good opportunity for us to learn more about Islam.  Ramadan, the holy month of fasting, was being celebrated when we first arrived.  The markets and streets were full of people in the evenings breaking the fast.  In Putrajaya, our taxi driver who became our 2 hour tour guide, got us a special personal tour of the mosque there.  Such beautiful architectural design.

Masjid Putra (Putra Mosque) in Putrajaya.
15,000 worshipers can be accommodated inside.

I got my first custom made sari in Little India.  Started out at one store to pick out the fabric.  There were so many options, it was a little overwhelming at first.  Once that was decided on I went next door for the tailor to take all my measurements and discuss what design I wanted for the top.  After only a few days it was finished and ready for me to pick up!  What a great price and fun experience.  Now I need some events to wear it to! ; )

Oh, and I can’t forget the malls, wow, the malls. Malls in the USA seem to be closing, but the malls in Malaysia are thriving. Maybe because it’s nice to be in air conditioning when it’s in the 90’s and feels like 10 degrees hotter due to the high humidity. There is everything literally under one roof.  You can shop for anything like clothes, shoes, electronics, furniture, kitchen stuff, etc, get your hair done, do your banking, eat, see your eye doctor, sometimes a medical or dental clinic, go to the movies, and more!  It’s a good thing we have very limited space in our backpacks. But we did found some deals and purchase a few things since we knew cooler weather was coming in the future countries we would be visiting.

Our accommodations were probably a big part of our comfort and enjoyment in KL. For most of the time we stayed in a very nice but affordable Airbnb apartment. It’s always nice to have a clean apartment with a kitchen, washing machine, gym, and pool! It was the best location, walking distance to Little India and Bangsar (with the absolute best grocery store) and was connected by a walkway to the LRT (metro). And there was a yoga studio that I was able to try out right next door! It couldn’t have been a more perfect location for us.

In between the Penang and Borneo excursions, while Jessica visited, we spent 5 nights in a 2-bedroom suite at the Westin Hotel.  That was on Jalan Bukit Bintang, a popular road which is the city’s central business district and shopping district.  Jessica scored us that sweet 2-bedroom suite with lots of anemities.  And she wins the prize for traveling the farthest to see us! My bestie, a longtime friend that I have known since 1st grade. Okay I won’t make you guess….that’s 41 years!  Half way around the world for 5 nights!  What a crazy and spontaneous act that meant so much to me. It was so special that she made the trip and perfect timing to connect with such a good friend.

I discovered that Malaysia has hospice and palliative care….can’t help checking! ; ).  I was hoping I might be able to do some volunteer work again and connect with the local hospice community. I talked with staff at Hospis Malaysia and Kasih Hospice, both located in KL, to try to volunteer but they had nothing available in the few weeks we had left. I also found a volunteer medical clinic in our neighborhood and talked with a doctor there but she said they didn’t really need help at this time either. I struck out!  So, David and I got to do more yoga and hang out with our new friends, the owners of the apartment.

And interestedly enough, just a little FYI….KL frequently shows up on lists as one of the top 10 places to retire abroad, and one of the top places in Asia, because of its affordable cost of living, English is widely spoken, it’s got consistently warm weather, easy to travel to other places from, comfortable, and world class healthcare. We just might be back!

Terima kasih (thank you), KL!