If you are traveling through South East Asia or anywhere else, one of my favorite things to do is take advantage of Airline layovers.
I recently flew through Kuala Lumpur and was able to enjoy the best of what this city has to offer, all without breaking the bank. It’s a huge hub for flying to and from Asia and a cheap alternative to flying into Singapore. Great architecture, cheap eats, and good shopping. And Malaysia has no departure fees.
Here is a recap of my 36 hours in Kuala Lumpur.
Arriving in Kuala Lumpur
I arrived in Kuala Lumpur around 5:00 pm on a Friday night and got through immigration in about 30 minutes. It was easy – a free visa on arrival so no need to fill out any paperwork beforehand or pay any fees. I then headed downstairs and bought a one-way ticket on the KLIA Express train to the city center for 50 Malaysian Ringgit (RM), or around $12.
One of my favorite things about traveling outside the USA is how easy it is to get from the airport to where you are going. Most airports have easy access to trains that will take you into the city. Even if you fly into a small airport, there will always be shuttle service.
The train ride was approximately 30 minutes. We traveled through acres of palm trees, with the scenery becoming more and more industrial as we got closer to the city center.
From the City Center
Upon arrival at the KL Sentral station, I bought a ticket for the KL Express Rail Link (KL Metro) for 1.6 RM, or $.38. to my hotel that was one stop away from the main station and right in the heart of Chinatown
In Kuala Lumpur, rather than using cards or tickets for the public transportation system, you get an electronic token that you scan on your way in and deposit on your way out.
I stayed at a Space Capsule Hotel for 65 RM, or $7.50 a night. It was open 24 hours. After dropping off my bags, I walked to the night market with a Russian girl I met, Sofi, who was staying at the same hotel. She also lived in Bali and was in Kuala Lumpur on a layover.
The market was filled with counterfeit designer products being sold for next to nothing: makeup, wallets, perfume, suitcases, shoes and, of course, knock-off watches. However, I was more interested in the food than shopping.
We sat down at a local food court and enjoyed a meal together. Chicken stir-fried noodles and a local beer was 10 RM, or $2.40. It started to pour rain, so we stayed in the food court and watched the locals walk by, prepared with their umbrellas and rain gear.
Day 1 Financial Break Down
|Train Ticket from Airport to City Center||$12|
|Monorail ticket to Hostel||$.38|
|1 night in Capsule Hotel||$7.50|
|Dinner and Drinks||$2.40|
Saturday in Kuala Lumpur
The next morning, I headed to Batu Caves. My plan was to leave the hotel by 6:00 a.m. to avoid the crowds. Having had trouble sleeping, I was up and dressed and out the door by 5:30 a.m.
It was dark outside when I left but I assumed the sun would be rising very soon because I’m used to being up at this time in Bali to surf and avoid the crowds. I took the 15-minute walk to the KL Sentral train to get in a little extra exercise.
Upon arriving I looked for a place to buy a train ticket. No one was there and the first train to Batu Caves was not until 7:00 a.m. Still determined to get to the caves early and avoid the crowds, I found a taxi willing to take me for 27 RM, or $6.50.
Arriving at the Batu Caves
It was still dark when the taxi dropped me off at 6:30 a.m. There was a sign indicating the caves opened at 7:00 a.m. so I walked around and found a Hindu temple nearby, where morning ceremonies were underway.
The Hindu priests were blessing the Hindu God Statue of Ganesha by pouring holy water and fresh cow’s milk on them.
The priests then walked around blessing everyone who was there, saying a quick prayer and placing a mark of ash on the forehead of each of the men. The ash is meant to keep away evil spirits.
Hindu priests are not allowed to place ash on the foreheads of women. Rather, women take the ash from the priest and place it on their foreheads or have their husbands do it for them.
This was by far the most interesting thing I saw while in Kuala Lumpur.
After the morning ceremonies, with ash on my forehead, I returned to the caves which were still not open. Although it was nearly 7:00 a.m. and the sun was rising, there were very few people – the cleaning crew and some locals looking to run the stairways for exercise.
When the gates to the caves opened, I was able to take a selfie on the steps before the locals started running. I walked up the 370 colorful steps and made my way inside. The caves, themselves, were not very impressive, but the overall experience was worth the effort to go there.
Being quite hungry by this time, I walked to a local café and noticed a line of people waiting outside. I ordered Tosi and local milk tea for 6 RM, or $1.45.
From there I took the train back into town, at a cost of 7.50 RM ($1.80), and met Sofi at our space hotel. We took a Grab (similar to an Uber) to the Petronas Twin Towers for a total cost of 10 RM, or $1.20 each.
After taking about a hundred photos in front of the towers, we headed to Kuala Lumpur City Walk where there is outdoor shopping and restaurants; however, most everything was either closed or under repair. We split an order of dim sum and stir try for a late afternoon lunch at a cost of 36 RM, or $3.12 each.
I noticed in Malaysia, more so than in any other country in Asia, how much the people love Durian. I smelled it at every street food vendor, where people were eating it wearing plastic gloves. It is so popular that it is actually a McFlurry flavor at McDonald’s.
As it was getting close to sunset and I had heard there was a spot that had amazing views not to be missed while in Kuala Lumpur, we jumped in another Grab for Heli Bar. The ride was 10 RM for both us, or $1.20 each.
Heli Bar is an old helipad turned into a sunset bar, and the views do not disappoint. The only requirement to get to the top is to purchase a drink.
I ordered a Mojito for 30 RM ($7.20) and headed to the top to enjoy the view. After the sunset, we split another Grab back to our capsule hotel for 12 RM ($1.45 each).
Still full from our late lunch, we skipped dinner and headed to the market for some shopping. I had packed only two shirts for my destination surf trip so I thought I’d do a favor for everyone on the plane to and buy some new clothes.
I was able to pick up two new T-shirts for 30 RM, or $7.20, all thanks to my new Russian friend and her amazing ability to haggle.
Day 2 & 3 Financial Break Down
|Hotel Night Stay||$7.50|
|Breakfast Day 2||$1.45|
|Total Transportation Day 2||$12.15|
|Lunch and Drinks||$10.32|
|Two New Shirts||$7.20|
|Transport back to Airport||$12.00|
Total Cost of 36 Hours in Kuala Lumpur: $72.94
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