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Aug 25, 2013

Malaysia: Truly Asia ( Kuala Lumpur Travel Guide)



Malaysia is known to be a melting-pot of races and religions since Malays, Indians, Chinese and other ethnic groups live together harmoniously in this country. Because of its diverse culture, Malaysia is also considered as a gastronomical haven in Asia.

If you are someone who loves to discover asian culture and cuisine, this 4 days and 3 nights travel guide to Asia's melting pot of culture, Malaysia (Kuala Lumpur) might help.

Photos by Liz ReyesToni Alvarez and Hazel Castillo


GETTING THERE



By Air: Philippine Airlines, Cebu Pacific, Pal Express and Air Asia fly daily to Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia's capital.

Website: www.philippineairlines.com
Hotline: 855-8888 (open 247/7)

Website: www.cebupacificair.com
Hotline: 7020-888 (open 247/7)

Website: www.flyexpress.com
Hotline: 855-9000

Website: www.airasia.com
Hotline: 742-2742 (8AM-9PM)


SOME FRIENDLY AND IMPORTANT REMINDERS:

This is an international travel so it is only necessary for you to have a valid passport. You can secure one from the Department of Foreign Affairs. If you already have a passport, make sure it is still valid for 6 months from the time of travel. Meaning, if your passport will expire on April 21, 2014, then it is still safe to travel and return back before October 21, 2013. Any date beyond October 21, you'll no longer be allowed to leave the country. If in doubt, you can always call Malaysian embassy in Manila, or Pilipinas Teleserve (24-hour Passport Assistance) 737-1000.

Note: This 6 months validity period only applies in certain countries, including Malaysia. If you plan to go to other countries, specifically in European countries, check with their respective embassies here in Manila.
Hello, Malaysia!

- No need to apply for visa when you'll only travel as a tourist in Malaysia. Note though that American passport  does not require visa except for employment purposes.

- From the time of entry to Malaysia, you are only allowed to stay there for not more than 30 days without visa or as a tourist. Overstaying in Malaysia will incur a $10 or RM30 fine per day

- Always bring with you 2 valid IDs in case the immigration asks for it.

- Always bring your passport wherever you go. That's always an SOP when traveling to other countries.

- Be wary of your surroundings. There are also pickpockets or snatchers in Kuala Lumpur, especially in the Bukit Bintang area and LRT stations where it's always swarming with people.

- Majority of the taxi drivers in Malaysia, specifically in Kuala Lumpur, tend to bargain for a fixed price so don't fall for it. They usually charge double or even triple the rate of metered cabs. As much as possible, just take the train or bus. Good way to exercise as well and see KL by foot.

- Although majority of Malaysians can understand and speak english, these words might be useful too-- (thank you= terima kasih, how much= berapa ban yak, Yes= Ya, Good Morning=Selamat Pagi)

- Always keep a map handy. It's fun to explore the streets of Kuala Lumpur  by foot with the use of a map. Very liberating.


THINGS YOU NEED TO KNOW

Accommodation: There are lots of hotels, hostels and bed and breakfasts in Kuala Lumpur so choosing your hotel already depends on the kind of activities you want to do while in KL. If you want a back packer's hotel near the long strip of hawker's food and bars, you may want to stay in Bukit Bintang area, Jalan Alor, Jalan Mesuri or Jalan Nagasari to be specific. Jalan is a Malay term for "street". Posh hotels  and high end malls are also walking distance from Bukit Bintang, so when in Kuala Lumpur, the area to scout for place to stay is always in Bukit Bintang.

Hotels:

Somerset Hotel (http://www.somerset.com/en/malaysia/kuala_lumpur/somerset_ampang.html)
Hotel Istana (http://www.hotelistana.com.my)
Concorde Hotel (http://kualalumpur.concordehotelsresorts.com)
Furama Bukit Bintang (http://www.furama.com/bukitbintang/)
Millenium Hotels (http://www.millenniumhotels.com)


Photo taken by Hazel Castillo


Hostel/Bed and Breakfasts

Rainforest Bed and Breakfast (http://www.rainforestbnbhotel.com) - Highly recommended. Walking distance from Jalan Alor, Bukit Bintang Walk, Raja Chula monorail station and bus station for the free tourist shuttle. Place is also very clean, nice and cozy with free Wi-Fi
Alor Boutique Hotel (http://www.alorboutiquehotel.com)
Sunshine Bedz (http://www.sunshinebedz.com.my)
Classic In (http://classicinn.com.my)
La Comme Inn (http://lacommeinn.com.my)


Meal: Like Philippines, rice is also a staple food in Malaysia. One of the most popular food in Malaysia is the Chicken Rice which can be found in almost every corner or restaurants in KL. Chicken Rice costs  roughly RM10 depending on the type of Chicken Rice. Chicken Rice is a dish of Chinese origin. Usual Chicken Rice dish consists of pandan rice with a special kind of ginger topped with Hainanese Chicken and chili sauce, but Malaysians modified the dish to suit Malay's love for spicier and fried foods.  



Touring: No need to hire a tour guide when in Kuala Lumpur since the place is very tourist friendly and their transport system is very efficient. In fact, they have free shuttles for tourists with specific drop off points. It's more fun to explore KL by taking their subways and buses. However, if you are pressed for time and want to ensure that you see all the tourist spots in KL, you may opt to ride the KL Hop-On Hop-Off City Tour that will take you to almost all the tourists spots in the city.  The bus has 22 stops which cover more than 40 attractions but you can choose where to go down only. Once you get off the bus, you have to wait for the next Hop-On Hop-Off bus again, interval between buses is around 20-30 minutes. Tickets may be purchased in the bus, authorized agents, authorized hotels and KL Hop-On Hop-Off counters.

KL Hop-On Hop-Off Website: http://www.myhoponhopoff.com

Ticket Type: STANDARD ADULT TICKET
Price: RM45.00 Validity: 24 Hours
Price: RM79.00 Validity: 48 Hours

Transportation: Explore KL by bus, MRT, cab or foot. Taking a cab can be stressful especially with some taxi drivers who demand a fixed price even for short distance trips. Kuala Lumpur cab drivers are very notorious that they tend to charge tourists thrice the original metered fare. If you really need to take a cab, just be sure ask the cab driver to use his taxi's meter.



THINGS YOU NEED:

Comfy footwear- You will do lots of walking so better make your feet comfortable.
Camera- Capture memories, especially the majestic Petronas Tower
Money - No brainer
Umbrella-  It usually rains at night, especially during rainy season. Their rainy season is also the same as Philippines'.
Shades- protect your eyes
Map- You can ask one from your hotel's reception. You need this to enjoy KL by foot and  to locate the nearest train stations.

Budget: There are several ATM machines in Kuala Lumpur but it is highly recommended for you to bring US Dollars and exchange them for Malaysan Ringgit. Approximately, RM1 is equivalent to Php13.00. There are also lots of money changer in KL City Center, check out Bukit Bintang area.

* Good for 2 persons for 3 days and 2 nights. (cost may vary if you travel in big group)

- Airfare: Php4,000 (promo fare)
- Accommodation: Php 5, 620 (bed and breakfast)
- Food: Php 3,000 (safe budget already. You can save more if you eat in food courts)
- Tour: Php 3,000 (you'll save more if you'l always take the train. Be sure to ask your hotel if they also have free airport transfer)
- Pasalubong and shopping for yourself: Php 1,000-Php 2,000 (nothing much to buy in KL except if you are planning to shop till you drop in their high end malls. Surprisingly, sarongs and batiks are expensive there compared to Zamboanga.)
- Miscellaneous: Php 5,000 (cab to and from the airport in Manila, terminal fee, entrance fees to some tourist spots, etc.)

You need to have: An approximate amount of 40,000 for two persons or Php 20,000/person is already a safe budget, depending on the gravity of your shopping spree and if you were able to score a promo fare.

DAILY ITINERARY


Day 1

Day 1 is just for settling down and exploring the city. Walk along Bukit Bintang and get to know Kuala Lumpur more. Just mind your purse all the time. Bukit Bintang is swarming with people of all cultures and races so just be aware of your surroundings to be safe. 

1st stop: Jalan Alor- Malaysia is known for its sumptuous dishes, so when in Malaysia, be sure to pig out and try their native food. And did you know that the best place for eating is not in the air-conditioned and posh restaurants but is actually in Jalan Alor? Jalan Alor is formerly known as the Red Light district of Malaysia but it's transformation now attracts foodies and gastronauts alike.

Jalan Alor looks different and boring in the morning so go elsewhere first. But as soon as the sun goes down, head straight to Jalan Alor and secure yourself a table in one of the restaurants and prepare to dine al fresco style. Most restaurants along Jalan Alor serve chinese food but the long strip of hawker stalls is also a must try.

2nd stop: Bukit Bintang Walk- 5-10 minutes walk from Jalan Alor is Kuala Lumpur's shopping paradise, Bukit Bintang Walk. If you want to satisfy the shopaholic in you, then heading to Bukit Bintang Walks' long line of shopping centers will leave you breathless, and well, your pocket empty. Bintang Walk is KL's answer to New York's Time Square and Manhattan's Fifth Avenue. List of shopping malls in Bukit Bintang Walk includes, Berjaya Times Square, Lot 10 (with the newly-opened H&M), Low Yat Plaza, Sungei Wang Plaza, BB Plaza, Imbi Plaza, Fahrenheit 88, Starhill Gallery (with the humungous Sephora in front) and the most high end one, Pavilion KL.

If you are not billeted near Bukit Bintang, you can simply ride the mono rail and get off Bukit Bintang station just across the Lot 10 Mall.  Bintang Walk comes alive with parties every night and was even regarded  as KL's most fashionable and trendy shopping district.


Day 2

Spend your Day 2 in Kuala Lumpur by visiting neighboring cities like Petaling Jaya. It's good to explore other places once in a while, especially through Malaysia's transport system. If you find Bintang Walk's long stretch of shopping centers too ordinary, Petaling Jaya also has high end themed malls to choose from like 1Utama, The Curve, Sunway Pyramid and Digital Mall among others, although a personal all-time favorite will always be IKEA. Yes, the 'mall culture' is very much a part of the Malaysian culture.

1st stop: IKEA- Aside from Singapore, the nearest IKEA warehouse in the Philippines is in Petaling
Jaya, Malaysia. Petaling Jaya in Selangor, Malaysia is actually far from KLCC ( Kuala Lumpur City Center) that taking a cab to this area from KL will cost you Php1,000-Php1,500 at most, thus it is not recommend to take a taxi, especially if it's not metered or if it's for a fixed price. Take the monorail and train instead, ride a bus and then you can just take a metered cab from one of the malls near IKEA.  Going to IKEA might sound very tiring but if you are someone who loves decorating your home or just admiring the drool worthy furniture and stuff of IKEA, then you probably won't mind, you can even spend the whole day at IKEA just so your long trip would be worth it.

Direction to IKEA: (coming from Bukit Bintang area)  Ride the monorail, alight in Bukit Nanas station, walk towards the Putra LRT line, Dang Wangi station. Ride the train then get off at Kelana Jaya station.  From Kelana Jaya, walk across the street then ride the Cyber Bus (Kepong Kompleks Desa), ask if it will pass by 1Utama Mall just to be sure. At 1Utama mall, ride a cab to IKEA. Travel from 1Utama Mall to IKEA will only take 5 minutes or so.


Petronas in the evening
1st OR 2nd stop: Petronas Tower-  Another option that you can also do on your second day is to wake up real early and head to the Petronas or popularly called the Twin Tower. You may opt to go the tallest sky bridge but scoring a ticket is no walk in the park. You have to go to the Twin Tower as early as 6:00AM to queue for the free limited tickets they are giving away.  However, if you don't feel like lining up just to see KL's skyline,  you can just content yourself in looking and taking a picture of the majestic tower from below. The tower actually looks even awesome at night so be sure to return in the evening. Also, did you know that from the plane, the Petronas Tower is actually a little visible, especially at night?

If you missed going to Petronas' Skybridge, then one best alternative is to visit KL Tower, the 6th tallest tower in the world. KL Tower houses the famous revolving restaurant Atmosphere 360. The viewing deck of Menara KL (KL Tower) is about 100m higher than the Twin Tower's skybridge at 276m. Tables are arranged in a single line and you won't actually notice that the restaurant is moving until you finally realized that the view outside is changing and your table is switching places. It takes 80 minutes approximately for the 360 degrees turn to complete. Buffet is very pricey but everyone will agree that you are actually paying for the ambiance, view and experience. For reservation, you can visit http://www.atmosphere360.com.my

Petronas in the morning
KL Tower
Photo taken from Atmosphere 360 website


Day 3

On your third day, take time to commune with nature and visit the parks in Kuala Lumpur, specifically parks within the Lake Garden. It's a great way to escape the hustles and bustles of KLCC for a breathe of fresh air.

1st stop: Bird Park- The Bird Park is actually very entertaining since all the birds there are not inside any cages and they freely roam around with the people, so needless to say, they are not afraid of people.  Of course there's still net above the park but these birds don' feel like caged-inn at all because they can freely fly and land on any trees, create nests and lay eggs inside this aviary. Walking into this 'world's largest free-flight walk-in aviary' is like entering into the world of Aves and seeing them in their own natural habitat. Imagine bumping into peacocks, seeing giant storks flying and playing, pink flamingos sleeping in one foot and even egrets who seem to be following you everywhere you go. Exciting? Yes! 



Photo taken by Hazel Castillo



2nd stop: Orchid Garden- In front of Bird Park is the Orchid Garden, which houses up to 800 species of orchids. This is actually a great place for orchid lovers and photography enthusiasts since you can practice your macro photography all you want because you'll never run out of subjects to shoot. Walking through the Kuala Lumpur Orchid Garden will also lead you to the Hibiscus Garden, locally known as 'Gumamela'. Hibiscus is Malaysia's national flower and this garden showcases various Hibiscus species of different shapes and colors.

If you have more time in your hands, you can also opt to visit other parks within the Lake Garden like the Butterfly Park and Deer Park.

Photo taken by Hazel Castillo

3rd stop: Lake Garden- Take time to meditate and rest while admiring Lake Garden's artificial lake with fountain amid the lush greeneries. The garden is a favorite place for joggers and families for a stroll or just to enjoy nature without going too far from the city. Lake Garden is actually big so bringing a bike to explore the place is a nice idea.  Entrance to the park is free but boat ride and water bicycle has corresponding fees.




4th stop: Central Market- Central Market is the best place to shop for souvenirs when in Kuala Lumpur. A short distance away from the market is also the popular Chinatown in Petaling Street. Key chains, pashminas, batik and goodies like the famous Beryl's chocolate, Alfredo's chocolate, Famous Amos cookies and Old Town White Coffee can also be found in the market.



Day 4

Photo taken from RW Genting website
Since it's your last day already, you may want to get out of the city proper and explore Genting Highlands or the Batu Caves. This is granting that your flight is still in the evening. 

Genting Highlands-  A less than an hour bus ride away from KL City Center, Genting Highlands or Resorts World Genting is a hill resort in Malaysia that is nestled on a mountain peak so the weather is expected to be chilly like Tagaytay's. The Genting Outdoor Theme Park is also perfect for families and kids for some adrenaline rush. Dubbed as ‘Fun City Above the Cloud’, Genting Highlands is the only legal land-based casino.  You can reach Genting Highlands in less than an hour via Go Genting Express.

Check Go Genting Express schedule HERE. 

Photo taken from guenardis.net
Batu Caves- Batu Caves is a popular tourist attraction in Selangor, Malaysia. Just a good 13km. or 30 minutes  away from KL City.  Rising 100m above the ground, the Batu Caves temple is a series of three main caves and a few smaller ones. The caves attract worshippers and tourists around the world, with the statue of the Hindu God Murugan being the main attraction. The statue of the Hindu deity outside the Batu Caves is believed to be the world's tallest statue of Murugan, standing at 42.7m or 140ft high. Beside the gigantic statue is the steep cardiac stress test of 272 steps to be able to reach the Batu Caves. Aside from the overwhelming hike to the caves, one of the challenges in going up is the numerous monkeys in the area. They are actually harmless but be sure to take good care of your stuff, especially food, since they sometimes tend to snatch it away from you. These monkeys can also be quite territorial so they pose a biting hazard to tourists, especially kids.


MUST TRY AND BUY IN KUALA LUMPUR


Chicken Rice. You might find their chicken rice weird at first, especially if you are someone who prefers plain rice during meal, but once you get the hang of it, I'm pretty sure you won't mind eating it everyday. Try their different versions of chickens. You may also opt to try first "The Chicken Rice Shop" restaurant here in Manila and see if you'll like it. There's one in Harbor Square, CCP Complex and Katipunan area.


Alfredo's Dark Chocolate. They say that Beryl's is probably one of the best tasting dark chocolates, but I say Alfredo is way better and cheaper. Not to mention the dark chocolate coated almond. One of my all-time favorites because it's very addictive.


Old Town White Coffee. If you are a coffee lover, then taking home a box of Malaysia's Old Town Coffee is a must. Their hazel nut-flavored coffee is heavenly.

Photo taken from beijingonline.com

Ride the train. Be a traveler, not a tourist. Do what the locals do -- and that is to either walk or take the train. If it's a must, you can also try their buses.


Famous Amos cookies. This cookie looks too ordinary like Mrs. Fields, but surprisingly, it tastes really good though a bit pricey. Aside from Central Market, this is also available in Pavilion, KL and in some malls along the Bukit Bintang Walk.

Photo taken from Famous Amos official website

Try their hawkers food. Be adventurous. Don't leave KL without ever trying their hawkers food along Jalan Alor.

Photo taken by Hazel Castillo
Mall hopping. Sure it is tiring, but mall hopping just to discover the differences among KL malls is fun. 






7 comments:

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Cameron Hunt said...

Nice informative blog. Really i found so much information from here. thanks for sharing it.
Kuala Lumpur city

RinaG said...

Very informative and really helpful to know. Thanks a lot.

c4th3r1n3 said...

Hi, where did you buy the Alfredo dark chocolate in KL?

Unknown said...

Pavilion Mall may be expensive but it's so nice to just go around and explore the mall. Really love Bukit Bintang. But you're right about the cab drivers. Filipino cab drivers are saints compared to them. Lol.

Rowland Eturma said...

I found one across Lot 10 just at the foot of the Skywalk that connects the monorail.

James Andrew said...

Very helpful post! Will definitely consider getting Malaysia Accommodation.