Traveling to SE Asia from North America is getting much more simple and efficient. With recent increases in number of carriers and flights, it is quite easy to get to this exciting part of the world. Tom and I enjoy flying to SE Asia hubs of Bangkok and Singapore because these cities offer excellent connections. However, we notice that many flights go thorough Kuala Lumpur (“KL”). Because of this, we decided to venture out and explore this capital of Malaysia.
Kuala Lumpur Airport:
In a sense, there are two airports side by side. KLIA is the main airport terminal in Kuala Lumpur. It services the major international carriers. KLIA 2 is a new outpost that hosts low-cost carriers, allowing for travelers to transfer easily between large international airlines and budget ones. We traveled through both terminals and find them to be very clean and efficient. It is extremely easy to connect through KL to other regions of SE Asia and the rest of the World (which we did). If you want to fly deep into SE Asia and to the remote parts of Indonesia, Malaysia, and the Indian Subcontinent, KL is the hub for you!
Transportation in KL:
Travel throughout KL is incredibly efficient. The quickest way to get from the airport to the city center is the ERL. The Express Rail Link connects both KLIA terminals with downtown KL in about 30 minutes (the distance is 50 km).
Taxis are also plentiful. However, we recommend Uber. Upon arrival to KLIA, Tom and I decide to take Uber to our hotel in KL. A note about Uber in KL: the GPS is not as accurate as it is in the States. Our Uber driver had a difficult time locating us at the airport. Luckily, almost everyone in KL speaks English. After a quick phone conversation, our driver located us. The trip to our hotel is about 45 minutes by car without traffic.
The Ritz-Carlton, Kuala Lumpur:
Located in the heart of KL, The Ritz-Carlton is one of the city’s premier luxury hotels. Since we only have one day in KL, we decide to stay in the Bukit Bintang district which is the trendiest shopping and entertainment area.
The hotel is perfectly situated and walking distance to a plethora of shops and restaurants. The property is modern and updated. It fits the Ritz-Carlton brand of timeless luxury. The room is large for a city property and is well-appointed. The breakfast buffet is included in our rate and features a huge selection of Malay, Indian, Chinese, Western, and International fare. This is my favorite amenity of the property and it suits the multinational clientele.
However, service was a little off in every department. For example, the check-in and check-out process is excruciatingly slow and the staff does not seem to know proper procedures. Perhaps employees need a little more training to have service be on par with other Ritz-Carlton properties? At any rate, it is a great location for a one day visit to KL.
Tour as a Local:
Since Tom and I were in KL for a mere 36 hours, we decided to optimize our time and hire a local tour guide. Prior to our arrival, we communicate our desire to our guide, May, that we want to try all foods and venture off the beaten track. Early in the morning, May picks us up at our hotel and we set off for breakfast at a hawker center featuring Chinese foods. The place is literally a warehouse of food stalls serving a wide array of dishes. My favorite is hot milk coffee (even in the heat and humidity!) and a filling noodle soup.
Later, we venture out to Batu Caves. This is a lovely hour drive outside of KL. The draw is a series of limestone caves and temples that serves as a Hindu shrine. After walking up a 272 step stairway to the temple cave, I am ready for a break. May takes us back to KL where we have appointments for a massage with blind therapists. Evidently, this is a popular way to relax. The venue wasn’t the fanciest of places. It’s even slightly dirty, but the treatments melt away our muscle tension.
Next May takes us to Little India to for lunch. We get a pile of food on a platter and dig in with our hands. It’s messy and it’s probably the most authentic Indian food to pass through my lips. In other words, it’s awesome. Tom is not a fan of Indian food, but he does agree it’s the best he’s ever tasted.
After a rest to freshen up at our hotel, we set out on foot for my favorite time of day: happy hour. Since The Ritz-Carlton is in the heart of KL, we simply walk to our next spot. After a refreshing beer, we stroll over to nearby Jalan Alor Food Street for dinner. Alas, it was a let-down. Tom and I have travelled all over Asia, and this market is underwhelming and full of watered down food fit for average tourists. It’s definitely not up to our standards. May sensed our disappointment and offers to take us elsewhere. However, we were exhausted and just wanted to sleep.
Take advantage of amazing laundry service in KL (If you have loads of clothes and want to save some $$$). KL is the mid-point in our SE Asia trip and we are almost out of clean clothes. Luckily May told us about Fresh Press. We arranged for pick-up and delivery prior to our arrival. Early in the morning, our laundry was collected. Our freshly cleaned clothes were delivered back to our hotel 8 hours later. The cost for an entire suitcase worth of clothing is under $7!
KL is a great place to transit within SE Asia. The airports are modern and easy to navigate. The flight connections are fantastic. Consider flying into and out of this hub.
KL is a melting pot of ethnicities. It is a great place to see people from all walks of life.
Do your due diligence and research the city ahead of time. We really wanted to get to know KL as a local, but unfortunately our tour fell short of our expectations (despite our research and communication prior to our arrival). Instead, we got a tourist view of KL. I did enjoy the breakfast at the hawker center and food in Little India, but I hoped to have my taste buds dancing all day (which didn’t happen). Perhaps next time!
KL is an exciting city. We can help you navigate the city and beyond. Contact us for additional details.