72 Hours In KL
See the best of Malaysia’s capital city in just three days
When travellers plan their Southeast Asian journeys, it’s usually all about islands, tropical rainforest and culture. The modern, messy metropolises that rule as capital cities are just stepping stones to the final destination. While some capitals like Bangkok and Hanoi are on the must-visit list, Kuala Lumpur has always been a bit left behind.
But, if you look behind the façade of manic tr affic and constant construction, the city reveals its many facets. Next time you have family or friends visiting; follow this 72-hour trail encapsulating good eats, cool bars, terrific shopping, cultural treats and the obligatory photo of the Twin Towers!
8AM Breakfast at Kedai Kopi Lai Foong ( Jalan Tun HS Lee) Get up bright and early and head to Chinatown for a local breakfast at Lai Foong, a Chinese coffeeshop that has been in business since the mid 50s. Little seems to have changed on this corner of Chinatown and the beef noodle stall is the main attraction here. Kuey teow (flat rice noodles) in a tasty beef broth will set you up for the busy day ahead. And who needs eggs Benedict when you can have that classic Malaysian breakfast of half-boiled eggs, kaya (coconut jam) toast and a cup of local coffee for under RM10?
9AM Shopping and temples in Chinatown Forget about the huge shopping centres and head to Central Market for local handicrafts like pewter, batik and pottery; as well as kitsch souvenirs for gifts. This is also the place to pick up the Kuala Lumpur Must Visit Attractions Trail Card, which is a free trail card that will take you on a heritage trail around KL, and get your first stamp. Within the maze of streets that make up Chinatown, there are unique shops like
Kwong Yik Seng on Jalan Tun HS Lee where all manner of Chinese crockery jostles with cake moulds, vases and other unidentifiable kitchen kit.
While here, visit the Sri Mahamariamman Temple, the oldest Hindu temple in KL; the Sin Sze Si Ya Temple which is the oldest Taoist temple; and the Guan Di Temple dedicated to General Guan Yu, otherwise known as the God of War. Check out hipster cafés Merchant’s Lane and Chocha Foodstore for a break between temples.
1PM Lunch at Yut Kee or Dharma Realm Guan Yin Sagely Monastery Here are your choices: a KL dining stalwart serving classic Hainanese dishes since 1928 or a bustling canteen at the back of a famous Buddhist temple . Food in these eateries is a study of contrasts with one serving its legacy dish of deep-fried chicken chop and the other offering a smorgasbord of vegetarian and vegan options.
Yut Kee on Jalan Kamunting offers the best of Hainanese (originating from Hainan Island and known for their cooking skills) cuisine like chicken or pork chop, roti babi (literally translated as ‘pork bread’), Hailam mee and moreish roast pork on the weekends. End with a slice of rich marble cake and a cup of sturdy local coffee. On the other end of the nutritional spectrum, the eloquently named Dharma
Realm Guan Yin Sagely Monastery on Jalan Ampang (walking distance from the Twin Towers) has a staggering array of vegetarian and vegan dishes. Get a plate of rice and add your dishes, pay (for less than RM10 you get a hear ty meal and a drink) and sit at long picnic tables with an interesting crowd of city workers, backpackers and people who really like vegetables!
3PM Heritage trail While you’re still in town, take the oppor tunity to visit some of the historical landmarks that tell the stor y of how this capital city and countr y came to be. If you picked up a trail card at Central Market earlier, many of these stops are covered within – and you even get a cer tificate for completing the card!
Begin at Merdeka Square where independence was proclaimed in 1957 and where the Royal Selangor Club is located, then cross the road to the Sultan Abdul
Samad building, which is considered an excellent example of colonial and Moor ish architecture and was completed in 1897 to ser ve as government offices.
In the vicinity is Masjid Jamek, which was the first brick mosque in KL designed in the Mogul style by the renowned British architect, A.B. Hubback in 1907. The mosque is located at the confluence of the Klang and Gombak rivers, where Chinese tin prospectors set up camp in 1857 and named the city Kuala (confluence) Lumpur (mud).
8PM Street food at Jalan Alor After all the exploring, it’s time for a big feed and cold beers...or juice! By day, this is an unassuming road but as dusk falls, it becomes a vibrant food street full of stalls offering delicious local specialities like chilli crab, grilled fish, chicken wings (remember this name: Wong Ah Wah), nasi lemak, noodle dishes and even Turkish ice cream. And, if you’re ‘lucky’ enough to come during the right season – durian will be available!
11PM Bar hopping The bar scene in KL has a lot going for it these days with quirky venues and some very innovative drinks. Head to Pahit on Jalan Sin Chew Kee for all things gin, Botak Liquor
Bar on Jalan Petaling for novel cocktails using local, organic ingredients and Pisco Bar (an oldie, but a goodie) on Jalan Mesui for cool music and Pisco Sours, of course!
10AM Exploring Brickfields Boasting a colourful past, this is one of KL’S most vibrant neighbourhoods. A devastating fire in 1881 destroyed many buildings in town so a brick kiln was built to provide materials for reconstruction – hence the name.
Known as the Little India of KL, expect blaring Bollywood music and shops selling everything from saris to Indian snacks. Pop into one of the eateries for authentic Indian food including vegetarian options. While here, visit the Buddhist Pagoda, the Sam Kow Tong
Temple and the Thean Hou Temple, which is a short drive away on Jalan Syed Putra.
1PM Banana Leaf at Bangsar Banana leaf rice (rice, curry and condiments served on a banana leaf) fans all have their favourite spots but if you’re in the vicinity of Bangsar, try Sri Nirwana Maju on Jalan Telawi 3. There will be a queue – turnover is pretty quick and it’s well worth the wait. Devi’s Corner on Jalan Telawi 4 is another local banana leaf institution and their rotis aren’t too shabby either.
3PM Park life There are several parks offering respite from the bustle of the city and are great for kids. The 92-hectare Perdana
Botanical Garden (Lake Gardens) is a prime example of how to ‘green’ a city. Take a walk round and visit the forest tree collection, herb and spice garden and the orchid garden; there’s also a playground. The KL Forest
Eco Park is one of the oldest forest reserves in Malaysia and was gazetted in 1906. Follow the two trails and tr y and spot those monkeys!
12PM Party a little…or a lot! TREC is a one-stop party hub where clubs, bars, pubs and restaurants all jostle for your attention. Super club Zouk is located here and is a warren of thumping EDM, hip hop, R&B and commercial House. If that’s all a bit much, there are smaller bars/clubs like Le Noir and Como with DJS and live music.
By day, this is an unassuming road but as dusk falls, it becomes a vibrant food street full of stalls offering delicious local specialities”
10AM Breakfast at Village Park Nasi lemak is one of Malaysia’s best culinary offerings and beloved by the populace. Head to the suburbs of Damansara Utama where a slightly shabby eatery serves its famous and extremely popular interpretation of our unofficial national breakfast. Coconut flavoured rice is accompanied by ikan bilis (anchovies), sambal (spicy gravy) and a choice of crispy fried chicken or beef rendang. Be prepared to queue!
12PM Culture trip Kuala Lumpur is a young city and a good way to discover its origins and the many cultures that make it so unique is to visit a couple of museums. While Malaysian museums still have a way to go to reach the standards of other capital cities, it’s still worth going to the National Museum for a guided tour. The
Islamic Arts Museum near the Lake Gardens houses one of the best collections of Islamic decorative arts in the world and an amazing reconstruction of an ornate Ottoman room.
7PM Dinner at Rebung On your last evening, a Malay feast is in order.
Rebung is owned by Chef Ismail, a famous chef who regularly goes overseas to promote Malaysian cuisine. Come here with an empty stomach and prepped tastebuds for an indulgent meal of traditional Malay dishes from across the peninsula. There are curries, noodle and rice dishes, local salads, grilled seafood, street snacks and an array of achingly sweet desserts. You probably won’t recognise half the offerings, but don’t worry because us Malaysians don’t either! EL