Kuala Lumpur serves as a gateway to Southeast Asia almost as prominently as Bangkok, and as a result has quite a large, sophisticated airport which is divided into two sections – KLIA 1 and KLIA 2 (Kuala Lumpur International Airport 1 and 2). The airport is down south and transport into the city is very efficient, with a number of train and bus options that take an hour or less to the centre.
I opted to get a 5 ringit (£1) train to KL Sentral station which is in the popular Brickfields district, close to many of the markets and tourist areas. It was already quite late when I arrived but since I wasn’t on a tight schedule I decided to walk around and scope out the accommodation options. I found very few options in Brickfields and the only decent hostel was full, so I began walking towards Bukit Bintang – an area known for it’s bars and night markets. It turns out Kuala Lumpur isn’t exactly designed for pedestrian traffic – it has a huge, messy road network with big three and four lane motorways criss-crossing everywhere and very few walkways. Eventually I gave in and forked out the £4 or so for a taxi to the cheapest hostel I could find.
The cheapest hostel is never a good idea, and this was proven to me again. The place was really run down and dirty as expected, but the deal-breaker was the lack of any lockers. I promptly left and walked down a busy looking street towards to sounds of music. I discovered a cool street full of local and foreign bars, and quickly found another far more decent hostel there for around 25 ringit (£5). It was late and alcohol in KL is very expensive so instead of my usual habit of going out for a drink, I just chilled in the hostel and watched Straight Out of Compton on the communal TV before going to sleep.
The next day I went to Singapore for a night and when I returned I met up with my friend Jenny. We took the metro to check out the Petronas Towers and hung around by the park there until it started to rain. Fortunately it was short lived, and while we were trying to get an uber (not very efficient in KL) we saw a bunch of police cars and firetrucks race past us. We walked down towards the towers to see what the commotion was all about and discovered there had been a bomb scare and the towers were being evacuated. They didn’t seem to bothered about all the people milling about and didn’t cordon anything off, so it couldn’t have been that serious. We lay on the grass outside in the shadow of the towers as the chaos ensued around us, and then when it started to get dark we wandered off back to Bukit Bintang to get drunk.
As I mentioned alcohol is not cheap in Malaysia, but we managed to get a good deal on a bucket of beers at an Irish bar and had a few of those before heading to bed. I think it worked out to about £3 a beer, which is decent for KL. That evening a huge storm broke out of KL and we were woken by it. We went and sat on the covered rooftop of the hotel and listened to the thunder and rain, with the occasional flash of lightening. It had that moody, electric feel to the air that I love.
The following morning we got a bus to Melaka (or Malacca), a small town on the west coast about an hour from KL. Melaka is relatively popular as a tourist destination although I struggled to see why. It has a quaint village feel to it and a few nice shops and cafes, but otherwise is a bit sparse. Due to it’s European heritage there are a few preserved colonial landmarks including the Portugeuse Christ Church and the Dutch Stadthuys – a clock tower and museum. Indiginous attractions include the Melaka Sultanate Palace Museum and the Cheng Hoon Teng Chinese temple. There is also an insane thing called the Menara Taming Sari, which is like a long spike that goes into the sky with a viewing platform on it.
In typical style we just spent most our few days there drinking by the beautiful riverside and playing pool in a quaint little bar, although we did briefly visit an old ruined church up on a hill and on the last day hired bicycles for a few hours to cycle to a mosque on the coast.