First off, let’s run through some quick facts here.
Malaysia is a Southeast Asian country that will surprise you with its multiethnic and multi-cultural community. Half of their population is Malay and the other large minorities belong to Malaysian Chinese, Malaysian Indians and indigenous people.
It consists of two geographical regions, namely Peninsular Malaysia (West Malaysia) and Malaysian Borneo (East Malaysia). Kuala Lumpur is the capital and the largest city. Malaysian (also known as Malay Language, Bahasa Malaysia and Bahasa Melayu) is the official and national language of Malaysia while English remains as the second language.
Having my brother as our guide made it easier for us to follow our itinerary which he also prepared beforehand. He’s been living in Kuala Lumpur for more than two years now, so we entrusted him with all the recommended things to do during our short stay there.
The main transportation in Malaysia are either through a personal car, train, bus or taxi. Kuala Lumpur Sentral or KL Sentral is the center point of all transit connecting urban, suburban, commercial and industrial areas of Malaysia. It’s advisable to know where it is located to avoid getting lost.
Since this is a country where 61.3% of the population is Islam, you will see women wearing hijab or abaya almost everywhere you go. For men, I had rarely come across who are wearing their traditional clothing such as the songkok partnered with matching shirt and pants within the city center.
There are truly a lot of things to love in Malaysia; from the food, architecture, arts, establishments, cheap finds and its historic trails. Most of the locals can speak English and are very welcoming. You will also encounter a lot of foreigners like professionals, students, family tourists and backpackers.
Being a food enthusiast, so far, Malaysian food has now entered my top 5 favorite cuisines in Asia next to Filipino, Korean, Japanese and Chinese while outranking Thai food. I cannot wait to visit again next year!
Here are some of my personal highlights during our trip.
Day 1: Genting Highlands, Suria KLCC and Petronas Towers
Day 2: Batu Caves, Jalan Alor Food Street and Little India
Day 3: Malacca, RSMY and Mid Valley Megamall
In between, we try to get around KL Sentral by walking.
1. Genting Skyway
Allot at least one day for this.
My most-liked and most thrilling experience in Malaysia would be riding the Genting Skyway, a gondola lift going up to the mountain peak of Genting Highlands. At the top, you can find some hotels, namely Resort Hotel, Maxims and First World Hotel. There are also shopping malls like Resorts World and First World Plaza, theme parks, casinos and other attractions.
I have had a nice talk with a local during the journey up and found out that the Skyway is a basic transportation in Highlands and not just considered as an attraction. Also, he mentioned that most of the people going to the peak would be casino players!
Only a maximum of eight people can be carried per gondola. The maximum speed is 6 meters per second while the distance going up is 3.38km.
So, each trip will take about 15 minutes (depending on the weather). It is still faster than the approx. 21 min car drive. But this ride requires a lot of patience and no fear of heights! Imagine a total of 30 min back and forth ride hanging over the steep mountains of Selangor-Pahang. I enjoy heights pretty much but this time I’ve cringed a few times! Nonetheless, the view was spectacular from up above. You can almost feel the clouds coming through the gondola lift.
How to get there from the city center? From KL Sentral, take a bus going to Genting Highlands. You have to buy tickets at least two hours earlier before the departure time of the bus since hourly trips and seats are limited. End point will be at Gohtong Jaya bus stop where you can find the Genting Skyway lower station.
Travel time from KL Sentral to Resorts World, Genting Highlands – approx. 1.5 hour
For more information: Visit http://gogenting.com.my/
2. Petronas Towers
Also known as Petronas Twin Towers which was considered as one the tallest twin buildings in the world. The 88-floor towers is located in Jalan Ampang, Kuala Lumpur. On its feet lies Suria KLCC, one of the largest shopping malls in Malaysia that features mostly luxury goods, an art gallery, a philharmonic theater and Science center.
Your trip to Malaysia won’t be complete without seeing this amazing infrastructure. It is always highly recommended to put it on your itinerary during night so you could experience the buildings light up beautifully in front of you.
There is also KLCC’s lake symphony light and sound show in the evening at the back of Suria.
You have to walk a few meters going to the fountain, north side of the towers to get the whole shot of the towers. There are also photographers who will take pictures for you at a cost. The moment the buildings light up at night is indeed an amazing sight!
For more information, visit http://www.petronastwintowers.com.my/
3. Batu Caves
Batu Caves is one of the popular tourist attractions in Malaysia. It is a limestone hill with a series of caves and Hindu cave temples located in Gombak, Selangor. Outside on the right lies a gigantic golden statue of the Hindu God. The steep stairs consisting of 272 steps is your way into the cave temples.
Some tourists who are wearing very short clothing may not be allowed to enter. At the entrance though, you can just rent a shawl as a coverup for your lower body so you can still enter the temple.
You’ll encounter monkeys everywhere in this place. They are scattered on the stairs, stores, entrance, parking and they might startle you while climbing up, so be cautious! Do not touch them but they will appreciate you if you give them food. Actually, it is the reason why they are disturbing people going up the temple. Bring some bananas with you if you can.
Inside the cave you will find different praying areas where Hindus can meditate or worship.
For more information on how to get there, check it here.
4. Jalan Alor, Food Street
Jalan Alor is literally a street in Bukit Bintang with a series of different stalls and local restaurants offering a wide range of Malaysian food. The moment you enter this street, you will initially feel the food culture (street style) of Malaysia.
At first, you will be confused about where to settle because it is really a long strip of food choices. But anywhere you eat, you’ll most likely get to experience the true taste of Malaysian cuisine. Every stall or restaurant have their own menus but they all at least offer some similar foods, so just go where you feel most comfortable.
This kind of place is intended to be visited a few times not just once, so people can actually try variations of food offerings along the strip. Maybe next time you visit, allot a huge appetite for trying a couple of stalls and restaurants.
My personal favorites were Malaysian Char Kway Teow, Chicken Curry, Nasi Goreng, Ayam Goreng and of course Cheese Naan and Roti.
Please eat moderately because almost all Malaysian dishes are either oily, salty-spicy or spicy. I had quite a vertigo after eating all of the dishes in just one sitting. I wasn’t proud of it.
I was not able to take good quality photos because I was so busy digging into my dishes. For some awesome photos to look at, I found this site helpful.
5. Malacca / Melaka
Going to Malacca is like going back in time. This place is historically beautiful and interesting. It has been listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site since July 7, 2008.
If you are a fan of history and religion, you’ve got to visit this state. As a Catholic, my personal favorite is the Red Square where you can find the Christ Church. It was already crowded inside when we got there around 11AM, so it is advisable to come early. There are a lot of infrastructures within the vicinity that will take you back to Malacca’s history. Almost all facades of the place is centuries old. Another favorite point of mine would be the Portuguese ship which is just a replica of the Flora de la Mar ship that sank off.
We haven’t had much time to go around since it’s almost lunch time. We ate at a local home-turned-restaurant called Kedai Kopi Chung Wah in Jonker Street Hawker Center. It was full already and there are even lines of waiting people outside. It gets to show you already how good their food is. Once we had our food served, it was worth the wait! Their famous chicken rice ball is so good even if I’m not used to eating rice like that. It is paired with their delicious hainanese chicken. After lunch, unfortunately we had to go back to KL Sentral already since we had commitments in the evening.
Travel time from KL Sentral to Malacca will take at least 2 hours.
I found a more detailed site about this place. Check it out here. I hope I could check out all these historic places inside Malacca next time I visit.
6. Cheese Naan at RSMY House of Biryani Restaurant
My first time to try naan in my country was a big disappointment even without having any idea how it was supposed to taste. Then my brother brought me here at RSMY to try their Cheese Naan only at RM6.00 and it naturally became my standard for naan breads. I had to buy three takeaways just because!
The way these naan breads are made is actually entertaining. The staff, in which through my observation are Iranian men. They prepare and cook the breads in what is called a tandoor oven which is accompanied with fire. They prepare the dough and continuously toss it to another person until they get the desired size before setting it in the oven. Quite a show! But sometimes, when the place is packed, everyone is busy serving tables.
It is no surprise why it is highly recommended and why it is dubbed as the best cheese naan in town. I believe it is because of the amazing cooks who might be from the country where naan originated. They’re the masters of naan breads and I’m grateful to have found them. (if you find that I’m wrong, please let me know, I’d want to know more about this place)
Also, you’ve got to try their chicken curry!
They are located in Jalan Medan Tuanku just 20-30 min from KL Sentral. The feel of the place is like a house turned into a restaurant and it gets packed during lunch and dinner, so try to come ahead of time.
7. Beryl’s Tiramisu Chocolate, OldTown White Coffee and Hanifa Store
I, myself is a huge fan of chocolates. I make sure that wherever I go, I have to taste the country’s local-made chocolate. And for the record, I found a sweet treasure in Malaysia that pushed me to buy around 50 boxes to take home with me. This, my friend is Beryl’s tiramisu chocolate. I just can’t stress enough how much I love the Tiramisu Almond White! It directly goes to my top 5 favorite commercial chocolates which is accompanied by Maltesers, Royce, Cadbury and Reese’s.
Thanks to my brother for bringing us to the little India of Malaysia which is located in Jalan Masjid India. From there, we were able to check out Hanifa Store which is the real deal! It is a huge department store with about 3-4 floors selling affordable items like all kinds of chocolates, malaysian coffee, jewelries, halal items and many more. The price of Beryl’s chocolate here is only RM5.00 per box! A lot cheaper than the ones sold in shopping malls or at the airport which may cost you from RM9.00 – RM14.00. All the chocolates are in its best quality and are always replenished with new stocks since everything are sold quickly. No need to be skeptical if they are real or if they might be expiring soon or expired already, because I tell you this, they are the real deal! Save more bucks and buy more souvenirs from this store.
Another good find from Hanifa Store is the 3 in 1 OldTown White Coffee. This has been our coffee since 2013. For coffee lovers, I highly recommend to try this one. It is their local coffee and really has a kick on your day! It does contain a high level of caffeine per sachet and may cause dizziness for some. What we normally do back at home is to divide the contents of one sachet into two parts, drink one in the morning and the other at night or the next day. So, it won’t be too much caffeine in one serving.
8. Padini Concept Store
This clothing store is a goldmine for a corporate slave like me. It caters to both men and women. I bought around 3 pairs of corporate to casual attires here. The time we went up to Genting Highlands was the first time I laid my eyes on this store and I was fortunate that day because they were on a big sale.
The quality and aesthetics of the clothes are similar to those of Zara, Mango, H&M and Forever 21 but way cheaper at about 50% less. Of course, that would depend on which items you are getting like from tops, dresses, outerwear, suits, skirts, pants and so on. Their clothes are much cheaper than their bags and shoes which range from RM39-89 compared to the latter which may cost you from RM100-200.
It is owned by a Malaysian company called, Padini Holdings which carries ten brands, namely Padini, Seed, Padini Authentics, P&Co, PDI, Miki, Vincci, Vincci Accessories, Tizio and Brands Outlet.
My personal favorites are Padini Authentics and P&Co.
I’ll be visiting KL again next year and I hope this time, I’ll get to stay longer and see more of this interesting country. Do you have any suggestions where else to go in Malaysia? I will very much appreciate your insights.