Kuala Lumpur is a brilliant city – a cosmopolitan blend of Malay, Chinese and Indian influence, it blends traditions and culture alongside cutting edge technology. It has vivid banyan trees, iconic minarets, and giant-sized skyscrapers, as well as the traffic to rival many big cities. KL (as it’s fondly called by all locals) is a city of contrasts is busy but so charming, and within just 48 hours you can get a great insight into this friendly but frenetic place.
I’d be lying if I didn’t say that one of the key reasons I wanted to visit KL was for the food. KL boasts some of the best food in the world, influenced by a melting pot of cultures. With every type of restaurant from street hawker markets to high-end restaurants, KL really is a great spot for foodies. Before I went, naively, all I was excited to eat was Penang Curry. I left with a serious new love for Malaysian food and I’m so keen to go back as soon as possible!
So, you’ve got 48 hours in KL. What should you do? What should you eat? Here’s what I’d suggest.
If you’ve taken the same British Airways flight as we did, then you’re probably getting into KL in the early evening. Once you’ve arrived at your accommodation, shower and freshen up, make sure you’ve got some cash (the currency is Malaysian Ringgit) and head out – it’s time to get some food.
Jalan Alor at night
Jalan Alor is an entire street dedicated to food – it’s a great way to taste local food in a safe environment. This Hawker market truly comes alive in the evening. I can be excited for weeks after going to a great restaurant, and I’m really loving working through the list of the 50 World’s Best restaurants. However, I’m most excited when surrounded by great food, regardless of surroundings, and food markets abroad are especially exciting to me! With aromatic fragrances, colourful fruits and vegetables, sizzling street food and a buzzing vibe, Jalan Alor has the best of real fast, lipsmackingly-good food. There are no chain restaurants in sight, instead, there are truly local foods cooked quickly in front of your eyes. I absolutely loved it!
This is the first place I’ve tried grilled chilli stingray and sour plum juice and some of the best satay chicken with peanut sauce!
Enjoy the atmosphere, grab a plastic table and enjoy a very cheap, cheerful, and relaxed dinner. For dessert, you just MUST try the fresh coconut ice cream. There are a couple of stalls which serve ice cream, but look for the one that looks like this:
I tried a few different stalls and this was my favourite in KL! I defy you to tell me something which is more satisfying to eat than this intoxicatingly-good coconut ice cream, covered in the freshest sweet, ripe, mango and crushed hazelnuts, perfect on a hot evening in KL!
Get a foot massage
They’re cheap and effective. Don’t go expecting a proper spa experience or anything fancy (for that you need to go here) but for around £10 you can get a really good no-frills one-hour-long foot massage. Do let the masseuse know what pressure you like and ideally take headphones so you can put in the music of your choice as you relax.
Try to shed the jet lag
There are so many good bars in KL that you could definitely go to one, and I’m sure you’d love it. That said, we found ourselves so tired and jet lagged and desperate to sleep at a normal time. The foot massage may have contributed to that! I recommend a good hot shower and a night’s sleep at a great hotel or Airbnb before you kick off Day 2!
If you’re anything like me, your jet-lag has meant you didn’t sleep great. You may as well wake up and get moving. You’re about to have a great day!
The Batu caves are a set of giant, limestone caves just North of KL. These iconic caves are popular with lots of tourists and Hindu pilgrims, as well as many monkeys who will be sure to entertain you with their endeavors to steal food!
The easiest and quickest way to the Batu Caves it to take the train from ‘KL Sentral’ station directly to the Batu Caves. Go early and take very little with you. There are lots of monkeys who would just love to take your food and drink! Other than a bottle of water and some cash there’s very little you need.
You can easily spend an hour or two here, be sure to see the main cave and also the Ramayana cave which has murals of the story of the Ramayan here. The Ramayan is an ancient epic which tells the tale of Prince Rama rescuing his wife Sita from the demon king Ravan. I didn’t know the cave even existing before visiting, it’s truly beautiful and well worth a visit.
Top tip: For KL, wear comfortable shoes and light clothes that do well in the heat, as you’ll be walking up a lot of steps!
Eat dosa and roti canai
A large population of those in KL are of South Indian descent, as such the Indian food we tried out there was really good. Right by the Batu Caves is a very simple spot called “Dhivya’s Cafe”. Here, you can try a Masala dosa, a crispy pancake made of lentils, with a spicy potato filling and served with red tomato sambal, coriander and coconut chutneys. A good dosa should be really crispy and very thin, we found the one here to be both of those, and incredibly cheap too! It’s typically eaten for breakfast or lunch, so if you do the Batu Caves first thing in the morning, this could be a perfect spicy brunch!
Alternatively, you could venture back into KL centre and try delicious roti canai, which is just as fun to watch being made as it is to eat. Buttery, flaky and soft – it just melts in your mouth. Despite the fact that this is said to be an Indian-influenced dish, I’ve never tried it in India and it’s said to be easier to find in Malaysia than anywhere else! Without a doubt, in one weekend in KL you have no choice but to try both!
Without a doubt, in one weekend in KL you have no choice but to try both of these dishes!
Visit the malls
It’s widely known that KL is a shopaholic’s dream – from high-end malls like Suria KLCC and Pavilion Kuala Lumpur to KL’s China Town Petaling Street Market, there’s plenty to buy if you wish to. Rather than blow all my ringgit’s in one go, I window shopped! We couldn’t resist trying some of the dishes from the mall too!
Walk through the KLCC park
A real surprise for me in KL was this gorgeous park. KLCC park is a 50-acre oasis in between all of the skyscrapers. You see runners shoot by, romance blooming with couples hand-in-hand and families at the public children’s swimming pool. The highlight of this park is Lake Symphony, with its beautiful fountains and plenty of beautiful shrubs and flowers around it. Ideally, you could time this with the fountain show, which happens a few times each day, with music.
Have cocktails with a view
Through KLCC park you can find the entrance to Trader’s Hotel Kuala Lumpur, where Sky Bar is. Head up to sip some cocktails, high in the sky, around a swimming pool; it’s both bizarre and a fun concept! I found it just a little bit seedy (especially the Ladies Night adverts!) but the views totally make it worthwhile, with vivid pink sunsets and a beautiful dark blanket backdrop once the sun is down, it’s truly one of the best spots for watching the sun go down.
LaZat Malaysia Nyonya Cooking Class
This hands-on cooking class is absolutely brilliant and is a must-do for any foodie in KL. Starting with a market trip, as part of a small group you’ll get a really good insight into Malay and Chinese culture, cooking, and customs. You’ll learn to cook incredible dishes like Roti Jala (a thin pancake style roti which looks like lace), the most flavour-packed delicious chicken curry and beautiful pandan and coconut Onde-Onde (little squidgy desserts!) Nyonya cuisine comes from the descendants of early Chinese migrants who settled in Malaysia and married with local Malays – it’s spicy and warming and packed with flavour! The chefs at LaZat are kind and best of all this takes places in the most beautiful lush, green surroundings, just outside of KL. You’re certain to leave with a smile on your face!
Toast to your great trip at Marini’s @ 57 Bar, a rooftop bar on the 57th floor of the Petronas towers. It’s Malaysia’s highest rooftop bar and boasts great music and even better views. It’s the perfect spot to soak in the views of KL, one last time, before you vow to come back another time and head onwards to your next destination!