- 4 nights
- Hotel Frenz
While the room was clean, air-conditioned, and chock full of amentities, we could very easily hear our neighbors. First, there was the man who coughed all night and day(poor guy), and then there was the French family who slept through their morning alarm for so long that I had to politely ask them to wake up and turn it off through the paper thin wall (they heard me!). Because the hotel is located in the city, there was a minor ant infestation in our room, so there was a heavy odor of pest control, and it only got worse after we asked for more pest control. We were centrally located amogst the locals and near public transport. The hotel was located in Masjid Jamek, a predominately Islamic area with many mosques. Daily, we heard the beautiful sounds of the call to prayer as we walked around the shops or to the monorail station. The area was very fashion oriented with the latest in Islamic womens fashions, very modest clothing shops.
Overall, we were impressed by the Malaysian transportation system and by the level of public infrastructure in place, although navigating aroung can be hectic at times. It is quite easy to get around KL. We travelled from Singapore to KL via train and it was a fairly smooth ride the whole way, even though our travel car had broken doors on both ends so air conditioning was not as effective in the heat and there were bugs entering the cabin as we travelled through the jungles and palm plantations (these are EVERYWHERE). It was still a very pleasant experience travelling with the locals and through the various villages so we would recommend travelling on the trains. As we enterred the city we disembarked at the Kuala Lumpur Railway Station which was a medium size station, and it appeared to be clean, and well laid out for the foreign traveller.
Our next mode of transport was taxi to our hotel. The good thing about getting a taxi from the railway station is that you prepay your taxi “ticket” at a counter inside the station, where the fares are standardized to protect the foreign traveller. We then waited in another line to get your taxi. The ride itself was great, fast drivers, but they still needed help getting us to our exact destination.
In the city, we generally used the monorail which was usually a short walk from wherever we were and we think its the best way to get around. There are many hidden stairwells and escalators in all different directions, and poor signage, especially in English. Depending on what time we rode it, the monorail was usually busy with lots of people. At night and especially on the weekend there were rowdy local teenagers (fun to see and generally harmless), and the rest of the time, it was still an entertaining ride.
Traveling by taxi can be quite hectic and it is common to be ripped off, especially at night with drivers choosing not to use their meters and instead charging you double flat rates.
Traffic in KL was a nightmare. It was an organized system of chaos with little regard for traffic laws. On our first night in KL we hailed a taxi and got stuck in bumper to bumper traffic for15 minutes, so we got out and took the monorail instead.
The vibe we received from the Malaysian people is that they have a lot to learn service-wise in order to compete with their Western and SE Asian counterparts to help gain tourism dollars. We experienced many locals trying to rip us off at almost every opportunity. Watch out for the tour bus operators who will make surprise stops at handicraft shops. As vegetarians, we were surpised at how difficult it was to find food without meat. We found many locals who said “Yes” to everything even if they didn’t understand so we learned to scope out the restaurant before eating.
We tried hard to stay away from the big hotels and restaurants geared towards foreigners and eat locally instead. We wanted to eat and taste the same foods as the locals, but to our surprise, quality vegetarian Malay food was actually difficult to find. English was not common at the establishments where the locals hang out, so asking for and describing vegetarian food was quite difficult for us. Even ordering a vegetarian pizza and veggie wrap was difficult at a Pizza Hut (it was a last resort!). Malay food in general is a fusion between Indian and Southeast Asian dishes. You have curries and dals, as well as fish dishes, and noodles.
The culinary highlight of the trip was a restaurant called Annalaxmi which we visited on our last night in KL. It was recommended to us by Rajeshbhai, Jyoti’s cousin (Thank you!). It is affiliated with a temple, therefore both men and women must be fully covered. Since I (Tushar) was wearing shorts, they required me to wear a Dohti prior to being allowed to dine. Picture shown for your viewing pleasure 🙂
You eat what you want and pay as you wish, a very shrewd business model as most patrons over pay, including us! We thought it was a fantastic concept and we stuffed ourselves with everything in their buffet in addition to ordering 3 masala dosas. They also served the best rice in the world and it had noodles in it. We both at a lot – I ate the most I have ever ate in my whole life, ever! We were both in pain as we walked back to our hotel room. It was a good pain though.
Nightlife in KL can be very fun and full of energy but expect to pay the same as a night out in the U.S. or Europe for dinner and drinks at most nightclubs and restaurants. We visited the Traders hotel for drinks one evening, which is also the best place for a nightime views of the Petronas Towers. We paid 100 Ringit for two drinks, which is about $19 per drink, but you pay for the views, which were amazing.
The Batu Caves were a beautiful sight to see. Situated about 30 minutes out of the city, the Batu Caves were formed a long time ago in the limestone hills. As we approached the site,we started to see the 270+ steep steps leading up to the cave entrance then we noticed the gigantic statue of Murugan, the Hindu god, which is massive! At the top of the steps is a Hindu temple inside of the main cave. We entered the caves and were instantly drenched in sweat with the rainforest-like humidity. The ceiling of the main cave is sunken in and there are rays of light which light up the inside of the cave. Looking up and out of the caves is a beautiful sight, a habitat of its own, which trees, monkeys, birds, and all sorts of insect creatures. Just about 25 steps down from the main Batu Caves is an entrance to the dark caves. You walk back up a different set of stairs and enter an area where you can see the entrance to the cave, but are restricted from entering furthur unless you do a paid tour of the dark caves. This is where you can go into complete darkness, at a cost. The caves are a few hundred feet tall and the perspective is quite impressive.
Part of our tour was a tour of the world’s largest pewter factory, based in KL. We walked through the factory floor and got to see the molten pewter before it was cast into a variety of items. Apparently, pewter mugs are the best for the drinking liquids from as the metal can regulate the temperature for up to an hour. We also took pictures with the world’s largest pewter beer mug.
The Petronas Towers are hard to miss seeing from anwhere in the city. Once the tallest towers in the world, their exterior consists of lots of glass and steel. The base of the Petronas contains a massive shopping mall with only the worlds finest(and most expensive) store brands, like Givenchy, Bulgari, and Harrods. To get a tour of the Towers and the walk across the sky-bridge connecting the two, it will take many hours of waiting in lines in the morning where they give you an assigned time, later in the day. This is just to be ushered across the sky bridge in 10 minutes so we decided to skip this given our limited time.
The elephant santuary was one of the highlights of Malaysia. We spent a couple of hours going into the interior of the island, over a mountain pass, and through local villages before we arrived. We watched a short video on how the Malaysian Elephant Relocation Team moves and sometimes rescues elephants who threaten local Palm farmers due to their dimishing habitat. Elephants use the same migration paths forever so whenever another farm or palm oil plantation goes up, more destruction soon follows, as elephants will always follow the same migration path, even if there are farms in the way. Their need to stay in their herds makes it even harder for them.
Afterwards, we fed peanuts to the elephants. It was a wonderful experience. We saw some elephant tricks before we got to ride them which was very cool – and wobbly! It was an extremely hot day, apparently 120 degrees when a member of our tour group checked. We were lucky to be able to end our visit by jumping in the river, cooling off, and bathing with the elephants. We got to touch them and rub their skin(which is very rough). Jyoti freaked out a bit as one of the baby elephants wrapped his trunk around her legs. It was a refreshing end to a really fun day interacting with these incredible creatures.