Four days in Kuala Lumpur
Four days in Kuala Lumpur is just enough time to scratch the surface of this fascinating city.
My friend Mara invited me on a last minute trip to Kuala Lumpur. By last minute I mean she asked me on a Friday if I could fly out with her on Tuesday.
Mara’s was supposed to be vacationing with another friend. Unfortunately, Mara’s friend became ill and missed her flight from America. This canceled their joint trip around Cambodia. One of Mara’s co-workers took pity on her and bought her a round trip ticket to Kuala Lumpur.
Kuala Lumpur is not that far from Phnom Penh – just a 90-minute flight. So it’s about the same as flying from Austin to New Orleans. Air Asia has cheap fares so my ticket cost less than $100.
I’ve been wanting to go to Malaysia. Last year, I flew through the airport twice on my way to Myanmar and Indonesia but didn’t have long enough layovers to get out.
Four days in Kuala Lumpur promised to be a fun adventure even if it was completely unplanned. Mara looked up a few of the sites that she wanted to see and we booked an Airbnb for our time there but that was it before we arrived.
Four Days in Kuala Lumpur – Day 1
When we arrived in the airport, we bought express train tickets to get us into the city and back. Round trip is 100 ringgit which is about $25 and the tickets last for a month. We then stopped by the tourist information booth to pick up maps and ask more about getting around. The woman there was friendly and informative so we had enough information to get started.
Malls abound in Kuala Lumpur and the airport is no exception. To get to the express train, we walked through a mall – not the duty-free shopping inside the airport terminals, a regular mall. The amount of American food surprised us. We splurged on a couple of bags of Garrett Popcorn to tide us over until lunch.
The express train is clean and fast. Looking at the roads from the window of the train, it has to be the fastest way into and out of Kuala Lumpur. I had no idea how far the airport was from the city. The train ride took 33 minutes. It ends at Sentral Station, a transportation hub on the southwest end of town.
There is a dizzying array of transportation options from Sentral Station into different parts of the city – commuter trains, monorail, free buses, city buses, and cabs. The monorail took us closest to our Airbnb so we took that.
To get from the express train to the monorail we had to walk through a mall – actually two malls joined together on the second floor. The route from the express train to the monorail isn’t very well marked. You take the escalator up from the ground floor and then you’ll see signs for the monorail. The signs lead you from one mall to the next. Then you take the escalator back downstairs to the monorail station. You cannot get there on the ground floor because the two malls are not connected there. A monorail ticket from Sentral Station to Bukit Bintang costs about $0.60.
Like the express train, the monorail is clean and efficient. They announce stops and signs above the doors track your progress along the monorail route. It was very easy to navigate until we got off – in another mall. Finding the exit from the mall to the street was not easy.
Our Airbnb wasn’t available until 3 so we stopped for lunch at a Chinese place just outside the mall. Mara had duck and honey barbeque pork. I had crispy pork and honey barbeque pork. That honey barbeque pork didn’t look like much when we got it but it was lick-your-plate-clean good.
The Airbnb was in a good location – easy walking distance from several public transportation options and an easy walk to both the Petronas Towers and the KL Tower. So those were our first stops. By the time we toured both, it was late for dinner. We grabbed a surprisingly decent dinner in….wait for it…. a mall.
Four Days in Kuala Lumpur – Day 2
On the second day of our four days in Kuala Lumpur, we took the hop on hop off bus around town. We thought it would be the simplest way to get to the sights we wanted to see most. It was convenient but you can get around much cheaper on the free buses.
We stopped at the National Museum first and then hit up Little India for lunch. Our visit coincided with Deepavali (the festival of lights) so there was live music and food in a tent. Most of the businesses were closed for the festival so there wasn’t much to see. But, we had an amazing lunch at a vegetarian restaurant down the street from the festival tents.
We then stopped at the National Palace for some quick photos. That’s all you can do there so make sure the bus is staying for five minutes or you’ll be stuck there for half an hour. Then we toured the National Mosque and the Karyaneka Arts and Crafts “center”.
The arts and crafts center is a complete waste of time. It was a few souvenir shops and that was it. You can buy better souvenirs for lower prices at Central Market. We then went to Chinatown for a walk around and dinner.
We ate dinner at the Capsule Boutique Hotel Restaurant. The waiter really took the time to make sure we’d be happy with our selections. I had laksa, a Malaysian curry with coconut milk and all sorts of meats and vegetables. Mara ate nasi lemak – fried chicken served with rice cooked in chicken broth, dried sardines, an egg and mild chili paste. Both were excellent.
From there, we walked to Central Market for a little last-minute souvenir shopping. They have a nice variety and reasonable prices on souvenirs.
Four days in Kuala Lumpur – Day 3
Our hop on hop off bus tickets were good for twenty-four hours so we used the bus to get us back to Chinatown Thursday morning. The oldest Hindu temple in Kuala Lumpur, Sri Mahamariamman, and the oldest Chinese temple in town, Guan Di, are almost across the street from each other in Chinatown.
We hopped back on the bus to Sentral Station to catch the red commuter train to Batu Caves. Tickets cost 2.50 ringgit (about $0.60) each way and the train ride takes about 30 minutes. There is no admission fee for the temple cave but there is one for the dark cave tour.
Touring Batu Caves doesn’t take very long so we had a late lunch at Arch Cafe back in Kuala Lumpur. The food there is pretty mediocre but the atmosphere is nice. We went back to our Airbnb for an afternoon swim and ate dinner at a Mediterranean restaurant in Bukit Bintang.
Four Days in Kuala Lumpur – Day 4
We took the monorail back to the express train station for our return flight on Friday. Unfortunately, we didn’t know there are two stops (one for each terminal) at the KL airport so we got off at the wrong one. Be careful to check which terminal your flight departs from before you get on the train. Tickets between terminals cost $0.60 but the trains are only every 20 minutes or so.
With only four days in Kuala Lumpur we missed out on some key attractions – the bird park, deer park, and Muslim Art Museum – but we hit the highlights and had a relaxing time.