A Sunday in Kuala Lumpur
If you're in Kuala Lumpur for business, your time is probably at a premium, so here's a quick guide for you to enjoy some of the city's sights. If you are in KL for pleasure, this is still a nice tour for a Sunday, or any day of the week.
Kuala Lumpur is one of Asia's business epicenters. It is heavily frequented by business folks who will generally stay in hotels in or around the KLCC area, but it's also quite frequented by tourists who will have two main goals in mind: The Petronas Twin Towers and shopping.
Yes, shopping, because Kuala Lumpur is, on one hand, one of the knockoff paradises in the world, and, on the other hand, a fairly economic environment even for the real brands. Louis Vuitton, anyone?
But that's not all. Not all, at all!
12:00 Petronas Towers
We got our tickets online in the official website, which is something you couldn't do in past, and that made it somewhat difficult to visit the Petrone Towers, because access is limited to a number of people per day, so it was the case that one would make a big line to only get tickets for the next day or 5 days after!
At present, the fact that one can purchase tickets online makes it a lot easier to plan a visit. If you don't get your ticket online, you risk visiting the city and not being able to actually go up the towers, which is a drag, so think about it!
Any which way, we bought our tickets for noon, and where there all prettied up to see the views. It's quite an experience.
There are many tall, taller, tallest buildings that we have visited, but I will admit that the Petrone Towers have a distinct personality.
It's not only about the views from the top, which are quite impressive. Perhaps it's because there are two of them, although public is only allowed in one.
Perhaps it's because of their special design by Cesar Pelli, who was charged by Petronas Oil Company, and the Government of Malaysia, to create not the tallest building of the world, but the most beautiful.
Design of the Towers
The design of each Tower's floor plate is based on simple Islamic geometric forms of two interlocking squares, creating a shape of eight-pointed stars. Architecturally, these forms describe important Islamic principles of "unity within unity, harmony, stability and rationality".
From the official website
It's a very enjoyable visit, very well organized by the multitude of staff that will guide you through the view of the Bridge and the 82nd floor observatory.
Note, however, that it will set you back 20 Euro, or $27 USD, per person. Happy days!
13:30 Lunch at Din Tai Fung
Curiously, this is a restaurant of Taiwanese origin that features in our good friend the Wikipedia: Din Tai Fung
We didn't know this curiosity at the time, but we did find a good number of reviews online, including some that explained the Din Sum at this restaurant is worth one Michellin Star, in a good number of their multiple worldwide locations.
We're lovers of pretty much any and all varieties of Din Sum, so before traveling to Kuala Lumpur, my better half and travel guide extraordinaire researched nice din sum places in Kuala Lumpur, thinking there would be a few given its Asian ascent.
Lo and behold. There were indeed plenty, but none as recommended as Din Tai Fung!
It's superbly located in the Pavilion Mall, about 20 minutes off the Petrone Towers (and that's an average, as it will be 10 minutes by taxi and a 30 minute walk!). So location won't put you off at all.
If you're familiar with the Japanese culture, dining style and habits, this restaurant will remind you of just that. It's 'quite Japanese' in the way they conduct business.
My advice to you if you decide to go to this unassuming but fantastic venue is to order their all-time hit: Xiao Long Bao. They have a 6 or 8 piece order. Go on and order 25. Just kidding. But really, we ordered the 8 piece serving and some other din sum dishes, only to re-order the Xiao Long Bao for "desert"!
I can say, having tried dim sum all over the place and then some, that this one is truly special. It's all of it, from the melt-in-your-mouth dough, to the broth that waters your mouth when you bite the dumpling, to the meat that is savory but not dominant, to the after taste that is delicious but not pervasive.
15:00 Shopping or Presents
To be perfectly honest here, shopping is not our thing. But there is always something to be said for browsing around either flea markets or big and ultramodern shopping malls. One learns much about the day's fashions. Ahem.
Seriously though. We knew that Kuala Lumpur, just as other big capitals in most Asian countries, is noted everywhere for impressive knockoffs as much as for fairly priced originals.
In regards to originals, it's not as much the fact that they are cheap, but one gets advantageous deals due to
(a) the fact that an original brand will still be a bit cheaper that in, say, Paris, and
(b) the currency exchange.
At any rate, and without having any real data to back this up, I'm guessing 80% of the shopping that goes on any given day in Kuala Lumpur consists of knockoffs of a very good quality.
Interesting Shopping Tips for Kuala Lumpur
FOR WOMEN: Ladies, I'm not encouraging you at all –AHEM— but if you're looking for knockoffs, you want to check out the handbags, as those are really mastered. There are knockoffs of everything for any and all prices, but really, handbags are your thing in Kuala Lumpur.
FOR MEN: Gents, if you want to be done with the oh so despairing shopping experience, take your ladies to Petaling street market, tell them that they will get a terrific handbag there, and be done with it for the rest of the day pronto! If you're on your own on business and looking for a present for your better half, go there as well and don't be shy to ask any of the tourist ladies to help you out!
Author's Note: If you know me, you know I eat political correctness for breakfast, so yes, tips for men and for women are really just that: Tips for men and women.
Ladies, this is a haven for handbags! Forget the rest. Or not. You may also enjoy nice silk "Hermes" scarves, great "Channel" or "Ray Ban" eyewear… Etcetera.
There are so many places where you can go shopping, that I don't even know where to start my list. So I won't. I'll just name one huge flea market type of place where knockoffs, and most specially handbags, are the thing: Petaling street / flea market at the Chinese quarter.
19:00 Jalan Alor 'dining'
After your shopping stint, you'll need some nourishment, won't you? Well, here we go Jalan Alor, that is, Alor Street!
The one important thing you need to know about this street is that it' "opens" at dusk. Be that as it may when you visit. Generally, 7:00pm is a good bet.
This is a street that's lined up with restaurants. However, it's not your everyday variety of restaurants that you have there. These are street joints, same as the hot dog carts in any USA city, but grouped in clusters with a good number of tables in front where you can enjoy whatever you order in the restaurant slash street carts.
Each venue, for lack of a better word, is effectively a grouping of carts that specialize in different culinary treats: Chicken wings, pork ribs, dim sum, seafood of any denomination, rice this and that, noodles this and that, vegetables… The list is endless. And it is endless in any of the "restaurants".
How will you know where to go, or how will you know how to identify this or that restaurant? I've no clue. And it doesn't matter. The whole street is lined with tables, so just sit down wherever you find a place to sit that appeals to you, be that on account of the street views, or the smells that you can perceive, or… whatever.
As you sit down, a server will immediately appear with a list of stuff available to order. Peruse and do just that... order what appeals.
We ordered chicken and rice, BBQ'd ribs with honey, fried noodles, and two Tiger beers, Malaysia's own brand which is not only popular but very good.
Every time a server comes to deliver whatever you ordered, you'll have to pay up on the spot as the dish is delivered to your table. So, if you happened to order 10 different dishes and they come from different "carts" –or, effectively, kitchens—, you'll have to pay up 10 times!
Of course, this is because servers just distribute the food around from the different carts (or little kitchens), and then go back with your money to whatever cart served the dish.
This isn't your standard eatery indeed. It's a fun experience that enables you to taste and try out many different dishes in one sitting. Which is not to say the portions are meager, all we ordered was quite generously sized, but you'd still feel like it's a sampling rather than a full dinner, if you know what I mean.
Great idea, this setup they have at Jalan Alor. And you wouldn't believe how packed it is! The ambience is really nice, even if you smell food from 5000 different food carts!
20:30 and onwards. SKY BAR at the TRADERS HOTEL
Lucky me that after dinner and already heading back to our hotel we still had one Kuala Lumpur attraction left to visit.
It so happens that we stayed at the Traders Hotel, which features one of the best roof top bars in Kuala Lumpur (which I'll have to add to my list) with incredible views of the PETRONAS, and an atmosphere to match the views.
But even if the Traders is not your residence in town, I still recommend you to visit the Sky Bar, as a perfect end to a perfect day out on the town. You should be motivated (a little bit, or a good dang lot) by clicking on this Google Image search link.
The Sky Bar is a multipurpose space, believe it or not. By day, from 6am to 6:30pm this is the hotel's heated pool. By night, or after dusk at any rate, the Sky Bar turns into one of Kuala Lumpur's hot spots.
The pool is still there, of course, but around it one can find a lounge area that sits between the pool and the glass walls of the building, a sitting area off the bar where the lighting is chic and romantic, and two areas north and south of the pool filled up by tall tables and stools that serve the purpose to either sit and drink or eat and drink. In truth, one can do both, eat and drink, that is, in any of the Sky Bar areas.
Eating will consist of your typical snacks, from nachos to mini burgers and anything in between. Both eating and drinking are very fairly priced at the Sky Bar. This is a super cool roof top that won't set you back a month's rent at all. Cost is very similar to any other joint street level in any European or American venue.
The views of the Petrone Towers are impressive, never mind the time of day, but at night it's really magical, the towers seem to be looking directly at you as you lounge by the pool.
If that weren't enough, the twin towers reflect off the glass ceiling and walls in any corner of the space, so it doesn't really matter much where you're lounging, you'll have their monumental and lighted presence all over you.
Which nicely closes the circle for a full day in Kuala Lumpur. We started the day with our visit to the Petrone Towers, and ended it at the Sky Bar which features one of the best views of the towers in Kuala Lumpur.
Tip on Tipping in Kuala Lumpur
Tipping is not a standard practice in Kuala Lumpur, or Malaysia for that matter.
Tip a porter carrying your bags, tip a nice service in a restaurant, tip a helpful and service oriented behavior, or tip for whatever you want to tip, really, but tipping is not a la USA. It's not expected, much less a percentage of the total fare.
The reason I'm tipping about tips is to make sure that US visitors don't continue to set precedents or expectations that don't make any sense whatsoever for the rest of the world. Tut tut!
Very Useful Tip on Taxis in Kuala Lumpur
It's a very common practice for taxi drivers and tourists alike to haggle the cost of a trip. I'm here to tell you this is not only completely unnecessary, but also generally idiotic on the visitor's side.
First of all, metered taxis are really fairly priced so one will never go broke for a ride. Especially considering the exchange rate. I mean, seriously long drives such as from the Indian quarter to Petrone Towers during peak hours can be around 25RM, which equates to 5.8 Euro or 8 USD.
Second of all, you think you'll be getting the upper hand when haggling, because you'll be getting a ride for say 2 dollars. Well, I've got news for you. That greatly haggled cost of 2 dollar a ride would have probably been 50 cents or 1 dollar tops, had it been metered.
Please believe you me. Just get in the cab, tell the driver where to go, and ask them to turn the meter on. That is, if they don't do it on their own, which they will usually do if you don't stop to haggle before you get in the car. Believe you me, please!
Compliments of Google's Satellite
Enjoy your visit, if you stop by Kuala Lumpur!