Pictorial Guide of 10 Attractions in and Around Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, for Nature Loving Families
Malaysia - Truly Asia
If you take a survey of North American tourists inquiring which country in southeast Asia they have visited for tourism, a majority of respondents would mention Thailand. Vietnam and Indonesia may also appear in the statistics for the adventures inclined. However, I am certain that Malaysia won’t appear prominently as a tourist destination.
When my family and I were planning a vacation to southeast Asia, the tour and travel guides overwhelmingly suggested Thailand. When advised of our interest in more outdoorsy attractions, a few suggested Indonesia and Vietnam. To our surprise, no one suggested Malaysia. However, we had already done our research and wanted to be in that specific country.
Which single country in southeast Asia would you like to visit as top priority?
When we reached Kuala Lumpur by taking Emirates flight from Dubai, we realized, unlike the experience of other visitors to countries like Thailand, Philippines or Vietnam, we were in an as advanced a country as Canada, but with distinctly eastern flavour.
We stayed in Malaysia for 10 days and explored every nook and corner of Kuala Lumpur and the state of Selangor it is located in. As a nature lover, however, I am sharing a list of 10 easy to go to destinations for families with young children that turned out to be educative on the natural heritage of this beautiful country that they affectionately project as ‘Malaysia – truly Asia’.
A sad note: I lost my expensive camera to a river just before starting the trip and had to resort to my children's toy camera for pictures.
1. Batu Caves
We reached the Batu Caves hills and saw shops and small restaurants at the base where one can eat, sip tea, or buy ice. cream. We bought ice cream, but one in the hands of my son was quickly lost to a rhesus monkey. Another monkey stole a a water bottle readily from my wife's handbag.
We had to negotiate 272 steps to get to the entrance of the cave where a man with a few lizards was asking visitors to pose with the critters at a small cost. The steps look easy to climb, but my children and I had to take a respite on the way to the top at which time my wife gave up on it to join us several hours later.
Batu Caves and Temples are located in Gombak, state of Selangor on a limestone hill that has a series of other caves as well. The cave is one of the most popular Hindu shrines outside India and Nepal and is dedicated to Lord Murugan. It is the focal point of Hindu festival of Thaipusam in Malaysia.
For nature lovers, other than the monkeys, the major attraction deep inside the cave are the stalactites (see the 4th picture below), which are a tapering structure hanging like an icicle from the roof of a cave, formed of calcium salts deposited by dripping water.
2. Templer Park
When we inquired from the tourism department as to where we should go for our first experience of a Malaysian rain forest, we were told about this park in Rawang, State of Selangor.
Named in the honour of Sir Gerald Templer, a British High Commission in Malaya, the park is t reserve spread over 1, 24 hectares.
Our hike was undertaken on a warm and a humid day. It wasn't easy. The trail meandered through thick woods and over wooden boardwalks. A wild long-tailed macaque gave us some company for a short duration. We were mused by liana vines that had weaved their way up as a parasite on a tree to reach the sunshine.
The park is home to many native wildlife (mammals, birds, amphibians, insects, etc.) that we missed seeing as our hike consumed lot of our energy.
Keep lots of water handy.
3. The Bird Park
The park is located near the Lake Gardens from where we took a visitor train. The walking distance would have been a tad exhausting as it demands a sharp ascend on hills.
In Malay, the Park it is called Taman Burung. It is spread on 20.9-acre (8.5 ha). It is a popular tourist attraction in the country, receiving an annual average of 200,000 visitors. The net over the park can be seen from far off places, such as the National Mosque.
The Bird Park houses more than 3000 birds representing more than 200 species in an enclosed aviary with breathtaking landscaping. 90% of the birds are native birds and this serves as a good point to observe them.
A good thing for the children is that one can handle a few birds for some good pictures.
4. The Butterfly Park
Our next stop after the Birds Park was the Butterfly Park, which was located at a comfortable hiking distance. Our children found the walk easy and enjoyable.
This is the largest butterfly garden in the world spanning over 80,000 sq ft of landscaped garden with over 5,000 live butterflies, exotic plants, butterfly-host plants and ferns.
Other attractions are exotic Japanese koi fish and fresh water turtles. Live insects were unusual and reminded us of dinosaurs. There was a museum with a large collection of butterflies and insects from around the world.
5. The Deer Park
We found this small park with great difficulty as it was tucked in on an isolated part of the lake Gardens with heavy tourist traffic interested in the Bird Park, Butterfly Garden, and the Orchid and Hibiscus Gardens. We were the only family searching for the park and once we found it, we were glad that the park was left to ourselves.
The KL Deer Park is a 2 hectare enclosure housing a few species of deer including mousedeer. The mousedeer, also known as the chevrotain, is the smallest hoofed animal in the world. The funny thing was we only saw one of the two mousedeer, but discovered later back home that the second was captured in my camera shot.
The other species that are in the park are the fallow deer, axis deer and sambar deer.
6. Orchid and Hibiscus Gardens
From the Butterfly Park, we walked over to Perdana Botanical Garden or the Hibiscus and Orchid Garden, also known as the Taman Bunga Raya and Taman Bunga Orkid,which like the Bird and the Butterfly parks, are part of the Lake Gardens in Kuala Lumpur.
The gardens are located on a small hill overlooking the Kuala lumpur Bird Park. When we visited the park, the flowers had put on their best show.
The Hibiscus park houses a collection of over 500 hibiscus flowers, while the Orchid park has about 800 species of orchids.
The one hectare park has also got attractive pergolas, man-made fountains, twisting brooks and a beautiful art gallery, the Gallery Tropika.
7. Elephant sanctuary
For the Elephant Sanctuary, we had been in touch with a guide named Razali, also known as the Elephant Man of Malaysia. When we met him, we had an intense liking for him. He knew about our country of origin, namely, Pakistan, and told us great things about the cooperation between the navies of the two countries. He had served in the Malaysian Navy for a few years before dedicating his life to the protection of endangered sub-species of Asian elephants in Malaysia.
I will advise the readers to reserve with the Sanctuary in advance for a whole day experience, although one can purchase tickets at the gates also. Reservation is expensive, but it allows a close experience with the elephants. Razali had already managed this for us.
He came over to our hotel to pick us up in his Malaysia made Proton car. On the way he picked up doorians, a Malaysian fruit that “smells like it came from hell and tastes like it’s a fruit from heavens” from a roadside kiosk. He also had charcoal in the luggage compartment that he said is a good neutralizer of doorian smell and we found that it worked.
The Elephant Sanctuary itself turned out to be the best experience of our lives. The Sanctuary provides shelter to quite a big population of Asian elephants in a herd like environment that tolerates human presence around them (picture # 1). However, for making them respect their humans they are provided with food while chained. The herd is allowed to walk from their compound to the feeding station free of any cruel. The behemoths rush to the station unfettered, sending a chill through the spines of the visitors, and are only chained when they reach their individual feeding platforms (picture # 2).
There are always a few orphaned elephants that the children in the entourage can feed at close range (picture # 3).
There are couple of trained elephants that are used for rides for the guest, who ultimately, head for a nearby river and take a plunge in the waters giving a thrilling finale to the guests as they get a thorough soaking as well (picture # 4). This is followed by guests bathing the elephants (picture # 5).
Lunch, tea, and drinks are on the house.
After dark, the must-see Kuala Selangor attractions are the fireflies. We boarded a small rowing boat sailing under the pure muscle power of the oarsman on the Selangor River to witness one of the most bizarre display of nature – millions of fireflies putting on a twinkling light show on the native bamboo trees. The mangrove swamps along the banks of the Selangor River are one of a handful of places in the world where fireflies gather in such huge numbers. The show went on for quite sometimes, almost mesmerizing us.
9. Petrosains, The Discovery Centre - a museum about the science of petroleum
The Petrosains Museum is located in Kuala Lumpur's most famous landmark – the Petronas Towers. The entrance is on the 4th Floor. Surprisingly, very few Malaysians and even fewer tourists know about it.
Petrosains is owned by Petronas, Malaysia' national oil giant. It has kept no stones unturned toward building a world class fun and educational destination for kids and adults alike.
After purchasing entrance ticket we lined up to take the Dark Ride. We sat in a carriage that was shaped like a drop of oil and were transported through an audio-visual display showcasing Malaysia's natural resources and technological achievements.
On disembarking from the Dark Ride we wandered around several exhibits where our children and other kids were encouraged to touch and play with for a hands-on learning experience.
Here was our first encounter with the 3 major ethnic groups of Malaysia. First, we met with a group of Malaya schoolgirls, covered in the traditional head scarves, who, after noting the dress of my wife, greeted us in the traditional Muslim greetings. Next we met a group of Chinese schoolchildren, who also came over to shake hands. Finally, there came a group of Indian schoolchildren, whose teacher immediately connected with us, announcing to the children that we are Canadians of Pakistani origin. The kids showed lots of interest and immediately came over to shake hands and talk to us.
One of the highlights is the Geotime Diorama featuring an animatronic singing T-Rex, which my children had immense liking for, an erupting volcano, and several displays explaining geology and the formation of oil deposits. We thought that the whole theory was explained very well indeed.
The Helicopter Simulator ride was fun in which we experienced with a thrilling roller coaster like flight out to sea through a tropical storm before landing on a floating oil platform.
On reaching the destination we found that we were stepping out on a model of an oil rig where we could experience the working and living conditions of the crew on board a real life oil production platform.
Petronas is a major sponsor of Formula 1 motor racing and in the Speed section of the museum there were some racing simulators and various machines to test your reactions, power-to-weight ratio, speed of karate chop, downhill skiing skills, jumping ability and lots more.
There is also a 3D Theatre to experience before climbing back on the Dark Ride to take you to the exit and Gift Shop.
It took us about 4 - 5 hours to get around the museum and it could have easily taken us more time if we had any energy left.
10. Bukit Melawati
Again, we hired a tourist guide from a reputable company, for driving us to a picturesque Melawati town. The town is located about ___ kms __ of Kuala Lumpur.
At Melawati, we were pleasantly surprised to see a friendly troupe of Silver leaf Monkeys (Silvered Langurs). They didn’t hesitate to reach out to my daughter asking for food, which was readily served, although in normal situations I would have discouraged it (picture # 1). One of the langurs acted wary running away if anyone went close to her and then I noticed it was carrying a baby.
My wife decided to shop for souvenirs from hawkers before we walked to a nearby Lighthouse (picture # 2).
The Lighthouse, also known as Altingsburg Lighthouse, is the town's most famous landmark and symbol. It was built in 1907. It is 27 m (81 feet) high and its light can be seen 18 nautical miles away. It is not open to the public and amidst so many other attractions, we didn’t care at all.
The guide had already reserved a table for us at an upscale but touristy seaside restaurant that offered pleasant view of the mangroves stretching far out to meet with the seawaters on one side and of the Lighthouse on another. We had a seafood dinner that included crabs.
Where to stay and what to eat
Malaysia is a well developed country with a number of hotels ranging from two to five stars. Also, there are a number of restaurants and international franchises that cater to the local population and the tourists.
My recommendation would be to stay in Kuala Lumpur and visit these destinations from there.