Port guide: Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
Introducing Kuala Lumpur
Kuala Lumpur, more popularly referred to as KL, is known as the federal capital and largest city of Malaysia. What was once a small Chinese mining village has now been transformed by time into a bustling Metropolis and a major hub of the Southeast Asian region. The numerous 5-star accommodation, great shopping malls, and fabulous dining options make KL a very popular tourist destination for both Malaysians and foreigners alike.
KL is geographically located in the Klang Valley, which is bordered by Titiwangsa Mountains and the Strait of Malacca. KL used to be under the territory of Selangor State until it was separated in the 1970s to become a federal territory. KL is now the seat of the parliamentary government.
Kuala Lumpur is Malaysia’s most densely populated city. Locals are usually of Malay or Chinese descent. Religion is also mixed, with some practicing Islam, and others Buddhism. While KL is mostly modern, there are still some areas where one can go to enjoy the colonial heritage of the city. Most locals speak Bahasa or Chinese although many have a grasp of conversational English.
KL is pretty popular because it is cheaper than visiting another Southeast Asian neighbour, Singapore. Aside from the fact the you can enjoy a much better exchange rate with the Malaysian Ringgit, the cost of living is generally lower. As such, you get more value for your money when visiting KL.
- Exploring Kuala Lumpur
The modern part of Kuala Lumpur is concentrated in the Golden Triangle area. With the high concentration of malls and bars, this is KL’s shopping and nightlife district. Nobody can miss the golden triangle because this is where KL’s most famous landmark, the Petronas Twin Towers, stand. After posing for the requisite photo with the Petronas Towers as a backdrop, check out Suria KLCC, the hgh end mall beneath Petronas Towers. Other malls in the area include Berjaya Times Square and Sungei Wei Plaza. You can also visit Aquaria KLCC, which is a gigantic aquarium that showcases thousands of marine life. It is located at the convention centre.
An alternative to the Petronas Tower is the KL Tower, which is locally known as the Menara. This communications tower gives a great bird’s eye view of KL. You can dine at the revolving restaurant located at the top of the tower.
While KL is a very modern city, there are still some places that are of cultural and historical importance. There are many British colonial buildings that can be found on Merdeka Square. Stand in the centre of the square and be amazed by 360-degree views of beautiful architecture, such as the Sultan Abdul Samad Building and the old KL railway station. You can also stop at the palace where the king leaves but you can only remain at the gates and look through the railings.
Those who would love to go inside a mosque can do so at the beautifully designed Masjid Negara, the National Mosque. Check for visitor times and make sure to wear appropriate clothing.
- Getting around
Kuala Lumpur is a fairly large city and transportation facilities are pretty developed, although not as convenient, as say, neighbouring Singapore. There are many options to get around, although the system can get confusing at times.
Rapid KL buses are a really good and cheap way to travel around the city, if you are a local. For tourists, it is better to take the pink and purple hop-on, hop-off buses, which take you to most of the important sights around KL. 24-hour and 48-hour unlimited ride passes are available for purchases. You can stay at a stop for a long as you like and wait for the next bus on the timetable.
There are various train lines traversing the city. The rail system is a bit confusing since the connectivity is poor. You cannot buy a through ticket when switching trains; if you have to transfer from a monorail to an LRT, for example, separate tickets are necessary.
Taxicabs are plentiful and cheap since gasoline in Malaysia is very cheap. This is a good way to travel if your destination is across town. Cabs are equipped with meters but drivers do not use them all the time. If there is no meter, make sure the price is agreed upon prior to driving away. Beware though of Malaysian traffic jams during rush hour.
Most tourists would probably stay within the KLCC-Golden Triangle-Bukit Bintang area. Most of the attractions and malls within this area is pretty accessible on foot. Walking is a good option for those who want to avoid traffic jams. Take care because it can get hot and humid during midday.
- Beyond the port
Genting Highlands is less than an hour away. This was the original integrated resort, Malaysia’s attempt at recreating the atmosphere of Las Vegas. The main attractions are theme parks and casinos. Since it is located up in the mountains, it can be quite chilly and foggy, even during the day. There are several hotels for those who want to stay a few days, and tour companies also offer day trips for those who are in a hurry.
Located in the northern suburbs of KL, Batu Caves is an easy day trip. It is accessible by train. This limestone temple contains many beautiful statues of the Hindu gods. Be sure to wear comfortable shoes since you have to climb almost 300 steps before reaching the actual entrance to the caves.
Known as the intelligent garden city, Putrajaya is just 30 kilometres away from Kuala Lumpur. This showcase case city can be reached via KLIA Transit if coming from the airport, bus or taxi if coming from KL. Drive a round and take a look at the huge, but beautifully designed buildings.
There is a huge number of people making the Singapore-Kuala Lumpur daily. It only an hour away by plane. A popular choice is to do it overland. Many comfortable coaches leave from Puduraya bus station at various times during the day or night. The journey takes about 5-6 hours.
Kuala Lumpur is the home base of Air Asia, Southeast Asia’s faster growing low cost carrier. You practically connect to any point in Asia from KL. Air Asia flies from the low cost terminal, not KLIA.
- Popular shore excursions
Cruise lines that visit here offer the following shore excursions. Please check with your cruise line to see if they offer them and remember some excursions may be seasonal only!
See KL from the view deck of the Petronas Twin Towers
The Petronas Twin Towers is really Kuala Lumpur’s most well-known landmark. Tourists can actually go up to the view deck, which is located on the bridge connect the two skyscrapers. Best of all, it’s free! You do have to line up very early though. There are no reservations. The limited slots available every day are on a first come, first served basis.
Ride the roller coaster at Berjaya Times Square
Berjaya Times Square is easily the largest mall in the Golden Triangle area of KL. At first glance, it may look like your typical mall, but the upper floors of Berjaya Times Square contains Malaysia’s largest indoor theme park. Children and adults alike will enjoy spending time with the various attractions of the theme park. The most popular ride is the 7-storey roller coaster, which is considered to be Asia’s longest multiple inverted indoor roller coaster.
Catch a show at Istana Budaya
Istana Budaya is KL’s premier performing arts centre. Many local and international performances are shown here. With state-of –the-art equipment and beautiful acoustics, Istana Budaya is a world class venue. A good way to spend the evening is to catch a show that features Malaysian culture and arts. There are performances most nights so you can take your pick. Tickets are sold at the box office and do check on the dress code for the performance you will be watching.
- Local cuisine
You would never go hungry in KL. Just like its neighbouring Asian cities, KL is a melting pot of cultures and that is reflected in their food. Traditional Malaysian cuisine is a hodgepodge of Malay and Chinese dishes that are full of flavour and reflect Malaysia’s heritage as a spice country. There are many dining options that would suit any budget. Many international franchises have opened branches in KL. The economic boom has seen many fining dining establishments open in the metropolis.
If you want an authentic Malaysian dining experience, eat at the many hawker centres and kopitiams the line the streets of KL. Those looking for a great Chinese meal would definitely have to go to Jalan Alor, where char siew, bakwa, and barbecued chicken wings reign supreme. Curry is popular in KL and you can find them in Mamak stalls. Also try the Ramly burger, which is a popular snack throughout Malaysia.
For a great night out that comes with good food, drinks, and a party atmosphere, check out the the different restobars that can be found in the KLCC and Bukit Bintang area. This is usually where the relatively affluent yuppie crowd hang out.
Many international beer companies have breweries and bottling plants in Malaysia. Anchor Smooth Beer is considered to be the most popular locally brewed beer. However, since most of the locals are Muslims, majority of them are non-drinkers. Even late in the evening, you can see locals drinking mugs of coffee, and sometimes, tea.
Grab a copy of TimeOut KL for a list of recommended dining spots.
- Where you are docked
Kuala Lumpur is a centrally located city so it is more or less landlocked. Cruise ships and other boats usually dock at Port Klang (Port Kelang), which is about an hour and a half from KL. Port Klang is the major cargo shipping port in the area. It is also the headquarters of Star Cruises, which is a Malaysian company. Cruise ships will dock at the Star Cruises terminal, a large 5 storey building located in West Port. Since it is quite a distance from KL, cruise lines can often arrange a transfer for you at an additional price. Taxis are available outside the cruise terminal. You can also take a taxi all the way to KL or have the cab driver take you to the nearest KTM (train) station or bus station and commute from there.
- Regional weather
Kuala Lumpur experiences hot humid summers, the summer seasons can be temperamental, thunderstorms and downpours are frequent. August typically receives the most rainfall. The area experiences moderate and cool winters being situated in a tropical climate. The mixture of hot and cold airstreams over Kuala Lumpur can often lead to monsoons.