Backpacking | Southeast Asia | Travel Blog

3 Days in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia {On a Budget}

May 7, 2016

You know how I was talking about planning that backpacking Southeast Asia trip in my last post? Well, guess what?! The plan is in ACTION! We have officially said our bittersweet goodbyes to our friends and our before-home in Kathmandu, Nepal and are off on another adventure!

The plan is to backpack Southeast Asia for one month and we are already on our 7th day! I can’t believe we have already said hello, nice to meet you, and see you later, to our first stop of our backpacking SE Asia itinerary: Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia (the capital) and tomorrow we fly to Thailand!

Malaysia, where (in my opinion) modern meets Asia.  One reason I love to travel is because I get the chance to explode my stereotypes and expectations out of the water (aka the way I used to perceive a place before actually discovering it!)

Anyhow, this post is going to combine both our personal stories + some travel tips and things to do on a budget in Kuala Lumpur for 3 days.  Hope you enjoy! Follow along on our adventure in real time – follow me on instagram! (@cats.travel.love)

3 Days in Kuala Lumpur Malaysia | Bits of Bri

Becoming more aware of the world is truly extraordinary.  You know what it reminds me of?  Playing Zelda! And if you’ve ever played Zelda then you know that when you discover a new place on the map, the map clears the “fog” or whatever and it reveals the new location! Traveling and exploring diverse countries is basically like that. You can dream of a place, research, or think about it, but it’s like being there just clears the fog in your brain and you just feel more aware of yourself, the world, and others.

Day 1

We left Kathmandu the night of April 30th and arrived via plane in Kuala Lumpur at around 4:00 a.m May 1st. (we flew with AirAsia X). With everything but a wink of sleep, Paul and I stepped out of the air-conditioned plane and into the tunnel. We could already feel the humidity at this hour of the morning.  Briskly and tiredly, we walked what seemed like miles through an empty yet fascinatingly modern airport.  Coming from Kathmandu’s International Airport to KL’s was quite shocking!  I definitely had a case of reverse culture shock our first day.

Travelers Tip: From KL airport (KLIA/KLIA 2 – we arrived at KLIA 2) take a bus to KL Sentral (main train station right in the city center).  The bus ticket counter is easy to find and they have different bus companies to choose from.  We went with the cheapest we could find (RM 22 for 2 people) and the bus still seemed like luxury to us. ^^ It’s about a 30-45 minute drive from the KL airport to downtown KL.

Along the way you will see what looks like palm tree forests.  It definitely gave my first impressions of the country a tropical and exotic touch!

Once we arrived in the center surrounded by sky-scrapers, we took the KL monorail (cheap and so convenient!) that took us to Bukit Bintang (a shopping and entertainment district that also houses the hostel we stayed at – Sunshine Bedz…I highly recommend!!)

Upon arrival into our new temporary resting place for 3 days, we were met with friendly faces and a free upgrade from our booked dorm room beds to a private double bed with shower and a/c.  It was definitely a great way to debut our backpacking trip in Kuala Lumpur. 🙂

After a refreshing shower and light breakfast, we started exploring.

Travelers Tip: Take any “GO KL” buses which are the purple, blue, green, and red lines. You can hop on and off these buses for free anytime! The purple bus will take you from Bukit Bintang to Pasar leni which is right next to Chinatown. From there we walked in the direction of the bird park but we first stumbled upon the National Mosque of Malaysia.

The National Mosque of Malaysia

As we made our way to the bird park which was our desired first destination, we stumbled haphazardly upon the National Mosque of Malaysia. It was just by coincidence that we happened to pass through there but we are very glad we did!

3 Days in Kuala Lumpur Malaysia | Bits of Bri

We thought we would just take a look from the outside, but curiosity killed the cat so to speak and we got closer to the entrance.  I was curious to observe the robed women entering and exiting, thinking how hot it must feel to be clothed from head to toe. I was in shorts and already working up a sweat.

It was then when two ladies invited us to come inside.  We were first confused because we are obviously non-Muslims, but apparently at that current time it was visiting hours for tourists/non-Muslims. And it was FREE! Budget travelers love that word. 😉 Before entering however, all non-Muslims must put on a robe and in addition for the ladies, a head shawl.  It was the first time I would do this, that’s certain.  I had never visited a mosque before and come to find out this one was a legacy; the nationwide symbol of Islam and what remains a very important religious and symbolic place, the National Mosque (or Masjid Negara) lies in the heart of the city and reminds all of Malaysia’s peaceful Independence (1957).

3 Days in Kuala Lumpur Malaysia | Bits of Bri
Main Prayer Hall at The National Mosque

Did you know the main prayer hall has a capacity of 15,000 people at once? It’s huge!

KL’s Bird Park

The bird park is a must-see for any bird or nature lover.  Did you know Kuala Lumpur’s bird park is actually the world’s largest free-flight walk-in aviary?! The entrance fee for adults is RM 50 ($13). This is a little pricey for budget travelers, but it is cheaper than visiting other attractions in KL such as the Petronas Towers or the Menara KL Tower.

3 Days in Kuala Lumpur Malaysia | Bits of Bri

Travelers Tip: When traveling on a budget, it is best to pick and choose which attractions you would like to see most. Yes, it involves a little sacrifice!  Otherwise, if you do not budget for activities your average daily spending will increase rapidly!

3 Days in Kuala Lumpur Malaysia | Bits of Bri

We strolled the lovely sights and sounds of the bird park for a good 2+ hours.  Needless to say, we sorely needed a nap and we could feel it slowing us down. Since the bird park is situated in an even larger park called the Lake Gardens, which houses a butterfly park, botanical gardens, a lake, some museums, etc., we decided to explore the area a bit.

3 Days in Kuala Lumpur Malaysia | Bits of Bri
Owls at the Bird Park! So cute!

We stumbled upon the hibiscus gardens, which yay for us – were free! We entered and soon got lost. There was no one insight! It was just us surrounded by beautiful palm trees, flowers, fountains, and silence. The best part of all was two shady benches that each had a fan pointing directly at them. Nap time was about to get real. Even though it was hot and humid outside (30 C / 86 F) we both curled up on a bench and fell fast asleep.

Eat Street Food at Food Street (Jalan Alor)

Food street is THE place to eat in KL (at least once!) You will definitely get a sense of Malaysia’s food/hawker stalls.  It is a lovely lit-up street with hanging red lanterns, and lots of activity! You simply can’t miss it. There are similar-looking vendors/restaurants lined up on both sides of the street. There will be people from each restaurant holding menus that will try and sell their food as much as possible (even though every menu is quite similar!)

3 Days in Kuala Lumpur Malaysia | Bits of Bri
Hawker stalls on Food Street

One lady was very enthusiastic but only spoke to me in the Malaysian language. Politely I would repeat thank you and smile and attempt to escape but she would hold me back and make a very convincing case about their pan mee or wonton noodles. :p

3 Days in Kuala Lumpur Malaysia | Bits of Bri
Hong Kong “Dim Sum”

Travelers Tip:  Remember you are on food street to eat local, delicious, and otherwise cheap food! We always choose the restaurant or food stand with the most locals (and not toursits!) This is usually a good sign that you will be fed local food for local prices. We would eat on average (for two people) RM 25 ($7) for dinner or lunch. That includes two main meals and two fresh squeezed juices or lemon iced teas.

3 Days in Kuala Lumpur Malaysia | Bits of Bri
So many choices! 😮

See more pictures of Jalan Alor here.

Bar Street

After our scrumptious meal, we decided to go see the KL and Petronas Towers at night.  And to get there, we walked through “bar street” (instead of taking a left to enter food street, continue straight to bar street).

I want to mention bar street very quickly because we ended up walking through this area to get to the towers. However, we did not indulge in a drink (that night, or ever while we were in KL). Why? Because for our backpacking budget, it was too expensive.

3 Days in Kuala Lumpur Malaysia | Bits of Bri
Busy @ Bar Street

Nonetheless, I recommend passing through this street because it is very lively, adorable, and there are lots of modern/neat places to check out on the way.  Plus, it is just next to food street, so it is not like you are going far distances to see what’s going on at bar street! It also makes for a great passageway to get to the twin towers from food street.

{Night of day 1 we went to see the Petronas Towers lit up at night. They are like diamonds sparkling in the sky! But I won’t mention more now as we come back to see the colorful fountain show here at night of day 3.}

Day 2

Day 2 starts with a very interesting and yummy breakfast at the hostel in full conversation with a backpacker who told us funny and exciting tales of our future home in Groningen, the Netherlands!

Travelers Tip: Try “Kaya”! If you eat breakfast in Malaysia, it’s most likely you will see the word “Kaya” at one point! Kaya has a sweet, coffee-ish taste to it (in my opinion), but is actually a jam made from coconut milk and flavored with pandan leaves. I often see it being served on toast with butter or peanut butter. The first time I tried it was in KL’s airport at 5:00 a.m. on French toast with melted butter, peanut butter, and honey! It was simply scrumptious!

Batu Caves

After breakfast we headed towards the Batu Caves. It is a popular tourist attraction that is a bit outside of KL but that is still definitely worth the trip! Free entrance (unless you want to enter into the dark caves or gallery).

Travelers Tip: To get there, you’ll need to take the Komuter train from KL Sentral (you’ll see signs for the Komuter trains).  Go down the escalator and you can purchase your round-trip tickets on the left-hand side. I believe they cost us RM 5.70 (for 2 people). I’d say the trip itself takes 30 minutes to get there, 1.5-2 hours to explore and to climb up/down the steps to the caves.

3 Days in Kuala Lumpur Malaysia | Bits of Bri
Entrance to Batu Caves

I would also recommend going in the morning around 9 before it starts heating up. When we arrive at the Batu Caves it was already nearing noon and climbing up the steps was quite the workout!

Ladies – wear shorts/capris that are longer than the knees. Otherwise, you will have to pay for a skirt-scarf (is there a real name?) to tie around your waist in order to enter. Tank-tops are acceptable.

The Batu Caves is great for a morning trip. We then headed back to KL and walked from KL Sentral to Chinatown for lunch. By that time we were hungry hippos!

Chinatown and Petaling Street

Chinatown is full of life and color, a neighborhood that is not to be missed while in KL! At the heart of Chinatown is Petaling Street which is mostly famous for its cheap gadgets, clothes, delicious (and cheap) street food, among other items and souvenirs.

3 Days in Kuala Lumpur Malaysia | Bits of Bri

We were told to visit Chinatown after 6pm-onwards, so in order to get the “full” experience of Petaling Street, you might want to go grab lunch elsewhere and come back to see Chinatown in full action in the evening.

Nonetheless, our bellies rumbled and our feet wandered, so we strolled into Chinatown in the early afternoon. At this hour, all the vendors are setting up their shops on big, clanky rollers. They were getting ready for what I suppose was the “popular” time to visit (aka evening time). We were hardly noticed, and being tourists, that’s a rare thing.  Everyone was preoccupied with correctly placing their shop on wheels that we passed through unseen. It was then we found a tiny sheltered food court in a perpendicular side street.

3 Days in Kuala Lumpur Malaysia | Bits of Bri
Our sizzlin’ curries at a food court next to Petaling Street

Travelers Tip: If you’re wanting a true taste of Malaysian cuisine, don’t hesitate to ask one of the locals what they are feasting on or what they would recommend to a traveler!

This was the first time we had been given chopsticks instead of forks or spoons, which was a delightful and very much appreciated gesture. A few minutes after Paul started eating, I noticed the adorable elderly Malaysian man sitting next to us observing Paul in both fascination and approval. He was smiling and nodding his head as if he was impressed that a Westerner could properly use chopsticks. We were so tickled and gave him a big smile and giggle back! :p

3 Days in Kuala Lumpur Malaysia | Bits of Bri
Pay first before you slurp!

As soon as we left, the skies turned dark and it started raining, and hard! We waited it out a bit, but then decided to just run from cover to cover, stall to stall, shelter to shelter.  It was then we chose to grab the free bus and head back to our hostel.

Berjaya Times Square (Indoor Theme Park!)

You may have heard it (or not), but KL definitely impresses when it comes to shopping malls!! Hands down some of the largest, modern, and luxurious malls that I’ve ever been in.

Paul heard of a indoor roller coaster in one of the malls in Kuala Lumpur, and initially we thought it was in the mall under the Petronas Towers (but take not it is not).  It was only when we were on the purple line bus going back to our hostel in Bukit Bintang that we noticed “theme park” in colorful, bright letters at the top-left corner of the mall’s enormous entrance.

So in we went, and let me tell you, this mall was so big we had trouble finding a theme park! Yes, it’s true. It was the first time I saw a indoor roller coaster and it was pretty impressive to say the least! At first glance, it looks like the roller coaster is only in that one room, but it actually travels through two floors of the mall, crossing over an unseen gigantic theme park. Indeed, there was more than meets the eye!

3 Days in Kuala Lumpur Malaysia | Bits of Bri
Roller coaster inside one of KL’s luxurious malls

As tempting as it was to break our budget just this once, we decided that already being there was quite the spectacle in itself! But we did find another activity that, we’d say, was just as thrilling.  We went to the movie theater (also inside Times Square mall) and watched Captain America Civil War (and for only $4 per ticket!!).

Travelers Tip: Whether you plan to shop til you drop or not, visiting some of KL’s shopping malls is a must. They are full of wonder and surprises! Inside the mall just under the Petronas Towers, Suria KLCC, there is everything you could ever need or want.  There is a candy store called “Sticky”. It is handmade candy that is not only addictive and delicious, but it is super cute, too! Try the apple flavor it is the best!! And send me some please while you’re at it. 😉 

Day 3

Breakfast = check!

For our last day in KL, we decided to go see all the remaining historical landmarks and attractions!

KL City Gallery 

The City Gallery may not sound like it should be on the must-see places, but it definitely is! I would actually recommend going here on your first day in Kuala Lumpur because it gives all the details of KL’s history in exciting photos, mini structures, and the highlight of it all is the spectacular light show! But like us, you can also do this on your last day and still get lots of valuable information as it will put a story behind all the places you have already seen.

3 Days in Kuala Lumpur Malaysia | Bits of Bri
Take your pic with I<3KL before you enter into the KL City Gallery

Inside a big room is an even bigger miniature structure representing Kuala Lumpur now, and what it will look like in 2020. They turn off the lights and you enjoy a beautiful and educational experience learning about KL and their innovative plans for this great city’s future!  It’s very impressive!!

Travelers Tip: The entrance fee for the gallery is RM 5 ($1.25) and these RM 5 become like a “discount” that you can use in the city gallery shop and restaurant located inside at the end of the tour. We didn’t know about it at first until we went to leave and the lady said we have RM 10 off any purchase, so we turned around and went to see what they had.

Since it was about lunch time, Paul and I used the RM 10 discount for one of Malaysia’s famous dishes, “Nasi Lemak”, and I got a kaya butter and soft boiled eggs set. 🙂

Merdeka Square

This square is situated in front of the Sultan Abdul Samad Building and encompasses a vast, beautiful lawn! The Malayan flag that you see flying high now is the same flag that was hoisted for the first time at midnight on 31 August 1957 (Malaysia’s Independence Day after the Union flag was lowered for the first and final time).

3 Days in Kuala Lumpur Malaysia | Bits of Bri
View from Meredeka Square

Travelers Tip: Also known as Independence Square, Merdeka Square (Dataran Merdeka) is actually right where the KL City Gallery is, so this makes for a nice and convenient walk around this area of KL. It’s especially rewarding after a visit to the City Gallery because now you know the history behind the buildings that you see!

There are several historical and important buildings sprinkled around the Merdeka Square. It is worth taking a leisurely stroll around the area to stop and take photos.


APPLE PIE PAUSE


After our long and tiresome walk in the scorching sun, Paul and I decided to go rinse off at the hostel and take a little apple pie pause at a really cute bakery just around the corner called, “Tous les Jours”.

Travelers Tip: One thing that is different here when eating out on the street or in restaurants is that you must pay first at the table after your drinks or food is delivered.

We didn’t get used to this until after a couple of meals, but it’s actually pretty convenient so you can take your time eating and then just get up and leave whenever your done instead of waiting to pay.  Paul also told me that this is actually a marketing technique he learned in school; having customers pay at the beginning makes them remember the food experience more rather than the bill at the end, therefore customers are more satisfied and are more likely to come back because by paying first and eating second, they forget about the money aspect of it and just enjoy themselves. Neat!

Canopy Nature Walk | KL Forest Eco Park (Menara Tower)

A very popular attraction at KL is the KL Menara Tower that soars high in the sky and offers a beautiful birds eye view from the top of the city.

3 Days in Kuala Lumpur Malaysia | Bits of Bri
Canopy walk!

However, for budget travelers it may be a little expensive.  But fear not! There is indeed a free activity you can do just under the tower that is also just as nice.

For free, you can walk in the KL Forest Eco Park which is situated on the hillside just under the famous KL Menara Tower.

Travelers Tip: For this walk, you will need a ticket (free). Go to the ticket counter inside the KL Menara Tower and just ask for tickets to the Eco Park. Then walk outside the way you came all the way to the back of the round-about. You have the option to do the tour of the park on foot, or take a right at the first bridge and explore the Eco Park from bridges that pass through the trees.

3 Days in Kuala Lumpur Malaysia | Bits of Bri
View from below KL Menara Tower

When we went, there was no one insight! It was lovely and shaded and offered great pictures of the KL Menara Tower from below!

Petronas Towers Fountain Light Show

Just beneath the 88-floor twin towers is a quaint little lake that at night, lights up with a beautiful and entertaining light spectacle with music and the best part, it’s free!

It is expensive (RM 85) to go to the observation deck inside the towers, so Paul and I opted out of that activity and instead, enjoyed the scenic view of the sparkling towers shining bright in the sky just behind a colorful fountain scene.

3 Days in Kuala Lumpur Malaysia | Bits of Bri
Fountain light show underneath the Petronas Towers

Travelers Tip: The fountain light show begins around 8:30, though we were told 8:00 but then arrived late at 8:15 and thought we missed it, but after waiting 15-20 minutes it all of a sudden started and lasted through 3-4 different songs and different light patterns, etc.

After enjoying the music and the show, take a little stroll around the park and go on the bridge opposite to the towers for some fantastic photo-ops.

3 Days in Kuala Lumpur Malaysia | Bits of Bri
Gorgeous at night!!

To end the night with a sweet touch, head inside the mall and go get some ice cream at the little waffle stand (I think it’s on the second floor)! RM 7 per scoop {try the butterscotch!}


Final thoughts: 3 Days in KL on a budget

Our last morning in KL we needed to catch a bus from “TBS” to Penang (where we currently are!) But that whole story is a whole other adventure that will have to wait!

Stay updated for more posts (subscribe by email below) and make sure to follow me on Instagram @pixofbri  for daily pictures of our backpacking trip! 🙂

THANKS FOR READING!

<3 Brittany

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