City Guide: Layover in Kuala LumpurOctober 17, 2016
- Noni CabreraWords
Affordable airline travel has made it easier for us Filipinos to see the rest of the world. It is now possible to jump on a plane and travel to other exciting locations without bleeding our wallets dry. Pinoys can now fill their passports with stamps from international destinations and come back with stories and experiences to share with their friends and family.
More often than not, trips that go beyond Southeast Asia will have stop overs in regional hubs such as Taipei, Bangkok, Singapore, and Kuala Lumpur. Depending on the destination, flights will sometimes have to stop to wait for passengers coming from international points of origin. Hence, layovers can last up to 15 to 16 hours, which can either be a good thing or a bad thing, depends on who you’re asking.
The great thing about layovers in these Asian hubs is that these regional airports have been in the running on the search for the world’s best airport. They have been trying to one-up each other with mind-blowing facilities, great shopping experiences and dining options. If you don’t have enough time to go beyond the terminals, there sure is plenty to do in the airports alone, that’s why airports have become destinations in their own respect.
If, however, you find yourself in Kuala Lumpur with almost an entire day to kill, what would be the best way to spend it?
KL is diverse and colorful, and the best thing about it is their convenient mass transport options. The Monorail and the trains are fast, efficient and affordable. We have put together a list of fun things to do and awesome food to eat to when you have a day to kill in the city. After you take care of your luggage and after exchanging currencies at the Forex counter, head into the city center by bus or by train and get dropped off at KL Sentral. From there, you can easily catch a train or a quick Uber ride to these destinations:
Breakfast at APW
Art Printing Works (APW) is a unique “platform for creative exchange” in the Bangsar suburb, about 10 minutes away by car from KL Sentral. APW was a printing factory which the owners converted into a multi-use community space, with a letterpress museum, a coworking space, restaurants, an open layout warehouse venue for exhibits and events, and a third wave specialty coffee studio.
Grab a flat white from Pulp, Papa Palheta’s flagship coffee store in Malaysia. It is owned by the same group that brought Singapore it’s uber-trendy Chye Seng Huat Hardware coffee.The cafe’s excellent brews and awesome interiors make it a must-go for coffee lovers. Then, make your way next door to The Breakfast Thieves, which hawks Australian brunch cuisine with a fun Asian twist.
Shopping in Bangsar
Bangsar is a popular destination for shopping. The malls, shops and boutique stores here are a haven for shopaholics who are looking for just about anything – designer brands, bargains and emerging local brands. Spend an hour or two browsing through the shops and work up an appetite for more food adventures.
Lunch at Sri Nirwana Maju
Sri Nirwana Maju is a popular Bangsar haunt for locals who are hungry for banana leaf. Sri Nirwana’s can get pretty crowded, and the rush doesn’t die down no matter the time of day.
If we Pinoys love our boodle fights and buffets, Malaysians enjoy banana leaf – a generic term for curries, stews and vegetables ladled atop steaming rice and served on banana leaves (silverware optional). Banana leaf is basically a thali, but without the individual servings of curry in little bowls, like in Indian restaurants. For a set price, you can get an all-you-can-eat banana leaf vegetarian meal of rice, dal, stir-fried cabbage and fried zucchini, but you can also order chicken or lamb if you wish. Servers go around with their cute stainless steel buckets of curry, ready to fill you up with seconds or thirds upon your request.
Wash it all down with an iced Americano from ACME South, a lovely coffee shop/restaurant down the street.
Museum Hopping at Islamic Arts Museum
After getting your fill of hipster culture and food in Bangsar, Uber back to the city center and get dropped off in KL’s Islamic Arts Museum, which is super worth the entrance fee (cheaper if you have a student ID). The Islamic Arts Museum has thousands of cool artifacts from the Muslim world, and here you will learn about the diversity of Islamic practices in different countries. Its collection of manuscripts, textiles, jewelry, and scale models of famous mosques all over the world makes it one of the best museums in Southeast Asia. This is a good way to soak up the culture of Malaysia, a country with over half of its population practicing Islam.
From the museum, cross the street to the National Mosque. There is a counter where you can borrow coverings, as guests are required to be in modest clothing. Even if you are not particularly interested about religion, the mosque is a marvel of modern architecture. The structure itself is modernist, and being in the landscaped grounds is an experience in itself.
Jalan Petaling and Central Market Street Walk
By the time you get out of the museum and the mosque, you will be looking for something to eat yet again. Head over to the beautiful art deco Central Market, which is about a 15 minute walk (across the bridge and passing by KL’s super cool commuter train station), and look for bites and nibbles in this diverse complex of alleys, streets and shopping malls. Here, you will see hawker stands selling traditional Malaysian delicacies such as char koay teow, laksa and satay.
The neighboring streets area a sensory overload of smells, sights and sounds. You will see shophouses, spice shops, Chinese temples, art deco buildings, Hindu shrines, coffee shops, street art, cheap bargains, and souvenirs. Trace the road back to Jalan Petaling, KL’s Chinatown district. This street is bustling with stores and bargain finds, making it KL’s version of our famed Divisoria district.
Street Food in Bukit Bintang
Every city has its culinary epicenter, and one can argue that Bukit Bintang is where the good stuff happens in KL, food-wise. This main street is teeming with hawker stands, food carts, restaurants, cafes, street-side vendors, and stalls of just about every fare and cuisine imaginable. Set in the sprawling Bukit Bintang neighborhood, Jalan Alor and its neighboring streets will satisfy your every craving. Ain Arab or Arab Street is a hotspot for falafels, shawarma, kebabs and Mediterranean food. The quiet and more residential Jalan Mesui is home to Feeka, a home-grown coffee shop. There is also VCR, an award-winning coffee shop, just a few blocks away.
Petronas Twin Towers
After indulging in Bukit Bintang’s street food scene, hop on the train to Suria KLCC, where you will find the world famous Petronas Twin Towers, the tallest of its kind in the world. The towers are a remarkable sight, but wait until the sun has set for a totally different experience. The lights of the building truly make it come alive. You might want to save the trip to the viewing deck on top of the towers for another time since tickets are quite pricey and there is usually a long queue. The shopping mall that the towers are attached to also has a lot to offer. There is a food court, a Kinokuniya, and plenty more high-end shopping options.
Before your time in the city is up, it is best to head back towards the direction of KL Sentral so you can catch the Ekspres train back to the airport. In case you are still hungry and are looking for something to munch on before you board the train, your safest bet is Brickfields, KL’s Little India. Here you will find Indian emporiums, shops and ethnic grocers. This neighborhood has a lot of Indian restaurants mainly catering to the locals, so you are rest assured that the food is fresh, well-seasoned and affordable.
So there you have it.
Of course, there are plenty more things you can do in KL. You can make time for a little jaunt to Batu Caves, where you can go up the several hundred steps to a Hindu shrine. Warning: the place is overrun by thieving little macaques. I personally didn’t go to Batu Caves anymore because these monkeys terrified the crap out of me in Bali.
You can also check out other museums that may interest you. Pick up a free tourist map from the airport and customize your day trip so that you can get the most out of your time in this beautiful metropolis.
Note that KLIA2, the airport where most low-cost international flights converge, is about an hour away from the city center (Shuttle Bus – RM11). You can halve that time by taking the awesome KL Ekspres
Train (100MR roundtrip). Bear the travel time in mind when planning your escapade in the city, as you should allot enough time to get you back to the airport, clear immigrations, and head to the boarding gate.