And the Award For Most Surprising City Goes to…Kuala Lumpur
Malaysia was one of those countries we knew we wanted to visit while living in Thailand, seeing as how its just next door and a cheap Air Asia flight away. We’ve always heard good things about it, specifically the amazing food in Penang and the beautiful island of Langkawi. But we also heard a lot of “eh, its ok” and “I wasn’t that impressed”. This left us with not too high of expectations and not really sure what to see or do other than eat, see the Petronas Towers in KL, eat, hunt for street art in Georgetown, and then of course eat some more. I’m never opposed to eating, but it didn’t sound like there was a whole lot going on in Malaysia. I guess that’s why it kept getting pushed to the back of the list when making travel plans or visa runs.
However, when we found a house sitting opportunity in an expat-friendly neighborhood of KL, we figured we might as well take advantage of the situation to see what Malaysia is all about and form our own opinion. I wasn’t thrilled about having a hot and humid Christmas, but spending a week in a luxury townhouse with a private pool and two adorable kittens sold me on the idea.
We arrived into KL 2 days before the start of our house sit since our first visa entry was up in Thailand. This allowed us to explore and familiarize ourselves with the city and public transportation before heading off to our house sit in the Bangsar area. Right away, Kuala Lumpur blew all expectations out of the water. Maybe sometimes it is best going into situations with low expectations because then at least you are not disappointed. Perhaps that’s what happened here. Regardless, we were completely thrown for a loop.
First of all, Malaysia is much more advanced than any other SE Asia country we’ve visited. I guess we were expecting something similar to Bangkok and we couldn’t have been more wrong. Kuala Lumpur is definitely more modern, a hell of a lot cleaner and much less chaotic. Some people might prefer Bangkok for those reasons, but I have to admit that KL won me over. The smells of Bangkok can often be overwhelming and that is something we didn’t find (or miss) in KL. Oh, and not a single rat spotted during 14 days in Malaysia. That’s a big win for Malaysia. Maybe one day I’ll share my traumatizing rat story with you so that you understand my fear…
Second….the food. Yes, you’ve heard it. We’ve all heard it. The food in Malaysia – specifically the Indian food for me – is just flat out amazing. And that’s all I have to say about that.
Maybe we are just getting better at traveling, but we found the public transportation in KL to be so simple and efficient. We rode everything including the buses, taxis, monorail and the train and we found ourselves hopping around the city like locals on our first day. Not to mention, its also super cheap. The most we paid to ride the train or monorail was 4.20 RM for two people. That is (as of today) $1.17…not even $0.60 each. And the most we paid for a taxi was 8 RM which is just over $2 USD. That’s just silly.
How about those Petronas Towers? Yes, we’ve all seen those glowing twin towers in photos. Of course, they look stunning. A good photographer and a little editing can make an ant look pretty great though. Let me just tell you…we were more in awe of these towers than we were of the Eiffel Tower in Paris. We completely and shamefully underestimated the beauty of these two structures. They are amazing during the day, but they are spectacular at night. We couldn’t pull ourselves away from them for hours. Throw in a colorful fountain show and a big Christmas tree. Perfection.
Speaking of, let’s talk about Christmas. Who in a million years would think a primarily Muslim country could celebrate Christmas better than anywhere I’ve been in the US? The malls were completely draped in Christmas lights and decorations with Christmas music playing loudly throughout the city. On Christmas Eve, everyone gathered in the streets together spraying fake snow and blowing horns shouting “Happy Christmas” to each and every passerby.
Yes, every person of every race and religion. Everyone was partaking in the festivities. This enormous street party was still full on when us lame travelers had to throw in the towel at 10pm and head back to our cozy home in Bangsar. I never expected that one of my most memorable Christmases would take place in Malaysia.
Take a virtual tour through the city with us…