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.

house sitting in Malaysia

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.

bangsar and padstow

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.

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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…

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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I think the most surprising trait of all and what made us fall in love with Malaysia is the people. We could not get over how friendly and helpful the locals were. And it wasn’t just one incident or two. It was every day…all day…at every turn. If we looked lost, they chimed in to see if we needed help. Just passing by, we were constantly greeted with a cheery “hello boss!” Everyone wanted to know where we were from and to wish us a “Happy Christmas”. To be completely honest, this is the first country we’ve visited that is primarily Muslim and we really didn’t know what to expect. The US Media doesn’t exactly paint a pretty picture and it reminded us of how sad it really is that is all some will ever know. This is why traveling abroad is so important and this is why we do it. This is also why we write about it – in hopes to inspire others to do the same. Not just for a holiday but also for an education you can’t get in any school. There are so many misconceptions about this great world we live in and I hope this reminds us to always keep an open mind.

Take a virtual tour through the city with us…

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  1. Hi guy’s, I also enjoyed KL & Penang a couple of years ago, true the food is definetly more multi-culturel than Bkk as they seem to be more open,(British Colony) before. Good luck with your adventures, kind regards. Ian

  2. Good read. Thanks guys. KL is on my list as I have been to Penang previously and that was fun. KL looks like a very modern city similar to Singapore but a tad cheaper. Loved the video. Thanks.

    • Charlie and Brittany January 8, 2015 at 1:45 pm · · Reply

      Thanks James! We haven’t made it to Singapore yet but I definitely think it is cheaper, although compared to Thailand it was more expensive in a lot of ways. Keep an eye out for out next post on a KL Travel Guide where we will talk a little more about costs, accommodations, etc.

  3. Looks like you had a great time. I really liked KL mainly for the shopping, good metro, food, cleanliness and then I got robbed and the whole city just made me sour….and it was always gloomy there!

    • Charlie and Brittany January 9, 2015 at 1:49 am · · Reply

      Yes soooo gloomy! We didn’t like that either. But you’re whole purse snatching incident definitely made me more aware of mine when I was there. I had a death grip on that thing lol.

  4. Great read guys! I love this video and such good info… makes me want to go visit next X-mas! 😉

  5. Canadian here. Kuala Lumpur / Malaysia are the most phenomenally exciting city / country I’ve ever been to. I also went to Langkawi this past year – what a piece of heaven on earth that it (minus the heat).

    My experience was rather the opposite. We went to Thailand, and were thoroughly underwhelmed. But Malaysia was as exotic a destination as it gets.

    • Charlie and Brittany January 27, 2015 at 5:50 am · · Reply

      We loved Langkawi too! Keep an eye out for upcoming posts/videos from Langkawi and Penang. Glad you enjoyed Malaysia as much as we did! 🙂

  6. Thanks for the unique perspective on our city! The media can paint a pretty grim picture of Malaysia, especially with all the dire news surrounding our country of late. But thanks for highlighting the everyday beautiful aspects of our city to be truly grateful for. A friend recently launched an app that may be of benefit to your readers keen on exploring KL. It called CurrenSeek and helps travellers save up to 30% of their travel expenses by helping compare and locate the best exchange rates around them… Many travellers aren’t aware there’s a disparity in the rates between money changers and banks. Hope it’s useful info to you and your readers, and happy travelling!

  7. Dear Brittany and Charlie,

    Great post, thanks for sharing. We’re spending New Year’s Eve in Kuala Lumpur and are super exited. We hope the malls are still decorated when we get there. It looks pretty on your photos ☺

    We’ve been to KL before and totally agree with the friendly people. The Malays are very helpful and so friendly. Looking forward to go back.

    Cheers & happy travels,
    Reni

    • Charlie and Brittany October 28, 2015 at 6:57 pm · · Reply

      Hey Reni! That’s awesome to hear. I hope they are still decorated for you too! They are so pretty…especially the Pavillion! I imagine they still will be. Hope you guys have a great time. If they do New Years anything like Christmas Eve then no doubt you will 😉

  8. Bumped into this site while googling about Bangkok. I am from Malaysia and I honestly appreciate your article. Please come again and explore the Taman Negara (400 million years old untouched tropical rainforest) or Perhentian Island (langkawi, phuket or bali are pale comparatively) or fly across the South China Sea to Sabah/Sarawak (Malaysian part of Borneo) for an amazing culture. You know that Malaysia is just not about KL… and we welcome you to our great country.

    • Charlie and Brittany April 27, 2016 at 12:44 pm · · Reply

      Thank you so much for the recommendations! We would love to return to Malaysia and visit some more off the beaten path places. We have never experienced such wonderful hospitality before. Thank you for your message 😉

  9. This sounds pretty interesting. I didn’t hear much good about KL. People say it’s boring, but I am determined to give it ago once I’m back in Thailand.

    • Charlie and Brittany October 5, 2016 at 1:21 am · · Reply

      We actually heard the same thing but we really enjoyed it. I hope you do too if you make it there!

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