What it was Like Living Like a Local in Kuala Lumpur

I always knew I wanted to head to Malaysia and roughly planned a visit back in February. When I shared my tentative plans with my family, I didn’t know what it was going to result in. It ended up being the best decision ever as I got the experience to live like a local in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.

This was all thanks to my aunt’s friend, who had friends living in Kuala Lumpur. She connected me with this family and they offered to host me during my few days and it was more special than I could have imagined.

Getting to Kuala Lumpur

Bus from Singapore to Kuala Lumpur

Getting from Singapore to Kuala Lumpur is extreme simple. It’s about an 7-8 hour bus ride that I purchased online for about 20 Singapore Dollars (about 15USD). The bus station was easy to get to with the metro system and although I arrived with 20 minutes to spare, the bus was an hour late. This is not really an uncommon event in Asia, so you have to learn to go with the flow.

Immigration to exit Singapore is the most efficient and quick system I’ve experienced, including in the United States. It’s a finger print and passport scanning system followed by your photograph. If approved, you exit. No exit-stamp required. If not, well, I have no idea what happens and not sure I’d want to know.

Immigration into Malaysia takes time, but as an American is pretty simple. You fill out the immigration documentation, stand in line, and get the 90 day visa on-arrival, which doesn’t cost anything. Technically, it’s called a social visit pass, which essentially means you’re authorized to stay in country for 90 days or less.

Once I arrived at the Kuala Lumpur bus terminal, it was pretty quick and easy to get to their home. GRAB is readily available through many S.E. Asian countries and is relatively inexpensive. It’s like Uber or Lyft but for Asia.

I was greeted with a mother’s warm embrace, a home cooked meal, and a nice cup of tea with great conversation. It was such an amazing feeling to feel so at home even though I just met this family.

I had the next afternoon to myself, as they had school/work, which gave me a chance to wander the city.

Nighttime View of Downtown Kuala Lumpur

Downtown Kuala Lumpur

I didn’t do too much research on Kuala Lumpur before arriving, except the Bata Caves (a must-see). So I spent my breakfast googling “Things to Do in KL” and what I found was A LOT.

Kuala Lumpur is home to the Petronas Twin Towers. Two massively beautiful metal skyscrapers ajoined by a bridge, located in the center of downtown. These 88 floor buildings resemble motifs found in Islamic art, which reflects the Muslim religion. It’s a common location for tourists to capture a photo standing in between these very tall buildings. In fact, these buildings were the tallest buildings in the world until 2004, but still remain the tallest TWIN towers in the world.

The Petronas Twin Towers offer a variety of activities from several observation decks, to a couple of gift shops and discovery centers, to an art gallery, plenty for the whole family. I attempted to go to the top observation deck, located on the 86th floor, however, it was sold out by the time I arrived.

KL Tower

Instead, I went to another skyscraper that offered an observation deck over looking the beautiful city, the Kuala Lumpur Tower. I’m a sucker for a great view, and not afraid of heights one bit, plus it was a good walk between the two locations.

The Kuala Lumpur Tower, KL Tower, is the 7th tallest freestanding tower in the world standing at 421 meters. With the observation deck located at 276 meters above the ground, the view of Kuala Lumpur is phenomenal. It costs RM49 for an international adult to head up to the observation deck and is open from 9am to 10pm, 365 days a year.

If you’re like me and not afraid of heights, then I suggest you continue heading upwards towards the Sky Deck. The Sky Deck is located at 300 meters and offers a 360 degree outside view of Kuala Lumpur. It also has a glass bottom box.

If you are into more than just the view, the KL Tower is known as the World Basejump Center. It’s hard to miss this building while walking around downtown.

Street Art and Temples

After I enjoyed a solid hour soaking up the views, I taxied to a nearby neighborhood known for its painted street art, Changkat, Bukit Bintang. This isn’t the only location in the city for street art, but I loved the color I was seeing throughout pinterest and instagram.

Street Art in Kuala Lumpur

Upon arrival, I found that the street art in decent condition, but I could tell, it very well maintained. I can’t imagine how difficult it might be to maintain a huge amount of various street art. It covers several alleys and passageways. The colors were not quite as vibrant and I was expecting and some of the paint was faded and partially missing. But, it was still a unique to capture photos and wander.

I continued to wander the city, but this time by train to a Hindu temple called Sri Mahamariamman Temple. I don’t remember how I located this temple or why I ventured there, but I’m glad I did. It was so vastly different from many of the temples I have visited living in Thailand. It was fun to read a little bit about the Hindu religion and culture. Plus, there was an amazing coffee shop close by that had rave reviews.

It was finally time to reconnect with my host family and head home. Which I’m glad we did because we ended up getting a little afternoon shower. It was the perfect chance to relax on their balcony sipping some tea before dinner.

My host mom and her two kids took me to an amazing restaurant for dinner and I ate delicious Pakistani food. I was pretty present during my time here with my host family, and did not document or write down much of what I ate and went (bad blogger), but I needed the break. That evening, I ended up spending time with my host mom’s group of friends for more home cooked food, hot tea, and some hilarious bonding conversation.

Batu Caves

The next day, my host mom took me to the Batu Caves, a place I was so excited to visit. She was so kind to spend her weekend day off showing me around the city and taking me to a touristy location. But, it was nice having her, as she was like my own private tour guide, sharing her wealth of knowledge about the Batu Caves.

The Batu Caves is a famous Hindu temple and one of the ten most important shrines in India and Malaysia. It is dedicated to Lord Murugan, the Hindu God of War, which is shown by a 140 food statue of the Hindu diety. But, one of the main focal point are the brightly painted, colorful 272-stairs.

These stairs lead to the largest of the three main caves, known as the Temple Cave or Cathedral Cave is home to several Hindu shrines.

Batu Caves Kuala Lumpur
Batu Caves Kuala Lumpur

The other two caves, Art Gallery Cave and Museum Cave, are locate at the bottom and home to Hindu statues and paintings. It’s a must visit site…just look at those stairs.

The next two evenings, I spent with my host mom, her friends and all their children. I couldn’t even begin to explain how welcoming these people were, sharing little bits of pieces of their lives, opening up their homes to a complete stranger, and feeding me some of the most delicious food. They taught me about Rumi and his verses. They introduced me to an old western-style Pakistani movie (don’t remember the name). And gave me copious amounts of delicious tea to drink. Their hospitality was more than I could have imagined and I was sad to say goodbye.

Traveling without any plan is a blast, but sometimes it benefits to have a tentative plan. Without this tentative plan, I would have never been given an opportunity to live like a local in Kuala Lumpur. It was such a refreshing change from the hostel life, even if just for a few short days. But it was time to continue my travels within Malaysia.

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