Arrival and Klia2
Arriving in Kuala Lumpur, we were greeted by the new Klia2 (KL International Airport 2). It was indeed impressive — very organized, clean and shiny — reminded me in fact of Singapore’s Changi Airport, which has been winning airport awards for years. Arriving for the first time in KL back in 2013 on my way to Indonesia (and my very first encounter in Southeast Asia), I was greeted by the old LCCT, or the Low Cost Carrier Terminal. Back then I had decided to outsmart the system and book two tickets, one from Europe to KL and then a low-cost flight from KL to Bali. I did not realize that those two flights arrived in different airports, which were 20km apart without any speedy modern train in between. Luckily, I did not need a visa for Malaysia and the 2.5 hours transfer time allowed me to barely make it to the next flight, sweaty and exhausted, with some extra Malaysian Ringgit in my pocket.
Now KL airport travel is much simpler. Klia2 has an air-conditioned train running every few minutes to the KL international airport. In fact, Klia2 is the world’s largest low-cost airport, built to handle 45 million passengers per year. With AirAsia rerouting all its flights through it, Kuala Lumpur as a city is becoming one of the main hubs for travel to and from Asia.
From the first minutes at the new airport, Kuala Lumpur gave the impression of a buzzing cosmopolitan city, one of the beating hearts of Southeast Asia.
Petronas Twin Towers
The impressive Petronas Twin Towers are still KL’s landmark, standing 452 proud meters tall.
They were unbeaten as the the world’s tallest building until 2004, though still win the “tallest twin towers” category ☺.
At night the towers look also very impressive:
Bukit Bintang Area
KL has a buzzing vibe, typical of a rapidly developing country. We ended up staying in the Bukit Bintang area, which had a plethora of restaurants, bars, and shopping options. The nightlife also seemed to be based in that area and pumping music was hailing from the nearby clubs until early weekend mornings.
Streets in KL show how the city features a multicultural mixture, blending Chinese, Indian, and Malay cultures and cuisines. The Central Market, Chinatown, and Little India are only some of the cultural hotspots of KL where you can try excellent food from around the world for a budget price.
In Malaysian as well as in Indonesian, which are very similar languages, “F” exists in the alphabet, but is almost always pronounced as “P”. Hence, you can hear often somebody saying “Hello, my prend” and wonder what that means. There’s also “Panta” and “Pantastic”. And there’s “Kopi”.
Kopi in Malaysia is made with nescafe and condensed milk and served at the popular kopitiams, which are coffee shops. The most popular drink, however, is not coffee, but “pulled tea” with condensed milk, which is also called “teh tarik”. At a kopitiam you can get the traditional Malay breakfast, which consists of teh/kopi tarik, soft-boiled eggs (by this I mean almost raw flowing eggs), and toast with butter and kaya, which is a jam made of coconut milk and eggs. Slurping raw eggs with soy sauce early in the morning was the only strange experience, for the Malay breakfast was actually very yummy.
A weekend to Kuala Lumpur is not complete without a stopover at the famous Batu Caves, which are just a short train trip away from the city center. It takes 272 steps to go to the top, which in the April heatwave (35C in the shade) was quite the trek.
There were also some cheeky monkeys around, which we escaped:
With that the weekend in the Malay capital wrapped up. Next we hopped on the bus directly to Penang. Right after Getting off the taxi at the central bus station, we were already hustled by one of the ticket sellers who dragged us directly to the bus, repeating “Come, come, come, follow me, follow me” and 10min later were already heading off for the next destination. It was one of the most comfortable buses I have even been to with space as much as a flight’s first class seat.