The usual 3-day itinerary in any place typically involves a clever mix of time-saving routes and an assumption of boundless energy that will enable any intrepid visitor to cover a key number of sights. In short, a brag-worthy itinerary for a short but exhausting period of time that you can confidently say to anyone ‘I’ve visited this place and have seen the top x number of things I should see in it’.
Doing this in a place as dauntingly large as Kuala Lumpur is a difficult task to plan. Doing 3 days over a festive period (Chinese New year) with many Chinese shops (and areas like Chinatown) is impossible. But seeing as I was there primarily to try climbing the Damai Wall at the Batu Caves, running around the city and aiming to visit the Petronas Towers were not my priorities. So you could name something (such as Pudu, Aquaria, Central Market) and chances are, I haven’t seen it at all.
On the contrary, what I saw and did were the antithesis of the rush job that the crammers try to do. I don’t remember how that happened for me, but there was a time where travel became a race to see as many things as possible, following a list of things to do because they’re worth seeing, then getting very upset when I couldn’t tick off all the boxes. KL became a place where I finally did what I felt like doing, and not because a guidebook recommended it.
But first, get out of the airport. That was in itself, a feat to congratulate yourself for achieving, considering the 1.5 hours spent just waiting in a queue that barely moved to get my passport stamped.
- 1. Get from the airport to the hotel via KLIA express, which I found good and reliable. This was an extra bonus because I stayed in KL Sentral.
- 2. Walk and eat along Brickfields, the Indian quarter of the city.
- 3. Get around using Grab, the goodwill of some people who actually deigned to drop me at the near Light Rail Transit station (the KTM is the most unreliable thing, they said) and the various rail transit networks. They’re all good, except for the horrifyingly cramped and stuffy monorail.
4. Visit several train stations and gawk at the shopping complexes built around these stations. KL is an impressive place, with a skyline as diverse as I’ve ever seen: high-rise condos that stretch to the outskirts of the city, gleaming skyscrapers, minarets that suddenly rise out of the forested hills and a bewildering rail network that sometimes towers so high above the expressways that you think of syfy-movies immediately. And since you’re there, go shopping. KL Sentral (Nu Sentral), Imbi (Berjaya Times Square) and the very trendy Bukit Bintang (Pavilion, Lot 10, Fahrenheit) took up a whole day.
5. Watch a movie. It was a novelty to do something like this, then walk back to the hotel room which was literally just 5 minutes away.
6. Go climbing. Novice climber or aspiring pros, there’s always something to do. I chose to visit the Batu caves with the fabulous rock climbing guides at Verticale, though Camp 5 at 1 Utama was a serious consideration before I found out that trad climbing was available during Chinese New Year.
7. Spend half the day in the pool. The hot weather will give you the tan you crave.