KL’s size and climate aren’t conducive to my regular tourist wanderings, but I did manage to string together some sights on a long sweaty walk.  The National Mosque, Islamic Arts Museum, KL Bird Park and National Monument.

I don’t think the National Mosque is worth visiting on its own, but rather a good complement for anyone wanting to see the arts museum. The museum was hosting a stunning collection of Islamic calligraphy art split across two galleries and a large collection of historical artifacts explaining the Islamic tradition of Malaysia and the world. It also has prominent brochure recycling box upon exiting the building, a feature all museums should be forced to implement.

A short walk north of the museum sits the KL Bird Park, which advertises itself as the “world’s largest free-flight walk-in aviary” and it certainly doesn’t lack in grandeur. I’m not usually a big fan of zoo-like attractions, but it was nice to see such fine creatures who are completely comfortable with their guests and who have plenty of room to fly away and hide when they need some alone time.

If you have the time and energy, a 15 minute walk north through the Tasik Perdana park will bring you to the National Monument. Be warned that the monument closes well before sunset so don’t plan on taking photos there at dusk. It’s a lesson I learned the hard way.

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Kuala Lumpur

Checking some KL tourist boxes on foot

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“Hey you! Say something.” – Not something you want to hear from a gruff voice lurking in the shadows of a Kuala Lumpur alleyway.

Luckily for me the figure that emerged was sporting a press pass, hipster glasses, and a funky beard so if I was going to get robbed at least I knew he’d appreciate my iTunes library. Turns out my path had just crossed with Azli Jamil, an eccentric photographer who makes a game out of guessing where people are from based on their accents. After a long chat and some slideshows, the KL native offered me to take me around town on his day off to show off some of his favourite spots.

Azli’s tour took us through a working class mall, bustling market, and an undeveloped Malay village sticking to its roots while the skyscrapers sprout up around it. The walk was even topped off with a kick-ass biryani rice and some pro tips for an accomplished photographer. 

It’s often these chance encounters that lead to authentic sights and sounds unclouded by hype, so don’t be afraid to take a leap of faith and follow the voice from the shadow.

Kuala Lumpur

KL Photo Walk

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There’s a benefit to being in a giant, crowded, busy city: a lot of international mouths to feed. Penang is known to serve up some of the best food in Malaysia, so I took advantage of KL’s massive expat market to find some western comfort food. Acme Bar & Coffee was conveniently located a few blocks away from the Petronas Towers so I popped in for a late lunch and ordered a spaghetti carbonara with smoked duck bacon and enoki mushrooms. Perhaps it was the fact that I hadn’t had pasta in over four months, but I swear it’s one of the best pasta dishes I’ve ever had. If you’re in KL and tired of the regular lineup of soups and rice, seek this place out.

Kuala Lumpur

Acme Bar & Coffee

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BackHome Hostel came highly recommended by several independent travellers throughout my journey so KL was one of the few cities where I didn’t have to stress about where to stay.

The real icing on the cake for me was the moment when I walked into the coffee shop next door to look up the best cafes in Kuala Lumpur. Turns out I was sitting in one of the top six.  Not a bad home base!  I’m lucky they were closed for renovations for two days during my visit because I might have spent more time drinking Coffee Bon Bon (two shots espresso, one shot condensed milk) than exploring the city.

Kuala Lumpur is a big, chaotic, and dirty city. BackHome and LOKL created a refuge that is cozy, streamlined, and clean. It proved to be a valuable oasis of sanity that any backpacker would appreciate.

Kuala Lumpur

Back Home & LOKL

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Kuala Lumpur had a tough act to follow.  I was having a hard time leaving Georgetown but I knew I’d have to fly out of KL eventually so I shoveled down one last Hokkien Mee breakfast before catching the bus to KL. A bittersweet five hours where I felt regret about all the missed opportunities, excitement to resume my journey, and overwhelming comfort thanks to whoever built a bus out of what seemed like old lazy-boys.

I’d heard mixed reviews about Kuala Lumpur, more bad than good, but I still gave myself four nights to soak it in.  The oppressive heat made exploration difficult, but luckily the giant air-conditioned malls are part of the city’s appeal. Some of my KL highlights included ducking out of the sun to check out the giant indoor theme park or to go see the Lego movie in the KLCC complex while waiting for the softer evening light to fall on the Petronas Towers.

KL’s famous twin towers radiate a beauty that is hard to capture in pixels. I’d seen pictures and knew I had to make the trip down to KLCC, but as I witnessed the light refracting through the sharp lines and soft curves, I understood why people gushed about the buildings. There’s even a light and fountain show on the fountain side of the buildings so it’s worth going around dusk to witness the towers bathed in golden light followed by the sparkling lights and waterworks.

The stifling heat, long walking distances, and the comfort of my lovely hostel resulted in a shorter list of KL accomplishments than anticipated, but I’m starting to realize that taking your time and “just being” in a place can often be far more rewarding than rushing around to scratch things off lists.

Kuala Lumpur

Kuala Lumpur

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