A Jet-lagged Exploration of Kuala Lumpur

Arriving anywhere on a one-way flight with minimal planning is always exciting. I can see why it would be terrifying for some people, but I thrive off of that feeling. It was May 2019 and we only had that first flight booked with a vague outline. Our destination was Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia and I was planning on being in Asia for the foreseeable future.

The excitement outweighed everything else for me. I wasn’t sad about leaving everything behind and I felt guilty as my travel partner cried leaving her family at the airport. The first obstacle was finding our hostel through the disorientation and jet-lag. My ears didn’t go back to normal from the flight until the following day.

We had our first meal of the trip in a small local restaurant opposite our hostel. A lot of the menu wasn’t in English, but I found something vegetarian and my best friend (the fussiest eater I know) managed to eat her meal. Luckily, our dorm room was empty and we were undisturbed for our long much-needed sleep.

Day One

The first day was reserved for getting used to our surroundings. We needed a gentle start, as we were still recovering from the flight. We were going to walk around the city and explore spots nearby. Our hostel provided us with a large free breakfast to fuel our day and help stick to that strict budget. It was definitely needed, because the weather was boiling hot and we wanted to see many places.

Malaysia has a really interesting history with several main religions in the country. You could see mosques, Hindu temples, Buddhist temples and churches. Each of the major cities we visited had a Chinatown and “Little India” area too. Of course, a lot of the history was also related to the colonisation from the British. I notice this a lot on my travels and it really makes me hate my country. The streets renamed to British places or people are just a reminder of how they loved to strip countries of their own culture.

We followed a couple of walking trials that explain the history to you on placards and found the “I heart KL” sign for pictures. However, our walking plan was abandoned for the metro. We decided to head to a museum, for a way to learn about the history with added air-conditioning. We were exhausted before lunchtime, so we headed to a shop for snacks and back to the hostel for a nap.

The jet lag was still hitting us hard and the heat was hitting us harder. I’m also chronically ill, so I had to be careful not to overexert myself constantly. It became a routine for us to have afternoon naps to balance out the activity and to avoid the midday sun. We started to plan our days around this and would try to go out in the morning and the evening with a rest in the middle.

The first evening was a special one. I found a bar in KL that was located on the top of a helipad! Although, cocktails weren’t necessarily sticking in our budget. Heli Lounge was amazing and one of the highlights of KL for me. We even went back a second time when we returned to KL at the end of the month for a flight.

Before we headed there, we went to a huge market for dinner. This was the best option for us, as a fussy eater and a vegetarian, it was sometimes impossible to find a restaurant that catered to us both. We could get food from two separate stalls and still eat together. This market trip taught me a useful tip… if you spill something dark on a white shirt, you can get the stain out easily and quickly with Sprite.

Heli Lounge is located up on a high floor of a building that doesn’t look as though there is a bar inside. When we arrived, it was pretty empty. The helipad rooftop wasn’t open yet, so we got a cocktail while we waited. Luckily, “Happy Hour” was actually a 4 or 5 hour period of time and the cocktails were about £4 each.

You need to buy one cocktail to get up onto the helipad, but the view is entirely worth it. If you are on a tight budget, then I would definitely recommend this. The view is amazing and a great way to see the skyline. Remember that if you pay the £20 to go up KL tower or the Petronas Twin Towers, you won’t see the most iconic part (because you inside the building that actually looks impressive).

It was the perfect ending to our first day of travels and even now two years later, it stands out as a highlight. I just remember sitting there in shock that I was finally travelling and that this was Day 1 of a huge adventure.

Day Two

I’m not usually good at waking up early, but the jet-lag made me a changed woman. We were the first people at breakfast and I was planning on eating a lot of toast to get ready for the day. The hostel was lacking in a few areas, but the breakfast never disappointed. Whether you wanted a traditional Malaysian breakfast (rice, egg, cucumber, chilli sauce- Nasi Lemak) or toast with a really great selection of jams, you were sorted.

Our plan for the morning was to head to Batu Caves. It’s a large temple with gorgeous colourful steps leading up into the mountain cave. It’s just a short train ride from Kuala Lumpur and we intended to get there super early to get amazing Instagram shots and less tourists. That didn’t exactly go as we expected. We couldn’t find the correct platform and missed the first train.

It was incredibly busy when we arrived, but I don’t think it affected our experience much. The temple was beautiful and the details painted on the walls were really mesmerising. The monkeys lingering around the area made me a bit nervous, especially on the walk down! None of them seemed too interested in the people, unlike the monkeys I saw in India trying to steal people’s sunglasses and phones.

Batu Caves is a really budget friendly half-day trip. It only cost us £1 for this whole morning trip (the train, free entry and the ice cream I bought on my way out). We spent about two hours around the temple area and decided to head back around 11.30 AM for our midday snacks and nap. The amount of stairs was quite difficult for me and I was experiencing chronic pain, so we rested for most of the afternoon.

After our daily afternoon nap, it was time to go to one of the other most famous landmarks in Kuala Lumpur. We went to the Petronas Twin Towers in the early evening, but decided not to go to the top. I don’t think it’s worth it, because we already saw the skyline from Heli Lounge. However, we wanted to go there to take some pictures in front of this iconic building.

In front of the Twin Towers, there are a lot of salesmen trying to get you to buy a lens for your camera to take pictures that capture the full tower. They let you trial the product first, so we got a few pictures. However, we didn’t buy one. The best pictures we took were from a park further away. The view was great and it had the added bonus of no men staring or yelling at you while you try to take a photo.

A photo of Petronas Towers taken with a camera lens
A photo taken further back from the park nearby

When trying to decide what to do with the evening, we stopped at a bar and had a chat about our trip so far. We felt like we hadn’t done much in the city, which seems silly looking back. I think we both had expectations of travel and how it would involve doing extraordinary things every day. Sometimes, it’s more about the vibes of the place and the people you meet. Unfortunately, we hadn’t met anyone yet, except for a loud annoying British man in our dorm room.

We decided to go to KL tower, which was a cheaper ticket than the Twin Towers and gave us something else to do. It was starting to get dark, so we got to see the twinkling lights of the city from the top of this tower. It isn’t the best city view I’ve had on my travels, but I still enjoyed it.

We checked out some major tourist attractions in Malaysia on those first two days, before our jet-lag had even begun to wear off. The whole two days were a really good start to our travels and the adventure was only just beginning.

We did actually come back to Kuala Lumpur towards the end of our time in Malaysia, after visiting Borneo. We had arranged a bus to take us to Singapore, so we came back for that. We probably did more the second time, but we knew what we were doing and what to expect.

The reason this first part of the trip was so underwhelming was mainly the fault of choosing the wrong hostel. The most important part of a hostel is the social atmosphere. Mingle Hostel didn’t have one, even on the rooftop area with a bar and seating. It felt impossible to meet other backpackers there, because it was empty. The best part was the jam they served at breakfast.

Thanks for reading! Have you ever been to Kuala Lumpur? What’s the best city skyline you’ve seen and where did you see it from? What do you think about visiting and going to the top of famous buildings?

I want to try to write a clearer documentation of my travels for fun! I miss travelling so much and it’s nearly the two year anniversary since I left for Asia. I’m using my photos, my travel diary and my memories to compile a online journal on my blog just for myself, but maybe it will help you with your future travels too!

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