Wherever you’re travelling to in Asia (or Europe, for that matter) it’s often a good idea to have a break along the way. Preferably, a city where there’s great food, good shopping and friendly locals to make things more pleasant and a convenient transport network to help you get around.
Kuala Lumpur, very different now to the city I first visited in the 70s, ticks all the boxes. And it’s a lot easier to get to, thanks to low-cost Air Asia X flights from Australia.
Here are six reasons to recommend stopping off in KL for a few days, even if you’re only going as far as another Malaysian destination like Penang or Langkawi:
- These days, KL has some of the best malls with all the leading brand names under one roof. Prices are comparable with (or mostly better than) other Asian cities and there’s a tax refund system in place, similar to those in Europe. Probably the most attractive and comprehensive mall is Suria KLCC where the Twin Towers peer down over the busy streets…and there’s a viewing area on the 86th floor which will take your breath away (hint: don’t look down if you suffer from vertigo). Other notable malls are Pavilion, Quill, Berjaya Times Square and Lot 10, to name a few. And don’t forget the famous night markets and the hawker stalls for local shopping of all kinds…and street food!
- KL has arguably the best value quality accommodation options compared with its neighbours. Like most cities, there are different precincts or districts where you can stay, but our favourite is the KL Sentral area right at the terminus of the Airport Express train, the monorail and the subway system. At KL Sentral there’s the hip new Aloft Hotel for great value; or the chic Le Meridien for French-inspired décor and cuisine…and a resort-style pool and gym area for relaxing after a long flight. The smart 33rd floor Club Lounge is definitely worth paying a little extra for.
- Where to start when discussing Malaysia’s variety and spicy surprises? Around KL Sentral you’ll find the pungent aromas of Little India…best South Indian food outside Kerala. In Le Meridien, there’s the French-themed Gastro Sentral for casual meals, cheese and wine, or their Italian trattoria La Favola rated the top in Kuala Lumpur for Sardinian cuisine. Apart from these, street food in KL is some of the best in Asia. In the “haute” range, there’s a new restaurant called Babe not far from Sentral…here, celebrity chef Jeff Ramsey presides over an exceptional Japas (Japanese tapas) menu which is worth a trip to KL in its own right.
- Having tried dodgy dentists in other Asian cities, we’ve found the standards in KL to be just as high as in Australia at about one-third the price. In fact our dentist of choice graduated from the University of Queensland!
- Malaysia’s mix of ethnicities, religions and customs makes this a worthwhile stopover for visits to the National Museum, National Mosque and in general terms, just meeting and interacting with the friendly locals.
- Just an 8 hour flight away on Air Asia X, then a 30 minute fast train ride on the KLIA Express, makes this a non-hassle visa-free experience. If you have plenty of time, there’s the airport coach to KL Sentral for about $4.
– Phil Hawkes