Malaysia’s thriving capital city is a colorful metropolis where every culture, religion, and taste smash together to form a new modern Asia unlike anywhere I’ve ever been before. Let’s visit Kuala Lumpur!
The beating heart of Malaysia never stops, 24 hours a day it thrums along never sleeping and always alive, giving off a unique feel of energy that I haven’t really encountered in other big cities before. With a feeling of youthful ambition, Kuala Lumpur is quickly elbowing its way up the ladder of big cities demanding a visit in and of itself.
Now, I’ll be perfectly honest here; in terms of places to visit Kuala Lumpur wasn’t at the tippy top of my wishlist. But I will say it had been on my radar for years and had increasingly piqued my interest as I frequently fly through there from New Zealand overseas – it’s a popular transit city from the Pacific to, well, anywhere really.
Hello affordable long-haul flights! And I had a stunning suite at the Ritz-Carlton waiting to embrace me when I arrived instead of a grueling airport layover followed up with another long-haul flight somewhere else.
Well, I could get used to that.
This time around instead of stopping through on my usual lightning trip, I decided to give Kuala Lumpur the attention it deserves, and spent a few days exploring both its famous features and rooting around trying to find the hidden gems that you know are buried here.
And KL didn’t disappoint, holy crap! Just you wait. Are you ready?
I’ve been back home for a week, and I’m still dreaming (and drooling) over the incredible foods, stunning sites to visit, and especially the friendly people who are all but willing to shout from the rooftops of how much they love their city.
Without any irony, I can say that Kuala Lumpur is a city that enchants, if you let it.
First things first, I am a small-town country bumpkin at heart. Big cities aren’t always my jam. I’m picky. Really picky. A city has to tick almost all of my boxes for me to rave about it. Spoiler alert – KL does.
But instead of just doing up another travel blogger list of all the same spots that you totally-definitely-MUST visit on a trip to Malaysia (yawn), I wanted to try something a bit different. I want to share my favorite memories from my adventure in a new country through words and photos. I want to bring you along with me on my trip and let you feel what I felt, discover what I discovered, hated and loved what I hated and loved. What do you think?
Now, come with me on this visual and slightly verbal journey to the heart of Malaysia with 10 of my most dominating memories. And of course, don’t hold back, and let me know what you think at the end. Now, enjoy!
Solo female travel is kinda my thing and has been for a decade. But we aren’t exclusive. I really enjoy traveling with other people who I get along with and who have similar travel values – i.e. let me be in charge and who love food. The people I explored Malaysia made the trip so much more fun than I think I would have had on my own.
I joined up with Trey Ratcliff in Malaysia as part of his very cool project 80 Stays around the World project with the Ritz-Carlton, a campaign to inspire art, creativity and presence. What a coincidence, those are all concepts that I’m all about in my own life and work!
I’ve been friends with Trey for years, a fellow American who lives near me in New Zealand, and for those of you who don’t know of him, he’s kinda of a big deal. One of the biggest photographers in the world, a bit of a humble gent who loves tech, every time we went on adventure together I couldn’t stop smiling and laughing! Now those are the people you want to be traveling with, right?
The story of Kuala Lumpur is best experienced through food, something, of course, I never object to when traveling.
From sizzling satays to spicy rice dishes to fresh everything, all the mangos, all the coconuts, if you only come to Kuala Lumpur, let it be for the food.
An absolute mecca for foodies, the mishmash of cultures and stories here really play into building KL into a city of feasts. Famous for street food, which of course I thoroughly enjoyed, I also made sure to check out more modern fares and local haunts, always on the hunt for the next best meal.
Growing up on the urban east coast in the US, the Ritz-Carlton hotels have always been a part of my childhood memories. It was a great joy for me to begin to return to them in adulthood, you know, once I evolved past the backpacker phase of my late teens and early twenties – shivers, glad that chapter is done and dusted.
Where the ancient rivers of Gombak and Klang intersect in Kuala Lumpur lies the stunningly renovated Ritz-Carlton, which let me tell you, is so cozy you might find it hard to leave and journey outside. The unaffected luxury of the Ritz guarantees a pleasant time for a traveler like me.
The friendliness of the kind souls who work here really made all of the difference for me, whether that was coming
home back to my room after a long day exploring only to find a bubble bath drawn and hand-written note from my butlers (yes, plural) to the thoughtful touches hidden throughout the property, it was definitely my kind of place to escape to.
And they have a library restaurant, need I say more?
Kuala Lumpur is the textbook definition of a modern-day melting pot.
Cosmopolitan and fresh, its three main ethnicities are Malay, Chinese, and Indian, all of which coexist and bring their own languages, cultures, religions, histories, traditions, and of course, foods to mix together and form a modern-day Malaysia.
While I’m no expert on commenting on cultures, I can say that this was what fascinated me the most about Malaysia, how one place would remind me of China, while others more spots in Southeast Asia. Of course it’s easiest to see when you visit some of the mosques and temples in the city, but I would recommend really opening your eyes and your heart while you’re there and asking locals to share some of what they love about their city with you.
Trust me, you’ll learn a lot.
I’m such a sucker for colorful places – I mean, have you seen my Instagram?
A veritable rainbow in real life, I’m always drawn to the more vibrant places of the world, and Kuala Lumpur is no exception.
From the incredible street art to the street food markets to the temples, mosques and other noteworthy spots, KL embodies the philosophy of why paint in beige when you can have a rainbow?
Kuala Lumpur is humid and hot. That’s all. Other pasty blonde folk of Scandinavian descent like me best prepare yourselves.
Kuala Lumpur is full of smells that are utterly unique and different from what I’ve grown accustomed to in the mountains of New Zealand. I don’t know what’s gotten into me, but the more I travel, the more attune I become to the way places smell.
And of course memory and smell are completely intertwined.
As soon as I stepped out of the airport in KL, I was hit with the warm humidity that reminded me of my earlier trips to places like Bali and Bangkok, the urban smell of diesel and simmering fried woks.
Perhaps what was most unique was the incense in the temples. That’s what I think of the most when I remember the smell of KL.
Trey’s a total night-owl. I’m a bit of a grandma.
The city really gets going when the sun goes down, the temperatures drop and people come out in droves. Kuala Lumpur at night is next level, and while I struggled to stay away past 10pm and keep up with Trey on his evening wanders in search of the best views of the city at night, I did manage to make up to one of the many rooftops of the high-rises that decorate the skyline.
A trip with Trey wouldn’t be complete without one city lights photo! How did I do?
High-tea in the afternoon is very much a thing in Asia (and of course other places too), and often when I’m in these big cities I indulge. I mean, who wouldn’t?
There is just something so divine about dressing up and sitting down with friends in a beautiful space (just to enjoy yourself), sampling delicious exotic teas with smaller savory and sweet goodies. Why yes, I’ll have two of everything!
The Ritz-Carlton in KL does a fabulous afternoon tea that’s worth treating yourself to, if only to just sit and relax in the wonderfully decorated lobby lounge, but I also highly recommend taking afternoon tea at the St. Regis to see another part of Kuala Lumpur.
It was absolutely sweltering when we made our way out of the city center to visit the Putra Mosque, a place I had heard about but really wanted to clap eyes on.
Completely pink, it’s probably one of the most memorable mosques I’ve ever been to.
For a big city that seems a bit impenetrable, Kuala Lumpur left me feeling nothing but rosy happy thoughts. My memories are all positive, filled with noodles and colors, of delicious spices and happy smiles among new friends. It’s a place I wouldn’t hesitate to return to again, and get to know a little better. Thank you Malaysia!
What do you think? Have you been to Kuala Lumpur before? What are some of your favorite memories from a recent trip somewhere? Share!