This post is a part of my Sponsored Reader series. The KL Journal Hotel in Kuala Lumpur kindly agreed to pilot this idea with me. Crissy from the Philippines was the first lucky traveller to be chosen, and recently spent 3 days at The KL Journal exploring Malaysia’s capital. Check out her review of her experience below, it’s a good one!
It’s been three weeks since I left my corporate job in Dubai and started this solo journey to see the world. As another restless soul that got bitten by the travel bug, it took me a year to save up, months of planning and preparation, and a whole lot of courage before I finally managed to book my one way ticket. The freedom I felt since I first stepped off the plane has kept me going to discover places and learn things I’d never known before.
One of those things turned out to be this opportunity to visit Kuala Lumpur. Bren reached out to his readers, and I was lucky enough to be chosen to get hosted by The KL Journal – a four-star boutique hotel – and experience life as a blogger for three days. They say life begins at the end of your comfort zone, and this is so true, especially when you want to try something new. Now I truly believe that the universe will open great things ahead to those who are willing and bold enough.
I arrived in Kuala Lumpur in the middle of the afternoon heat, by bus from Singapore. At first I thought I was in Manila. The city is packed full of cars, malls, street vendors, restaurants and train stations. The funny thing about travelling in Southeast Asia as an Asian is you don’t feel like a tourist because people always think you are a local! Of course KL is very safe, but this gave me a nice sense of comfort when walking around the streets here.
It took some walking to reach the hotel, but luckily the KL Journal was really conveniently located and wasn’t hard to find.
I was welcomed by the hotel with a sweet dessert in a very trendy room. Of course the first thing I did was roam the room to check everything out. The bathroom with the dual shower head was one of the first things I noticed! The art on the walls gave the room a real street vibe. And of course before going anywhere I had to lie in the very comfy bed for a few minutes after my long walk under the sun. How refreshing to have a real hotel bed, after sleeping in so many dorm rooms!
The hotel is perfectly located in the quiet streets of Bukit Bintang but close to main road of Sultan Ismail. The windows gives you a great view, but it’s just far enough that you will hardly see nor hear any cars buzzing down the street.
After that it was off to get a drink. I’d been given a free voucher for a cocktail in the rooftop bar by the hotel’s infinity pool. A lovely bartender suggested I taste their new cocktail (I forget the name) while watching a local band play. I felt like I had won a raffle draw of a three-day vacation in a four-star hotel! I guess this is the travel blogger life.
In my little travel notebook, I started to check through the places I’d listed while planning my trip: KL Tower, China Town, Little India, Central Market, Merdaka Square, Batu Cave, Lake Garden, Petronas Twin Towers (of course). I also checked out the messages from Couchsurfing to read the suggestions some locals had made on the public trip I posted.
In case you haven’t heard about Couchsurfing, it is a travel app I often use to meet new people, both travellers and locals, to make friends around the world.
One Couchsurfer suggested to go to Jalan Alor for dinner. After checking it out on Google Maps, I find out it’s only five-minute walk from the hotel!
On my walk to Jalan Alor in Bukit Bintang, I noticed the amazing diversity of the city. The crowd was a mix of Malay, Chinese, Indian, Middle Eastern and Western tourists watching the street performers, drinking and smoking shisha, shopping for souvenirs, kids getting Arabic henna tattoos. I almost felt like I was back in Dubai, listening to Arab music and Indian crowds chatting in the streets. Although Dubai is an expat city too, most people often tend to gather by nationality. Meanwhile, I felt like KL had a different freedom and diversity, especially in the busy and lively streets of Bukit Bintang.
Arriving in Jalan Alor turned out to be another surprising moment.
The street was packed with tourists walking their way through the crowd, people eating on the tables along the street, vendors calling the attention of the people walking by, and smiling faces of tourists from trying all the new and exotic foods.
I was overwhelmed thinking about where to eat when finally a friend from Couchsurfing caught me and suggested some local Indian food nearby to avoid the crowd.
We ended up in a very nice and cheap Indian restaurant called Restoran Nasi Kandar. Even some western tourists were there avoiding the crowd of Jalan Alor.
Here you pick your own food, up to six different courses to fill your plate. Of course, they have a variety of curries cooked in different ways. How cheap? I had two main courses, rice and vegetables for 8 MYR or 2 USD. Pretty good!
After dinner, my new friend showed me around Changkat – a street next to Jalan Alor, glowing with lights and music, perfect for people who want to party after dinner or stroll around Bukit Bintang.
This also makes Kuala Lumpur interesting, the name reflects the place itself, as I came to know that Bukit Bintang means Starhill – a hill like streets in Changkat, and star-shapes beaming in different colours, hanging in the trees.
After that, it was back to the KL Journal for a much needed sleep!
The next day I woke up in kickass mode, ready for a long day of exploring.
I started with breakfast in the hotel restaurant. The KL Journal runs a buffet breakfast each morning, so I was able to have a really delicious and healthy breakfast which I haven’t had in a while!
Also meeting me for breakfast was the hotel’s marketing manager Jess (blogger business meeting!) who was great to chat to about the city and my travels.
The restaurant has a really cozy vibe, so after breakfast I sat there while I listed down my plans for the day.
Some advice a local friend gave me the day before was to take the free city buses and surprisingly, one bus stop was located just a few seconds walk from the hotel.
These buses have 3 routes (green, red and purple) which take you to all the touristy places like Sri Mahamariamman Temple, Central Market, Merdaka Square, KL Tower, National Mosque, and of course, the Petronas Twin Towers.
Although it took me a while to wait for a bus to come, knowing I had the whole day to explore gave me the flexibility to grab free stuff like this rather than booking a full day-tour or private taxis. Metro lines are everywhere in KL too, but I got confused in understanding the map so I decided to skip it and try again later.
Some of the places like Central Market, Jamek Mosque and Merdaka Square were close enough to walk too.
Here’s a quick tour of some the spots I visited:
Clockwise from top left:
Sri Mahamariamman Temple is the oldest Hindu temple in KL, founded in 1873, it is situated at edge of Chinatown in Jalan Bandar. From its inception, the temple provided an important place of worship for early Indian immigrants.
Sultan Abdul Samad Jamek Mosque is one of the oldest mosque in KL located at the Klang River.
Central Market is arranged in a stall concept, representing the traditional market that has existed in Kuala Lumpur since the 1800s. Notable are two-storey and single- storey buildings resembling the kampong-style houses representing the many ethnic groups living harmoniously in Kuala Lumpur.
Merdeka Square or Independence Square is a former British cricket field and the place where the Union Flag of UK was lowered and the Malayan flag hoisted for the first time at midnight on 31st August 1957.
Visiting those first three spots made me realise that aside from diversity, KL is very clean in the major areas, organised, and most of all locals are friendly and speak English very well.
From there I got on the third bus and it brought me back to Bukit Bintang right on lunch time. I always like to search for something cheap and authentic, usually local food, and I found one in Jalan Utara Imbi. Restoran Pau Kee is 43 years old and serves Chinese traditional foods like noodles, dumpling, and wantons.
I love Chinese food so I tried their signature Ipoh with silky texture noodles which was so good!
The afternoon was hot (as usual), so after eating I decided take some time to relax and stroll around the hotel.
One of the unique features at The KL Journal is the Workers Union in Level 1. It has an open working space for businessmen or digital nomads, and they also have meeting rooms and a small library to work from. Perfect for anyone working on the go.
I decided to sit here for a while, put down my phone and check some books to read while lounging by the bar.
After recharging, another friend from India I met the day before joined me to visit the two skyscrapers of KL. In moments like this, you realise solo traveling doesn’t have to be lonely. “There are no strangers on the road, only friends you haven’t met yet.”
We talked about a lot of things – about why he moved to Malaysia, his life back in India and some advice of places to visit outside KL. Like many people that I met, this guy is another one who left the comfort of his home to try and be free from the usual 9-5. Travelling gives you a lot of opportunity to meet like-minded people from different backgrounds, and you will realise you are not alone.
We took the pink bus again, and I felt the excitement to see these skyscrapers, especially to see how they compare to the Burj Khalifa in my current home of Dubai.
The great thing I noticed about KL is there are a lot of freebies, and the skyscrapers were no exception. Walking close to the gate, there is a shuttle van service waiting for tourists to take them to the main entrance of the KL Tower, the 7th tallest freestanding tower in the world. We opted to walk up and take the few stairs to see the full view appear slowly as we approached.
Then, fifteen minutes walking from KL Tower, we arrive at Malaysia’s most famous landmark – the stunning Petronas Towers. It really looks like a double of the Burj Khalifa.
After seeing the skyscrapers, we sat waiting for the sunset in the park in front of Suria KLCC.
The Adhan from different mosques called for evening prayer and the musical fountain show played when the clock ticked past 7pm.
In every major city in Southeast Asia where there is a famous landmark (like the one in Marina Bay Sands in Singapore) tourists from all over the world come in to witness this vibrant show of different colours and music, which expresses the city’s unique taste.
Tips: Coming back to Bukit Bintang, don’t miss out on the walkway from Suria KLCC. It’s pretty convenient and entertaining to see a lot of shops, arts and graffiti while you make the short fifteen-minute walk.
After all that, my day still wasn’t over as I’d been invited to the Couchsurfing weekly meetup! We shared things about our own countries and just listening to their stories was a great way to learn a lot about the world.
It’s also amazing that meeting these people, I made a new local friend who took me to Batu Caves, National Palace and Thean Hou Temple the next day. This generosity from random strangers still amazes me until now.
It was also perfect as I wanted my second day to be about exploring a bit further from the city centre. My new friend picked me up at 7am to get to Batu Cave, the perfect time to avoid the crowd and afternoon heat.
Batu Caves is a limestone hill that has a series of caves and cave temples in Gombak, Selangor. It takes its name from the Sungai Batu (Stone River), which flows past the hill. The cave is one of the most popular Hindu shrines outside India, and is the focal point of the Hindu festival of Thaipusam in Malaysia.
National Palace is the official residence of the Yang di-Pertuan Agong, the monarch of Malaysia. It is located along Jalan Tuanku Abdul Halim in Segambut, KL.
Thean Hou Temple is a beautiful Chinese temple that was built by Hainanese living in Malaysia with elements of Buddhism, Taoism and Confucianism.
From the beautiful nature at Batu Cave, the impressive Islamic architecture of National Palace and finally the Thean Hou Temple – one of the prettiest Chinese temples I’ve visited so far – it really was a perfect morning of sightseeing.
After we were done, I was invited back to have lunch in the hotel restaurant.
I decided to treat myself with a Western style dish of mixed seafoods, and a cold iced tea that I’d been craving for. The hotel’s menu is an interesting mix of local and Western cuisine for a very affordable price. Perfect for those hot afternoons when it’s a struggle to leave the hotel, and those lazy evenings too.
For my last day in KL, only three places remained unticked: Chinatown, Little India and my favorite place to escape a busy city – a park, like KL’s Lake Gardens.
Chinatown and Little India are perfect for those who want to do a lot of shopping. While cheap gadgets, textiles, cheap accessories and souvenirs can be found in Chinatown, Little India has more things like jewellery shops, authentic Indian dresses and restaurants.
Tips: Chinatown and Little India are very close to The KL Journal. It takes only a thirty-minute walk, or booking a Grab is easy and affordable too.
Shopping wasn’t really on my list of things to do, so I just took a quick glimpse and then headed to the gardens.
Lake Gardens (or Perdana Botanical Gardens) ended up being my favourite place in KL. The park is huge and there are plenty of small sections to enjoy. It’s great to chill, do some people watching, nature walking and just learn about different flowers, plants and trees.
An escape from the hustle and bustle of the city like this makes me think that after living in two different big cities, I’d be happy to live a simple life somewhere close to nature where I felt more connected to myself. It was really the perfect place to wrap up my time in KL.
The next day, it was finally time to check out. Although there were still so many things to discover, I had an amazing time exploring Malaysia’s capital and can say it’s definitely a city worth your time when travelling through Southeast Asia!
Of course, this whole experience wouldn’t have been possible without the new friends that I met here, and the hotel’s warm welcome. I would like to give a big thank you to The KL Journal Hotel for giving me this first-time opportunity, to be hosted by a top boutique hotel! And of course to Bren for choosing me and giving me the opportunity to share with you my very own KL adventure.
Thank you for reading!
The KL Journal Hotel is one of the premier boutique hotels in Kuala Lumpur. Perfectly located close to tourist hotspots, food options and public transport, we’re sure you’ll find it the perfect place to stay for your Kuala Lumpur adventure. They offer very affordable rates too! You can check out their special offers and book directly on the KL Journal website by clicking here.
The KL Journal hosted Crissy’s stay. All opinions are her own. If you would like to be my next Sponsored Reader, be sure to sign up to my newsletter to hear about future opportunities.