Have you ever turned up at a tourist spot absolutely beside yourself in excitement, only to encounter:
- lackluster tour guides who, like you, are clearly wondering what on earth they’re doing there
- scary, moth-eaten exhibits with descriptions in a language that seems to be English but makes no sense no matter how many times you read it
- that everything that can be broken, is broken. And there’s no toilet paper.
Malaysia has its fair share of depressing tourist attractions, but thankfully we also have some awesome ones to restore balance to the force. Here’s our pick of tourist spots in Kuala Lumpur that don’t suck:
#1: Lot 10 Hutong, Jalan Bukit Bintang
If you wish to start a war, get a tourist to ask a bunch of Malaysians to recommend a place to get a taste of our local fare. Many a harsh word has been hurled, friendship strained, and innocent tabletop thunked in the passionate defense of our favorite hawkers.
Thank heavens a stinking rich billionaire came along, decided to combine the nostalgia of his hawker-hopping childhood with his penchant for moolah-generating investments, and started up Lot 10 Hutong. He enticed our country’s greatest street food legends to set up shop in the sprawling basement of Bukit Bintang’s iconic Lot 10 mall.
Vendors include Kim Lian Kee (jet black Hokkien noodles), Chua Brothers (fish balls that take 14 hours to prepare) and the famous Jalan Silang beef ball noodles, Soong Kee.
So you get a fine selection of Malaysia’s best hawker food, served up air conditioned comfort, smack in the middle of KL. So much win.
#2 KL Bird Park, Jalan Cenderawasih
Be warned: when you enter the KL bird park, you WILL see a lot of birds. A heckuva lot of birds.
Even though it is, after, all, a ‘bird park’, and even though your expectations are rather high after forking over RM27 for entry (foreigners pay RM50 though, hah, whipping out the ole MyKad never felt so good), it doesn‘t quite prepare you for the sheer density of feathered fauna in that place.
That’s why the KL Bird Park is awesome.
The 20.9ha park is home to over 3,000 birds from 200 species around the world. Most birds fly freely in the park and have long grown used sharing their home with camera touting tourists. It’s stroller friendly, making it popular with the families.
#3 KL Craft Complex, Jalan Conlay
For a brilliant introduction to Malaysia’s craft scene, stop by the KL Craft Complex. You can pick up Malaysian crafts at reasonably inflated prices, have a tête-à-tête with artists at the artist’s colony while getting your caricature done, or wander through centre’s neat little craft museum.
A definite highlight is the Craft Village. For a minimal fee, you get to sit under the tutelage of experienced craftsmen to create your own take-home culturally accurate artpiece. The Batik painting workshop (superb value at RM15) has amassed a loyal fanbase, and is especially popular as a ‘girls day out’ kind of activity.
All you have to do is choose a wax drawing you like – or if nothing calls your name, draw your own. You’re then given some brushes and an assortment of psychedelic colours that spread like magic on the cloth.
#4 Forest Research Institute Malaysia (FRIM)
After a few days in KL, the novelty of being stuck in traffic and squashed like sardines in the LRT begins to wear off for tourists. This is the perfect time to point their frazzled eyes to FRIM – a splendid 545 hectare forest reserve in Kepong dedicated to tropical forestry research.
There are many, many things to do at FRIM – camping, a museum, waterfalls, nature walks and picnics to name a few – but the canopy walk is the real ‘high’light (geddit?).
Just when you think you have a moment to catch your breath from the 30-minute steep clamber up to the top of Bukit Lagong, be prepared to lose it again – he walkway spans 150 feet, and at 30 feet above the ground, you’re standing higher than the general treeline. Plus, you’re walking on two narrow planks which shudder like jello with every step, or whenever the wind blows.
Tickets cost RM5 (or RM10 for non-Malaysians), don’t forget to purchase them from the information centre before the climb. Those ticket collectors up top are brutal and will not let you pass without one, even if you bring out your puss-in-boots eyes.
#5 Suria KLCC / the Petronas Twin Towers
We may call them ‘twin jagungs’ and saucily liken them to Madonna’s famous Jean Paul Gaultier-clad assets – but all Malaysians are secretly very proud of the Petronas Twin Towers. How can we not be? The 88-story superstructure is truly beautiful, especially up close and by night.
At the feet of the towers lie upmarket shopping gallery Suria KLCC, itself home to some non-sucky attractions. Underwater aquarium Aquaria KLCC is excellent, but it’s — how do I say this delicately — bloody expensive.
It’s RM53 per adult, or RM40 if you produce a MyKad. The Petrosains Science Discovery Centre is, happily, friendlier to the purse. Manned by well-trained, courteous staff, you can easily keep the kids (and yourselves) entertained for the better part of the day.
Adjoining Suria is a delightful 17 acre green lung, featuring a splash park, childrens playground, jogging paths and an expansive fountain display cum light show. All FOC.
Central Market Kuala Lumpur began life as a wet market in 1888, narrowly escaped demolition in the 1980s, and is now an iconic landmark of the Malaysian cultural landscape. A quick squizz on Tripadvisor reveals a recurring comment about the place – the air conditioning is great. Oh yes, that’s certainly a plus point, but Central Market has plenty going for it apart from its chilled interior.
The place has literally hundreds of interesting shops. A chunk of these sell the usual tacky, mass-produced knick knacks, but there are also many that boast authentic traditional Malaysian crafts, work by local artists and good quality cultural products.
Kasturi Walk next to the market is a covered walkway teeming with buskers, artists and food vendors eager to strut their stuff. Activities are varied and practically inexhaustible – you could get a henna tattoo, have your name written on a grain of rice or let dead skin get nibbled off your feet by hoards of hungry little fishies.
#7 Genting Highlands (It’s about an hour away from KL, so we’re counting it in!)
Before you start flaring your nostrils and rolling your eyes like a disdainful horse, hear me out. There is one redeeming feature in this no-longer-cool, money-sucking, perpetually-under-construction (and also, some swear, very haunted) highland city located at the border of Selangor and Pahang: It’s the cable car service to the top.
The Genting Skyway Cable Car is remarkable for many reasons. It’s world’s fastest mono cable car, a veritable cheetah amongst its peers, with speeds reaching 6m per second.
The 3.38km ride passes high over beautiful ancient rainforests, so it’s not uncommon to see monkeys looping about the trees and hear the wailing cries of hornbills as you break through the cloud line. Each cozy gondola seats 8 and has large panoramic windows to make the most of the pretty scenery below. The 15 minute ride is a real bargain at RM6.40, and, if you’re below 90cm you hop on for free.
Editor’s Note: This article was originally published in July 2016. Since the information it contains is still relevant and useful, Coconuts editors have brought it back from the archives — rest assured, we’ve reviewed and updated it to make sure it will still serve you well, dear readers.