A weekend in Kuala Lumpur

Kuala Lumpur is a stone’s throw from Singapore. I’d been planning to check this off my list of Asian destinations. On the weekend of the 7th of January 2017, I had set off on a 24 hour getaway. Kuala Lumpur had not been on the top of my list of destinations. It’s not that I had heard anything negative about it… it’s just that several people whom I know quite well have told me that there isn’t much to really see or do there.

There are multiple flights that will get you to Kuala Lumpur from Singapore. I flew Scoot (operated by Tiger Airways) on a flight that lasted 50 minutes. It’s good value at less than half the price of the fare from Singapore Airlines… but by that same token, you get what you pay for. My flight departed at 9:15 AM, and in 50 minutes, I’d landed at Kuala Lumpur International Airport (KLIA). It’s a decent sized, modern airport that is, for the most part, efficiently run (just not quite as nice or as efficiently as Singapore’s Changi, but that’s a tough act to beat). Immigration took about 15 minutes to clear. There are long queues, but plenty of counters open to attend to arriving passengers.

Once clearing immigration, I saw the counter to buy a ticket on the KLIA express to get me to the Kuala Lumpur Central station. It is the quickest way to get into central Kuala Lumpur, taking 33 minutes (which the staff will very proudly declare to you when you ask them). A one-way ticket will set you back 55 Malaysian Ringgits (about SGD17.5). The return fare is RM100 (SGD32). A taxi ride will take you between an hour and 90 minutes and will set you back about RM150 (SGD50).

The landscape between the airports in the city changes. You start off in the middle of palm plantations that gradually give way to the concrete jungle that Kuala Lumpur is.

I first stopped at my hotel. I was staying at the Intercontinental Kuala Lumpur. I’ve been a loyal IHG member for years now, and every time I’ve stayed at one of the hotels, their staff have taken good care of me. This was no exception. I got a complimentary upgrade to one of their renovated rooms, and they gave me 20% off all my meals.

The renovated rooms at the Intercontinental Kuala Lumpur are huge. Their bathroom comes with both a shower and a full-sized bathtub. My first order of business was filling the tub and soaking for 45 minutes, before heading down to their bistro for lunch. Their lunch buffet is very elaborate, and they do serve Malaysian Chicken Curry – the best that I’ve had since a certain hole in the wall in Melbourne that I knew closed down (and which I never found an alternative to).

The Intercontinental Kuala Lumpur also provides a shuttle service every hour to the Petronas Twin Towers. Even if you miss it, the towers are less than 10 minutes away on foot, straight down the road. The hotel also offers a similar shuttle service every two hours to the shopping district (which I did not avail).

Arriving at the Petronas Twin Towers, I made my way to the ticket counter at 3:00pm. I had purchased my tickets online at their official website. If you’re planning on going to the top of these towers, I recommend that you do this. Tickets do sell out (especially for a sunset viewing) and if you don’t book ahead, you may end up being greeted by one of these signs.

The staff at the Petronas have figured out that there is a certain number of people who can be safely allowed into the tower for a viewing at a particular time. They’ve come up with a system which controls the flow of visitors and offers an enjoyable experience for everyone. When you book your tickets, you pay RM85 (or about SGD27) for a viewing at a particular time.

There is usually a viewing every 15 minutes. You’re expected to collect your ticket 30 minutes before your viewing slot. The staff will call guests scheduled for a visit at a particular time to pass through security. They issue colour coded tags, and then escort guests up to the Sky Bridge at the 41st floor. After spending a little time there – somewhere between 5 to 15 minutes – the groups are then led up to the viewing deck on the 86th floor where they spend another 15 to 20 minutes before being led down to the departure lounge a few floors below, and then finally being brought back to the gift shop and the exit.

The view from the top of the Petronas Twin Towers is fairly unspectacular. While you do get an elevated view of Kuala Lumpur, it’s a fairly uninspiring skyline, and not anywhere as interesting as Hong Kong, Melbourne, Singapore, Shanghai, Tokyo, or New York City.

The entire visit lasts for about 30 to 40 minutes, and while you do not get to spend a lot of time there, you’re not left jostling for elbow room and fighting overwhelming crowds.

No camera tripods, selfie sticks, or bags are permitted. They do offer complimentary cloakroom services where you can leave your belongings.

The viewing time slots around and after sunset sell out first. If you’re planning on visiting, book ahead. Note that tickets are non-refundable. If it rains on the day, you’re out of luck.

The Petronas Twin Towers are better viewed from the ground. They stand out from everything else around. If you’re planning on taking a picture of these two towers with your mobile phone, you might have a problem. Mobile phone lenses are not natively wide enough, so you’ll need a wide-angle or fish-eye adapter. A few enterprising locals will be close at hand to solve your problems, willing to sell you a mobile phone lens kit. I never got around to finding out how much they were selling them for (I was carrying my own), but the pictures below will show you what I mean when I saw that you need an adapter.

While the towers look good during the day, they really come into their own after dark. Do not limit yourself only to the view from the front. Take a walk behind these towers and go for a stroll around the lake at KLCC park. They have an arrangement of jets the have fountains synchronised to music, that begin playing after dark. They’re Malaysia’s take on the Fountains of Bellagio.

Beyond the lake, lies a sculpture of a breaching humpback whale at the entrance to Aquaria KLCC. The whole walk of the circuit can be done at a leisurely pace in about 30 to 45 minutes.

At the end of the evening, I headed back to my hotel, got a hot shower, some room service, and fell asleep in the firm, king sized bed. I was well rested the next morning, as I woke up at a decent time, had a hearty breakfast, and then packed my bags and caught a cab back to the airport. It was a relaxing vacation away from home, which allowed me enough time to switch off from my regular routine.

When I reflect back on this trip, I felt that the only thing that stood out and set Kuala Lumpur apart from any other city in the world was the Petronas Twin Towers and KLCC Park. There are lots of malls, and its a city that has plenty of ongoing development, but generally speaking, it’s a city where people live and work. It’s larger than Singapore, and much cleaner than Hong Kong. Traffic is heavy, but not bad.

Overall, Kuala Lumpur is a good getaway destination if you want a break for a day or so. You can comfortably experience this city and get some rest over a weekend. It’s something that one would do once, and would probably not spend more than two days and a night there. If you need to take a break, but don’t have too much time to spare, and would like to rest up, Kuala Lumpur fits the bill.

The accounts in this article are compiled from my own experiences from trips that I paid for myself. This post has not been sponsored – be it by any individual, commercial entity, or any other organisation. The opinions reflected herein are strictly my own.

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