A friend and I just returned from exploring South East Asia in June and I wanted to provide a just-back-report. It's a bit long, but I wanted to share the great things we found.
Arrival at the airport was easy, although it took over 45 minutes to clear immigration. We cleared immigration 3 separate times (due to the flights we chose) during the parts of the trip, and this particular time was the only one we had to wait more than 5 minutes. Definitely worth planning for the extra time just in case you are landing during one of those busy periods.
There were ATMS and Exchange desks near baggage claim. During our stay used ATMS from Alliance Bank, Al Rajhi Bank, Am Bank and RHB and were never charged local fees.
We paid for a taxi at the airport at one of the counters as you exit customs in the LCCT (Budget terminal). They gave us a ticket indicating the destination which we then gave to the driver. A car to the JW Marriott cost us about 92.40 MR and took about 45 minutes. Car was clean, new and well air-conditioned.
We stayed at the JW Marriott KL, but I've done that as a separate review.
The first order of business after arriving at the hotel was to deal with over 20 pounds of dirty laundry! Rates in the hotel were high as expected. The concierge was able to get us connected with a local laundry that picked up our stuff and returned it to the hotel later in the day. Cost was still higher than expected for Malaysia (about 18MR / Kilo for laundry and ironing), but still less than ½ of what the hotel would have charged. If we’d taken the time to find a place nearby, we likely could have gotten for 5-7 MR / kilo).
We used the KL Hop-On Hop-Off City Tour bus to get us to the major sites in the city. It wasn’t well advertised and we hadn’t seen it on TA, but the hotel concierge told us about it. Several of their buses had an open air deck at the back of the double decker bus, which proved to be a great way to get photos. Unlike some of the cities we visited, this bus had no set schedule, but it was usually 30-40 minutes between buses. It covers all the major areas you’ll want to see in KL except for Batu caves. Buses were clean, and narration (available in 6-8 languages) was good. English was used over the loudspeaker and there were headsets available for the other languages. There was no narration if you sit in the open air section. Occasionally they will make short photo / toilet stops along the way where the bus only stops for 5 minutes, but those aren’t consistent. Tickets are good for 24 hours from purchase. So if you started one afternoon, you could hop back on the next morning. On our last full day in KL, we took advantage of this and took one final ride on the open air bus to see the city. Being in the open air part made it much easier to take photos during the ride. Cost was 38MR / adult. http://www.myhoponhopoff.com/
We spent some time at the KL Bird Park – the largest walk-in aviary in the world. We used the hop-on bus to get there. Admission was 39 MR / adult. Being in the park with birds like peacocks, swans, flamingos, hornbills, cranes and pelicans roaming freely was a cool experience. We definitely enjoyed the open air aviaries more than the caged areas. Feeding the lorries / parakeets and having 3-4 birds sitting on each arm with a few on our shoulders was also lots of fun – although a bit overwhelming at first! There’s a donation/food purchase of about 2MR / person to do this, but once you paid, our food kept being refilled. Drinks and snacks were readily available inside for 3-4 MR. There is a spot where you can take photos with the birds. If they take them, it’s 20 MR or they will take with your camera (5MR / person) as well. The photos were great --- they took about 15-20 shots of the two of us on my camera for 10 MR! The park is definitely worth exploring --- we both had fun and really didn’t expect it. It’s a fun escape from the city. There are a couple of waterfalls and several trails to explore. There are western style restrooms, but they aren’t the cleanest. Beware of the monkeys around the snack areas ---- they want your ice cream as much as you do! http://www.klbirdpark.com/
The highlight the day was visiting the KL Menara Tower – the 4th largest communication tower in the world. We had afternoon tea in their revolving restaurant and got to enjoy the KL skyline in a peaceful environment. It takes about an hour to do the full rotation. The price included coffee, tea, juice or soda and either cake, fruit or ice cream. The Petronas Twin Towers were definitely the stars of the show, but there are so many other wonderful buildings to see. It was interesting to see all the places we’d been earlier in the day on our tour. We didn’t realize how wonderful our experience in the restaurant was until we stopped down on the observation deck which was packed! Lots of people, lots of children. It was very difficult to get close enough to the windows to get a clear photo of the towers here. Not sure there would have been as many photos if we’d only done the observation deck. Cost for afternoon tea was 40 MR. Since regular admission was 38MR, it was definitely worth it. They also have a buffet lunch option earlier in the day for 60 MR. Restrooms are much cleaner at the restaurant than the observation deck! http://www.menarakl.com.my/index.cfm
Info on the restaurant and options are the various times of the day can be found here: http://www.serimelayu.com/restaurants/angkasa_kl/index.html
Then we went out to Batu Caves – a Hindu temple North of the city. After climbing 272 steps to the top, it was quite a sight! It’s built into the natural caves and is lit by holes in the cave ceilings. We were there in the early afternoon, and the stairs were shaded by the rock, so it wasn’t as hot as I expected. Once you are in the cave, there isn’t much air moving, so it’s pretty warm inside. There are lots of wild monkeys, and it was fun to watch people feeding them. The monkeys also tend to drag everything out of the trash bins, so it isn’t the cleanest place. There isn’t an organized tour, so it helps if you know a little about the Hindu temples in advance so you have a better appreciation for what you see. While there, my friend took advantage of the opportunity to play with a Boa Constrictor (or maybe it was a python?) at the entrance to the cave — for a small fee, of course (10 MR). No entrance fee at the caves. We took a cab from the JW Marriott. Metered fare there was about 35MR and took 20-30 minutes. Our driver waited for us for about an hour while we explored the cave and drove us back for a total of 100 MR for 2 hours. Even if you didn’t have a driver waiting for you, it would have been no issue getting a cab back. Lots of shops, a few restaurants and money changers onsite if needed.
We had a late lunch next door to the Marriott at the Westin. They have a little place called Prego with a sidewalk patio. Great thin-crust wood fired pizzas and happy hour! A pitcher of Carlsberg was 45 MR during happy hour (which started at 2pm) instead of the usual 85MR. It made a great light meal before dinner! Service was good and the pizza was wonderful.
Cab back to the airport in a metered taxi the hotel got for us was about 100 MR.
The hotel was great, and it was very obvious that things had changed dramatically since my friend was last here 15 years ago. The skyline is completely different due to all the new construction. Shopping areas now carry the big name international designers in addition to the older malls. Overall, it feels like many other metropolitan cities.