This was my first time traveling to the Asian continent. Asia has definitely been on my list for a long time, and I could not give up on the opportunity when I found a roundtrip ticket from NYC to Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia for less than $500. I traveled to Malaysia during their rainy season, which is why the flights were inexpensive. Luckily, it only rained once during the entire time I was there. I knew once I was in Malaysia, traveling to other countries in Southeast Asia would be super inexpensive and by inexpensive, I’m talking less than $50 from one country to another.
Malaysia is located in Southeast Asia, and shares borders with Thailand (North), Indonesia (South), and is connected to Singapore by a bridge (South). Malaysia consists of 13 states, Kuala Lumpur being one of them, and three federal territories. The main people living in Malaysia are Malaysians, Indians, and Chinese. The main religions practiced are Chinese, Hindu, and Muslim.
After talking to one of the Grab (form of transportation, similar to Uber & Lyft) drivers, I learned that the Muslim faith is an aspect of the Malayan culture that is being pushed on everyone who lives in Malaysia. Praying takes place five times a day and it is done via loud speakers so that everyone in the community can hear it.
I was able to hear it from the Airbnb early in the morning, and at night when I had returned. In school, all students must take Arabic to fulfill their language requirement. Learning Arabic helps students at a young age learn how to read the Quran.
The main language is Malay. An aspect that surprised me was the fact that in Malaysia people drive on the right side, which is completely different from the United States! Took a couple days to get used to it, and then it almost felt completely normal. (Normal for me as someone who is not used to it.)
I would say the U.S. dollar goes a long way in Malaysia. The currency exchange is $1 USD = 4 Malaysian Ringgits. Never did I feel as if I had an expensive meal or an expensive Grab ride. I know inexpensive/expensive looks different for everyone. However, main meals ranged between $5 USD and $15 USD including a drink (usually a smoothie, juice, etc.).
I would highly recommend downloading and setting up a Grab account before going to Malaysia. Grab, similar to Uber and Lyft, is super inexpensive, and it is economically cheaper than using a city taxi. When ordering a Grab ride, you can either pay with your credit card/debit card or you can pay the driver in cash. I only ever paid in cash because I was unable to verify my credit card account as a result of not being able to receive SMS messages. Hence, why I said to make sure to set up your account before heading to Malaysia.
Where to Stay
Please please please if you travel to KL, stay at The Face Suites. You will not regret it. The Face Suites, located in the downtown area of KL is both a hotel, and a residential space. Mainly known for its infinity rooftop pool with stunning views of the Petrona Twin Towers, KL Tower (which is the building you see with me in the infinity pool), and the entire downtown.
If you wish to stay in a residential space, you can find the listing on Airbnb. (If you have never signed up for an Airbnb account, use this referral link to save up to $55 on your first stay.)
There is actually a number of listings on Airbnb for the opportunity to stay in The Face Suites. The cost was about $50 a night. 4 nights, plus service and cleaning fees, and taxes was a total of $274. Divided by two people is not bad at all.
The views, style, location, gym, restaurant, and great staff working in The Face Suites makes it totally worth the money!
First stop is breakfast! Walked from The Face Suites to Gravy Baby, famous for cocktails and pies. I’m a huge avocado toast fan, so I ordered an avocado toast (21 ringgits). I know I know. You’re probably thinking, you went to Asia and the first thing you eat is an avocado toast?! Ughh, I know – I couldn’t help it. To be honest, I wasn’t ready to try something new yet. I wanted to slowly ease into it.
I love the vibes at Gravy Baby. There is a lot of lighting, mirrors, the music was chill, and it gave me a movie filming type vibe. Our server was extremely nice and took the time to recommend places to visit and restaurants to eat for first timers. His recommendations honestly helped us plan our entire itinerary for the rest of the trip.
For more information on what is on their menu, please visit here.
After breakfast I knew I wanted to visit the Batu Caves! Gravy Baby to the Batu Caves was about a 10 minute drive. I have seen so many photos online via Pinterest and Instagram of the Batu Caves. It is definitely a must see tourist attraction!
Batu Caves are a Hindu temple of worship consisting of three main caves and shrines. There are 272 steps up to the top where you can enjoy the skyline of the city. Important note – when you visit the Batu Caves you must not be exposing your knees or shoulders. If you happen to visit with shorts, short dress and/or skirt, they do have cover ups that you can rent. I would recommend going early in the morning because there are many tourists in the afternoon. Made it a bit difficult to capture a photo without people in the background especially on the colorful steps.
Keep in mind there are monkeys in the area and they do not hesitate to make physical contact with you if they notice you have food. The monkeys will literally jump on you and take items that are easily accessible to them, i.e. food, hats, glasses, and more. When I arrived at the Batu Caves I was in disbelief, it was honestly surreal. The photos online are great, but I promise you it doesn’t compare to seeing it in person.
After the Batu Caves we ordered a Grab ride to the Petronas Twin Towers. FYI – if you want to order a Grab you would have to leave the Batu Caves, take a left and walk to the closest hotel. It was about a 5 minute walk. From there you can connect yourself to the wifi and order your Grab. Batu Caves to the Petronas Twin Towers was about another 10 minute drive. Petronas Twin Towers symbolizes the Malaysian culture and their advancement on the world stage. The towers stand at 88 stories high. The design of each floor plate in the towers are based on the Islamic geometric forms of two interlocking squares creating a shape of eight-pointed stars.
Right next to the Petronas Twin Towers you will find Suria KLCC, which is one of KL’s shopping centers. The high end stores are located in the first tower. We spent some time walking through the mall, and then we ended up at Skybar located in Trader’s Hotel, which is connected to KL’s convention center. Skybar has food, drinks, a pool, and a perfect view of the Petronas Twin Towers. For more information on Skybar please visit here.
After all that walking we were ready for dinner! We made our way back to Suria KLCC and had dinner at Mama San. I ordered prawn (shrimp) pad thai with tofu (38 ringgits). Although it was a bit spicy, which I really don’t like, I was able to eat past the spice – it was absolutely delicious. Highly recommend eating here. Mama San has outside seating with a nice view of the park.
Breakfast at Gossypium Restaurant & Coffee Bar, located in The Sphere. We were supposed to eat at Farm Food Craft, but they opened late, and once they did open they said we would have to wait another 30 minutes until the kitchen opened. We weren’t trying to wait that long. We were hungry and ready to start our day to get the most out of it. I ordered a Salmon Benedict (27 ringgits) and mangocado smoothie (16 ringgits). Highly recommend eating here – food was pretty good, couldn’t complain.
Next stop – Genting Highlands. 45 minutes from the center of KL, Genting Highlands is it’s own little city offering indoor and outdoor theme parks, tourist attractions, restaurants, bars, shopping centers and more! Take a Grab to the Genting Highlands Premium Outlets, from the outlets you want to ride the Awana Skywalk (18 ringgits roundtrip), which will take you all the way to the top of the hill, about a 15 minute ride. The roundtrip ticket does include a stop at Chin Swee Caves Temple. I was in complete awe! So happy our server at Gravy Baby mentioned this place. When I was doing research on KL, Genting Highlands did not pop up. You can honestly allocate a whole day to explore this area.
Next Stop – Thean Thou Temple. It is one of the oldest and largest temples in Southeast Asia. The temple was about 50 minutes from Genting Highlands. Not too bad of a drive, and we were only in the temple for about 30 minutes. It is a must see tourist attraction when visiting KL.
From Thean Thou Temple we headed to Chinatown to eat at Opium KL, which is the number 1 Asian cuisine in all of KL. FYI – you are unable to order a Grab from this temple. You would need to walk down the hill, take a right and order the Grab from the MCBOA building. At Opium KL, I ordered noodles with sea king prawns (48 ringgits) and cheesy banana fritters (26 ringgits). OMG how much I love banana fritters. Absolutely delicious – definitely in the top two of best desserts I have ever had! It’s basically fried bananas with usually vanilla or coconut ice cream, aged cheddar and caramel. For more information on Opium KL, please visit their website.
Breakfast at The Red Beanbag, known for the best breakfast and brunch. Highly, highly recommend eating here! The food was absolutely delicious, and they cater to most, if not all dietary restrictions. Since I knew this was going to be my last breakfast in KL, I kind of went all out.
I ordered Gone Bananas! (25 ringgits) from the Sweet & Health Treats section of the menu, a side of scrambled eggs (7 ringgits), and an apple-dragonfruit juice (10 ringgits). Gone Bananas! consist of brioche french toast served with banana brûlée, popcorn, Nutella caramel, and vanilla ice cream. I kid you not, it was my favorite breakfast in KL.
For more information on The Red Beanbag, please visit their website– you can also find them on instagram for some food inspiration.
Next Stop – Chinatown! We walked around looking for street art. We experienced a Malaysia and Singapore art exhibition. This is an art event that happens every year. It is pretty cool for art lovers. Halfway through exploring Chinatown, we made a stop at The Whale Tea so I can enjoy some milk bubble tea. They have free wifi if you are in need! We wanted to visit the Botanical Garden, but it was closed for the day. Definitely could have planned that better. Tear tear – it’s okay, maybe next time.
Dinner at JP Teres Restaurant located on the ground floor of the Hyatt Hotel.
JP Teres serves authentic Malay, Chinese and Indian cuisine. They offer indoor and outdoor seating.
I wasn’t super hungry so I ended up ordering a small order of cheese naan (25 ringgits) and popiah (25 ringgits), which are fresh spring rolls with braised turnips, prawn, boiled eggs and peanut.
Highly recommended, especially if you are wanting to try authentic Malay and Indian cuisine.