Accommodation: Okay so I wasn't exactly taking the 'cheap' option here, but if you are a travelling duo, then the price is usually affordable. Original backpacking place we tried out was relatively, not hugely cheap and pretty much everything fell apart there, including the beds and the doors. So we ran opposite to Hotel Nan Yeang, which was clean, central and pretty luxurious compared to the rest of the places we had stayed. Although the bathroom is shared, again there's a good shower. It is a Chinese run hotel, a bonus for me to practice my Mandarin. We payed about £5 each per night. Not as cheap as we hoped, but they have good information and airport taxi service.
Places to See: Apart from the obvious Petronas Towers that overlook the city and a hefty entrance fee (depends which point you see, ranges from 15MYR-38MYR), there is also the Menara Kuala Lumpur, which is equally gigantic and you get to see the Petronas Towers from there. The entrance fee is a little less, but not a huge difference and you need to get to a park and have the option of climbing up to the tower or get a free shuttle at the entrance. The time we went clashed with various festivals, also reflecting the multitude of ethnicities that live in Malaysia. Batu Caves is 13km north of the city and reached by bus 69 (1.20MYR) from Medan Pasar, Chinatown. The admission is free and the temple cave is guarded by the largest Murga (Hindu Shiva statue) in the world. Thean Hou temple was hosting its annual Chinese New Year festivities, a little weird and wacky with hundreds of Chinese people snapping photos, not so spiritual. There are plenty of little snack eateries lining the temple, alongside souvenir shops as well as shows to entertain for free. Catch a good dragon dance here for the festivities. There is a free bus that goes there from Hotel Midah in Kg Attap and KL Sentral during the new year. Otherwise just enjoy the plentiful food offered in Chinatown and Little India.
sleeper train services to Butterworth (a city on the border of Malaysia) for about £25, which you can book online in advance or buy at the station. You can continue further to Singapore as well. But the best thing is, you can get through the border in a matter of minutes. All they need to see is a valid passport. But make sure to take your bags and then you will be allocated back to some seats near the front carriage (as the train separates!) It is a long journey, around 27 hours so make sure you have enough snacks and entertainment. Once you get to Butterworth, take a bus that costs 30 MYR (follow the signs to the bus station) for about 5 hours to KL. The taxi to the main backpackers district (Jalan Sultan) is about 15MYR. They also have intercity railway named the KTM going to Singapore and Bangkok, and other cities in the Malaysian Peninsula.
Transport: KL's transport system is pretty well-established and convenient. Just buy coin tokens to get around on the metro, one of the longest automated driverless metro systems in the world, the Kelana Jaya Line (don't worry, it doesn't resemble The Simpson's Monorail). They also have a similar Oyster (Touch n Go) system if you are staying for a long period of time. Single fares are around 0.37 MYR.
A 27 hour journey of twiddling thumbs, charades and cards, as well as one border crossing equals ending up in a tiny town named Butterworth. The name was a bit suspect I must admit, and so we headed out of there within the hour, catching a bus to the main city Kuala Lumpur. It was another humdrum of a city, packed with skyscraper banks and sparkling shopping malls. Not really what I had in mind, and so we ended up in the other end of the spectrum and town aka Chinatown.
The red lights illuminated the rowdy, bustling crowd as well as the small snack stalls lining up Jalan Sultan. And the original backpacker's hostel just seemed too dilapidated after 32 hours of travelling. Hence a dash across the road, and voila, a slightly more upmarket room and an adequate, horizontal bed. It was luxury compared to being cramped up on a sleeper train. After an ample-sized meal, it was time for beddy bye byes.
The metro was a smooth engagement as we headed to KL's main sightseeing spot aka the Petronas Towers. And it was capitalism in phallic form, so was quite glad that it was filled that day. Instead we went to the secondary rising tower, the Menara Kuala Lumpur- says it all really. Except the only affinity it had with a menara was the perpendicular form. It paralled our own BT Tower in London, with its flash appearance and metropolitan atrium. For some bizarre reason, attached to the structure was a variety of animals ranging from horses to monkey in the park's zoo. Similarly, the views were considerably eerie, as storm clouds began to approach the horizon. An eclipse alien-like shape shrouded the city, with only flecks of sunlight beaming down rays across certain buildings. And we were amongst the clouds at that height.
Getting sufficiently soaked on the way back was customary having seen the tempest brewing from the tower. Monsoon season was well on track for Malaysian climes. We were fortunate with the skies the next day when we headed to the Batu Caves, 13 km north of KL. Eventually we stumbled over a cliff side with a mammoth sized golden Shiva statue guarding the entrance to this religious site. Hundreds of worshippers climbed the steep stairs surrounded by cunning little monkeys, attempting to steal anything detachable. Neighbouring the pesky but adorable monkeys as well as general crowd was filming for what seemed to be a Sri Lankan movie. A cheesy looking hero peddled up and down the stairs, miming and dancing in a Hawaiian shirt; being laughed at and admired, all at the same time.
Inside was a whole other kettle of fish. A swarm of Hindu prayers echoed through the abyss, and statues encompassed several corners of the cave. It was time for another Hindu epic explanation to those who seemed a little clueless to these weaponed figures, (again, thanks mum for those nightly stories.) Definitely a good place for a South Indian curry.
At night time, you can catch Pasar Malam (night market) in Chinatown, as well as the Central market next door to it. Downtown is a vibrant and colourful kind of habitat, away from the money-hungry feel of the Petronas Towers. And the colours are extended to Thean Hou, an amusement park of a shrine, but no less exhuberant. People might expect a spiritual haven to escape to, but end up in a flashing jungle. The camera lenses glared at the main arena, desperate to make an impression with incense sticks and prayers. So don't expect the Dalai Lama to pass by any time here.
Thean Hou is a little difficult to get to if you don't happen to be amidst the festivities, so maybe not something to go out of your way for. Instead, on the way to Hotel Midah from Chinatown, is the Chan See Shu Yuen temple; the clan house (kongsi) of the Yuen family. It is the largest and oldest in KL, with the present version completed in 1906. A well-preserved family heirloom for all to be inspired by.