Petronas The Petronas Towers in the evening

A while back, we talked about Traveling Solo and received a ton of comments from all of you – sharing tips, your personal experiences, reaction of parents, recommendations for women friendly destinations across the globe and much more. So we decided to feature some of YOUR travel stories on P&B ! Hopefully, they will be of some help if you’re planning to take a trip yourself. Kicking off the “Solo Travel Diaries” series with P&B reader Ruchika Shankar’s escapades in Malaysia. Over to Ruchika.

“Malaysia was the first country I traveled to abroad as an adult. (I’ve been to Nepal as a teenager but I don’t think that counts). I happily looked at Air Asia introductory prices and thought how hard it could be to go? The biggest obstacle was convincing my parents that I could travel by myself. At 25, there are some things you shouldn’t question. After a lot of arguments and a lot of lying later, I had booked my tickets. Turns out it was the best thing I could have ever done for myself.

I went to Kuala Lumpur and Langkawi for 5 days. I flew Air Asia both ways and also KL to Langkawi and back. (Bangalore to KL is a 4-hour flight). Air Asia usually does cheap fares to Malaysia in summer, I just checked and it’s 7k one-way. (Hint hint)”

ViewView from the Petronas Towers

Visa and Arrival at the airport –  You can get a 30-day single entry visa online in 48 hours. Its costs INR 2700 and it is valid for 3 months. The KL airport is huge and there are so many things to eat, see and shop here. I landed around 2 pm and by the time I made my way out of the airport it was 5 pm.

The main airport, Kuala Lumpur International Airport (KLIA) is located 50 km outside of the city center. The fastest way to the city is by non-stop express train (MYR35 one way – around 550 INR) and will get you to the city in 40 minutes. Trains run every 15 minutes during peak hours and every 20 minutes at all other times. If arriving on a budget airline (such as Air Asia), you will arrive at a different airport, KLIA2. Transport to the city is very similar, with a fast train reaching the city in 40 minutes at the same price of MYR35 one way.

Budget – The currency of Malaysia is Malaysian Ringitt MYR (1 MYR = 16.5 INR). I spent about 15k INR on flight tickets, 6k INR on accommodation; I ate and shopped quite a bit so that totally depends on you. If you want to save on food you can always eat the yummy street food and outlets like McDonald’s, Burger King, Wendy’s and food courts at malls. Small restaurants serving local fare won’t hurt the pocket either.

I stayed at an Airbnb, and for the last day at the Hotel Federal. If you’re looking for Airbnb accommodations across budgets in the homes of locals, you can check out my Airbnb Guide to Kuala Lumpur Airbnbs across different budgets.

Culture :

  • It’s a nice cultural mix of Malay, Thai, Chinese, and Indian; mostly Tamil, and some foreigners.
  • People are quite progressive and you can wear whatever you want. If you’re gong to the mosques, temples or any religious monument, don’t wear sleeveless or short skirts. I had a scarf, which I used as a sarong over my shorts!
  • You can eat, grab a drink at a bar by yourself and shop at the local markets without any awkward glances or stares.
  • Also keep a light jacket/sweater because air-conditioning in restaurants, malls and the metro is aggressive.

Petronas and KLCC

Walking around the Petronas Towers and KLCC

Things to do in Kuala Lumpur :

(1) The Petronas towers – If you are an architecture buff you will love to see what they look like from the top and the inside. Personally for me it was a huge waste of money. They let you up to the 87th floor for about 1800 INR for 15 minutes, where there is a bridge connecting the 2 towers. And the view isn’t exactly great. A better thing to do is to view the Petronas towers during sunset from one of the bars around nearby. OR just see them lit up while walking around the neighborhood.

Drink with a viewDrink with a view

(2) National Museum – It offers a glimpse into the history and culture of the country – replicas of Malay houses, wedding scenes, hunting displays, local instruments and national costumes.

(3) Masjid Negara – This is the national mosque of Malaysia. The entry is free; make sure you’re dressed appropriately. It’s a great place to get some insight on the religious side of the country.

(4) Malls – Located at the base of the Petronas towers, Suria KLCC is easily one of the best malls in KL, both for shopping and food. Other malls like Pavilion, the Garden, Starhill Gallery are equally huge and house almost every luxury and high street label. The malls are huge and can be too overwhelming. But I loved the collections in H&M, Forever21, Zara (way better than what we get here), also check out brands like Topshop.  Lot 10 sells a lot of designer clothes at cheap prices. And the beauty stores everywhere have great offers and give out free samples. I got great deals on Asian and Korean products :)

Travel diariesReady for a day of shopping, asked a local to take a picture. The local’s finger found its way in the click

(5) Central market and China town – There are a lot of cheap goodies to buy here. A lot of fake designer stuff too. It’s also a great place to pick up local souvenirs and arts and crafts. And have course some great Malay-Chinese street food.

(6) Bukit Bintang is another great place to shop like crazy and eat great food.

(7) The San Francisco café – This strange café has a large pink (!) version of the golden gate bridge but the food, especially the breakfast is incredible.

(8) Malaysian sweets and desserts are really really worth splurging on. And so is the bubble-iced tea. Try the Malaysian sweet Nonya in various flavors.

Dessert

(9) Genting & Cameron Highlands – I took a cable car ride up to the Genting Highlands, but on top there’s just a hotel, casino and a couple of stores. I wasn’t impressed with it. Cameron highlands are known to be bigger and greener. This hill station and plantation is about 200km from KL, so plan in advance. You can go strawberry picking and tea tasting here.

(10) Batu Caves – The Batu caves which house a Lord Murugan temple was one my favorite places. I love exploring caves and ruins. There is a steep set of stairs, which lead up the caves. On the way you’ll meet lots of monkeys, puppies and pigeons. The pigeons here are not like Delhi pigeons, they’re very aggressive and will snatch the food right out of your hands even if you aren’t offering it to them. Keep a scarf to wear as a sarong because they don’t allow shorts or tiny skirts in the temple.

Batu cavesThe Batu caves statue. Can you see the steep stairs behind it ?

(11) The aquarium at KLCC – All the aquaria I had seen so far in India were little glass boxes with fishes in them. This aquarium was massive with floor to ceiling glass tanks with so much marine life, about 5000 aquatic creatures; it was like being inside some underwater show on animal planet!  There are some creatures like starfish, sea urchin, etc that can come out of the water so you are allowed to touch them if you want.

Things to do in Langkawi : Langkawi makes for a nice break from the KL city life. Think of it as the rich man’s Goa. I basically did nothing but eat, lounge by the beach and shop. But there is so much more to do if you are a nature, wildlife or adventure buff.

Eagle squareThe Eagle Square. The Eagle is symbolically very important to the people of Langkawi.

  1. Definitely get a fish pedicure. Cleans all the dead skin off your feet.
  2. Walking around in Langkawi, there are so many cute cafes and shops.
  3. You can book a boat tour to see the nearby islands.
  4. You can also explore the mangroves forests by boat. There is a bat cave with stalactites and stalagmites, which is over 300 million years old. Be warned though, it is filled with bats.
  5. The night market is full of strange things to eat and shop.
  6. You can also shop duty free here. There is a limit on liquor but on fancy imported chocolates there’s not! ;)

If you’d like, here’s a Complete guide for things to do in Langkawi.

FruitsFruits and fruit juices at a night market stall/ Ready to explore the mangroves on a boat

Important things to note before you go :

  1. Not all currency exchanges accept Indian rupees so convert at the airport or convert INR to USD in India before you go.
  2. You can wear whatever you want in most places in the city, but for certain areas like religious sites it’s better to avoid short skirts/shorts.
  3. Not a lot of street food vendors know English so if you’re vegetarian and don’t want to risk eating unknown things, its better to avoid them.
  4. It’s relatively safe to hang around late at night, although there are quite a few hookers and their potential clients around. I wasn’t comfortable, but it was still safe as no one really bothered me.
  5. Haggle hard in the street markets. Champions of Sarojini Nagar, show them your skills!!
  6. Watch the traffic lights carefully; you can’t just dash off across the road when traffic stops like we do in India as I learnt very quickly. Follow the locals.
  7. If you’re up for some major shopping, research the stores in the malls before going as the malls are huge and overwhelming. Impossible to cover in a day.
  8. Tourism is really important for their economy, so usually people are very kind and helpful. But don’t participate in activities like riding elephants, pictures with lions etc.

Last dayThe last day of the trip, walking around eating bread (they give out free samples at most bakeries) and one last stop at H&M!

If you have any questions about planning your trip, please do not hesitate to email me: ruchika@secondbreakfast.in 

About the author : Ruchika Shankar is a travel writer and blogger, who quit her lawyer job for eating, exploring and living out of a suitcase. She documents all her travel stories and goof-ups on her blog Second Breakfast, and you can follow her daily adventures on Instagram and Snapchat.

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