Kuala Lumpur isn’t the most pedestrian friendly city in the region, but that’s not to say you should spend your entire time in taxis, buses and elevated trains. Bukit Bintang is our favourite area for flashpacker digs in Kuala Lumpur and while it isn’t home to much in the way of tourist sights itself (unless department stores count), it’s within walking distance of some interesting areas.
So this morning, I left my guesthouse on Jalan Sahabat (which runs off Tengat Tong Shin) for a breakfast stop at the Restoran SK Corner then started on my merry way. First stop was the grand Puduraya Bus station on Jalan Pudu to get my bus ticket for tomorrow’s trip to what is sure to be a fiercely wet Kuantan on the east coast. Then I continued on my merry way for another 20 minutes to Masjid Jamek.
Sitting at the confluence of the Gombak and Klang rivers (they’re really just glorified stormwater passages in downtown) Masjid Jemak is arguably the most beautiful mosque in the city (certainly more charming to my eye than the National Mosque). On a previous visit I’d eyed it briefly but had not taken a good look around. Guess I should have, as of a week ago it is closed for renovation until “…”. Sounds ominous. The experience though does reinforce that traveller mantra — if it’s there now, go see it now, don’t save it for tomorrow!
I wandered around to the far side and ended up on a very pretty tree-lined laneway that backs onto the Sultan Abdul Samad Building, which I think is now a court of some sort. Grubby backpackers are not allowed in, but it’s very pretty, with mock almost-towers that for some odd reason had me thinking of Leeds Castle in the UK.
From here, I stumbled onto the National Textiles Museum, which I didn’t even know existed. I’m no fashion horse, but the museum was quite interesting, even more so thanks to the nuclear-powered air-con, and I spent a solid hour in here wandering the various displays in the two floors. I was the only guest, and while I’d say it isn’t worth travelling across the country to see, if you do have an interest in the traditional fabrics found across Malaysia and other pretty treasures, this is worth a look in.
The museum is across the road from Merdeka Square, which was once a decidedly oddly shaped cricket ground but today has a field, a really tall flagpole, the Royal Selangor Club with its faux Tudor facade, and busloads of Chinese tourists taking photos of the flagpole and each other.
From here I backtracked slightly, crossing back over the “river” and heading down to Pasar Seni. It’s a tourist market, but if you’re in the market for souvenirs and gifts for the family and friends back home, this is an easy one-stop stop. There’s also a walking street beside it with places to eat, but I was on a mission — a lard mission.
Once this close, I simply had to continue along Jalan Tun Tan Cheng Lock to the intersection with HS Tun Lee to Kedai Kopi Lai Foong where I scoffed down a super yummy, lard-loaded char kuay teow. Continue along a little further and you’ll reach a sugar cane stall where you can balance the lard with some sugar. Balanced diets are important.
Sated I continued back Jalan Tun Tan Cheng Lock till it becomes Pudu and then mozzied on back home. Just after the street change (but before the bus station), look for the temple on a laneway off to your left. There was nothing going on there today, but on a previous visit, it was exploding with a ceremony of some kind — the music was amazing.
The above took about three hours and I walked on past lots of other spots worth investigating, as the area has Little India to the north and Chinatown to the south. At times KL can be an awful place to walk in, but as long as you start early, take your time and drink (and eat!) a lot, it can be a fascinating way to explore the city at a leisurely pace.
The Travelfish newsletter is sent out every Monday and is jammed full of free advice for travel in Southeast Asia. You can see past issues here.