I am quoting myself here : ‘Once a jungle of palms and banana tress and mud-inked rivers … now a jungle of concrete and a stream of pale-brown ass juice running through it.’ Nevertheless, it stole my heart.
Maybe it’s Bangkok, or Singapore (only a few minutes from K.L), Saigon, Manila or Jakarta you’ve arrived to first; likely, at some point you will cross paths with K.L. And in my opinion its the finest idea you could have, as far as cities are concerned all over the region.
Well. Each city has it’s unique dynamic, but for starters, the ex-pat/hooker environment further north is not everywhere and all over your face in K.L. The other thing is, coinciding with this, you can meet people as a normal human being, as opposed to an ex-pat or a tourist, as the locality is quite well-rounded and dynamic.
Arriving in the City
The train is hella cheap and will take you to KL Sentral for a couple bucks. If you are on a budget, which assuming you are -reading this- then you’ll want to stay in China town. You can walk 20 minutes from the central point of the city, to Chinatown, instead of taking a taxi or take another train to Pasar Sani station behind Chinatown.
*The First thing I did Bought a bottle of Bombay at duty free (alcohol is much cheaper at duty free unless its a makesift whiskey) and walked straight across from Sentral (anxious to eat some local food). Bought a Laksa, and a Lychee juice (poured in some of my Bombay). Still one of the best meals I have had in Asia.
Where to Stay
The cheapest when I was there, was Wheeler’s Backpackers(across from Raggae Bar), but it was hard to get in, at 5 bucks it was always full -I got in once. Instead, my first time in the city I stayed at Backpacker Travellers Inn (the second cheapest I could find after wandering), and on that roof top is where everything and all things started for me in K.L.
Hopefully, you make it and you meet the diverse little group that has gathered. There will be backpackers and so forth from every corner, and they will have either just started their journey or are ending it, on their way home. Either way, you are going to get a dump-truck load of stories passed around, and the whole thing is ‘orchestrated’, kept cool by the host: Chris De Silva -running his own show, lowkey on that roof for years, making it a staple in the city by his character and Word of Mouth
Eventually, he’ll take everyone on a pub crawl to Raggae Bar and onwards. But he is also very well traveled and plenty full of tips around the region. Also, in the four times I’ve stayed in that city, I hit that bar up each time and had a few lasting nights that turned too many corners, for the better.
From Sentral it is easy to arrive, and its a realy nice spot outside the centre. There is a small temple nearby, Hindu (as most are), and if you time it right you can get a lovely, and free, meal there. If you are a climber, there are even some routes to be climbed up these caves. Though for most the 200+ stairs is enough!
Chow Kit (MARKET)
You wanna see random, chopped up and unique edibles? This is the spot. It’s a bit of a walk from Chinatown (and the Roof Top Bar !) but its a great walk, giving you a chance to taste all the amazing street food of the city. You have Chinese influence, Malay, India and Siem. The whole friggin deal is on these streets. The famous Satays of Indonesia, the best ones I had were on these streets! The chili paste fried fish of Thailand, best one I had was here. Laska! Lychee Juice! Even sticky rice in bamboo, that I rarely saw but all over Myanmar. In Chinatown its obvious what you will find. In ‘India-town’ you can find another obvious. But the best Indian I had, outside India was at Changi Airport in Singapore. Chow Kit is a trip! And hella worth the dash. Its a culinary spectacle and if your as lucky as I to have a friend arrive in the city you once worked in a kitchen with, you’ll have plenty of stimulation to crack laughs about!
Well, there are no ping pong shows, but like I said, the Roof-Top Bar is going to start your nights on the right foot, meeting some hella chill travelers. A very similar dynamic to Friendly’s in Manila or Soi 1 Guesthouse in Bangkok -closed.
A drink isn’t exactly cheap in any of the bars, so having a few on the streets or in the graffiti covered Klang River running through Chinatown -radio-active river- is always an option as well. And you might get lucky to meet a nice tour guide, with a set of wheels to drive around the city and cause a little rawkus early in the morning with all the regular folk, going to malls and public areas, where they’d rather we not escape into (but stay in ‘our’ part of the city -Chinatown).
Raggae Bar, you will end up at. And there are plenty of little clubs in a district not far away. But again, it’s not going to be the wild night out you’ll get in Berlin, so Raggae isn’t exactly going to sell you short. The time you’ll have chatting it up with the lad that cycled across Russia, or Central Asia, will keep you busy enough. Or maybe some Southhampton crazy man that prides himself in digging up his connection within the slums of the world. And most likely you’ll find a partner of the opposite sex that is either so excited to get started on this journey of 90 days or absolutely nostalgic about the end of her 180 day bender across a dozen backwater countries.
You might even get to meet some bloke from Canada, on his way to Australia, to work in a Carnival, travelling the country and filling his pockets at the same time (and a chance to go with him). He might even have had his best mate from childhood arrive in the city and staying but a few meters from the Patronus Towers, in a swank-ass two bedroom suite, with a full kitchen and bathrobs for all. Don’t forget to pick up your Ukulele!
What else is great about the spot?
No matter what time of the day, it’s likely going to be nice weather and people are going to be up against wood bar tables drinking pints, people watching. The local men, in the same seats day after day, cracking on, will welcome you surely. And the odd ex-pat making his dash across borders from Thailand will also be around, and will happily tell you the tales of ‘Good Ol’ Days’ before the waves and waves and waves of tourists.
The shopping in Chinatown was the best I experienced in S.E.A actually, and it was affordable. I managed to get some pretty good threads and the bargain was pretty decent to make, unlike in Katu Bali, where the prices are jacked through the roof for Aussies on their 2-week holiday.
- Though things have changed I am sure, you still can’t just get a tourist visa for Myanmar: Discovering a World Apart anywhere, but you can here. And the flight is cheap. It’ll take a couple days to process, but you’ll have plenty of thanks to give for that, because you’ve got an excuse to wander these streets a couple more days -and talk smack with the ladies up at the Roof-Top Bar.
- Volleyball at sunset every day at either The Perenthian Islands to the East, or Langkawi to the West (check for season). And Tiommon Isl. to the South where I had a friend that stayed there nearly a year (good swell for surf). Absolutely fell in love with the hospitality and couldn’t pull himself away.
And of course there are plenty of options to check out around the inland regions north of K.L. with plenty of opportunity to find it, I will not waste time but point out one.
- If you want an alternative lifestyle of traveler-artists digging a scene, you could try out Malacca, an old colonial site, that is apparently worth the salt.
And of course, a journey of another kind awaits, with a ferry-boat heading to Sumatra, where the westcoast and its swell will bring you some seriously appetizing barrels to keep busy with and a whole other experience all the way into Indonesia.
Adventure starts right here in K.L and you’ll embrace it for real! For some you’ll lose a couple tears having to say good-bye, but I’m sure you’ll pass by one more time, anxious to hit that Roof-Top Bar and the city’s humble madness under towering oil buildings with a few other proud-to-beg nomadics.
No matter what it is, this hub of nations everywhere, will rock your senses no doubt, and I can promise that! The impulses will spark, and you’ll be hungry for more, you’ll love it and fall in love and then leave to the next spot and want to stay there too, but this city will stay in your memory-heart for years to come! Boo ya ka sha.