Kuala Lumpur is another destination that wasn’t part of our travel plans. This changed, however, when Inna and I started flying AirAsia, a Malaysian low-cost carrier whose main hub is in this city. After one layover (from Hong Kong to Sydney) here, we started thinking about actually visiting. And so, the next time we used Kuala Lumpur as a hub, we gave ourselves a three day layover, plenty of time to see what was inside.
Inna and I were really impressed with Kuala Lumpur. We didn’t know much about this city (we didn’t even know Malaysia was a former British colony) and so we didn’t know what to expect, but what we found was a major metropolitan area with wonderful people, great infrastructure, tons of culture, and lots to see and do.
One of the most striking aspects of Kuala Lumpur was its Islamic influenced architecture. Take the above Sultan Abdul Samad Building for example; this is a British era government building that combines Islamic and Hindu architecture into a style known as Indo-Saracenic Revival. This style was popular amongst European architects at the turn of the 20th century.
Jamek Mosque is another of Kuala Lumpur’s Indo-Saracenic Revival buildings. Built in 1909, this is one of the oldest mosques in the city, and like the Sultan Abdul Samad Building, it was designed by a British architect. Located at the confluence of the Klang and Gombak rivers, this is the central building in the most beautiful view in the city.
Here are two other notable mosques in Kuala Lumpur. The one on the right is particularly notable, as it is the National Mosque of Malaysia. Built in 1965, this mosque features a bold, modern design that was meant to symbolize the aspirations of Malaysia as a newly independent country (Malaysia gained its independence from Great Britain in 1963).
Despite being a majority Muslim country, Kuala Lumpur features numerous Christian churches as well as Buddhist and Hindu temples (no synagogues though, at least none that we know of). Most of these buildings aren’t as grand as the mosques, the one exception being the Sri Mahamariamman Hindu Temple pictured above.
In addition to its British era and religious buildings, Kuala Lumpur also features incredible skyscrapers. Above are some of our favorites, although the city’s most spectacular skyscrapers are not included because I am saving them for the end of this post.
Moving on from architecture, Kuala Lumpur’s other big attraction is shopping. Inna and I stayed in Bukit Bintang, the city’s main shopping district, and the place was amazing. Whether it was street vendors, booths, Chinatown, or the giant Pavilion Mall (450 retail stores, plus boutiques, plus the largest food court I’ve ever seen), the shopping here was excellent.
Did you see the Christmas trees in the previous Pavilion picture? Those were there because we visited Kuala Lumpur during Christmas, and despite this being a majority Muslim city and country, Kuala Lumpur celebrates Christmas better than anywhere I’ve ever been.
I’m telling you, Christmas here was amazing!
Merry Christmas everybody! Hope you enjoyed your holiday as much as we did!
The last part of Kuala Lumpur we explored was its parks. Kuala Lumpur has several grand parks, the largest of which was a bird park/botanical garden/planetarium/butterfly park located walking distance from downtown. We went to the butterfly park (pictured above), and we will discuss it and the rest of this area in our next post.
Another awesome Kuala Lumpur park is KLCC, located at the base of the cool skyscraper I’m saving for the end of this post. Unfortunately, we lost our pictures of KLCC park, so just know that it (especially its wading pool and skyscraper views) was beautiful.
Technically, the third park we visited isn’t a park, but it is close enough for this post’s purposes. I am referring to Cave Villa, a collection of Hindu caves located eight miles north of downtown. Above is the entrance to Ramayana Cave, the first of three caves we explored in this area.
Ramayama Cave isn’t too big, but it is large enough to house the entire story of Rama, told with statues. Rama, the seventh avatar of the Hindu God Vishna, was known for his adherence to religious edicts, overcoming many hardships and even going into exile to do so. However, while in exile, Rama’s wife was kidnapped. After a long and difficult search, Rama found his wife and waged war against her captors, eventually setting her free. At this point Rama returned to civilization, where he was crowned king.
The second cave we explored was the Art Gallery and Museum Cave. The art gallery portion of this cave was similar to Ramayama Cave but the lighting was more creative. Also, this cave’s statues depicted various aspects of Hindu mythology, not one story. As for the museum portion of this cave, we’ll cover that in our next post.
The Art Gallery and Ramayama Caves were interesting, but they were blown out of the water by Cave Villa’s most famous cave: the Batu Caves. Formed 400 million years ago, the Batu Cave system consists of 20 caves and is located 330 feet above ground level. Humans first settled these caves ~150 years ago, although indigenous tribes used them for shelter long before this. Today the caves are dedicated to Lord Murugan, with a 140 foot statue of him standing beside their entrance.
It was quite a climb to the Batu Caves, a climb that gives us amble time to discuss Lord Murugan. Unfortunately, all the articles I’ve found on Murugan are either confusing or poorly written, so I don’t known his story myself. But I do know he is the Hindu God of War and Victory, and that he is known by many names, the most common being Kartikeya.
While the Batu Cave system consists of twenty caves, two stand out. The first is the Dark Cave (pictured above), one of the most isolated ecological zones in the world. Approximately two kilometers of this cave have been surveyed, with everywhere but the immediate entrance being pitch black. The caves contain an estimated 200,000 bats and 250 unique invertebrate species, many of which are endemic, including a breed of trapdoor spider that is considered the rarest spider in the world.
The Batu Caves’s other famous cave is Temple Cave, located way at the top and housing one of the ten holiest Murugan shrines in the world. It was a long trek getting to this shine, but it was worth it; the shrine and its location were stunning.
At this point, we finished our Batu Caves visit. This means that all we have left is the one I’ve been hinting at throughout this post, the last attraction we visited and the most famous attraction in the city.
This is the Kuala Lumpur Tower, the seventh tallest observation tower in the world. We want to get a good view of Kuala Lumpur’s greatest attraction, so lets look at it from here!
As you’ve probably guessed, the site I’ve been describing is the Petronas Towers. These towers, the tallest twin towers and former (from 1998-2004) tallest buildings in the world, are architectural landmarks. Standing 1483 feet tall, these were the first world’s tallest skyscrapers not located in the US, and their completion marked the first time in almost 100 years that the tallest building in the world was not in the US. Everything about these towers is iconic, the most notable aspect being floors in the shape of interlocking squares, a shape that represents unity, harmony, stability, and rationality in Islam. These towers were so incredible; they are two of the most impressive skyscrapers Inna and I have seen on our trip.
With that, we come to the end of this post. But Kuala Lumpur offers so much, we still have a whole second post’s worth of material to cover. I hinted at this when discussing Butterfly Park and Museum Cave, now it’s time to check this post out!