5 reasons to go and see Kuala Lumpur and 5 to not to

Posted by on September 21, 2013

Kuala Lumpur-1 (3)I have been to Kuala Lumpur, or KL as most travelers call it, three times now. It was my starting point for travelling Malaysia and my transport hub for getting to other countries here in South East Asia. And it has struck me with mixed feelings. To be honest, I don’t really like the city and I’ve been to other cities which were wy more fascinating and captivating to me. But a lot of travelers do love it and I was wondering what makes me not like it and what others find great about one of Asia’s biggest metropolises. Here are 5 reasons why one should go and see KL and 5 reasons why you shouldn’t bother:

5 reasons why you need to go at least once:

  1.  Kuala Lumpur is just one Asia’s biggest, busiest and liveliest metropolises. It’s a melting pot of different cultures and religions which is unique in Asia.
  2. You have to see the Petronas Towers at least once and take a proper picture of them.
  3. The street food in KL is amazing and cheap. Whether it is Chinese, Indian or traditional Nonya cuisine, KL is a great place to eat your way through Asia.
  4. If you want to go shopping, KL is the place to be. Electronics at Low Yat Plaza, the latest and most expensive fashion at Pavilion or just strolling through one of the many malls, you will find everything to
  5. KL is a great place to arrange visas for other South East Asian countries. Embassies are very cooperative and processing times are short. In combination with its function as a regional transport hub, KL makes for a great base for exploring South East Asia.

5 reasons to not even bother:

  1. Kuala Lumpur is definitely not the real Asia. Very much developed, the city is just overloaded with flashy shopping malls, electronic outdoor advertisements and high rise buildings. It has a certain flair but it is definitely way less authentic than other Asian cities. It feels rather sterile.
  2. The city has not too much too offer. Besides the Petronas Towers and a China Town that is „more fake than anything else“ (quote from a Malay local), the city is not really rich in attractions.
  3. KLs general state of mind seems to revolve mostly and foremost around consummation and hedonism. A very much Western phenomenon, but the city takes it to another level.
  4. Being a prime destination for tourists from Arabia, you will see a lot of fully covered women trotting after their husbands who are on the contrary dressed like every other Westerner. Also something that one probably didn’t have in mind when thinking of South East Asian exoticism.
  5. The climate in KL is terrible which makes exploring by foot a sweaty and exhausting challenge.
Rocking the claypots in Chinatown.

Rocking the claypots in Chinatown.

Sizzling hot ...

Sizzling hot …

Last thoughts …
Personally Kuala Lumpur just didn’t float my boat. I didn’t like the atmosphere and I was less motivated to explore the city, something that is rather unusual for me. But it was more of an abstract feeling and a very personal and subjective one. Other Asian metropolises were way more captivating for me. But, the best thing is probably to go and see the city at least once to make up your own mind. And afterwards please let me know what you thought of it, maybe I can add another point to the list above.

30 Responses to 5 reasons to go and see Kuala Lumpur and 5 to not to

  1. Nerija S.

    I love those rainbow fountains! And the naan and eggs look really good 🙂

    In #4 on your list of reasons not to go, do you mean that it seems like a double-standard that the women are expected to fully cover themselves while their husbands can wear Western-style clothing? And what do you mean by “Southeast Asian exoticism”?

    • Philipp Dukatz

      Hi Nerija, sorry to not have made myself clear here. I exactly meant that. That double standard seems pretty ridiculous and paradox. And also, scenes like that I didn’t expect to see in an Asian country. I mean I knew that Malaysia is a muslim country but I can easily go without seeing the “Ninja Women” everywhere. By Sotheast Asian exoticism (or is it exoticness) I mean the exotic and special things things you expect when thinking about SEA. Malaysia didn’t offer very many of those. Once commenter before you, I think it was Miguel mentioned the tagline of Tourism Malaysia: “Malaysia – Truly Asia”. My experience wasn’t all about that and rather the opposite. In half a day Myanmar I have experienced more true Asia than in three weeks Malaysia. I hope this makes it a bit clearer. You been to Malaysia? What are your thoughts?

      • Nerija S.

        Yeah, that makes sense. Usually when I see the word “exoticism,” it’s in discussions like this, about how people (often Americans) view other cultures (usually non-Western) as being very strange and different.

        I’ve never been to South East Asia, but reading this blog definitely makes me want to!

  2. Jeff | Planet Bell

    That is a good, honest look at the city. With so many incredible destinations in the area, I think it is better to skip it or only spend a day or two there.

    • Philipp Dukatz

      Hi Jeff, that’s how I feel about it. I think it is good that I went to see but I definately don’t need to go back there. You been there as well then? Cheers, Phil

  3. Miguel

    That’s how you blow the “Truly Asia” tagline. 😀

    • Philipp Dukatz

      Hi Miguel, that is right. I have thought that a lot of times while over there. It rather the most untruly Asian country. I got to Yangon, Myanmar and have seen more true Asia in half a day than in three weeks Malaysia. Sorry to say, but it’s true. But hey, others love it … Anyhow, thanks for stopping by my blog. Cheers.

  4. Vitaly

    Kind of sounds like the reasons not to travel to KL overweight the reasons to do so. Cool post, very interesting – though I think I’m gonna have to spend my money elsewhere after reading it 🙂

    • Phil D.

      Yeah, if you have the choice and only limited time and money I would sure opt for another place. But if you are in the area you can might as well stop in KL. But not for longer than like 2 days or so ….

  5. wanderingcha

    perhaps Malacca is ‘more Asia.’ would still love to see KL though. 🙂

    • Philipp Dukatz

      I think so. Melacca definately had a nicer feel to it.

  6. Travefy (@travefy)

    Great post! And very thoughtful analysis to weigh any travel decision.

    • Phil D.

      Hey there, thanks again for your feedback. You always have to make choices like that when travelling long term. Yeah, but usually you can only really tell what a place is about once you have been there.

  7. abid

    My in-laws have organised a week in KL. I am 43 years old, and a father of two. I hate busy cities. What the hell can i do to try and enjoy myself? I am really not looking forward to it, but for the sake of my immediate family…

    • Phil D.

      An entire week in KL? Way too long…. My suggestion would be to take the bus down to Melacca and spend a couple of nights there. It’s relaxed, especially during the evenings when the daytrippers are gone.

  8. Amanda

    I am currently in Kuala Lumpur and I have to agree with you. I cannot wait to leave!! On holiday to celebrate my 40th birthday KL is our last stop and I am underwhelmed. We have been to Bali, Bangkok and Koh Samui on this trip and I wished I had have spent more time at those places!! 1 day of men staring at me lewdly and my chest (covered) and I am ready to leave.

    • Philipp Dukatz

      Yeah Amanda, I can understand. Wasn’t my fav place after all. Sorry to hear about your experience…there is something wrong if men treat wome like that. That staring is just plain weird … But at least you had a great time in BKK and Bali… I still love it there. Thanks for stopping by Amanda…. take care and have a safe trip home …

  9. khing

    Everybody has a certain perception or preconceived notions towards the word Asia particularly South East Asia or what and how it should be. I think it’s safe to say that the city doesn’t meet most travellers’ expectations when they are travelling in South East Asia and what we expect in South East Asia. The city is a financial hub and a business centre. If you are looking for a more relaxed, laid back “exotic” atmosphere, Penang and the East Coast are more suitable I think. Good luck.

    • Philipp Dukatz

      Hi there, I think you are right.. it might have to do with expectations. Each to their own as they say. And yes, Penang is the nice choice in my humble opinion. It is good to have seen and experienced KL though…. I have actually spent quite a bit of time there and in the end got even a bit familiar with place while waiting for other visas. Thanks for your feedback and best of luck. Philipp

  10. Palupi Dian Hspsari

    Oh my..I am planning to visit KL soon and just check on net about KL and somehow I am stuck here reading your opinion about KL. I hope that I wont be disappointed haha.. Just a short business trip hopefully…

    • Philipp Dukatz

      Hi Palupi, I don’t think youwill be dissapointed if you have the right mindset and the right expectations. And since it is a business trip, it will be nice no matter what. You can combine work with leisure and exploring. That is always nice, no mater where you are. Sample some good food, check out the towers… go to the Skybar and you will have an ace time in KL. Enjoy and happy travels … Philipp

      • Palupi Dian Hspsari

        Aha…! U just give me an idea. any good skybar? He he.. Some clubs?

        • Philipp Dukatz

          Skybar in the Trader’s Hotel.. they also host parties. Go there, the view and the place are amazing … Check it out and let me know howit was ..

          • Palupi Dian Hspsari

            Wow, thanks alot. From KL, my next schedule is China. Btw, u can add QUILIN on your list if u plan to visit China one day..

          • Philipp Dukatz

            Will do so, China is still on my list

  11. Nate Rabe

    LIved in KL for 2 years. All of what you say about the ‘negative’ sides are absolutely true. But it is also absolutely true that they are superficial comments. KL is a charming city, full of local neighborhoods, hidden cafes and a very vibrant cultural/street life. I spent hours each weekend wandering through the ‘ugly’ concrete alleyways all around the city and found friendly people, wonderful food and plenty to pique my interest. So like any other place on earth, if you want to find something of value in ANY place it is there. But if you’ve got an idea that says Asia has to look and smell and sound like “x’ then KL definitely doesn’t match up with India, Thailand or China.

  12. M.Hasan

    Love how you are being honest in your review,well said.i thought about visitting KL in a year or so but maybe i’ll try Putrajaya….my friend said it’s quiter there (i like calmer cities) and it looks nice although it doesn’t look nearly as “exotic” as other places at all.Nice review.

  13. AthiahSis

    Well, maybe you can go to Sabah or Sarawak to explore more about different culture and heritages, hop on island and enjoy more peaceful holiday rather than Kuala Lumpur (a very busy city). i suggest you try to pay a visit Penang, Pahang(National Park), Terengganu and Kelantan.

    • Philipp Dukatz

      Hi there, yeah there is so much more to see. I visited Penang which I really liked. I could even imaine basing myself there for a few weeks or months. Sabah and Sarawak are definitely on my list .. hopefully soon hehe