Last year, for my first visa run, I had a whirlwind 5 day break, which meant 3 full days in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. I really enjoyed the diversity in the city—little India, China town, along with the Museum of Islamic Art (these are some of my favorite notable cultures). I love temples and mosques and real displays of culture and tradition. I feel very reverent to the significance and calm of it all. For me KL was an absolute playground. I was so excited to explore it all! And all of that wasn’t even my favorite part in the end! The canopy walk at the Forest Research Institute of Malaysia was a true highlight. And of course, if you visit KL, you have to go to the infamous Batu Caves.
First, I set out for China town. Having lived in China for 2 years, I always feel a pull toward anything remotely resembling Chinese culture. Straight off of the metro, I found a nice Chinese temple. I love the colors and shadows and incense of a Chinese temple. I love the orange offerings left for Buddha, the “frightening” beasts protecting the temples, and the open door. Rarely has my reasoning for entering a Chinese temple been questioned, not even so much as a wary glance.
I made my way to China town proper and felt like I could truly be in China when I saw a dragon mask, beautiful caged birds and a fake goods market. Classic.
Then I found another Chinese temple that reminded me of temples I’ve visited in Hong Kong. I love spirals of incense and colorful statues and altars. I also love the imaginative creatures and the rows and rows of characters built out of flowing strokes. It’s a little bit like walking into another world.
From the Chinese temple, I walked almost directly across the street into an Indian Hindu temple, complete with a tower of colorful statuettes over the shrine hall and small displays of deities around the main hall. It was so colorful and wonderful! Having been to India just the Summer before I was excited about this too!
Later, I also visited “little India,” Brickfields. When I visited, it was just before Diwali so there was lots of excitement in the area. There were tents selling new saris, candles, celebratory goodies, and lots of flowers. It was fun to see!
I also checked out the Central Market. The Central Market has been around since 1888 but the current building dates back to 1937. Now, it’s filled with touristy shops FULL of souvenirs (some nice ones!). If you ever visit, be sure to bargain- some of the prices are quite steep! There is a food court and fish spa among other attractions inside. I enjoyed both.
I also visited the National Mosque. It was a nice building with lots of interesting information about Islam. 15,000 people can fit inside! Having lived in Turkey and been awed by the works of Sinan and other amazing Ottoman architects (perhaps I’m spoiled), I wasn’t blown away by this building built in 1965. I will admit that it had a peaceful atmosphere, nice gardens, and some beautiful details.
On the other hand, I was really moved by the Islamic Arts Museum of Malaysia. They had some amazing examples of really delicate, precise works. So much of Islamic art is so carefully crafted. It’s truly stunning. This museum was really well organized as well- lots of nice displays and superb exhibits from Islam around the globe. I definitely recommend a visit if you ever find yourself in KL.
There’s still so much MORE to see in Kuala Lumpur! Jalan Alor is a famous street full of stalls and vendors selling street food. It was packed!
And of course, there are the Petronas Twin Towers, which are a symbol of Kuala Lumpur. Nearby, there are several posh malls and a nice lake for strolling around. Be careful after dark though, I got myself into a little bit of trouble on a small street nearby. This may have been a fluke, but you never know…
I am still SO excited about KL I have even more to share! But this is turning into a serious guidebook length post, so I will end it here and continue next week, with one more Chinese temple and two out-of-town highlights. I can hardly wait!
Update: Here’s my More Kuala Lumpur post.