Let me start out by saying that it is really freakin’ unbelievably humid here.
Let me also say that it is really freakin’ unbelievably awesome here.
Kuala Lumpur is a big, cosmopolitan city, but it’s also very approachable in a lot of ways. As we discovered in Langkawi, the food in Malaysia is absolutely amazing. That has continued to be the trend here in KL, with Malaysian foods like roti canai, a deliciously flaky flatbread unlike anything I’ve ever had. Curries are also amazing, sweet without being too spicy. And the nasi lemak, with its sticky rice, sambal sauce, and fried anchovies? All I can say with regard to that is yum!
Kuala Lumpur, and really Malaysia in general, is unique in the world for being a muslim country with a high degree of diversity. More than a quarter of its citizens are ethnic Chinese, and there is a large percentage of Indian residents as well. They all share an unequivocal friendliness that unifies the different cultures into one that is truly Malaysian.
This is a city of extroverts, so be prepared.
It’s also pretty crazy here. The night life is like that of any other major city, one of streets lined with pubs open until 3am, loud music, and sketchy street food open 24 hours. Now add ridiculous humidity and heat that never lets up, and you have a recipe for a sweaty night out.
Getting around can be an adventure as well. Traffic in Kuala Lumpur is unreal. There are few transit options, and walking is liable to get you flattened by a speeding car. Want to buy an imported car, like a small Honda minivan? Expect to pay upwards of $100,000 US. Most of that is tax. Despite being prohibitively expensive, personal vehicles are pretty much mandatory.
As the Malaysian government invests in trains, streetcars, and buses, they continue to go unused. I mean, if you’ve already worked this hard to have a car, why would you suddenly stop driving it and take the train?
So traffic is a disaster. The freeways are usually filled with “jams” as the locals call them, where traffic comes to a standstill for minutes at a time. It stays this way almost all the way to your destination. It’s so bad, it takes an hour minimum to get just about anywhere from anywhere else, regardless of the time of day. There wasn’t a single taxi ride where we weren’t stuck in a jam for part of the journey.
That doesn’t mean that the whole drive is slow, however. On the contrary, there are opportunities to go very, very fast, and most Malaysian drivers do just that.
On the way back to our hotel one night, the taxi driver asked us which way we wanted to go. We responded with an impressively naive “whatever you think will be fastest”.
“Haha fastest okay” was his reply.
I sincerely doubted that he could go any faster as we rounded corner after corner, tires and engine screaming protest in perfect harmony. He split lanes between cars and scooters alike and waited until the last possible second to brake.
If ever there was a prime example of man being one with machine, this was it. Even if the machine was a beat up taxi.
The weekend’s social calendar had been pretty intense, so this is also the first time I have ever fallen asleep while being terrified for my life.
But overall, it’s a city great for visiting. English is widely spoken since Malaysia used to be a British colony, and the prices for most things are very reasonable.
The muslim government does tax the stuffing out of things it doesn’t agree with, like alcohol, or cigarettes, or non-muslims, but for the most part if there’s something you’re after, it’s available.
I didn’t end up seeing much of anything that Kuala Lumpur has on offer for tourists since my schedule was more or less set for me. But that’s okay, I still had an absolute blast. Overall, KL is a city that I would totally come back to, for the food, for the friendship, and for the fun of it.