From Phuket we flew to Kuala Lumpur, our last stop before our final destination and home – New Zealand. By this point in the trip we were so looking forward to seeing our friends and family that we probably didn’t play the role of tourist too well. We also came to a couple of realisations – 1: Our clothes were at the end of their tether after a year of wearing the same few outfits and 2: We were kinda fat after months of trialling as many exotic delights as we could stomach, washing them all down with cold delicious beer. So our preoccupations in Kuala Lumpur were simple; shopping in spades and everything else in moderation.
It’s funny how the tagline for Malaysia tourism is ‘truly Asia’ when our time in KL was anything but. I’m sure that if you wanted a truly ‘Asian’ experience that it would have been possible but I was too busy being dazzled by the bright lights of the shiny mega malls that to us kiwis were a sight in their own right.
This is the entrance to the first mall we visited. Large was certainly the theme of this place – it housed over 1,000 stores…and the world’s largest capsule vending machine.
The real live joker outside this store was amazing.
As was the indoor ROLLERCOASTER. Say wha?!
Needless to say I was overwhelmed by the sheer size of the malls but also, ironically, by the OTT Christmas decorations in this predominantly Muslim country. They certainly outshone (literally) anything I’d ever seen back home.
Fair to say I’m a sucker for Christmas. It was even more of a novelty this year considering we hadn’t had it shoved down our throats since October. KL represented the final leg of our journey but also a return to the familiar so the candy canes, trees and lights were very welcoming.
Another bonus was that we had already sent back all our Christmas shopping for the family so we could shop without pressure…and be totally selfish with our purchases mwahaha.
I had actually forgotten what an accomplished shopper I am after a year of keeping my possessions to an absolute minimum. It’s amazing (and somewhat alarming) how easily I transitioned back into a consumer culture. A few months ago I would never have bothered spending money on anything but experiences but when confronted with familiar brands I suddenly felt the urge to acquire many pretty things. That sounds really shallow but man it was fun.
Malaysia must be one of the best places in the world to shop. Not only are all the shops organised into weather proof (it is HOT outside ALL the time), well organised malls but even European brands seem to be a bit cheaper than anywhere else due to the massive sales.
The only issue is that with such a wide selection of malls it can be quite daunting choosing where to go. Here are the ones you shouldn’t miss.
Pavillion: This is what I call a classy mall. I couldn’t afford to shop in approximately 80% of the stores but it was amazing just window shopping amidst the glam. The food court on the lowest floor is also where we happened to eat the best meal during our time in KL. The restaurants in malls tend to be some of the most extravagant in the city which is so strange to me coming from a place where the most gourmet option in a food court is the kebab stall. We only thought to go there for dinner as Sham our friend from Brunei was doing business there and took us out. We spent almost two hours after dinner strutting the high fashion hallways. Totally worth a gander.
Suria KLCC: This place is split in two and takes a while to get around but it’s totally worth it. It looks high end but has a good range of affordable quality stores like Mango, H&M, Topshop etc. I found the most epic sales here. There’s also a great food court on the top floor with every kind of Asian cuisine you can think of.
Berjaya Times Square: This is the rollercoaster one. To be honest, the shops aren’t that great but there are loads of discount Asian threads to be had. The down side is that often you can’t try things on and sizes tend to be on the small side. Still, there’s a freakin rollercoaster in there.
There are countless others but those are just my faves and if shopping isn’t your thing the city itself is very attractive – yes we did manage to spend some time outside of the malls at some point.
Check out this scene. It could be NYC with the yellow cabs.
We also had to witness the most iconic landmark of KL – the Petronas towers (Suria KLCC mall is directly beneath these monsters). They may just be another couple of towers but they’re certainly eye-catching in the day and magnificent at night.
The popular thing to do is line up early in the morning and shell out around $40 to go up the towers but luckily our view from the hotel was so good we didn’t feel the need. Love this cityscape shot that Tom took out our window.
We splashed out on our accommodation and stayed at the Furama Bukit Bintang. The location was great – walking distance to most of the malls (if you can handle the heat) and it was awesome value for money. We booked through Agoda.com thinking we’d probably get a dud room but ours was huge and included a separate sitting room! The breakfast spread is amazing too but beware of stockpiling families that pinch all the croissants – I’m talking an average of three pastries per person, come on people!
I did something I’ve never done at a hotel before too…actually worked out in the gym. It felt wrong but the motivation of seeing friends and family for the first time in a year got me through.
KL was a real treat for us budget travellers and provided a bit of luxury before we headed back to our homeland. I can safely say that the past year travelling and living in Southeast Asia has been the trip of a lifetime. It’s a sad term though isn’t it ‘trip of a lifetime’? It implies that there will only be one. I sincerely hope that’s not the case as our time abroad has taught me that difference in all its shapes and forms whether it be culture, landscape, food or people is a truly wonderful thing and something that if you have the opportunity to experience, you absolutely must…as often as you can.