Suites, Treats, and Eats, a Malaysian Mileage Thanksgiving: Things to See and Do in Kuala Lumpur

Kuala Lumpur Tours:

  1. Introduction: Constructing — and Re-constructing — the Award Trip
  2. American Eagle DC – New York and the New Nicest JFK Airport Hotel, the Hilton
  3. Cathay Pacific First Class, JFK – Hong Kong
  4. The Wing lounge in Hong Kong and Cathay Pacific Business Class Hong Kong – Kuala Lumpur
  5. Grand Hyatt Kuala Lumpur
  6. Malaysia Airlines Business Class, Kuala Lumpur – Langkawi
  7. The Andaman Langkawi
  8. Malaysia Airlines Business Class, Langkawi – Kuala Lumpur
  9. Intercontinental Kuala Lumpur
  10. Things to See and Do in Kuala Lumpur
  11. Korean Airlines First Class, Kuala Lumpur – Seoul and the Korean Airlines First Class Lounge Seoul
  12. Korean Airlines First Class, Seoul – Washington Dulles

I had only two days to spend in Kuala Lumpur. It’s a city, not quite as friendly and easy for first time visitors and Singapore and Hong Kong but probably close. A guide isn’t necessary. But I also wanted to accomplish as much as possible in my short time there, rather than burning up time getting lost (though getting lost has its benefits for understanding a place).

For visiting local sights I booked Metro Travel & Tours, and I contacted Food Tour Malaysia since I love connecting with a place through its food, understanding cuisines is a window into history, culture and development in addition to being delicious. It turns out that Food Tour Malaysia was also what the General Manager at the Andaman recommended as I left Langkawi, so I was confident it would be a good experience. (And it was.)

Our full day custom tours usually run from 9am till 6pm while our half day custom tours run from 10am till 4pm. With regards to pricing, our full day custom tours cost RM 450 per person while our half day custom tours cost RM 300 per person. It covers all meals and drinks for the duration of the tour. It does not include alcoholic beverages.

The pick up point is at the bus stop of the Taman Paramount LRT train station. Our custom tours will allow you to visit on minimum 4-6 local food destinations as well as some other surprises thrown in. The custom tours also offer more flexibility with regards to any additional requests or places that you would want to visit during the tour. If you are able to provide us with your preferences, we are able to create a custom itinerary to suit your tastes.

I arranged a half day tour and for pickup and dropoff at the Intercontinental at no extra charge. We met our driver outside the hotel and discussed briefly what we wanted to try for the day.

Malaysian cuisine is a mix of Malay, Chinese, and Southern Indian food, and we wanted to sample each.

Our first stop was a Mamak in Petaling Jaya (“PJ”). Our guide explained that mamaks are run by muslims who began in roadside stalls but have since opened cafes. They’re meeting spots and places to gather and enjoy tea and watch football (soccer).

We had the opportunity to sample a number of different roti with curries.

Perhaps most impressive was the giant dessert roti, nearly as tall as I am and varied in flavor and texture — soft and chewy around the side and at the bottom, brittle in the middle and flavored with sugar and butter.

Though only the first stop it was also a favorite. We chatted with the staff and visited the kitchen. I could definitely see spending a good bit of time here, hanging out as Malaysians do.

Driving around I began noticing something that’s common the world over — miles and points — although the advertising was all for uses of those points that made me cringe.

Before hitting the next spot we visited an Indian temple along the way, where one wedding was being completed and another was about to start.

This was the only place and time, in all of my travels, that someone tried to pick my pocket. It was noticed, they froze and walked away. I suppose I’m lucky, I’ve never had any tourist scams pulled on me in China or on Las Ramblas in Barcelona. Just in a temple outside Kuala Lumpur.

Our next food stop was Ristoran Jaya, serving traditional Malay cuisine.

Driving around some more, another credit card billboard — forget earning 5 points per dollar, you can earn 10 points with the Manchester United Visa when making purchases at the team store.

Having tried Indian-influenced and Malay cuisines, we wanted to try some Nonya style dishes which are a blend of Chinese ingredients, wok cooking techniques, and local spices. They’re characterized by ingredients like coconut milk, galangal pandan leaves (which I was first introduced to in a cooking class in Bali), lemongrass, and kaffir lime leaves.

To try this our guide took us to a mall. She said she wouldn’t normally make such a stop except for our desire to try Nonya cooking, and that there was a restaurant there that was a great example of it.

Waking into the restaurant, there was a sign that we’d save 20% using the right credit card! It’s crazy the things I notice wherever I am.

Of course our guide picked up the check, as the food was included in the tour.

The final stop of the day was some food stalls.

For the next day I used Metro Travel & Tours, we had a guide and a driver. They’re advertising now just ~ US$25 per person for 3.5 hours, though I paid slightly more and tipped well.

We were picked up at the hotel at 10am. Our first stop was the Malaysia National Museum , which focuses on Malaysian history and culture. Our guide was knowledgeable, a retired investment banker who seemed to know everything about the country but also very patriotic so his stories all had an interesting pro-Malay slant. For instance though he was ethnically Chinese he described a very pro-Malaysian version of Singapore’s expulsion from the Federation of Malaysia.

Next stop as Istana Negara, the Royal Palace, the entrance to which was packed with Malaysian tourists many of whom would watch the changing of the guard and approach and take pictures next to the guards who were adept at ignoring their presence.

We visited Tugu Negara, the National Monument commemorating Malaysians who died fighting the Japanese occupation during World War II and in the years up until 1960. It was designed by Austrian sculptor Felix de Weldon who also created the Iwo Jima Memorial outside Washington DC. And in fact Malaysia’s prime minister had visited that memorial and sought out the architect to create Malaysia’s own.

Malaysia’s national mosque is an impressive structure, it will hold 15,000 worshippers, and was great to visit because the country and the capital in particular are a fascinating amalgam of Muslin and Western. It’s a conservative society but also a melting pot. I did remove my shoes, they had coverings for women to don.

Outside the mosque I found this banner advertising an upcoming symposium interesting

A few more sites, including a visit to the Petronas Twin Towers, and it was back to the hotel in plenty of time to pack up, check out, and visit the lounge for evening cocktails and canapés prior to heading off to the airport.

Definite high marks both for Food Tour Malaysia and for Metro Travel & Tours. I loved the food, enjoyed touring the city and seeing the major sites. Though ultimately my sense is that many visitors would be disappointed in the things they’d see if spending more than a few days in the city. I would definitely return and would to spend more time — hanging out in a mamak, though, much more so than visiting tourist spots.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. Did you have any concerns about the sanitation/safety of the food you ate on the tours? And what was that thing in the large dish at the Malay restaurant? It looked like fried rat.

  2. I have similar questions as JetAway. You seem to be significantly more adventurous than I am. For example, those greens and some of those dipping sauces would be off my list in most non-Western countries (I would have them in Singapore, but not elsewhere in southeast Asia).

    I haven’t gotten tourista in the last 20 years, but before that, one of the two worse cases was from hot sauce (in Mexico).

  3. We spent three days in KL in 2009 and absolutely loved it. I wished I’d had three more to spend — great tourist attractions (I really enjoyed the Batu Caves and the Petronas Towers were impressive in person), amazing vegetarian food. I found it much more enjoyable and interesting than other cities we visited on the trip (Bangkok, Hanoi and Singapore.)

  4. @JetAway fried catfish.

    @JetAway & @beachfan I have only gotten really sick at a fine dining restaurant in Puerta Vallarta (December 2002), on a Qantas flight (June 2005), and from a tapas place on Las Ramblas in Barcelona (April 2008). Never from street food in Asia. But hten I’m also fairly careful, and I had a guide with me that was sensitive to health standards.

  5. Gary..these were awesome pictures! btw…did you get a chance to try that shrimp fried rice? Its simply amazing!! I just forgot what they call it…

  6. @JetAway & @beachfan I have to agree with what Gary says here. My wife and I traveled for 2 months across south east asia and the only thing that got me sick was to much BeerLao. The rules we carried were “go to a place that is popular with locals” and “Make sure its hot”

    There were cases were we would ask people to put stuff back onto the fire after they had covered it in sauce for us, but that is about it.

    Also, the malls in KL are very very upscale, atleast the ones we went into. Much more in common with SIN or HKG than I had expected.

    We also did get an Oral Cholera Vaccine, Dukoral, which I suspect helped.

    @Gary – Wonderful Article, If I find my self in KL again I will definitely do the food tour. Did you make it over to China town and Peddler’s Street

  7. Thanks Gary for the timely Report. I’m heading to KL and Penang next week. Looking forward to lots of eating. 🙂

  8. Gary, do you think three nights in KL with a 5pm departure is going to leave me bored? Seems like significantly less to do than Singapore (outside the food aspect). I’m not much of a shopper.

    I can eat for three days however! (I’ll be in Penang, Langkawi and Melaka (two nights there) before that. I’ll be in Penang for three nights, love that place, been there before, but since I arrive at close to midnight with a noon departure, maybe 4 nights in Penang and 2 in KL?

  9. looking forward to your KE reviews – flying in F in a week so would be great to see your experience/tips

  10. One of the things that really stood out from my trip to KL back in August was the sense of national pride always on display. Literally everywhere I looked in KL, there was a Malaysian flag hanging. Reminded me of Rockefeller Plaza in NYC over July 4th.

  11. Did you have nasi lemak this trip? I had my first taste in a food stall in KL. Am considering a return just for it & your food tour. Thanks for the great trip report.

  12. Wow RM350 to RM400 per person? They sure make a lot of money off tourists. The food you ate was probably about RM30, at most RM50, a person… Not sure the guide and transportation was worth the rest. But thanks for the report!

    And yes, I agree with Calvin, Penang does have better food, having grown up there and dying to go back 🙂

  13. Malaysia is beautiful. it is a tourist attraction because it is a multi culture country. you can find Malay, Chinese and Indian touch dominant in culture, language, cuisine and architecture. I visited it a year before and enjoyed a lot. personally I like Indian food there.

  14. thanks or visiting my country! the food is absolutely amazing. Although i am from the city center of KL, i do think that Penang has better food. Do try the nasi lemak and assam laksa the next time you are there.

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