Updated: Jul 11
Malaysia is one of the top destinations for tourists when traveling to Southeast Asia. In fact, Malaysia consistently ranks as one of the top 15 best countries to visit in Asia. It is in fact an incredible place to visit and with only two days to explore, I made the most of my time here. Here is an itinerary for you to use if you are planning for a short stay in Malaysia.
Upon arrival, I was shocked to see how metropolitan Malaysia is. I was caught off guard by the tall sky scrapers, city lights, mega shopping centers, and hustle and bustle of the city. Malaysia is the second largest palm oil distributor in the world, as seen by the vast number of palm trees and tropical rainforests.
Kuala Lumpur is the largest city and nation capital of Malaysia. About 33 million people reside in Malaysia, with more than 10 million tourists visiting each year. From Singapore, the flight to Malaysia took about an hour on Malaysia Airlines. Malaysia shares borders with Thailand and Singapore, and a single bridge separates Malaysia and Singapore.
What to Pack
In the infamous words of Ms. Erykah Badu, "Pack light" when traveling to Malaysia. The weather is very hot and humid. The rainy season, also known monsoon season, is from late May to September in the Southeast region and November to March in the Northwest. I was there in late May and it never rained, but be sure to pack your umbrella just in case. Wear light and breathable clothing (linen or cotton) and bring some good walking shoes for your sightseeing tours. For the ladies, be mindful that Malaysia is primarily a Muslim country. The local Malaysian women dress modestly, most of them will have their hair covered in addition to their legs and arms. When visiting holy and sacred sites, dress and skirts should be below the knee (pants recommended, but it's hot, so be comfortable too). Islamic tradition is evident throughout Malaysia, so you can't go wrong with dressing conservatively.
Top Things to See and Do
Take a tour of the Petronas Twin Towers - Better known as the Malaysian Twin Towers, these are the tallest twin tours in the world, ranking number 17 on the list of the tallest buildings in the world. The skybridge connects the two towers. If you do the full tour, you'll get to go to the very top and see the most amazing view of the city. Check out the gift shop after the tour and you can even get some professional photos taken of you inside the towers. Reserve your tickets here. FYI: The Petronas Towers are closed on Mondays. They are open to the public every Tuesday through Sunday from 10:00am until 6:00pm.
Visit the Batu Caves - Here you can see the Murugan Statue (tallest statue in Malaysia) dipped in gold, towering over you as you climb the colorful stairs to the caves. The Batu Caves is one of the largest Hindu shrines outside of India and one of the top tourist attractions in Malaysia. Watch out for the monkeys though, they are very aggressive and don't bring any bags of food with you (because they will snatch it and run away...fast). This is a sacred religious site, so be sure to dress modestly. Also, remember to wear some good walking shoes here, especially if you plan to climb up the 272 steps it takes to reach the inside of the caves.
Go Eat at Atmosphere 360 inside the KL Tower - This is the highest revolving restaurant in Southeast Asia. You can opt to have lunch or dinner (both buffet style) or just go up to the observation deck and see an amazing 360 degree view of Kuala Lumpur. Tickets to enter the observation deck at the KL Tower can be purchased online or inside at the ticket counter, but reservations to eat at the restaurant must be made in advance on their website.
Visit the National Mosque - Another religious site worth seeing and you can see a perfect view of the Merdeka 118, the second largest/tallest building in the world standing at 678 meters tall.
Make a stop at Astana Negara - Also known as the King's Palace, since Malaysia is a federal monarchy. Yes, this is the actual place where the Royal Family lives, so it is heavily guarded and you won't be able to get inside the gates. It's still a site worth seeing to marvel at the beauty of the extravagant architecture.
Book a private tour that includes a personal driver who will pick you up from your hotel and take you to all of the popular tourist attractions and maybe even take your pictures. Even though most of these attractions are self-guided, it's worth it to book a private day or half-day tour in advance and it will save you time.
Where to Stay
My stay at the St. Regis in Kuala Lumpur was nothing short of amazing. I highly recommend booking a stay here. This is a five-star hotel, located in the heart of Star Hill, a popular area for luxury hotels and shopping. As if the immaculate executive suite wasn't enough, the butler service was such a nice touch. The breakfast buffet was top tier and the staff is more than happy to serve you. If you are looking for a luxury experience during your short stay in Malaysia, book a stay at St. Regis...you won't regret it. There are a host of other luxury and world-class hotels in the area as well, including J.W. Marriott, Westin, and Ritz-Carlton. The price for a stay at one of these well-known hotels is a lot cheaper than if you were to book a stay at the same hotels in the U.S.
Try some traditional Malaysian food while you're here too. I recommend the Nasi Lemak (a rice dish) or the Ayam Percik (chicken with percik sauce).
Where to Shop
You can find all of your favorite boutique and luxury brand stores in the shopping malls in Malaysia. The best shopping malls are in the Kuala Lumpur City Center (KLCC), like Suria KLCC (located at the Petronas Twin towers) and Star Boulevard. Berjaya Times Square is home to 1,000 stores and an indoor amusement park. The prices are unbeatable, because the exchange rate is so good. The currency is the Malaysian Ringgit and $1 USD is equivalent to 4.67 Malaysian Ringgit. I recommend doing some shopping at one of the batik boutiques, for handmade clothing and souvenirs. Batik is the process of decorating clothing using block printing or hand-drawing techniques.
While Kuala Lumpur may be South Asia's youngest capital city, it has grown significantly in the past few decades. Malaysia was one of the highlights of my 10-day trip to Asia and I hope to make it back one day (for a longer stay) to see more of this beautiful country.