We fell asleep on the ultra plush 5-star Sofitel bed in Saigon hoping for a good rest before we headed for the dreaded city. Worry plagued our subconscious and our minds were very heightened the whole night.
What if things turn out bad or worse than our previous nightmare of an experience? What if we hate it so much that we can’t focus on publishing?
What if we run out of money trying to secure a good accommodation?
If only we had a little faith…
Many may ask “Why go back to a city where you’ve had such bad experiences?”
There’s so many reasons why we are stuck in the region. An obvious reason is the ridiculously expensive airfares and accommodation across the world due to pent up demand and limited supply. Our limited budget limits our destinations.
China, Japan, Hong Kong, Korea and Taiwan are either too restrictive to enter or closed to tourists. The effects of covid on travel are still deeply felt.
Some call it fate but we think its divine intervention that we didn’t proceed with flying to Seoul. We posted on Facebook about how we were SO close to getting a PCR test and purchasing the flight ticket during our layover in Singapore. We felt no peace and decided against it. A couple of days later, Seoul experienced a deadly flood.
The flight from Saigon, Vietnam to Kuala Lumpur International Airport was smooth. Our worst nightmares didn’t happen and we are incredibly blessed with a great property in the middle of Kuala Lumpur City Centre. We wake up to the views of the magnificent Petronas Twin towers.
We will be based in KL for several weeks to focus on publishing our books. We are also working on new designs. You can check these new art pieces inspired by our travels in Vietnam…
That doesn’t mean we won’t be exploring the city and putting up some amazing content!
Is Kuala Lumpur the next New York City of Asia?
We’ve been here well over a week and we must say that we feel so blessed and happy to be here. It is as if we’ve got a 180 degree flip and the experience is absolutely phenomenal. It begs the question, is this the next NYC of Asia?
Anyone who has been to NYC, London and other great cities will tell you that what makes a great city is:
Kuala Lumpur has ALL of these qualities!
Seamless transport connectivity
Landing in KLIA, you’ll find a dedicated express train line connecting you to the middle of KL. You’ll avoid all the jams and hit the city centre in 40 minutes. If you are familiar with London, this is just like the Heathrow express. We opted for a 1 hour Grab car ride that cost 70RM including tolls to our apartment in the city centre.
I must say I’m very impressed with the KL transit system. The trains are comfortable, fast, clean, modern and on-time! Children below six travel free so we don’t have to pay for Gwyneth! We are well connected throughout the city and only have to pay between S$1-S$2 for 3 of us each way. The signs are easy to understand and a lot of the information is very well integrated into google maps. You can navigate anywhere in the city easily via google maps and it will tell you which buses and trains to take.
GoKL city buses are FREE buses that plough parallel to many LRT lines around the city centre. There are 5 routes that bring you to all the major attractions and areas in the city centre. Some of the buses are FULLY ELECTRIC buses.
The Malaysians have every reason to be proud of KL’s public transport. There are many moments I’ve felt I was somewhere along Singapore’s Circle or North East line! I told Debra a few days back that this is WAY cleaner than parts of the old dingy London Underground.
There’s a convenience store round every corner. They don’t charge an arm and a leg for a good snack or drink. We got this massive Cornetto Unicorn ice cream for RM3.
Grab Car, Foodpanda, Panda Mart and other delivery services work very well here 24/7.
Internet connection here is WAY better than Vietnam in our experience. You get 5G network in some areas of Saigon but it only crawls at a pathetic 7mbps. We easily score 35Mbps on 4G LTE in KL on Celcom network.
You’ll find everything you need at the amazing malls across KL. Here are some of the malls we really enjoy here:
KL is also only a 1 hr+ car ride/2 hr bus ride from Genting Highlands.
Easy access to great food
We’ve been eating very well in KL. Fortunately for us, we look forward to our meals these days. Unfortunately for us, we may be gaining back the weight we lost in Vietnam haha!
We did this survey recently about the tastes we miss when travelling
We don’t need to miss ANY of these anymore in KL. We must applaud the creativity in the food scene in Malaysia. Cafes don’t just sell what everyone else sells. There are many who do put in effort to create their own food and identity.
The past week we’ve had the most heartwarming and tantalising culinary experiences. Not an exhaustive list but these are some must visit places if you visit KL!
Serves amazing roast pork dishes and Nasi Lemak. (Jalan Sin Chew Kee)
Feeka Coffee Roasters (Jalan Mesui)
Serves awesome breakfast sets and western dishes. We had our first cup of properly good expresso based Latte in 6 weeks. Special mention of their Vegetarian Tacos, these tiny packages pack some blowing flavour! (The dip makes it even better!)
Karaikudi Chettinadu Restaurant (Jln Palestin)
A banana leaf indian restaurant. The Sambar, Rasam, Chicken/fish curry and Dhaal curries are ALL CRAZY GOOD. Need a curry/indian fix? Eat here!
Great architecture and culture
We explored the china town area and roamed the alleys around vicinity. What was very apparent is a stark juxtaposition between the new and the old. On one hand, you have a really old street shophouse, temples and a shaky old iron overhead bridge that I remember from my visits in my childhood. On the other hand, you have Merdeka 118, a brand modern engineering marvel being completed in the background. (2nd tallest in the world after Burj Khalifa)
We also visited Central Market where you’ll find shops selling art and crafts representing the Malaysian cultures. The place has lost a lot of its tenants possibly due to the pandemic. Tourists are slowly streaming back to the area so we hope it’ll be bustling again!
The glory of a great city is its ability to host a diverse population and support peaceful coexistence.
We’ve been treated very very kindly by people in KL. Our children have been offered seats on EVERY train/bus ride we’ve taken. Even with masks on, the service staff smile and are very patient. Nobody is yelling or honking at each other non-stop. We are surprisingly free from the frustrations of being in a big city. It has been an amazing experience so far!
Even in a supposedly world-class Singapore transport system, it is often quite unbearable to travel around the city without your own car. We get really frustrated with the huge crowds, people’s rude stares and inconsiderate behaviour. (Absolutely cannot stand self-entitled people who deny wheelchair users/parents pushing prams from taking the lifts in train stations when they are completely able bodied.) We were actually really anxious about being in an Asian city without our own car.
It is completely unexpected that we have had such a good experience.
What do you think? Has your experiences in KL been comparable to that of NYC or London?
Is KL the next NYC in Asia?
Vincent & Debra Kwan, Founders of Hiro & Jack and stay-at-home parents with the odd life.
Drop us an email at email@example.com