This city makes an ideal stop-over for long-haul passengers heading for Australia or New Zealand, although Malaysia has enough to delight, tempt and inspire those who want a longer visit. Malaysia does indeed have those tropical beaches, but it offers more.
One can miss so much without a guide, but walking tours take time and might not be appealing in hot weather …and it’s liable to be hot weather in Kuala Lumpur. But a bus tour will give the visitor an overview and will cover the most celebrated attractions. Hop-On Hop-Off Day and Night Tours are unique, comfortable and give that aforementioned overview, and some of those sites visited are actually shown to best advantage after dark.
The Hop-On Hop-Off service has a regular circular route that allows tourists to start the tour at any point and end at the same place. The route passes around three dozen local attractions with 22 designated stops.
Tickets can be purchased on the distinctive double-deck buses, from authorized agents and, conveniently, on-line. They offer a flexible “hop on, hop off” service which allows the passengers to alight at any of the stops to see sites in more detail, or they can stay on the bus for the whole circuit. Tickets are valid for either 24 hours or 48 hours allowing passengers to set a relaxed pace but still see plenty of this city.
The Hop-On Hop-Off service has a pre-recorded commentary on headsets in nine languages (Bahasa Malaysia, English, Mandarin, Hindi, Tamil, Arabic, Japanese, French and Spanish). There is a driver and a tour assistant on each bus to help passengers during the trip. They are both local and will be able to answer any questions.
There is a Customer Service Centre for the Hop-On Hop-Off tours at Malaysia Tourism Information Centre (Jalan Ampang), Bukit Bintang, KL Sentral (arrival hall) and Central Market, and there is also a toll-free info-line at 1-800-88-5546.
Petaling Street is the main thoroughfare for Kuala Lumpur’s Chinatown. It’s vibrant and exciting with stalls selling food and tourist souvenirs but you will likely be there for a bargain handbag. Note that a designer label at a low price is liable to be a knock-off, so beware. Stick to a non-label with a nifty design and you might just get a bargain. You will be expected to haggle!
Sri Mahamariaman Temple
The Hindu temple is striking and is, surprisingly, found in the heart of Kuala Lumpur’s Chinatown. It was built in 1873 and is considered the most impressively detailed Hindu temple in Malaysia. Its entrance is bedecked with ornate sculptures of Hindu gods and its floors and walls are covered in coloured tiles.
Petronas Twin Towers
Also known as the Petronas Towers or Twin Towers, whatever you call them there is no argument that they dominate the Kuala Lumpur skyline. They were the world’s tallest buildings from 1998 to 2004 but they are also masterpieces of design. Tower 1 was built by Hazama Corporation of Japan and Tower 2 by the South Korean multinational Samsung Engineering & Construction. Rising to 451.9 metres, the 88-storey building is said to be inspired by Tun Mahathir Mohamad’s vision for Malaysia as a global power. The Skybridge connecting the towers is the world’s highest 2-storey bridge.
Batu Caves and Lord Muragan Hindu Temple
The Hop-On Hop-Off offers a night tour that will allow the visitor to see The Lord Muragan Hindu Temple at, in my opinion, its most magnificent. The Batu Caves and the temple are found in the Gombak district, 13 kilometres north of Kuala Lumpur. The caves take their name from the Sungai Batu or Batu River, which flows past the hill.
The Batu Caves are set in limestone rock riddled with caves. The main Batu Cave is known as the Cathedral Cave and is reached by a steep flight of nearly 300 steps. This isn’t a climb to be undertaken by anyone with health issues or those with vertigo. During daylight hours the steps are invaded by macaque monkeys who will terrorise anyone carrying food.
The top of the stairs opens into a huge cave with a high vaulted ceiling. The cave serves as a Hindu Temple devoted to Lord Muragan, the Hindu God of war and victory, who is a popular deity among Hindus, and is worshipped primarily in areas with Tamil communities. At the foot of the stairs there is a 42-metre high golden statue of the god. This is the tallest statue of any Hindu deity in Malaysia and second only to the Kailashnath Mahadev Statue in Nepal. This Malaysian giant took 3 years to build and was unveiled in January 2006. It’s mystical at night when it is illuminated in all its gleaming splendour: it is covered with 300 litres of gold paint!
Kuala Lumpur City Gallery
Located in a 114-year-old building, this is a must-see for anyone who wants to know all about Kuala Lumpur, its history and its future! The souvenir shop has a selection of marvellously crafted wooden pictures, screens and other enticing gifts.
You will likely want ether a snack or a sustaining meal during your tour of Kuala Lumpur. The Hop-On Hop-Off stops at Satay Station where you will find the national speciality and it’s cooked on glowing embers at the front of the restaurant. You will be served with your choice of either chicken or beef satay and its associated peanut-based sauce, and these will be served with the traditional garnish of compressed rice cake, cucumber and onion. There are also hearty noodle dishes and soft drinks. If you visit from the Night Hop-On Hop-Off tour you might even be serenaded by local musicians playing traditional Malaysian songs. You might not be able to join in but you will be charmed.
Hop-On Hop-Off will teach you about the history, culture, food and religions of this diverse country. You will cover more ground by bus than on foot, you won’t get lost and the guide will give you information not found in guide books. The staff are well-informed and enthusiastic so sit back, relax, listen the commentary and watch Kuala Lumpur unfold before you.
Travel review by Chrissie Walker © 2018