A Few thoughts on Visiting Kuala Lumpur, Genting & Langkawi in 4 days


I recently decided to go on a really really short solo trip to Malaysia right after my MBA Summer internship. Travelling solo is a different experience and definitely not everyone’s cup of tea. But I absolutely love such solo trips because i get to silently experience the scenic views, mountain tops and most importantly drive around fantastic locations. What I realized after this trip is that when I travel alone, visiting the usual tourist traps such as aquariums, bird parks etc are not really the best way to spend time for me as they aren't really that exciting for me.

This blog post is not a review of the places I visited in Malaysia although I do have a penchant to become opinionated at times! This blog post spreads out all the little tips that I learnt and used while I was in Malaysia. I am pretty hopeful that these pointers will make your next trip to Kuala Lumpur, Genting & Langkawi worthwhile, memorable and perhaps a bit easier. I have also attached links to other webpages(highlighted in red like this) such as ticket booking, articles etc which should be very useful. I won't be dwelling on the kind of cuisines I had because food preferences are really subjective. Still if you want to have a glance at Malaysian cuisine I recommend going here and here

I was in Malaysia on June 5th to 8th (Yeah I wasn't kidding when I said it was a very short trip!). Malaysia uses Malaysian Ringgits(abbreviated as MYR or RM) as its currency(1 RM= 16.85). Timezone in Malaysia is GMT+8.

THINGS TO BE AWARE OF BEFORE TRAVELLING TO KL

VISA (Obtaining from India & Holding an Indian Passport)


There are two ways of obtaining a visa. Directly approaching VFS or approaching a Visa Agent such as Thomas Cook who will forward it to VFS.

Direct Approach - Approach Visa Facilitation Services (VFS Malaysia). This will require you to fill out the Visa form on your own. You can call up VFS to clear up questions on how to fill up the form through their customer hotline but that’s about it. When I went 2 years ago to VFS in Chennai & Kochi, it was serious business. They won’t entertain any discussions on form filling at their offices. It’s a take the token, wait for your turn, hand over all the documents and get the receipt kind of a deal. Depending upon the country and the type of visa, filling up the visa form might be a very simple process or could get unnecessarily complicated. If the visa form seems simple enough, VFS would more than suffice and could save you third party costs.

Indirect Approach - My reason for approaching Thomas Cook Visa Services was completely unrelated though. Malaysia has a very simple Visa form. However, VFS works from Monday to Friday. My internship required me to be always in office during that time and since Thomas Cook worked till noon on Saturdays, that was my only window to submit my visa application. VISA through Thomas Cook requires a couple of passport size photographs (remember to call them up to know the exact specifications and which studio they prefer) and the Passport. I paid them online at their office itself. They do provide a Visa application tracking facility if you pay the visa application charges online. However it wasn’t that informative. What is actually useful is getting the tracking ID that can be used in the VFS Website. Call up the Thomas cook office two days after you submit the visa and they should have it for you. That is pretty accurate and genuinely useful.
Visa Processing time for a tourist visa is usually 5-7 Business days or roughly 2 weeks.

NOTE: If you thought a Visa to Malaysia would get over with that, you are sorely mistaken. When I arrived at the airport, immigration in India told me that Immigration Office in Malaysia expects every Indian passenger(possibly solo tourist) on a tourist visa to have a return ticket, receipt of place of stay or any proof if you are staying with a friend and most importantly 1500 Malaysian Ringgits in hard cash. The last part is crucial because airport authorities in India simply would not let me go without me physically counting the 1500 Ringgits in front of them! That was a nasty shock to me and a nice business to the currency conversion companies who incidentally charged a higher conversion rate at the airport. Apparently there have been a lot of illegal immigration and deportation of Indians recently and around 150 Indians are now in jail in Malaysia for the same. In my opinion, if they wanted to eliminate illegal immigration, they should make the visa process stricter and not inconvenience passengers who already have a visa when they are about to fly!

FLIGHT BOOKING TIP:Try to fly from Kochi to Kuala Lumpur and back. Tickets are massively discounted through Air Asia and I could get a Kochi-KL and return ticket for about 8k(INR). The flight from Mumbai to Kochi & back was 8k. In total my flight came to 16k. Compare that to a direct flight from Mumbai and back which was close to 33k! Flight duration for Kochi-Kuala Lumpur is around 3.5 hours.

UNDERSTANDING THE TRAIN SYSTEM WITHIN THE KLANG VALLEY

Klang Valley refers to the Kuala Lumpur Metropolitan Area.

Train system in KL- There are primarily 3 main companies running trains in KL.Below are the companies and the lines they handle.

  •   Rapid KL - Ampang, Sri Petaling, Kelana Jaya and the Monorail train
  •   KTM Kommuter – Sermaban, Port Klang
  •   KLIA Ekspress, KLIA Transit Train - Airport Transit
The train system in KL was set up by various unrelated companies and sadly with little coordination. Therefore, train stations of 2 companies at the same stop may be far apart. In other words, reaching a monorail station at Hang Tuah from the Rapid KL station at Hang Tuah itself could be a 5-10 min walk.


  1. Rapid KL – Handles the largest train system in Klang Valley. You would be travelling within Rapid KL 90% of the time
  2. KTM Kommuter – handles intercity and outside KL travel. Incidentally, Batu Caves are also handled by KTM Kommuter.
  3. KLIA Ekspress and KLIA Transit- These are airport trains. I would recommend taking the KLIA Ekspress because it’s a one stop train from both KLIA & KLIA2. The first and last stop is at KL Sentral. There is a train every 15 minutes. Travel time is 33 minutes. Ticket one way costs 55 Ringgit. 2 way costs 100 Ringgits. Operations start at 5:00 AM from KL Sentral. KLIA Transit has a couple of stops in between KLIA & KL Sentral and consequently will take more time. Choose according to your disembarking point.
Golden Rule:If all this is too confusing for you, my golden rule is, Hop on any train which goes to KL Sentral. All train systems pass through KL Sentral. From there you can catch your respective train to let’s say Batu Caves or KL station or KLCC etc.

APPS TO DOWNLOAD ON YOUR SMARTPHONE(ANDROID/iOS)

Below are the apps I used in KL & Langkawi (Grab, Uber, Transity KL, Google Maps, Waze)

Grab(Android/iOS) is the Uber of South-East Asia. Grab taxi prices for any trip are fixed beforehand. Payment was by cash or card. I paid by cash because of my excess cash in hand no small thanks to immigration! All grab drivers I talked to knew English so language shouldn’t be a problem. Nearly all drivers use Waze for navigation.

Google maps(Android/iOS)- I had downloaded offline Google maps for KL & Langkawi before travelling.I would recommend also installing WAZE as a couple of drivers claimed the map data was better in Waze, but I don’t think you are missing out much using google maps exclusively.


Transity KL (Android)-I use an Android smartphone and used this app called Transity KL available in the Play Store which provides offline train guide. This gave me a quick visual overview of the various train systems and stops in the Klang valley. It also tells me which stop I should get off and which station I should board to reach my destination. If you are using public transportation this app is really useful.
I had installed Uber but never used it as Grab sorted out all my needs.

WEATHER IN KL & LANGKAWI (June 5-8)

The forecast for June usually involves decent amount of rain. I was lucky, in that my trip did not get really spoilt by rains (I had to shuffle travel plans around a bit though). However, a Grab driver told me that on June 4th it was raining heavily and I was incredibly lucky to have missed that!
Climate is hot and humid. If you have experienced Mumbai/Kerala in the summer, then KL is a bit better than that. But it’s definitely not a pleasant climate. Genting has great climate as does Langkawi which was also cool.

STAY AT KUALA LUMPUR THROUGH AIRBNB (KL)

I booked via Airbnb for this room. It’s located very near Hang Tuah Monorail Station and it has a great view of the KL Menara tower. Petronas Tower is visible from the living room. Andrew, my Airbnb host, was fantastic. He was quite blown away by my really packed itinerary! He knows KL and you should definitely ask a couple of tips if you are staying at his place!
It’s up to you if you want to stay in KL Sentral or any station near KL Sentral. Staying near KL Sentral ensures that commutation is really easy through public transport. Downside is that you won’t get any view of any sort from your room and it’s usually expensive. In my opinion check out a place close to any train station. Airbnb is a great option if you are searching for places to stay and always opt for hosts who have been awarded as Superhosts!

TRAVELLING TO KUALA LUMPUR INTERNATIONAL AIRPORT

BUYING A SIM CARD

There are Sim card selling stalls in KLIA2 airport (even before the immigration check). If you are from India or any of these countries , I recommend the Digi Sim. I paid 50 Ringgits and I was told that I had 80 min of free talk time to India and around 4gb of 4G internet. I couldn’t verify the 4gb (which seems a little unbelievable at that price point) but the 80 min seems more or less true.

TOUCH N GO CARD vs RAPID PASS (Smart Cards for Public Transportation)

I spent 30 Ringgits on a Touch N Go card which had a 20.2 Ringgit loaded value (9.8 Ringgits was the card price). Touch N Go can be bought and topped up from Mynews.com Shop in KL Sentral (When you travel down the escalator from KLIA Ekspress and reach the main area you should see it). I did not see the dedicated Touch N Go hub in KL Sentral that other travelers had mentioned. Touch N Go lets you wave your Touch N Go card near the turnstiles to pay for train/bus/toll tickets and helps you avoid the queues for transportation. Theoretically speaking a Touch N Go card should work for the entire Klang valley Transportation (LRT, monorail, bus etc) as well as for a lot of other things (Baskin & Robbins) etc. Unfortunately, it didn’t work for me after a couple of uses. Touch N Go claims you can pay for KTM Kommuter with it, but I clearly saw a notice for the train going to Batu Caves mentioning that Touch N Go card would not be accepted due to technical issues. 
In my opinion it’s much better to buy the Rapid Pass (from Rapid KL). It works for everything apart from KTM Kommuter & Airport trains. Rapid Pass consequently will cover nearly 80-90% of travel routes. There is also a Rapid KL counter in most LRT stations. If you have payment issues they can sort it out right away (something you can’t do with a Touch N Go card). Tickets are generally 3-4 Ringgits. So load money accordingly. You can also see the balance in your card in the screen on the turnstile when you wave your card. You can also go to the Rapid KL Counter to check your balance.

NOTE: Buy the KLIA Ekspress 2 way ticket from the airport itself. The one-way ticket costs 55 Ringgits and two ticket is 100 Ringgits. Return ticket is valid from 30 days of using the forward ticket. No brainer really!

My solo Malaysia (KL & Langkawi) trip was only 4 days. Incredibly short. But that was all the time I could get before I had to be back in India.

ITINERARY BY DAY

DAY 1 (IMBI MARKET, AQUARIA KLCC, KL BIRD PARK, PETRONAS TOWER & JALAN ALOR)

I had my breakfast from ICC PUDU (formerly IMBI market). For a list of good restaurants refer this.
My day really started with KL Bird Park. Hailing a Grab car is easy but a bit expensive. In this case I would recommend Grab as the Bird park is not really close to any train station. Duration spent there varies from 2 hours to the entire day if you adore the idea of birds freely roaming around. Ticket is 50 Ringgits/adult.

KL Bird Park

After this I visited Aquaria KLCC. I bought the ticket online from here. MYKAD option is only for Malaysians. Everyone else has to take the general ticket. Adult tickets are priced at 64 Ringgits. I recommend buying tickets online wherever possible as you can skip queues since queues are usually long. I had already seen Sydney Aquarium so I found this aquarium a bit boring. If you absolutely love aquariums or you have kids with you or you have never seen a similar kind of aquarium before, then yes this should interest you. Otherwise you can skip this.
Jellyfish never ceases to fascinate me!

Petronas Tower is not open on Mondays. Also it is closed for certain days(mostly religious holidays) of the year. So plan accordingly. Entry is 85 Ringgits pax. 
I absolutely have to say this clearly. If you are ever going to buy tickets online, this should be the first one on the list. Tickets are sold offline every day at 9 AM. However buying tickets offline is not the greatest idea as you won’t reliably get the time slot you want. Booking tickets online will. However once a time slot is filled up online, you will have to choose another one (fixed number of people per slot). Therefore book Petronas tickets 2-3 weeks before travel date. Please remember to arrive at the entry point 15-20 min before your slot starts. Duration is close to 45 minutes. Note that this is a guided tour but you are given time & freedom to wander around a bit. You are first shown a hologram video about Petronas Towers and History. After that you are taken to Level 41(connecting bridge) where you will be given about 10 minutes to look around. Later you will be guided to Level 86(observation Deck). This has amazing view of KL. After that it’s all the way down where you are finally shown shops where you can buy memorabilia and stuff. It’s a bit expensive but it is up to you if you want to buy stuff from here or the local store.


At the SkyBridge
Which Time Slot?
The much bigger question is which time slot you should choose. Do note that the 6 PM & 6:15 PM slots are sold out very early for the obvious fact that if you choose these slots you get to see the sunset at 6:45- 7:00 from the observation deck. I couldn’t get that slot because I booked my tickets quite late. I had to choose the 7:15 slot. While I was pretty bummed about not seeing sunset with a view of KL, I realized later that night lights were more like my thing. I won’t dwell anymore on the topic but if you love staring into the night surrounded by little city lights, this will be a treat. 

When you walk out of the building after the visit, look back and see Petronas Tower in all it’s glory. It is a fantastic sight to see at night.

Petronas Tower lightens up!
For Dinner, I went to the famous food street Jalan Alor. Apparently the restaurant named Wong Ah Wah was highly rated and so I decided to try it’s famous delicacy Chicken Wings. And they did not disappoint. Alcohol is served but do note that it’s always very busy and the staff may not be that courteous because they are that busy. But if food is a priority then I highly recommend a visit to Jalan Alor.
Still salivating over the Chicken wings @ Wong Ah Wah!

DAY 2 (BATU CAVES, GENTING HIGHLANDS)

I skipped my breakfast and boarded for the train to KL Sentral (Hang Tuah Monorail to KL Sentral). After disembarking at KL Sentral, I got onboard the KTM Kommuter to Batu Caves. Cost something like 10 Ringgits but I am not really sure about the exact amount.
If you are an Indian, Batu Caves won’t be as wondrous as you think it to be. Sure the statue is great and the caves which you reach after climbing 272 steps is amazing. But not really mind blowing. My opinion really. It’s a one time see however and there are no questions about that. Entry is free.
I had my Lunch (Idli) from a local Indian restaurant for 2 Ringgits. Idli is always prepared so waiting time is nearly zilch. I was short on time and so I went for this. This restaurant has also been highly recommended but it’s a bit far from Batu Caves.
272 Steps! Should be a cinch :-|

Inside Batu caves

140 ft tall Statue of Lord Murugan 
My next trip was to Genting Highlands.

Genting Highlands is a Hill Station. A lot of companies have set up shop here for entertainment and houses a Casino, Theme Park, a Ripley’s Believe it or Not etc. There are several resorts here and the location is fantastic. I came here because I wanted to try out the cable car and I just wanted to see the place. Hill Stations have always been a weak spot for me.
Getting there is a bit tricky since I was extensively using public transport. So this is what I did.
From Batu Caves, I hailed a Grab Car for 11 Ringgits to GOMBAK LRT Station. Why? Because I have a Go Genting Express Bus from Gombak LRT Station to Genting Highlands that I need to catch. In fact, there are multiple departure points for this shuttle bus such as KL Sentral Station, Terminal Putra LRT Gombak & One Utama, Petaling Jaya. Gombak LRT station was closest to Batu Caves.
Marketing Funda Shattered
 while waiting for the
Bus to Genting!
I had to be at the station at the designated time as mentioned here under Schedules. Since I had to catch the 2PM bus, I left from Batu Caves at around 1:15 and reached Gombak at 1:30 PM. Bus left exactly at 2PM. I took the cable car + express bus package costing 9.80 Ringgits.
Please note that the Cable car is closed every month on a particular day. Look here to see when it’s down for maintenance. This goes without saying but I still have to say this. Go for the front facing seat in the Cable Car. It always has a better view. That involves strategically placing yourself in the queue so that as the staff tries to fill up each cable car with the people in front of you, when your turn comes up you will necessarily get the front seats.
Genting was beautiful and the chilly weather was a welcome departure from the hot, humid one in Kuala Lumpur. The one thing I could not visit was the nearby Chin Swee temple.
The Cable car at Genting Highlands

Genting Highlands
I had the lightest lunch and a non-existent breakfast and so when I saw that Coffee Terrace has a Dinner Buffet spanning several Malaysian, Chinese, Japanese, Indian & Continental Cuisines. I went for it. Dinner is expensive at 80 Ringgits, but it’s a buffet. Food was nice but I quickly realized that I can’t eat any uncooked stuff! Continental Food was generic but great.
I still have nightmares eating raw oyster! 
Genting Cable Car at Night!Chinese sounds all Greek to me!
For the return journey, I took the Cable car+ return shuttle package reaching KL Sentral. When you are in the cable car which is chugging effortlessly through the ropeway at 8 PM, you can hear the sounds of the dense jungle 50m beneath you come alive. I absolutely loved it!

Bus to Genting!

DAY 3 (LANGKAWI ISLAND)

I visited the Island of Langkawi on Day 3. I had 2 things lined up here. The Panorama Langkawi SkyCab which is the deepest cable car in the world & a Parasailing experience by Naam Watersports which was highly rated. Tickets to Langkawi are really cheap and you can easily snag 2 way tickets from KL at around 100 Ringgits(~Rs.1600)
Langkawi! Finally!

Travelling around Langkawi

Travel around Langkawi using cabs are expensive. The best mode of transportation and what I recommend are car rentals. In fact, when you disembark at the airport, you will be greeted by about 10-15 car rental agencies who have set up shop there. It was mentioned on Tripadvisor that getting rentals at Kuah(a town about 15-20 km away) can help you get a better bargain(because everything is always expensive at the airport). Unfortunately, my day was packed and I wanted to drop off the car at the airport itself because I didn’t want to waste any time.
Langkawi in a Map..Really..


Speaking about the rental agency. I went for Kasina which was highly rated in KL & Langkawi for their hassle free and thoroughly professional attitude. However, I had to wait for nearly an hour for the guy manning the Kasina shop to come in. I generally prefer manual cars because once you know stick shift you will never go back! I rented a Perodua Myvi which is a 1.3 L petrol hatchback and is decently styled. It came to 144 Ringgits which is expensive due to the higher insurance premium compared to other rentals. But since I was travelling alone I preferred a safer option (Unauthorised Car rentals still exist in Langkawi). Please note that manual cars are a rarity in Langkawi and if you want one, call up the rental to arrange for it long before your travel date. The Kasina guy accepts only credit cards and will put a credit hold instruction for 500 Ringgits or so. You will only be charged the corresponding amount at the end of the trip (in my case it came around to 144 Ringgits). If you are travelling alone, I highly recommend taking a car phone charger and a Phone holder(GPS Navigation purposes) with you as the rental does not provide anything of that sort. I used Google Maps for navigation which I had downloaded offline for Langkawi.
My Faithful Steed! The Myvi!

I am already regretting this picture!


Telaga Harbour
Armed with my Perouda Myvi(A really decent car!) I decided to check out the Langkawi Skycab which is said to be the deepest cable car system in the world. Unfortunately, due to the slight windy weather they said they would reopen it after a couple of hours. I left and I drove from there to Gunung Raya which is the highest mountain in Langkawi. Like I said Mountains are my weakness. And Gunung Raya offered me great viewpoints. If you are my kind of a person, please do visit it!

I could stay here forever...

Driving up to Gunung Raya
After visiting Gunung Raya, I went to Naam Sports at Tanjung Rhu Beach. Naam was very professional. I had prebooked and so the process was pretty smooth. I really was short of time and I didn’t even bother to change my jeans to some sort of swimwear (I know!Don't judge me!). Parasailing was a great experience and something I will definitely do again. I do have a fear of heights, but experiences like these scares and excites me at the same time. Loved every moment of it!
Note: Naam won’t let you carry any valuables with you while parasailing. You can keep your stuff either in the car or at their office. However if you give your camera to the guys handling this, they will take photos and videos of you parasailing! I believe they do have a GoPro option but that was way too expensive for me. The whole parasailing experience made my wallet lighter by 229 Ringgits which in my opnion is money well spent. The whole thing takes close to an hour.


Parasailing was the adrenaline high point!



Later I travelled back to Panorama Langkawi for my ride on the Langkawi Skycab. Note that ticket issuing stops at 5:00 and Skybridge closes at 4:30. In other words you positively have to be at the ticket counter by 4:00 PM if you want to see the Skybridge too. Skybridge was the scene of the last fight scene in the Bollywood Movie “Don”. Unfortunately, I came in at 4:45 and wasn't allowed to walk around to the skybridge.

GREAT TIP: Go for the Glass Bottom cab (Glass Cab is 90 Ringgits vs the Ordinary Cab at 55 Ringgits). There are several benefits

  1.       Literally nobody goes for the glass cab. This means that you get the glass cab all to yourself. In other words, endless selfie sessions without being extremely embarrassed!
  2.       You have a separate queue which has nobody else in line.
  3.       The unbelievable view that you get inside an all glass cab is something to die for!

      What is not so good about the Glass cab is that you will only be allowed to ride in your glass cab for which you may have to wait for like 5 minutes at times.
Glass Bottom is something isn't it?


There is a mid-station and a final station for the Skycab where you can take pictures and gaze at the magnificent view.
Middle Station
   Top Station

After I reached down to the base station, I noted that I still have a couple of hours till my return flight. I decided to drive around the Island (Driving completely around an Island has always been one of my greatest dreams!)

I drove through the Ayer Hangat Highway all the way to Kuah (A medium sized island town). You have plenty of eateries there. Unfortunately, Driving around takes a lot of time. By the time I reached Kuah, I was very short on time and other than a quick glance around the place, I couldn’t really soak it in (which I really wanted to when I drove past it!)
Kuah
Due to lack of time, I couldn't visit the Langkawi Night Market which is famed for its authentic cuisines. Do note that the night market is at different locations each day(Above link mentions the location of the market). 
The trip around the island took me right back to Langkawi Airport where I would have to drop off the car. Thankfully I didn't have to wait as the guy who handed the car keys to me in the morning was there at the airport. Ensure that you fill up the petrol or you will be charged by Kasina for the petrol you didn’t fill up. I can’t corroborate this but I am pretty sure it is going to be cheaper for you to tank it up rather than let Kasina seperately charge you for that. There is a petrol station nearby where you can fill up. This is also marked in the map of Langkawi given by Kasina when you start your trip.
The Kasina dude who picked up my Myvi!

DAY 4 (CHINATOWN (PETALING STREET) AND BUKIT BINTANG)

Berjaya Times Square is a frequent tourist trap. Unfortunately, (or fortunately!) I didn’t have the time to check it out.
For my Lunch, I decided to check out the Lot 10 Hutong Hawker Stall complex. There are a lot of restaurants in this basement level food court. Check out the restaurants before you decide to order your food
Claypot Chicken Rice with Salted Fish

Inside Lot 10 Hutong
Finally I decided to check out Chinatown in Petaling Street. Maybe I was spoilt by the Chinatown in Sydney, but I expected more of a cultural immersion here. Regardless, this is probably one of the best places to try out chinese cuisine.

After hanging around for a bit, I rushed back to my apartment to get my luggage and caught the Monorail to KL Sentral. At KL Sentral, I hopped on the KLIA Ekspress train to KLIA2 International Airport and soon enough I was on the flight back to India! A short but highly memorable Malaysian Trip!
Berjaya Times Square from my apartment
Waking up to this view is a dream..

KL city lights from my apartment on the 23rd Floor!


  


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