Planning a weekend when you live an hour away from some of the most exotic destinations on earth should be simple, right? 9 hours into the bus ride from hell, I begged to differ. Even at 2 hours into the journey – when the driver barked at us to wake up and get out – at the Singaporean border, we were starting to wonder about our life choices. Then again, at 3 to 5 hours in – standing stock still, breast to someone’s sweaty armpit, alongside the entire Singaporean population who were also fleeing the city for the weekend, in a Susan Boiling queue – at the Malaysian customs office, the positivity we had towards the trip dwindled further. Slow forward to 8 hours into the trip, when stuck in KL rush hour traffic and in the midst of a cracking thunder storm, we were all quite ready to go home. (It was at hour 7, by the way, that everyone began abandoning ship (or bus, as it were) and booking their return flights. Yes, it was at an extortionate premium: yes, it was totally worth it. The journey by plane is just under an hour to give you some perspective.) Upshot is that I’m now your go to guy if you want to now anything about Malaysian countryside. Mostly palm trees.
And I don’t know how the story got round the office but now I’m known in the office as The Girl Who Took The Bus. Hindsight is a terrible thing.
Despite the initial slog casting a grey (literal/metaphorical) cloud over our first impressions, it’s time to start being positive. For the rest of the trip we were adamant to make it worthwhile. Not one to over-exaggerate; but we were clearly the subjects of a horrific turn of bad luck and besides, it’s good chi not to hold a grudge. Instead, now that you know what not to do (ever, at all) here’s a list of recommendations.
1. The Roof – Kuala Lumpur is really beautiful from the sky. It is helpful then, that the majority of things to do in KL involve rooftops. Our Airbnb, for instance, casually had the best view of the city from our rooftop pool. For a city of skyscrapers, it is unbelievably green, and the surrounding hills and jungles make for a pretty epic spectacle. From your accommodation, head straight to Helipad. I cannot recommend this place enough. Not one for those with vertigo, you’ll find the bar perched very high up, with no barriers around the edges and a big ‘H’ painted on the floor. (Not to worry, no helicopters attempted to land whilst we were there). It is the type of place my dad would say gave him the ‘collywobbles’, but he’s a baby. Fear aside, this place has an excellent vibe. You can watch the sun go down, listen to their great live jazz band singing not quite the right English words, and have a decent burger, all half a mile into the sky with a bottle of wine.
2. Another roof – Helipad is laidback and cool but if you fancy something a bit more flash then you probably ought to go to Sky Bar. You guessed it: another high up drinking hole. The creators of Sky Bar obviously worked long and hard in making the scene as Vegas-esque as possible, so probably only noticed later on that they’d forgotten to add in a floor. Unless you can walk on water (there’s a cool-to-look-at-but-highly-impractical pool across the entire bar space which acts as a sort of protective and counter-productive moat between the tables and the bar) you’ll struggle to get much space in this place. It is flash though. Go to get a cocktail and a selfie in front of the Petronas Towers.
3. Brunch – Malaysian food is delicious. But when you wake up at midday with a stinking hangover, do you really fancy a bowl of ramen and a mie goring? Nope. Do you really fancy a pile of pancakes with maple syrup and bacon? Yop. I am not the person that went to Berlin and only left the apartment in daylight to get a McDonalds, but I do know the person that did (Kipp, you heard me). And I understand it. Experiment on a hangover at your peril. Fortunately, KL is a bustling and westernized metropolitan city. Consequently, it has eggs benedict. Lauren, the same girl that explored local Bintan whilst the rest of us were lazily slouching at the pool, also managed to summon the energy and will to go to the central food markets for her brunch. She is an intrepid traveler. She should have the blog. Her reports are that the food markets are great. But I didn’t ask any further questions on the matter – I was too busy popping my poached eggs on smashed avocado on sourdough, just as I would’ve done in Haggerston. Chuffed.
In truth, Acme was an absolutely fantastic spot for brunch. The food was great, good value and the hair of the dog did what it was meant to do. I promise I will try more traditional Malaysian food when I go to Penang or Langkawi. I promise…
4. Petronas Towers – Obviously go to the park and take a photo, go to Sky Bar and take a photo, go to the revolving restaurant at the top of KL Towers and take a photo. They’re amazing. So take a photo.
5. Pisco Bar / Rootz / Zouk Nightlife – The success of a group city break generally turns on the nightlife. KL delivered. Pisco Bar was my favourite by far, with a great DJ and live drummer (I even got my hands on the drum at one point – not one bash was beaten in time)and brilliant cocktails. Zouk is the biggie.
Ultimate highlight: First time in Malaysia. I have started knocking countries of my list and the scratch map is making progress.
Where to eat: Acme – website
Where to drink: Helipad – website
Where to stay: KLCC
How to get there: Bus. ONLY JOKING. Fly.