The capital of Malaysia and home of the tallest twin skyscrapers in the world, Kuala Lumpur is a thriving hub that offers an intriguing melting pot of cultures — the name literally translates as 'the point where two rivers join'. The weave of Malay, Chinese and Indian cultures ultimately makes for an extraordinary food experience — you'll regularly encounter fragrant clouds of spice and find restaurants overflowing at any hour of the day. For those with limited time, the city's compact centre and accessible public transport makes it a breeze to tick off all the good bits. To save even more time, here's how to spend 48 hours in Kuala Lumpur.
EAT AND DRINK
With such a great commingling of cultures food is always going to be a main attraction. The burning question is: what to order? The staples are a good place to start: piping hot curry laksa, banana leaf rice served with a variety of vegetables and curry, fall-apart Hainanese chicken rice (a safe option for those not down with spice) and roti canai which you can pick up for pennies.
For something a little blurrier on tourist maps, the Dharma Realm Guan Yin Sagely Monastery is somewhere you can find inner peace and load up on a vegetarian banquet at the same time. Found down the side of a Chinese Buddist temple, the buffet of all buffets is open from 11.30 - 2.30pm daily. Fill a plate from 20-30 local vegetarian options for just over $1. With that price you can be sure that it gets busy; expect to wait in line and don't expect to find a seat with friends. And as you stumble out in a food coma just be wary that tourists aren't allowed to enter the temple.
Between unassuming hole-in-the-wall joints and shiny tourist eateries, finding exactly the right spot to eat can be a task. Found in the popular shopping district Bukit Bintang, Lot 10 Hutong is a reliable option and what many consider to be the best food court in KL. Flaunting every single type of hawker-style food you can imagine, you'll be more than spoilt for choice — just be sure to look around the entire subterranean eating spot before making a decision. The fried Char Kuey Teow noodles are a major attraction.
As the locals say, there are only two season in KL: hot and really hot. Humidity is a given and there's no better way to combat the extreme sweaty heat than by grabbing an ice-cold drink. Teh tarik (sweet pulled tea) is the number one beverage of choice and can be served either hot or cold. For something entirely different, there's the drink fondly referred to as 'Michael Jackson'. The soya milk drink comes on ice with floating grass jelly that gives off a herbaceous flavour and provides an odd mouth sensation — for lovers of bubble tea.
SEE AND DO
Dominating the skyline, the Petronas Towers are the main attraction of KL and no trip would be complete without a photo in front or a journey up to the 86th floor. Tickets are released on a first-come, first-served basis so booking ahead is recommended. For that reason you should grab a skip-the-line ticket. The towers are most popular from sunset through until closing time when the majestic skyline is glowing.
On the first and third Sunday of each month the major streets of the city's Golden Triangle are closed off to cars as a way for residents to stay healthy and give mother nature a rest. Open to cyclists and runners, the seven-kilometre loop starts from Dataran DBKL and makes its way around the twin towers and back. It's a great way to navigate the city without having to constantly be on guard for traffic. Around 150 loan bicycles are provided by organisers on a first-come, first-served basis — be sure to take ID.
Any tourist map will point you in the direction of the Petaling Street Chinese markets. Those in the market for dirt-cheap knock-offs will have no trouble finding something here, as long as you have the patience to barter. A more relaxing environment to pick up souvenirs is the Central Market. Just a short walk away from Chinatown, the market offers air-conditioning, smaller crowds, free Wi-Fi and practically the same prices.
A 20-minute drive from the city centre you'll find the Batu Caves. Overseen by the world's tallest statue of Hindu war god, Murugan, the temple boasts 272 steps up to deep limestone chasm which has gradually been created by wind and waves. A large continent of macaques rule the site so make sure you don't have any food or drink on you unless entirely concealed — you'll need a drink at the top.
Element Kuala Lumpur is the fourth tallest building in KL and one of the newest properties. The property is ideal for larger groups with several suites offering two or three bedrooms and fully-functional kitchens. Guests also have easy access to the metro system and sights like KLCC Park and the Petronas Twin Towers in walking distance.
Sustainability is a key focus of the property; water filters are fitted in every room to deter the purchase of plastic water bottles, the pool uses saline over chlorine and the onsite restaurant can link every single ingredient back to its origin.
Found 40 floors up, TRACE — a "sky dining venue" — has views to write home about. Western-fusion is the overarching theme. The breakfast buffet ticks every single box; as well as all the early morning classics you'll encounter a noodle and dim sum station, fresh pastries and pure honeycomb. During lunch and dinner service traditional dishes are given a contemporary spin.
AirAsia flies daily to Kuala Lumpur from Auckland, starting from $269 one way economy. The mentioned attractions were booked through TripAdvisor.