City of Kuala Lumpur

Back in July, I was able to plan a trip to Malaysia in under 2 weeks. I called my dad one night and suggested we go visit him and mum in Saudia Arabia where they live. First, he asked me if everything was ok and I said: ‘ Yes dad I just miss you and was thinking to spend the school holidays with you and mum’. Unfortunately it wasn’t the best time to apply for a visiting visa to Saudia Arabia, because of the yearly pilgrimage ‘Hajj’ in Mecca. So this idea went down the drain in no time.

The next day I called him up again and said: ‘ How about we meet somewhere in the middle? how about Malaysia? Visiting Malaysia had always been on my bucket list. Dad didn’t mind at all, he actually agreed straight away, and in only a few hours he gave me the thumbs up and started looking for air fairs. A few days later we had organised accommodation too and VOILA! we were going to Malaysiaaaaaa!! 

Before I start telling you about my trip, I just wanted you to know that this is by no means a comprehensive travel guide for you. It’s only a list of things that we did, places we visited and food we ate while in Malaysia. Some were great and some were not the best, but I have to say, overall it was a great experience and I would definitely go back.

Kuala Lumpur

We stayed at The Ascott in the heart of Kuala Lumpur. My dad had booked us a spacious 3 bedroom apartment, which had massive glass windows in each room outlooking a stunning view of the city. The rooms were very comfortable and the apartment had a fully equipped kitchen which was great! I would have loved to have a laundry too though, but they offer laundry services, so it wasn’t a big issue. They also have a massive outdoor swimming pool with city views (as the pool is located on floor 22), Gymnasium, tennis court and a children playground. The only let down really was their breakfast, wasn’t bad, but I’d say, very average. 

Places we visited 

Aquaria KLCC –  This is an aquarium which was a walking distance from The Ascott Hotel. We finished it in just over an hour. It was quite interesting, we all enjoyed it, especially Malek who is 8 years old. His favourite part was feeding the baby sharks. 

Pavilion – The Gem of Kuala Lumpur, they call it. A huge shopping mall located in the heart of Bukit Bintang, just a few hundred meters away from our Hotel. We usually walked through the pedestrian tunnel which would take us straight to the Pavilion entrance. It’s very convenient and much safer to use this tunnel than to walk in the city’s streets. This area is always jammed with traffic and so, most of the times, it would be  much faster to walk than to catch a taxi or an Uber to move around. We have been warned to keep our handbags closed tightly while walking in the city, as there have been incidents where people got robbed. We didn’t witness any, but I guess it’s better to be safe than sorry.

In this shopping mall there is a huge variety of restaurants and cafes. We tried a few food places on the lower level food court, and they were all very nice. We also tried this authentic Lebanese restaurant on level 6 (I think), called ‘Al Amar’ which was quite nice too. This mall has over 550 shopping outlets including brands from all over the world to keep you busy all day if you are a shopaholic. I personally think that it is a must stop shopping destination while in KL.

Genting Highlands:Is a high-altitude hill located in the Titiwangsa Mountains northeast of Kuala Lumpur. It is like a whole city up there, and because it is so high, it gets a bit cold so you would need to bring a light jacket with you. To get there we caught a taxi from the Ascott Hotel which took us about 45 mins on a good traffic day. We arrived at the Skyway station where we jumped onto a cable car that took us even further up the hill where the resort, theme park, casino and shopping mall were. This Cable car trip was definitely the highlight of the day. It was quite freaky but fun at the same time. The view from the top was breathtaking! This is a place were you would spend the whole day exploring. It was a shame that the theme park was undergoing massive renovations, but by the looks of it, it’s going to be MAGNIFICENT when it’s finished. 

National Mosque of Malaysia : A very peaceful place and a must visit when you are in KL, mainly because of its significance to Malaysians. This mosque was complete and declared open for public on the 27th of august 1965. It was built as a symbol of Malaysia’s independence from the British government which was on the 31 of August 1957. Its unique modern design embodies a contemporary expression of traditional Islamic art calligraphy and ornamentation. see pics below.

The Islamic Art Museum : If you are in the mood to learn some history and know more about the origins of Islamic art, then visit this place. The design of the building is quite simple and modern with an islamic feel created by the details rather than by the structure itself. My dad and I were super impressed by the very unique collection in there, including the original copies of some of the most important books in islamic history. ” The art objects on display range from the tiniest pieces of jewellery to one of the world’s largest scale models of the Masjid al-Haram in Mecca…” click on link above to read more.

Putrajaya City: This city is about an hour drive from the centre of KL. It is the latest federal territory of Malaysia. I would say it’s a must visit when in KL. You would spend a whole day there, because there are so many things to do and see. We started off with a lovely cruise in the lake to see the whole city. Then we visited Putra Mosque, which is an amazing piece of islamic art. We performed Friday prayers there which was so amazing and peaceful. We then drove around the city in a taxi, stopped at a few other government buildings to take some pictures. By 4 pm we were all starving, the driver recommended a restaurant at 101 City Mall which was not far from where we were. To know more about Putrajaya and what to do there, click the sub title above.

City Centre, KL

Pavillion Mall – Bukit Bintang, KL

Genting Highlands

-The National Mosque-

Old Railway Station, opposite to The National Mosque, KL 

Old Railway Station, KL

-The Islamic Art Museum-

-Putra Mosque, Putrajaya-

Raining heavily at Putra Mosque

Penang

It’s a Malaysian state located on the northwest coast of Malaysia. It has a totally different feel to the city Kuala Lumpur. I personally loved it! We stayed in Penang island where the capital city, George Town, is located. The area where we stayed at is called Batu Ferringhi, which is one of the most popular beach areas in Penang. The beaches are nice there, but they are for sure not the best I’ve ever seen.

What I loved the most about Penang, is its cultural mosaic and its rich heritage and architecture. The three main races are the Malays, Chinese and Indians. I think the beauty of this place comes from the high diversity in culture, language and religion. No wonder Penang Island has been acknowledged as one of Asia’s top street food cities by the CNN. And according to Robin Barton of the Lonely Planet in 2014, which is the largest travel guide book in the world, ” Penang’s food reflects the intermingling of the many cultures that arrived, from Malays to Indians, Acehenese to Chinese, Burmese to Thais. State capital George Town is its culinary epicentre” 

The popular street foods I personally tried in Penang were: Nasi Lemak, Asam Laksa, Char kway tow and Curry me. My favourites were Nasi Lemak (my recipe is below), and Asam Laksa.

Talking about food, I was so anxious to try the king of all fruit in Malaysia, the Durian. It was the season of Durian when we were there. I didn’t know what it was until I read this sign outside our hotel elevator that said “No Durians”. Honestly, I was curious to find out what this word meant until someone in reception educated me about this fruit and said that it was a delicious fruit, but unfortunately it had a deadly smell, and that the smell usually stayed in the mouth for hours after you ate it. I was even more curious!

On that night we had planned to go to a shopping mall called Gurney Plaza in the city of George Town to have dinner. We spent the night at the mall and then we called an Uber to take us back to the hotel. As soon as we entered the Uber car, I noticed a really bad smell but I thought it was coming from outside the car. So I asked everyone to close their windows and the driver kindly put on the air conditioner for us, as it was such a humid night. In less than 5 seconds we all said it at the exact same time” What the hell ??!!”. That indescribable odour was getting stronger by the second! And of course Malek , my 8 year old, couldn’t stay quiet. He kept yelling “I can’t breath, what is this disgusting smell?? did someone just FART?” At this stage, I was between cracking up at Malek’s reaction, feeling sick, rolling down the window using an old fashioned handle in an attempt to get some fresh air in quickly before we all died, and trying to figure out what the hell this smell was. It was a disaster!! It was very obvious for the driver that we were all disgusted, he really didn’t need to understand the Language we were speaking. He finally informed us (and he had to talk over our loud voices) that he had just dropped off someone who was holding an open durian in his hand and was probably eating some in the car too. 

 I can only say that this was a one of a kind Uber drive. The good thing is that I don’t remember the last time I laughed that hard. LOL 

Only then I knew exactly why it is banned from entering certain hotels!! I can’t even describe the odour, some describe it as rotten eggs mixed with raw sewage. Yes, it’s that bad! 

Durian sold on street carts in George Town, Penang

Smells so so bad!

Places we visited in Penang

*the following subtitles are clickable so click if you need to know more information about any of these places.

Entopia by Penang Butterfly farm : An indoor/outdoor place where you get very close to live butterflies and other insects. There are different educational workshops for the kids in there. We’ve spent about 2 hours in there but I think you could possibly spend more time exploring. 

Tropical Fruit Farm : An absolutely beautiful farm located 800 ft above sea level. The variety of seasonal fruit and herbs grown there will blow your mind away. We were guided by one of the farmers who gave us a nice tour around the farm. The final part of this tour was my favourite, where we were offered ‘all you can eat’ fresh fruit and juices straight from the farm. It takes about 2 hours to finish it all. 

Craft Batik- Factory : This humble factory produces some very special hand-drawn and hand-block printed fabrics which reflect the true cottage industry in manufacturing the traditional Malaysian fabric designs. We had to go through a huge shop full of colourful fabrics hanging everywhere, to go to the factory which is located at the back of the shop. One of the ladies working there asked us if we were here to tour around the factory and we said yes. She took us through a wide door at the back which opens straight to the very primitive factory where all these fabrics in the shop were made. Walking through this door felt like going back in time when people used to have all the time in the world to make all their things by hand. A few ladies were working on huge pieces of fabrics, hand drawing them first using wax, then hand painting in between the lines with different types of dyes. It was fascinating to watch.

Ferringhi Garden Restaurant : This is one of, if not the prettiest restaurants I’ve ever been to. They serve a variety of western grill steaks, seafood and pasta dishes. The food was so delicious and the service was superb. This place looks small from the entrance but it’s actually huge from the inside. It has an indoor and an outdoor area for diners. But wherever you decide to sit, you will surely be surrounded by gorgeous greenery and flowers. There must be a whole team looking after this massive amount of plants. It’s just stunning!!

George Town: On our third day in Penang, we decided to take the “HOP ON HOP OFF” bus from our hotel in Batu Ferringhi and tour around the Island. We spent the whole day hopping off and back on the bus exploring. These buses operate from 9am till 8 pm and have about 22 stops with more than 40 major attractions along the way, so you get to control your trip by choosing where you want to stop and where you want to skip. There are heaps to see, so if you decide to stop at each attraction, it would probably take you at least 3 days to finish them all. The most exciting part for me was hopping off at the centre of George Town where you can really feel this amazing fusion of cultures. The food, the people and the architecture, all together make up the scene. Street food carts were everywhere selling anything and everything. you could walk through an alley where everything there is Chinese and then a minute later you walk through another alley where you could hear the call for prayers and muslims selling Halal food in carts. Just amazing! I enjoyed touching, smelling and capturing the moments with my camera. Street photography is my favourite. See pics below 

-Entopia by the Butterfly Farm-

-The Tropical Fruit Farm-

Open air Toilets at the fruit farm. Surprisingly, they are very private. 

-Craft Batik Factory-

-George Town-

My daughter Labiba at the top of Penang Hill, after a scary uphill train ride. Stunning views!

I hope you have enjoyed this post, please leave a comment, share your personal experiences with me. I would love to hear from you.