After a sudden change of plan that made me end up in Bali instead of New Zealand, I decided that it was time to put some things in order and organize a new plan. Extending my visa in Bali for an extra month would have been complicated because of timing: my application time was coinciding with the celebration for the end of ramadan, meaning that all the government offices were closed for the big holiday. I had to fly out of the country and one of the cheaper options, easy to reach and with excellent internet connection, was Kuala Lumpur, so I decided to make it my home for the next month.
I started to do some researches on the best and safest area to stay in the city, and the more I looked into it the more the answer was confusing. If you do a quick Google search about safety in Kuala Lumpur you will notice that there is a high risk of pickpockets, bag snatching, housebreaking and other general thievery and scams. Kuala Lumpur is a big city with a growing economy, so these kinds of crimes are normal. Like in any other big city, you need to be careful and be aware of your surroundings; nothing abnormal. After speaking with friends from Malaysia though, my idea changed. They were repeating to me constantly that I needed to be extra careful, that Kuala Lumpur is really dangerous, if you take public transport you might get rob, if you take a taxi you will be charged extra or taken somewhere else, there has been a few cases of kidnapping solo females, they might break into the taxi to steal your stuff when you’re stopped in the traffic…basically nothing is safe.
I thought that this picture of Kuala Lumpur was exaggerated but I still decided to take some extra care. I booked an apartment through Airbnb in a more residential area with security cards to get in and security staff in the building. I decided that I would work mainly from home so I wouldn’t have to carry my laptop and risk getting it stolen, I would carry less cash and camera gear as possible, and keep my eyes open.
I have to say that I didn’t feel unsafe once.
Transport-wise I mainly used the MyTeksi app with which you can call a taxi from wherever you are at, put the destination in and immediately get a price estimate. The drivers that I met, and the other people in general, were extra nice, giving me advice on where to go, telling me funny family anecdotes, giving me full immersion lessons on the history of Malaysia and were generally helpful. In any conversation though there were many warnings: ‘be very careful’, ‘KL is not very safe’, ‘Be safe’ and they were putting me back into paranoid mood, holding my belongings and constantly watching out for new “dangers”.
I took normal taxis and public transport as well and, again, nothing looked unsafe to me, but I might have just been lucky. At this point I really don’t know what to think about safety in Kuala Lumpur.
I spent more time working on some projects than actually exploring but after a month there I can say that Kuala Lumpur is not at the top of my list. If you check any guide for lists of things to see, do and eat in Kuala Lumpur, you will notice that the shopping one is probably the longest. The amount of shopping malls in the city are unbelievable and they have everything you need, you could potentially spend all your day in there. Outside those artificial worlds there is a wave of heat, haze, traffic and chaos ready to overwhelm you, so why would you leave?
I’m used to big cities, I have lived in London for 3 years, but Kuala Lumpur even if is big doesn’t have that much to offer. I felt like if you didn’t want to buy stuff that you would have to carry around the world for who knows how long, then there isn’t much else to do; and window shopping wears out pretty quickly.
Another thing is the heat. Most of the time it is hot but not sunny, so if I have to deal with the crazy temperatures without even the prize of getting a tan, what’s the point? I ended up wishing for the rain, which was luckily coming almost every day for about one hour to cool down the air.
As you have might figure out, I didn’t enjoy Kuala Lumpur that much. One of the reason is probably that, even though I always felt safe and met really nice people, in the back of my mind there were those constant warnings that made me feel less relaxed. Have aver happen to anyone else? You have a prejudice on something and you can’t get over it? That is what happened to me.
Put it like this; it sounds as if I spent one month in hell or something, which is not true. Kuala Lumpur has its good side of course: the National Mosque, Merdeka Square, the old Railway Station and the old city area are really beautiful, but what are my favourite things? Temples and markets!
There are many popular markets in Kuala Lumpur like the massive Central Market where you can find all sorts of arts and crafts. I know that I said I don’t like window shopping but I can spend hours wandering in markets. I’m attracted to colors like bees to honey. Jalan Petaling can keep you busy for quite a while as well but it’s busier with tourists than locals. An exciting discovery has been the Wednesday night market in Taman Connaught. I discovered the market thanks to my super helpful host that brought me there: there are no tourists, lots of different kinds of food to try and super cheap clothes or phone accessories. It is very popular with locals and it gets extremely busy. My host was really easy going and was the only person who considers Kuala Lumpur less dangerous than any other big city, but this busy market was the only place where she told me to keep my bag close, because with that amount of people it’s easy to get things stolen.
Temple-wise my favorite is definitely the The Thean Hou. It was completed in 1987 and despite its young age and modern technique, is characterized by a traditional design. Today it is a popular tourist destination and even more popular for young married couples that come here to take their wedding photos. I can see why, it is definitely a photogenic one.
It is open from 8 AM to 10 PM and if you go there when the sun is setting or early in the morning you will see people practising Tai Chi. With the temple as a background and the soft music, it almost didn’t look real! Absolutely beautiful!
The most popular and most astonishing building in Kuala Lumpur is, of course, the Petronas Towers. No words are needed for the towers, it is the kind of thing that you can look at over and over and you will still be amazed. I can’t really describe them and my pictures don’t give them justice, they are perfect. On the Lake Symphony, just outside the Suria KLCC, behind the towers, there is a lightshow with music at around 8 PM, totally worth a look.
In conclusion Kuala Lumpur had its pros and cons like any other city in the world, but personally I wouldn’t spend another month there.
Am I the only one?