Recently, Marco and I were reminiscing about our last visit to Kuala Lumpur, way back in 2006. I fondly remembered what I loved most about the city, it had to be the delicious and diverse food. Malaysia is such a melting pot of cultures, we were so excited to find typical Malaysian soups, Indian Tandoori chicken, or Chinese dim sum all on the same street. We also remembered how clean the city was and how efficient the public transport was. This time round we were keen to see how the city compared over 10 years later and exploring as a family of four.
We stayed at Intercontinental Kuala Lumpur on the bustling KLCC precinct. It was important for us to divide our time exploring the modern city as well as the rich and diverse cultural heritage.
Intercontinental has all the services and facilities you’d expect from a luxury family friendly hotel combined with a perfect location. From the moment we walked through the doors the atmosphere was very friendly and welcoming. The staff especially made us feel very much at home even as Isabella and Maya ran excitedly around the huge elegant lobby. We were immediately whisked up to the 26th floor to the Intercontinental club lounge where we completed check in the quiet calm atmosphere of the lounge with a drink in our hand.
The lounge interior was modern but merged traditional elements of Malaysian culture ensuring you felt the connection with the cities heritage. The most prominent feature was the beautiful handprinted portraits of three ladies representing the races in Malaysia, a perfect homage to the diversity of the Kuala Lumpur and something I remember most about the city.
Of course Isabella and Maya on the other hand were immediately drawn to the glowing Jelly fish aquarium which kept them amused for a good amount of time.
Whilst checking in we took note of host of benefits included in the Club Intercontinental experience; most importantly the afternoon Tea, evening cocktails, which were very excited to be sampling. For full list of the clubs benefits please go here.
Our first priority was shopping and we wanted to take advantage of the strategic location of Incontinental in the bustling capital on the KLCC precinct. As soon as you stepped out of the hotel you could feel the buzz of the city, but unlike many cities across Asia the sidewalks were clean and there wasn’t too much traffic. We were even able to use the free shuttle service from the hotel included in the Club InterContinental membership.
We headed first to Suri KLCC shopping centre also the location of the iconic Petronas twin towers which are one of the world’s tallest buildings. Marco and I needed to shop for new swim wear this shopping centre is particularly family friendly as were able to take it in turns playing with the girls in the expansive park and splash pools in front of the towers whilst the other person shopped. Of course you can always go up to the observation deck of the towers on the 86th floor.
Once we both finished, we explored the shopping centre together with the girls. To our delight there was huge Christmas display where it looked like Santa Claus home had been re-created in a winter wonderland. It looked exactly like a chalet from the Italian Alps, so unexpectedly we were able to experience a winter wonderland even in Asia.
After a heavy day of shopping and fun in the park we were pleased to only have a short walk back to the hotel and enjoy the delicious afternoon tea in the club lounge of the Intercontinental. Again this brought back memories of Europe particular England. With perfectly cut smoked salmon sandwiches, scones with jam and clotted cream with a mandatory earl grey tea.
Eating at the Central Market.
Marco and I were particular interested to go back to an Indian restaurant near the central market, which we managed to find on first day walking around the city. Great Indian food in very simple setting a bit like a cafe diner. If you after authentic fast food with the best nan breads I’ve ever tasted. We enjoyed a wonderful Tandoori Chicken, which I was surprised even Isabella and Maya were enthusiastically tucking into.
Another great restaurant in the central market is the Precious Old China Restaurant and Bar, you sit amongst Malaysian antiques and colonial furniture. They specialize in Baba and Nyonya cuisine, a combination of Chinese ingredients cooked with Malay herbs and spices.
Not only has the central market house some great restaurants it’s great for shopping especially for Malaysian artisan products like Batik handicrafts, beautiful silk stoles.
Thean Hou Buddhist Temple
The Thean Hou Buddhist Temple merges contemporary architectural styles with traditional designs with ornate carvings and hand painted murals. Isabella and Maya enjoyed the garden outside which featured animal statues related to the birth years and we enjoyed learning which animal statue correlated to our own birth years.
One of the oldest and largest Chinese Temples in South East Asia. It was constructed in 1894 a stunning six tired Buddhist Temple. Whenever I visit a buddhist temple I’m always heartened to see what welcoming places they are for families. In such stark contrast to the austere christian churches in Europe.
The temple is also known as the Goddess of Heaven which is entirely fitting name, as there are at least four flights of stairs to climb before you reach the top floor which is the heart of the temple for praying and blessings. Even on this floor the most sacred part of the temple, children were running around.
The most unusual aspects of the temple was after praying and you were able to enjoy a meal and buy souvenirs in the food court located in the basement. Maybe they should try this in Italy’s churches it might bring more people to worship.
My father lived in Kuala Lumpur when he was a boy and he often recounted stories of his adventures with his brother and one of the places that was often featured was the Batu caves , before the temple was built obviously, so of course I was intrigued to visit.
The caves sit in a huge limestone hill and now house a Hindu Temple the 42 metre gold statue of Murugan guards the entrance. There are 272 steps to climb to reach the entrance to the temple, which we were prepared for, but what we weren’t prepared for was the sign at the bottom, which read “Voluntary Service, “The temple management humbly requests, all visitors and devotees to support and help us in a voluntary manner to carry a brick and pail of materials to the upper cave.”
A then another sign read, “ If you do it for love that would be wonderful!” Which was even more amusing, if we didn’t have our hands full helping Bella and Maya we would have definitely have helped for love of course! This is community spirit at it’s best and surprisingly it worked: we saw most visitors carrying a pail or brick up to the cave.
After the long trek up the steps we entered the cave which was huge and so airy much bigger than I expected. It was very atmospheric as there opening in the roof of the cave sunlight crept through to the inner sanctuary of the cave, opportunistic monkeys played excitedly around the temple hoping to, whilst bats flew overhead.
We decided to receive a hindu blessing whilst there. As we were receiving it, Isabella and Maya started to play with a local family and then we started chatting. Since traveling as a family, I’ve noticed how easily we make friends and connect with local people. This is mostly because Isabella and Maya make the first connection. Who would have thought it’s the kids breaking down the barriers and teaching us.
After our busy days site seeing, back at the Intercontinental we enjoyed cocktails and Canapés in the One Six Five bar and lounge and a delicious meal at Tao Chinese restaurant, I would highly recommend the duck and the delicious black tea. Check out our full experience of the Intercontinental Kuala Lumpur including Tao Restaurant on our Vlog, it will go live shortly, so make sure you subscribe to our channel
Thinking Nomads verdict
We still love Kuala Lumpur probably even more so, than our last visit. For family’s it’s a perfect city to explore for a few days, it’s clean modern, with rich and diverse cultural sites to visit as well as modern child friendly parks and exhibits. We spent just over two weeks in the city and never got bored.
Check out our tops tips below for visiting the city as a family.
- Make sure you give yourself enough time in the city. There is a lot to see and do. We would recommend a minimum 4 – 7 days is ideal. Trust us, you won’t get bored.
- Use Grab or Uber to get around the city download the apps and do everything from your phone
- Buy a local SIM card so you use data for using the apps to get around the city and call taxis.
- Batu Caves – Ancient Limestone hill with a series of Caves and Temples. There are 272 steps to climb allowing you to pay homage to diety Lord Murugan.
- Sri Maha Mariamman Temple – Hindu Temple famous for intricate carvings of Hindu deities
- Islamic Arts Museum – South East Asia’s largest museum of Islamic art situated amongst the leafy surroundings of Kuala Lumpurs Lake Gardens.
- Then Hou Temple – one of the oldest and largest Chinese temples in South East Asia.
Child Friendly Activities
- Petrosains Discovery Centre
- KLCC shopping centre
- Farm in the city
- KL Bird park – The largest free flight Walk in aviary – check out our experiences of KL bird below in our Vlog.
- Kidzania – and edutainment centre designed to prepare kids for the workplace.
- Sunway Lagoon – A water theme park
Authentic Fast Food
- Bahce Turkish Restaurant and Cafe – delicious and fast grilled chicken and rice – it’s across the road from the Intercontinental KL
- Restoran Yusoof Dan Zakhir – Diner style Indian restaurant.
- Precious Old China – in the central market and atmospheric place, sitting amongst chinese antiques.
- Manja – Old world colonial luxury with local fusion cuisine.
Watch our Vlog in Kuala Lumpur in 4k (part 1)