Posts Tagged “malaysia”

20 Must-Have Experiences in Kuala Lumpur Malaysia

20 Must-Have Experiences in Kuala Lumpur Malaysia

Pairs Well With…Traveling + Adventure + Discovery

When moving to a new city, it’s easy to start exploring, beginning with the sights you should see.  Petronas Towers, check!  Batu Caves, check!  It was in Kuala Lumpur, the city of skyscrapers and lookout points and the first one-month stop within my Remote Year journey, where I pledged to be more than just a common tourist and immerse myself in unique experiences.

But what happens when you think you’ve seen it all?  

You put on your Dora the Explorer gear and get to gettin’, finding those local city gems others wish they had found.  Combined with some of the best tourist attractions, here are the most outstanding local finds and things to do in the fine city of Kuala Lumpur:

  1. Enjoy a drink on a helipad at Heli Lounge Bar.  A helipad for landing by day, and a rooftop patio by night, Heli Lounge Bar offers spectacular views of the KL sunset.  Grab a glass and sip into the sunset.

Photo Credit: Jay Harrison

2. Dine banana leaf style.  The banana leaves serve as plates in an effort to reduce waste.  Instagram-worthy in and of itself, you begin with a base meal of banana leaf rice and vegetables topped with sauces and proteins to your liking.  The best part of this meal?  No silverware required. You eat with your hands.  Monkey see, monkey do, follow suit and eat like the locals do.  Check out a few of my favorites around town: Raj’s Banana Leaf, Restoran Sri Nirwana Maju Bangsar, and Vishalatchi Food Catering.

3. Hike Broga Hill.  An easy 45-minute drive into nature outside of KL’s city limits – and every minute worth it.  Set your alarm early as you won’t want to miss the beauty of the morning sunrise. If you are going for sunrise, prepare for the hour long, beginner-intermediate hike by bringing water, bug spray and a flashlight or headlamp.

4. Feast in the “Food Dungeon.”  Buried below the bustling streets, this multi-heritage, 30 vendor deep food fest offers something for everyone.  With highly affordable, authentic meals, you can taste your way across the globe.

5. Savor a symphony.  Lyrics lover or not, the shows at the Malaysian Philharmonic Orchestra are music to the ears.  The orchestra hall is a showstopper and a sight to be seen.

Photo Credit: Malaysian Philharmonic Orchestra

6. Feel the beat.  As a dancer for many years, I am always in pursuit of new dance studios, styles and classes.  Geetha Shankaran Dance, offering a variety of classes, from Indian to Hip Hop Fusion, provides instruction to both youth and adult audiences.  Yoga classes are offered as well.

7. Peak from the Petronas Towers.  Visiting Kuala Lumpur and not seeing the dynamic 88-floor skyscrapers wouldn’t be right.  Almost the tallest in the world at just under 452 meters high, these two towers symbolize Malaysia as an up and coming global presence.  The former Prime Minister’s vision for these towers was to reflect “courage, ingenuity, initiative, determination, energy, confidence, optimism, advancement and zest.”

Photo Credit: Jay Harrison

8. Love your latte.  There are many cute and quaint coffee shops in the city that offer a nice, quiet break in the day.  Whether catching up on emails or cranking through a page turner, these coffee shops offer up some of the best lattes, sweet and savory meals, and enchanting atmospheres.  Best latte in town?  Check out Coffee Amo for hand-crafted delights.

9. Affinities for Infinities.  Kuala Lumpur houses some of the best infinity pools you could ever imagine, with Capri by Fraser being a front-runner favorite.  Make sure to switch up your scenery, get your shine on, and soak up your daily dose of Vitamin D – all with a breathtaking view while in the blue.

Photo Credit: Capri by Fraser

10. Be awestruck at Batu Caves.  This Hindu temple houses the iconic Murugan statue, perfectly positioned for a photo opp prior to entering the caves.  You’ll walk up 272 stairs to get to the top, but the walk through the caves and to the picturesque opening is worth every step.  (Beware of the thieving monkeys!  No, seriously.)

Photo Credit: Jay Harrison

11. Eat street meat.  Yes, I understand this may sound odd, but it’s everywhere. Quick to get, convenient to eat, and pretty to look at, your street meat varietals easily serve as dinner de jour. Keep your eyes out for these street meat vendors (really known as Lok Lok) who serve not only meat, but also many other skewer assortments.

12. Kick it at the KL Tower.  Another KL must-see landmark, both day and night.  During the day, you can head to the top of the tower and scope out the scene from above.  At night, the tower sometimes offers a musically synced, can’t-miss light show.

13. Find unfamiliar foods. One of the most exciting things about visiting a new place is trying new foods.  Kuala Lumpur offers a large dose of Indian, Chinese and Malaysian foods, among other styles of dining.  Wander along Jalan Alor, also known as “Food Street” and indulge in items such as fish balls, drunken noodles, Lok Lok….and meat floss.  (Mark my words, I will see to it that I have a full understanding of what meat floss is before leaving the country.)

14. Trek through the tiniest rainforest. The Bukit Nanas Forest Reserve, living in the heart of KL, is a piece of peace in the middle of the city.  Take a nice stroll through the scenic forest and embrace the lush greenery among the concrete jungle.

15. Temples & Thaipusam.  If you’re lucky enough to be in KL during the once a year Thaipusam event, you must attend.  Thousands of spectators line the streets in an effort to observe the sparkling chariot making its way to the Batu Caves.  Not in town for Thaipusam?  No problem!  KL has many temples to visit and meditate in.  Practice mind over matter in these beautiful buildings.

Photo Credit: Jay Harrison

16. Fancy a foot massage.  Those long days of walking will get to those tootsies.  With most of the foot reflexology shops being open until the wee hours of the morning, it’s easy to take a load off, day or night.  Make sure to swing by D’Care where a 60-minute foot rub is $12 USD.  It doesn’t get much better than this.

17. See street art.  Mural, mural on the wall, which one is the best of them all?  The right answer?  All of them.  Lining the streets of KL lie many story-filled visual masterpieces designed by local artists.  Some of the best pieces are lurking in the most unexpected places. Looks are free.

18.  Nosh at Nagasari Curry House.  Food shame me if you must for my weekly repeat visits, but let’s not fix what’s not broken. Right?  Plus, there’s something to be said when your favorite neighborhood restaurant nails it – every time.

19. Bob your head at No Black Tie.  Love live music?  Well then, this joint is the place to be.  With a jazz vibe and good wine, it’s the recipe for a perfect Saturday night.

20. Dine differently.  Whether Dining in the Dark or in the sky at 164 feet in the air, you’ll enjoy the luxuries of 3+ course meals with a unique, sensory experience.

Departing March 4th, 2017 for Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam & March 6th for Hanoi & Halong Bay!

A Pit Stop For A Piece Of Humble Pie

A Pit Stop For A Piece Of Humble Pie

Pairs Well With…”Another Day in Paradise” by Phil Collins 

“There is no us.  There is no them.  There is just a we.”  – J. Lee

What would you do if you lost everything?  Could you handle it?  Would it break you? Maybe you didn’t have a lot to begin with, but tomorrow you wake up and find yourself homeless, living on the streets with nothing more than shreds of dignity – if you’re even that lucky.

Life has an interesting way of unfolding.  Everything can turn on just one twist of unforeseen fate, and change the trajectory of life.  For whatever reason, some of us dig out, others of us can’t.  And more often than not, we look at someone living on the street with pitiful glances, if we even acknowledge their presence at all, without regard to how they fell into their circumstance.  As if they chose to be there.  Maybe yes, maybe no, but what remains constant is that they are still there and, like us, they are human too.

February 2015, my first trip to Rio, was my first real glimpse into such an eye-opening and deep level of poverty.  It both rocked and unnerved me.  I hadn’t seen anything like it, and maybe that’s because for so long, I tried not to.  Entire families camped out looking for food, or any other handout to help them get by.  I would offer up my leftovers in an attempt to keep hearts beating and stomachs full for at least one more night.

I reflected on Rio as I headed into my first volunteer shift at Kuala Lumpur‘s Pit Stop Cafe, a community cafe working to find solutions to urban hunger and poverty by marshaling volunteers and repurposing food.  They are truly a one of a kind model.  (America, take note.)

The owner, Joyce, shares a story similar to mine: Woman gets fed up with Corporate America. Woman quits her job. Woman works to find something more meaningful and fulfilling.  Through her change of course, Joyce founded Pit Stop Cafe, which costs $6-8k monthly to operate and offers warm meals daily to 200-260 urban working poor or homeless people.

Earlier in the week, in a presentation to my Remote Year group, Joyce shared learnings around her community work, what it means to be in need and how the less fortunate are viewed.  What she shared was interesting, and in some cases, jaw-dropping:

THE CITY OF KUALA LUMPUR CHOOSES NOT TO ACKNOWLEDGE (or report) ANY HOMELESS POPULATION. Turning a blind eye much?  When you don’t report issues, you don’t have to acknowledge them.  And because you don’t acknowledge them, they aren’t “real” – and the government doesn’t have to spend dollars on “non-existent” economic issues. Typical case of ignorance is bliss.

(I was curious to learn more about this issue and stumbled upon an interesting article which accuses the city of rounding up homeless people and dumping them (yes, dumping them) outside city limits. W.O.W.  I’m not sure what is worse, throwing money at a problem or throwing people away.)

MAKE SURE YOUR IMPACT IS, IN FACT, IMPACTFUL.  While we have the best of intentions, we don’t always know what someone needs – unless we ask.  When was the last time you asked someone on the street what they needed, or better yet, what they wanted?  Most people approach the homeless as a one-size fits all, “you’ll take what you’re given” type mentality.  How helpful is having a size ten pair of shoes for a size seven foot?  Or a goose down jacket in Kuala Lumpur when it’s above 80 degrees the majority of the year. At Pit Stop Cafe, diners are asked what meal they want from the options available. By asking someone what they want, you allow them to feel as though they are in control and have a choice.  It’s how we build people up again.

THOSE IN NEED ARE OFTEN LOOKING FOR A HAND UP, NOT A HAND OUT.   The majority of our lives are spent trying to be better and do better.  To do so doesn’t always come easy, and it isn’t always a solo effort.  Many people don’t enjoy asking for help when they need it, especially when it’s someone they don’t know, but when you’re playing the survival game, it can become necessary.  Help where you can, and allow someone else to rise up.

DON’T ALLOW ANYONE TO BECOME INVISIBLE.  By acknowledging a person’s presence, you make them visible.  Everyone wants to be seen.  Just because someone is down on their luck doesn’t mean they should be counted out.  Each person has a story.  Take the time to hear it.

HOMELESSNESS IS NOT A PITY PARTY.  But it is about respect and treating a human being as a fellow human being.

Before my volunteer shift, Joyce was gracious enough to spend some time talking to me one-on-one about her career moves, new business, and worldly opinions.  I loved hearing about the vision and foundation on which Pit Stop Cafe was founded:

“When you look, or when you think about something called a pit stop,…a pit stop is a place for you to refuel. To refill yourself.  To change your tires.  And we wanted something like that but in the human context for people to uplift or upgrade themselves.  You couple that with our tagline, “Love all. Feed all”…Love is not just that between a husband and wife or whatever. It’s an encompassing thing. Compassion is part of the love thing as well.  So when you show compassion, you show love.  And that’s what we wanted.

But feed all…people think you just feed the stomach.  You do not just feed the stomach.  You feed your heart.  You feed your soul.  You feed your mind. You can fill your stomach all you want and, in some ways, I think that is what is wrong with the world sometimes.  All you are thinking about is feeding your wallet, feeding your stomach….Where’s your heart?  Where’s your soul?  How do you feed your heart?  How do you feed your soul?

How do you make yourself happy?”

I kept thinking about Joyce’s words throughout my shift and felt internally conflicted about the impact I thought I was making.  By the end of the shift, I decided to try a new approach: joining one of the gentlemen that I served just a bit earlier.  I asked if he minded that I join him.  After exchanging names and proper greetings, we dove into a more personalized conversation: our backgrounds, how we each got to be at Pit Stop Cafe that day, and past and present professions.  We shared a common bond over the love of reading and discussed our favorite books.  I couldn’t tell you the exact reason I approached the man, other than he had a kind smile and great spirit.  I suppose I wanted him to know that he is important and worth talking to, not that he needed my validation by any means.  Maybe I felt at that moment that he needed to be seen.

Upon leaving Pit Stop, I felt an intense wave of emotion and quickly stepped outside.  I don’t know that it was this particular volunteer shift that triggered me so much as it was realizing how engulfed I am my goals and needs to see anyone else’s.  I took my moment and let the tears slowly stream down my face, while I took a few deep breaths.  How selfish of me to be crying when these people have more challenging circumstances than I do. I circled around the idea that if we’re all operating independently, no changes will be implemented and no impact will be made to better the world.

Why do we let things get so bad in the first place?

As you ponder, I leave you with this: next time it’s too cold in the house or the food isn’t cooked to your perfection, or there’s not enough hot water for a shower, remember the person out on the streets.  Check your privilege, and remember, there is someone out there who is asking for nothing more from you than to be noticed.

Click here to listen to the full interview with Joyce Lee, owner of Pit Stop Cafe.

How Do You Like Your Eggs? (Kuala Lumpur’s Five Best Breakfasts)

How Do You Like Your Eggs? (Kuala Lumpur’s Five Best Breakfasts)

Pairs Well With…Breakfast, the most important, sunny side up meal of the day.

You know the story: breakfast is the most important meal of the day.  Morning fuel is critical, and that first “this hits the spot” meal is everything.  I’ve spent the month of February scouting out the best, most novel breakfasts in Kuala Lumpur.  Not only did I succeed in finding what I was looking for, but I also won – big time.

Trying to find a traditional, semi-familiar delicious breakfast can sometimes be a challenge as a foreigner.  Lucky for you, I did all the dirty work. All walkable from Kuala Lumpur’s City Center, these five breakfast hot-spots will have you coming back for seconds:

VCR: 2, Jalan Galloway Kuala Lumpur 50150

With one of the best menus in town, VCR is a go-to destination for Sunday brunchin’.  Their menu offers everything from eggs-as-you’d-like, to a variety of toasts – and everything in between.  VCR’s rustic downstairs atmosphere and scenic upstairs views allow you to enjoy your brunch as you wish.

Best location for: The Sunday Bruncher

What to get: French Toast (oh, but it’s so much more)

VCR French Toast


The menu describes it as: Espresso no churn ice cream, fluffy brioche french toast, raspberry compote, crumbles and mocha sauce.

What the menu should’ve said: “This tower of delight will put your future breakfasts to shame, so you mine as well never bother ordering French Toast ever again. The chocolate raspberry goodness, soaked into the airy cinnamon bread, topped with a softening dollop of cold ice cream, will make you unsure of whether you’re eating breakfast or dessert.”

Other VCR notables:

VCR Squash Toast

VCR Breakie


Ola Bowls: C5.06.00, Pavilion Shopping Mall, 55100 Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

Yes, from the outside, this may look like nothing more than a smoothie shack with a toppings menu as long as your to-do list.  Look beyond appearances and into the heart of the menu where you will find options that sing to your stomach – and a plethora of colorful smoothie bowls!

Best location for: The Health Enthusiast

What to get: King of Greens

Ola Bowls – King of Greens


The menu describes it as: Farm power with avocado and banana blend topped with goji berries, crushed almonds, cranberries bananas and coconut flakes.

What the menu should’ve said: “Nourishment by the spoonful, and made with love.  This horizontal smoothie will beam you up for the day like you wouldn’t believe.”

LOKL Coffee Co.: 30 Jalan Tun H S Lee Kuala Lumpur 50100

This is as local as it gets, and a regular hangout for many. With a space as vibrant and fresh as their food, LOKL offers a plethora of intriguing breakfast options, so there’s something for everyone. With everything on the menu sounding heavenly, make sure to plan for a second visit while you’re in KL.

Best location for: The Indecisive Eater

What to get: The Frittata

LOKL Fritatta


The menu describes it as: Spanish omelet, smoked chicken sausage, leeks, potatoes, and onions.  Served with a side of grilled vegetables.

What the menu should’ve said: “This hearty egg delight is a symphony to your taste buds – an overall breakfast crescendo! The bold flavors of the frittata chased by mellow savoriness of the vegetable side will help you hit those high notes for days.”

Other LOKL notables:

LOKL Scrambled Egg & Cheese Burger

LOKL Mozzarella & Eggplant Casserole


Coffee Amo: 1st Floor, 54, Jalan Sultan, Kuala Lumpur 50000

Unsure of where to start, I’ll give you the first three words that come to mind: Bear. Rum. Latte.  With on-point, hand-crafted coffee couture, you can’t go wrong.  Coffee Amo has one of the best lattes I’ve had – in my life.  While their menu is small, their coffee is kickin’.  I’m thinking about stickin’.   If you’re lucky enough to find this gem, tucked away in the middle of Chinatown, you must stop by for your daily caffeine drip.

Best location for: The “I Can Take it or Leave it” breakfast crowd, but gotta have my coffee 

What to get: Bear. Rum. Latte.

Coffee Amo Bear Rum Latte


The menu describes it as: (spoiler alert) A latte.  You pick the flavor, and the barista works on a design.  Should you try to order a “Bear Rum Latte,” your barista may give you a funny look.

What the menu should’ve said:
Option #1 – (Mic drop. No words necessary)
Option #2 – “Your latte is not only going to be the shit, but it’s also going to be the envy of all your friends – and everyone else on Instagram.”
Option #3 – This furry fella likes long walks on the beach, candlelit dinners, and bathing in tubs of rum lattes. He’s the perfect breakfast companion.

Other Coffee Amo notables:

Coffee Amo Waffles & Cream (with blueberry syrup)


Feeka Coffee Roasters: 19, Jalan Mesui, Bukit Bintang, 50200 Kuala Lumpur, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

A Kuala Lumpur favorite known for their spectacular service, coffee – and serving breakfast ALL day! Feeka’s menu is well-balanced and health-minded with a large dose of variety.

Best location for: The Charming Coffee Shop Enthusiast 

What to get: Umm…Everything?!  Pick just one item? Okay, the B.A.L.E.T.

Feeka’s B.A.L.E.T.

The menu describes it as: Beef bacon, eggs lettuce and avocado and roasted tomatoes served on top of toast.

What the menu should’ve said: “Piled high, this perfectly textured sandwich-eque delight will start your day sunny side up.”

(Bonus Round) J.Co Donuts:

Novelty donuts anyone? Move over cake, beat it crumpets, the donut train is coming through. With more than 25 sugary delights daily, pint-sized to-go sample packs, these donuts are truly “everything you ever wanted in a donut.” Looking is free.  Donuts are extra.

Best location for: The Sweet Tooth

What to get: Everything!!!

J. Co Donuts…all of them!

Other J.Co notables:

The Berry Spears

J.Co Tiny Donuts

2017 Kuala Lumpur Thaipusam

2017 Kuala Lumpur Thaipusam

Pairs Well With...Cultural Awakenings + Respect + Religion

Malaysia is a country of extraordinary fusion: food, culture, religion, and architecture.  The fact that three cultures (Malay, Chinese and Indian) can co-exist harmoniously, despite different values and beliefs, is rare.  The level of multicultural diversity in Malaysia is something I’ve not experienced before, and one that sadly does not exist as seamlessly in the United States.  How noble of a country to be able to put aside differences and treat one another with respect.  Respect.  Malaysia should be proud of what they’ve achieved during their short-lived independence. (This is the part where we give this country a standing ovation…)

For those of you unfamiliar like I was, let me get you up to speed on your Malaysian history as I understand it:

  • 14th Century: Since way back before any of us were born, Malays have been out doing their thing.
  • 1786: British folk weasel their way into Malaysia and start getting all high and mighty by building their tiny empires year over year.  On other people’s turf.  I believe the word stealing held the same meaning back then as it does today.  Just sayin’.
  • 1826: The British (once again) start poking their noses where they don’t belong and take over the Malay’s sh*t.  Not cool guys.  Keep your hands to yourself. Then, they voluntold Malacca, Penang, Singapore and Labuan that they were going to become The Colony of Straits.
  • 1942-45: Japanese Armies started some sh*t – and brought World War 2 with them.  Again, not cool guys.
  • 1957: Finally, finally, the “British Malaysia” becomes just Malaysia.  I’d imagine there was a lot of clapping and celebration, followed by many middle fingers aimed in Britain’s direction.  Take that!
  • 1963: Sabah, Sarawak, and Singapore want in and, together with Malaysia, they form the Federation of Malaysia.
  • 1965: Singapore says, “Peace out” and dips.  Mic drop.


And this, ladies and gentleman, may be why I didn’t pursue history as a profession.  (Sources below can lead you to your own interpretation.)

Now, in Malay, “Kuala Lumpur,” translates to “muddy confluence.”  “Kuala” is the point where the two rivers merge together and “Lumpur” means mud.  The city was founded at the confluence of these two rivers in 1857.  Malaysia will celebrate its 60th birthday this year in August.  (Dear Malaysia, if there’s one thing I’ve learned in life, it’s never too early to start celebrating a birthday.  Get it.)

Within the three cultures, Islam is the predominant religion and is 61% of the practicing population.  There are also large and devoted segments of the population practicing Buddism (20%), Christianity (9%) and Hinduism (6%).

Why am I telling you this?  Because I was able to witness Thaipusam, a Hindu ceremony held each year during the full moon on the tenth month of the Hindu calendar.  Thaipusam is a three-day event that kicks off late in the evening on night one, with a procession leaving from Sri Mahamariamman Temple, Kuala Lumpur’s oldest Hindu temple.

The procession is led by a beautiful, glowing chariot carrying a statue of Lord Subramanian, The God of War, which represents prosperity and virtue.  Growing larger in size with each mile, thousands of barefoot devotees begin their nine-mile walk down the streets of Kuala Lumpur to the Batu Caves, arriving by noon the following day.

Once the statue reaches the caves, devotees prepare for their acts of penance, followed by bringing offerings up all 272 Batu Cave steps as a form of penance.  Impalings of the skin, including tongue, cheek, and back, are common with the back piercings often decorated with fruit, leaves, spikes, hooks or spears.

This article nicely outlines the delivery of the kavadis:

“Besides impaling themselves, followers also carry giant metal constructions (called kavadis) with offerings such as flowers and milk to the top of the caves. Some kavadis can weigh up to as much as 100 kilos. Once prayers are completed, those with skewers attached to their bodies have them removed and their wounds are treated. The event continues throughout the night and into the next day with many queuing up to carry their kavadis up to the central cavern.”

Thaipusam was an incredible piece of culture to experience.  While deemed a Hindu celebration, to me, it was so much more.  It was a peaceful illustration of religious devotion, but also a gathering of interested bystanders wanting to see, learn and expand their minds outside of their own culture, something I believe we can all stand to do.

Article Sources:
BBC News: Malaysia History Timeline Feature: Thaipusam in Batu Caves
iExplore: Malaysia: The Cultural Melting Pot of Asia

Photography Credits:  Jay Harrison


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