After three months in Bali, we were somewhat ready to experience a big city again. We enjoyed the various attractions and cosmopolitan energy of Yangon, Chiang Mai, Bangkok and Saigon. I had a hunch, based on research and previous experience, that our family would dig KL as well.
Malaysia is the most wealthy country in SE Asia. Immediately upon arrival, we felt an increased sense of ease in getting around. Thankfully, most people spoke great English. Things simply worked. KL is one of the fastest growing not to mention most dynamic and innovative cities in this part of the world. With its cultural diversity and blazing modernity, I knew I would visit someday, but I certainly did not expect with kids. Well, it might be the most kid-friendly city we have been to so far.
Similar to the previous countries we have visited in this region, Malaysia seems naturally very child friendly. In keeping with the Asian sense of group (vs individual) mentality, people generally are looking out for the welfare of your children, not just you! In KL, I appreciated that children are given priority seating on public transport. Mommies and kids always need to go potty, right? Alas! There are decent bathrooms everywhere, rarely lacking soap, toilet paper, even hand sanitizer, amenities which cannot be taken for granted in public restrooms in a city of 8 million. In parks, we found drinking fountains with clean water. Elevators and ramps were plentiful, a relief for those times Mathilda insisted on riding in the stroller. Furthermore, the public transit was free for children, even Merle, now 6. Rubbish was minimal; there always seemed to be a bin nearby. There are minimarts and a variety of decent food options everywhere, so there is no reason to go thirsty or hungry. We also loved that in every mall, there seemed to be a grocery store. It was easy to stock up on necessities and/or get prepared food to take home on our way out, since many transit stations are linked to the malls. We discovered the modern, renovated sections of KL are tricked out so that one could actually spend the entire day inside, with interior walkways extending for seemingly miles connecting one section of downtown with another. Everything you think you might need is in one of hundreds of these interconnected walkways and shopping centers. With the climate and air quality far from optimal in KL, this sunless life was actually a relief, albeit strange. Perhaps this is the future of many international cities as the environment sadly continues to deteriorate and temps continue to rise.
Our go-to place in KL right from the beginning was a shopping and entertainment nexus called KLCC, which stands for Kuala Lumpur Convention Center. (The latter occupies a section of the complex.) The area is situated at the foot of the picturesque Petronas Towers. Bereft of roads, traffic or any other urban ills, its vast outdoor space features a large pond with an electrified dancing fountain, huge trees, grassy knolls, 2 km running path, kids mini water park and a playground large enough to handle hundreds of children. It is such a well thought out cityscape, that it is easy to imagine you are actually a tiny figurine inside a diorama of what a perfect city should look and feel like.
Only four stops away from our rented apartment, KLCC park was an easy and fun option for us, especially at the end of a tiring day. It granted us parents a chance to sit back, relax and watch our kids be kids. Every hot city like KL should have a centrally located free splash pool for children. Simply awesome!
Suria Mall at KLCC housed several of our favorite stops in KL. Toys R Us, a store the kids had actually never seen, was a big hit. We saw the newly released movie Rio 2 (which we loved so much, we saw twice), a true delight after months of pirated dvd’s that only sometimes work. The theater was huge and loud, just like at home, but I must say so bitterly cold, our winter survival skills were put to the test. Dining at Suria was always easy because of the choices. On our first day, the kids wanted McDonalds (an occasional treat), and we wanted Indian. No worries, at Suria’s food court, they are right next to each other. Merle’s top choice was Sushi King, one of those revolving conveyor belt joints. Though slightly anxiety-inducing for him (constantly moving, neverending, unrelenting choices!), he loved its inherent system and the autonomy it gave him.
Besides the park, KLCC and Suria’s ultimate attraction is the Discovery Center. This science museum blew away anything I have seen of this nature for kids anywhere (perhaps because it is privately funded by one of the world’s largest oil companies, Petronas). Stay tuned for a closer look in my next post.