Two weeks in Asia. Stop 2: Kuala Lumpur

The second city on our trip was the hot and steamy Kuala Lumpur. Our 3 nights here have completely flown by and I am currently writing this from the plane on the way to Bangkok!

We landed at lunchtime on Monday and got the KL Espres train directly to KL Sentral (a speedy 30 minutes and free wifi on board) and then had planned to change to the green line to get to our hotel. Well, it turns out that the KL subway system has 2 different green lines and we got on the wrong one. Eventually, after a couple tantrums, waiting yonks for a monorail and walking a lot from station to station, we got to our hotel! And the moment we got to our room ready to drop our bags and head out to explore, a huge thunderstorm started. Of course it did.

An hour or so later when the thunderstorm had subsided a little, we headed out on a walk to see KLCC park and the Petronas Twin Towers. An advance warning for potential visitors to KL – a zebra crossing here may look exactly the same as one back at home, but in Kuala Lumpur the cars will not stop for you and you will probably die. Also, motorcyclists don’t care about red lights/pedestrian pavements/loss of life so have your wits about you at all times.

When we arrived at KLCC Park with all limbs amazingly intact, the Petronas Towers looked STUNNING. So many gorgeous photo ops in the park and lots of places to sit in the sun and take in the view.

The mall underneath the towers is enormous and has everything from supermarkets to designer stores to Marks and Spencer’s and it even houses a cheeky Nando’s. We ignored the peri-peri chicken and instead headed to the food court to see if we could try something a little more authentic. As with nearly everywhere in Asia, finding authentic food that’s also gluten free was difficult. I checked out all the stalls before deciding that my safest bet was a Rendang beef curry with plain rice. It was yummy! Ewan also tried a canned Chrysanthemum Tea which was interesting (read: rank).

The Towers (and actually the whole city) are even more stunning at night when they are lit up against the night sky, and the fountains in the park light up and play music after dark. We also walked home through a little rainbow forest which was dreamy.

The morning after we headed to Batu Caves via bus & train. I had read that you have to have your shoulders and knees covered to go in as it’s a place of worship, so I put on my most sexless and unflattering outfit (photo of this below – you’re welcome) and off we went. Sadly, my outfit was apparently not covered enough and I was made to pay to rent a sarong. Ewan, the slut, had his knees completely visible but was allowed in sans sarong. Go figure.

The first thing you’ll see at Batu Caves is the enormous gold statue at the bottom of the steps. The second thing you’ll see are stray dogs and monkeys. For monkey fans, you will probably be in your element. If you’re a person who is afraid of most things (like me), you will probably not be. However, I can honestly say that those 272 steps in 36 degree heat were EASY because I was running on nothing but fear and adrenaline. I had one break in which I forced Ewan to take my backpack in case it attracted the monkeys as they are known to steal things off tourists and can bite if they have to fight for it. Basically what I’m saying is I was quite happy for Ewan to be attacked as long as I saved myself. Picture below of a monkey with a stolen drink.

Once you’re up the steps, the caves themselves are actually pretty underwhelming. They are currently going through extensive rebuilding inside the caves though so maybe that’s why! On the way back down, I put my hand in a huge, bright green pile of monkey poo. Yay.

Once back in KL Centre, we got a taxi to the historic centre and took some gorgeous photos of the area. We found ourselves conveniently inside Central Market when a thunderstorm started so decided to shop for some of those hideous long trousers that EVERYONE wears when in Asia, in preparation for our temple visits in Thailand. You know the ones I mean; baggy and covered in elephants.

The very tactful owner of one store greeted me with, ‘Yoo-hoo Madame, the larger sizes are over here’. Because I was actually slyly trying to look for the stretchiest ones, I followed him and practised my super impressive bartering technique on him:

‘How much are these ones?’

‘For you… 35 RPM’

‘Great.’ *hands over money*

We headed to the crazy-busy, food-filled street Jalan Alor that evening for dinner and finally got to try Chilli Crab. It was good but an absolute pain in the ass to eat!

Our last day in KL was a bit of a washout. There was SO much rain all day long. We wanted to go up KL Tower but the Sky Deck was closed due to the weather, so we plumped for the observation deck instead and thankfully could still see most of the city from it!

It cleared up a tiny bit and we were able to get out for a wander around Little India, before finding the most delicious place inside Sentral Mall for lunch. I had the most incredible Nasi Lemak (a rice dish cooked in coconut milk and pandan leaf) and tried a naturally gluten free dessert called Lapis. They do them in all different colours and flavours!

That evening we headed to see the stunning Petronas Towers again and stopped for dinner in Malaysian chain restaurant Madame Quan’s. There weren’t a huge amount of gluten free options so I had my second Nasi Lemak of the day! I wanted to have an alcoholic drink with dinner but Asian restaurants seem to offer beer but not much else, which is obviously no good for me! However, we found a bar that sold wine by the glass later that evening and I now understand why wine isn’t so big in Asia… we had an absolutely terrible glass of Shiraz while watching the fountains and it was enough to put me off wine for at least a week!

We got a taxi back to the airport for our flight to Bangkok because we couldn’t stand the thought of getting on KL’s public transit system again, and ordered our taxi from the hotel front desk. As our taxi arrived, the receptionist shouted out to us, ‘by the way, your taxi driver is deaf.’ To start with we were a bit worried how safe this was in insane traffic, but he turned out to be THE CUTEST MAN IN THE WORLD/safest taxi driver in Asia and left us with a lovely memory of Kuala Lumpur.

Side note for gluten free peeps: KL airport has NOTHING that you can eat once you go through security so eat before if you can. I ended up having a bag of Starbucks sour cream and onion crisps for breakfast.


Two weeks in Asia – Stop 1: Singapore

I bang about how much I love Singapore on such a frequent occasion that Ewan, my boyfriend, decided he wanted to visit for his 30th birthday trip. We also decided to tag Kuala Lumpur and Bangkok on to the holiday to make it extra special/to tick off as many countries visited as possible. (I have recently downloaded an app called Hello World and am a bit obsessed with it).

The week leading up to our flight to Singapore saw ‘the beast from the east’ hit the UK, cause havoc and subsequently SO many flights were cancelled. Honestly, until our flight actually lifted off the ground, I wasn’t sure if we were going to get to go!

Thankfully though, all worked out fine and the flight itself was a dream.. or as much of a dream as a 13 hour economy flight can be. Hot towels, freshly made Singapore Sling Cocktails, fantastic gluten free food and the hilarious movie Happy Death Day made the time fly by.

We landed at Singapore Changi airport at 7pm, took the super cheap MRT into town and after a scenic walk along Boat Quay, checked in to our hotel and went to bed.

The morning after, I felt fresh and ready to go out exploring. Ewan, however, had barely slept due to jet lag and was a grumpy bastard. Regardless, he still got up, dressed and we ventured out to find breakfast. Let me start by saying that finding gluten free breakfast in Singapore is an ABSOLUTE BALL-ACHE because Singaporeans either like to eat toast with random toppings (one place was selling toast with a butter and sugar mixture spread on top, advertised as ‘butter with a crunch’) or soy sauce covered noodle dishes. I ended up having a fried egg, a ‘fish ball’ and a super sweet iced coffee. Weird… but I actually kind of enjoyed it.

We headed to check out the Merlion and get some gorgeous views of Marina Bay Sands before walking around the harbour to explore Gardens by the Bay. These Gardens are like none other; lush greenery mixed with enormous sculptures of all different shapes and colours, huge futuristic ‘trees’ and a sky-walk that connects them all together. To top it all off, Cloud Gate in the Gardens is home to the worlds largest indoor waterfall. Gorge.

We took a break from the heat and stopped off at a cafe inside the gardens for a drink. I was seduced by a photo of a bright pink drink on the menu and ordered it without a second thought. This was a mistake. It turns out I had ordered a concoction of whole milk, sugar and rose flavoured syrup. Grim grim grim. Looks nice in the picture though, doesn’t it?

Next stop was Chinatown and we had fun walking around all the stalls, checking out the gorgeous lantern lined streets and year of the dog decorations. It was a roasting 34 degrees so we headed into Chinatown Complex Food Centre for some lunch and air conditioning. There are an insane number of stalls in there selling all manner of delicious looking things, but eventually I went for the Carrot Cake as I knew it was gluten free. Carrot cake isn’t what you think… it’s a dish made out of rice flour and white radish mixed with eggs and garlic. They sell it in black or white varieties, but if you’re gluten free make sure to get the white version as the black one has soy sauce in it! It was really yummy and weirdly tasted like a seafood omelette even though it’s just veggies!

We headed back to the hotel for a swim, sunbathe and nap. The hotel pool was beautiful and it was crazy hot which was a nice change from the freezing temps back home!

Post-nap, with rumbling tummies, we wandered out to take in some more stunning views of Marina Bay and grab some dinner at my favourite Hawker Market in Singapore – Gluttons Bay. We feasted on a huge platter of chicken, mutton and beef satay and washed it down with tiger beer (Ewan) and iced tea (me). We wanted to get a chilli crab too but we were stuffed, so we have vowed to come back next week when we’re in Singapore again.

We watched the light show (every night at 8 and 9pm) at the Marina Bay Sands before going to Clarke Quay for a drink. Ewan had a sampler of beers, all of which he sadly described as average, and I of course went for a Singapore Sling.

We’re now in Kuala Lumpur for 3 nights before heading to Bangkok, then back to Singapore! Plus, just to add this in because I am a smug cow, and also to excuse the state of my hair/outfit/general appearance in all the photos, I am doing this entire 12 day trip with nothing but a 7kg hand luggage bag. So smug.