We’re experienced world travelers but that doesn’t mean we don’t occasionally make stupid mistakes. From flushing frogs down the toilet to being mistaken for a dominatrix, here are our top ten travel mistakes, so far: Read more
The Petronas Towers
Getting Petronas Towers tickets requires a bit of strategy. Tickets are limited, so if you want to go to the observation deck—at the best time to visit for great photos, or simply a time that works for your travel schedule—it’s best to book ahead. The dual skyscrapers, which were once the tallest buildings in the world, are one of the most popular Kuala Lumpur tourist attractions. We’re glad we went; read on for our review and tips on visiting.
Impatient? Book ahead with Petronas Towers Skip the Line
Looking for a Hotel in KL? COMPARE PRICES HERE
Anyone who watched Sean Connery and Catherine Zeta-Jones dangle precariously from two tall buildings in the movie Entrapment will recognize these twin towers, Malaysia’s contemporary architectural jewel. Michael’s not much of a dangler, but he really wanted to visit the observation deck at the top. Unfortunately, there was a problem.
Getting tickets on site: wake up EARLY!
You can purchase Petronas Towers tickets on a first-come, first-served basis, which is challenging because there are a limited number of tickets available for each day. The ticket office opens at 8:30 AM. Unfortunately tickets–which are for timed departure throughout the day–are as popular as front row seats for Lady Gaga. According to the guidebooks, visitors are advised to arrive as early as 6:30 AM to get a spot before they sell out–YIKES! During our travels we met several people who skipped the tour because they didn’t want to wake up early to stand in line (like us). A friend of ours who lives in Kuala Lumpur (or “KL,” as the locals call it) has never even gone to the top because of that supposed requirement.
Uh oh . . . Michael is not a crack-of-dawn kind of guy. He was torn: as a self-proclaimed building geek, visiting the the Kuala Lumpur towers was one of the main reasons we came to Malaysia. (Like visiting the Burj Kalifa was a big draw for visiting Dubai.) Maybe he could send Larissa in the early morning for tickets? [….Um, that would be a “NO!” ] We had to find another way.
These students from Indonesia were thrilled to pose with Little Rocky in front of the Petronas Towers Kuala Lumpur
Can you buy tickets for the Petronas Towers in advance?
The short answer is yes. We managed to sleep in and still get to the top.
Ticket alternative: A Petronas Twin Towers “tour”
Fortunately, you can secure a ticket in advance by purchasing it through Viator. The twin tower ticket for Petronas Tickets Skip the Line is reasonable (approximately $30). The purchase process is easy–a few simple clicks online–and tickets are delivered right to your hotel. [NOTE: we recommend bringing your passport along, in case they need to see it upon checking in.]
If you only have limited time in KL, you might want to consider this Airport Transfer/Petronas Tower option, which will pick you up at the airport (not a bad idea–it’s a looong way from downtown), take you to the towers, then drop you off at your hotel.
On the 42nd floor Skybridge the limited capacity keeps down the crowds. A visit to the Skybridge is included in the KL tower entrance fee.
Petronas Towers Tickets: The Skybridge & Observation Deck
As tours to the tops of tall buildings go–and we’ve been to most of them–this was by far the best. The ticket office issues a limited number of tickets for each 15-minute time segment, which means it doesn’t get crowded. Show up at the designated time and guides escort a small group of about fifteen to the distinctive 42nd story Skybridge connecting the two towers. We had about fifteen minutes, which was plenty of time to walk around, take photos, and marvel at the fact that you are suspended between the two towers.
After that the guide boarded us on the high-speed elevator that soared to the 88th floor observatory of the eastern tower. There, we spent another twenty minutes roaming around, filling up the memory card of our cameras. The building’s unique 8-pointed star shape provides plenty of nooks and crannies, therefore it was easy to find a private spot to take in the view. A Kuala Lumpur tourist map was laid at our feet, with the hills in the distance. It was a gorgeous view and, best of all, we didn’t have to get up early to see it.
Even allegedly grown men get as excited as little kids on the top of tall buildings. The Petronas Towers is one of the top tourist attractions in Kuala Lumpur.
Visiting the Petronas Towers: Practical Matters
To us, the Petronas Towers is a must on a list of Kuala Lumpur places to visit. Here is a synopsis of the practical tips:
Order tickets ahead:
(If you only have a short time in KL, consider the Airport Transfer/Petronas Towers combo.)
Time to allow:
About an hour for the visit from bottom to top and back again
Best time to visit the Petronas Towers:
With tickets limited, there are never crowds. If you’re a serious photographer, schedule a late afternoon visit for the “golden hour.”
Who should go?
Lovers of tall buildings and long-range views
Where to stay?
We stayed at the ParkRoyal Serviced Apartments. Nice, large studio in a central location, with kitchenette (perfect for enjoying takeaway meals), and a terrific rooftop pool. A good value. You can also use this handy tool to check KL hotel prices.
Is it worth it to get Petronas Towers tickets?
When you visit Kuala Lumpur, YES! Compared to tours of most skyscraper observation decks, the Petronas Towers tour was well-organized. Knowledgeable guides are available to answer any questions about the building or the views. Touch-screen TVs on the Skybridge provide information about what the visitor is looking at. The are are limited tickets sold each day, as a result there’s plenty of room for everyone; no waiting or jostling at the windows for a view.
If you can’t make it to the Kuala Lumpur towers, here are some Petronas Towers souvenirs.
Some other things to do in Kuala Lumpur
- Check out our experience at Batu Caves, where we witnessed an infant getting his head shaved in a sacred Hindu ceremony.
- Get the inside scoop on Malaysian food: take a Malaysian Cooking Class
- For a bit of fun, read about my water-logged experience with a toilet on a Malaysian train. (It seems funny . . . NOW!
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Disclaimer: We purchased our own tickets to visit the Petronas towers. We are now a member of Viator’s affiliate program, which means if you purchase a tour through our links we receive a small commission at no extra cost to you. This helps us keep things humming here at Changes in Longitude, while providing free travel guidance to our readers. 😊
We’re Larissa and Michael, your typical middle-aged couple from Philadelphia who’ve been traveling the world full-time since 2011, seeking off-beat, historic and tasty sights. To receive updates and valuable travel tips subscribe to our travel newsletter here.
In Malaysia we witnessed a Hindu infant head shaving ceremony known as Mundan. We were visiting Batu Caves, a large Hindu Temple built atop a hillside, outside of Kuala Lumpur.
Take a tour of Batu Caves.
There were the typical souvenir stands outside it selling an interesting combination of shiny stuff and religious offerings. Read more
The historic port town of Malacca, Malaysia offers a wonderful blend of Asian and European influences. Also spelled Melaka, it bears traces of Malay, Chinese, Indian, Portuguese and Dutch cultures.
This varied background is displayed by the colorful trishaws, a form of bicycle-powered rickshaw, Read more
One of the things we’re tasting on this journey are donuts from around the world. But there was one donut that smelled so awful we couldn’t eat it. It pains us to even think of donuts in a bad way, but we met our match in a durian donut in Malacca, Malaysia.
Durian is rightfully known as the stinky fruit. When it’s cut open it emits a foul odor that I can only compare to a combination of sweaty sneakers, old fish and sewer effluent. It’s popular in Asia but there’s a reason many hotels have signs in the lobby that say “No Durian!”
We were walking around Malacca (which is a great place to visit with a unique culinary heritage) when we saw a sign for “Big Apple Donuts.” Though we’re no longer surprised when we see New York City food references in far-flung locations, we decided to check it out.
We saw one tray of donuts off to the side that looked spiky, like a puffy version of a durian fruit. At many shops in Asia the donuts are given names with cute plays-on-words. So naturally the durian donut was called “Durian Durian.” This made us hungry like a wolf so we decided to try one.
The lady behind the counter explained that they are filled to order and we soon understood why. We took the donut to a table where Michael served as the guinea pig for a durian donut taste test. Click the white arrow below to watch a video of it, but first a warning, the results are not pretty.
Click the link for more donuts around the world.
LaZat Cooking SchoolMalaysian cooking was a mystery to me. The country is a dynamic blend of cultures: half Malay with the rest mostly Chinese and Indian. Over the years their cuisines have mingled, creating fantastic flavors but making it difficult to distinguish traditional Malay cuisine.
LaZat Cooking School offers a variety of hands-on classes that showcase many facets of Malaysian cooking. Located in a suburban Kuala Lumpur house, the school’s customized classroom is divided into two sections: a demonstration counter and individual cooking stations. Each class holds a maximum of ten students, which allows the two instructors ample time to spend with each student.
I chose the Traditional Malay Class, where we would cook dishes served for family gatherings—the kind a Malaysian grandmother would make. Our menu included:
- Cucur Udang/Prawn Fritters
- Beef Rendang/Traditional Malay Curry
- Acar Timun/Spicy Cooked Cucumber Salad
- Kueh Koci/Sweet Grated Coconut in Glutinous Ball wrapped in Banana Leaves
The class was set up as a series of brief demonstrations followed by hands-on time at our own cooking stations. I like this type of class best since you can try out what you’ve learned while it’s still fresh in your mind. Everyone has their own station so each student makes every dish.
We started with the cucur udang. Chef Saadiah explained how to mix fresh shrimp and vegetables with water and cornstarch while her assistant Sue demonstrated how to deep-fry them in palm oil. The cornstarch kept them light and crisp. Paired with sweet chile sauce they made for a tasty appetizer. (Or in the case of our mid-morning class, a late breakfast.)
Next came the beef rendang, known in Malay cooking as “a festival dish” that is served on holidays. Every Malay cook has a unique recipe, and each cook is convinced that hers is the best. Rendang is a stew prepared with chilies, onions and other condiments, sweetened with coconut milk and served either wet or dry according to preference.
Rendang is similar to an Indian or Thai curry, but not the same. Aromatics including lemongrass are sautéed with spices and then the meat and water are added to simmer. Saadiah explained that the signature ingredient here is coconut that is toasted and ground before adding to the stew. It adds a unique nutty flavor and serves to thicken it slightly.
Coconut milk is added near the end to give the rendang a creamy consistency. In this class we used a beef tenderloin which cooks quickly, however home cooks often use tougher cuts of meat that need more time to tenderize. Ironically, these less expensive meats make a more flavorful rendang since the ingredients are given more time to meld.
While our rendang was simmering, we made our dessert. Kueh koci are a Malay take on truffles: sweetened coconut enrobed in a rice dough instead of chocolate. We melted chunks of palm sugar in coconut milk and added shredded coconut to make the candied center of the “truffle.” Rice flour mixed with water formed dough that we wrapped around our coconut. We wrapped them in banana leaves and set the pretty little packages in the steamer to set the rice dough.
It was time to eat, so we quickly composed our Acar Timun, a warm salad of flash-sautéed vegetables that we dressed with a sweet/tangy dressing and garnished with sesame seeds. This recipe was Saadiah’s own, developed when she was a chef at a resort on the Malaysia coast. She said it matter-of-factly, but a sparkle in her eyes revealed she was very proud of it (the secret ingredient is shrimp paste).
By now the rendang had reached its desired slightly dry consistency and our little coconut desserts were steamed. We sat down to taste the fruits of our labors, accompanied by the traditional plate of steamed rice. The rendang and salad were delicious, familiar flavors mixed in new combinations that snuck up on my taste buds. I loved how the toasted ground coconut both thickened and flavored the rendang. The warm salad had a pungency and crunch that contrasted perfectly with the stew.
The coconut dessert was tasty, but I can’t say I really liked the glutinous rice coating—perhaps it’s an acquired taste. If I made the dish again I’d simply leave the glutinous rice out and steam the sweetened coconut alone in the banana leaves.
I had set out to learn about Malay culture via the kitchen. As I sat in the garden under a palm tree in suburban Kuala Lumpur, Saadiah tasted my rendang and pronounced it authentic. I beamed with pride, a Malay-for-a-day, and dug into my meal.
*Please note for my gluten-free friends that this is a celiac-friendly menu.
Click the link for more information about the LaZat Cooking School.
For another cooking class, click to the link to learn how to make pasta.
We’ve come across some unusual signs in our journey. Some funny signs caution people about not doing things that would seem to be self-evident. Like the sign posted above. It’s in the bathrooms at the Adelaide Airport in Australia. Not that we’ve ever been tempted to drink from the toilet, public or otherwise, it’s nice to know they care enough to give us another reason not to. Here are a few more funny warning signs:
These no-nos were posted on a taxi in Bangkok. We understand no animals, we didn’t realize the other one was such a major problem.
Apparently people carrying fish is a real issue on the Dubai metro.
I guess in the land of the hopping kangaroo, Aussie drivers need to be reminded that not everything bounces.
An actual Metro stop in Sydney, it can’t be good for property values.
There was something about the face in this photo shop in Australia that looked familiar but we just couldn’t place it.
A clean toilet seat costs about 60 cents at this Kuala Lumpur Mall. If you’re not so particular you can go down the hall for free.
Okay, in Asia there are Western style toilets and there are squatters. This sign in Cambodia warns against combining the two concepts.
Durians, also known as stinky fruit, are banned from most hotels in Asia. Their stench is noted for its quite remarkable lingering effect.
What unusual signs have you seen in your travels?
Imagine having hundreds of fish nibbling at your toes underneath a giant sign that assuredly proclaims “No Piranha.” Now picture your feet are in a tank with about a dozen other feet that are also being nibbled on.
Larissa normally loves seeking out relaxing massages but turned up her nose, or more properly her toes, at this fish pedicure. Michael, who has the world’s most ticklish feet (he seriously does, he can’t even get a shoe shine because he giggles like a tween girl at a Justin Bieber sighting) also opted out.
The stated therapeutic qualities of a fish pedicure are that the toothless “garra rufa,” also known as doctor fish, massage and nibble at your feet and remove dead skin. But it’s probably a good thing that we didn’t jump in with both feet.
The treatment, which is popular throughout Asia, is coming under increased scrutiny from health authorities worldwide. The Health Protection Agency in the United Kingdom has warned that the practice could spread HIV and Hepatitis C. Some states in the US have already banned the practice.
But that hasn’t stopped the people in this video from getting their feet massaged by little fish at the Central Market in Kuala Lumpur. Be warned though, one lady is a screamer:
The other night we had one of those impromptu cultural experiences that make travel worthwhile. On a quiet Monday evening we strolled the streets of Chinatown in Malacca, Malaysia. It was a few weeks before Chinese New Year and the town was in full preparation mode. We watched men climb rickety bamboo scaffolding to hang glowing red (…) Read more
We were on the train from Singapore to Malaysia. Friends in Singapore had advised us that the toilets on the train left something to be desired, but it was a five-hour journey so eventually nature called.
The facilities were better than we expected. There was even a choice of a Chinese style squatter or a Western style toilet; not that I was actually going to sit, mind you–but enough said about that.
Just jiggle the handle
When I went to flush I was flummoxed. Where was the handle? I finally spotted a foot pedal below the bowl so I stepped on it. Well, it flushed all right, unfortunately not the toilet, but the entire floor of the bathroom. A little spout next to the pedal that I hadn’t noticed began to shoot water all over the floor with a level of pressure that was rather impressive. If you’ve ever been to Niagara Falls then you get the idea.
What followed was a frantic little crab-like dance by me as I tried to keep my feet from getting wet by wedging myself up against the walls of this tiny compartment. (Thankfully I no longer had my pants around my ankles or I would have been wearing the toilet seat as a necklace.)
Surely it would stop any minute–just like those sinks in public bathrooms, right? Well, no. It just kept pouring out. So I gingerly reached out a toe and tapped the pedal again. I was rewarded with yet more water gushing onto the floor.
And the Oscar goes to . . .
To avoid the rushing tide I pirouetted into a toe-stance that would rival Natalie Portman in Black Swan. It’s a good thing I was wearing my nerdy Keen hiking sandals with the big goofy rubber toe design. Did I mention that the train was doing its part to enhance this experience by swaying to and fro and hitting every bump on the line to Kuala Lumpur?
I stood there transfixed and unable to figure out how to stop the gusher. By now I had enough of my own personal water park. I briefly toyed with the idea of sticking my big toe into the faucet to plug it up but you know how that would turn out. The train was approaching our stop and I could see me stuck in the bathroom with my toe even more stuck in the faucet. Visions of something Lucy and Ethel would do. Finally the water stopped.
Planning my exit strategy
Now all that remained was to plan a hasty exit that would be perfectly timed with the train swaying so the water would slosh away from the door at the critical moment. I took my leap, hoping no one in the rail car noticed me catapulting myself out of the bathroom, surreptitiously wiped my feet on the floor in the aisle and scurried back to my seat.
Michael then patiently explained to me that this was one of those old-style trains where toilets just drain out onto the tracks, so there was no flusher. But wasn’t it nice of me to clean the floor?