Everyone who comes to Kuala Lumpur leaves talking about its food and its people but for most this experience is only from the tourist hotspots in the city centre or what they think as the suburbs when they head to Bangsar or Mont Kiara (expat areas with heavy western influence). But to really experience Kuala Lumpur you need to head into the real suburbs like Ampang, PJ and Kepong.
My favourite little area, that will give you the KL experience, is Bandar Menjalara in Kepong. Within this small set of blocks you can get the full foody experience and it is safe with the food, the water and crime. The area has many old and traditional restaurants but is also slowly gentrifying so a number of good modern coffee cafe’s are emerging but unlike other areas these will never dominate the very busy traditional places in Bandar Menjalara.
To get there it is a half hour taxi at about MYR 25 and just ask to be dropped near the Tesco’s at Kepong – all Taxi drivers will know that reference.
I will outline two half day trips as ideally you need to experience both the morning and the evening. Unfortunately nothing much happens in the afternoon but if you wanted to make a long day trip then the FRIM is close and you can spend the afternoon exploring the jungle treks and cooling in the creeks and rivers at FRIM.
This is best done on a Sunday morning when all the Chinese Families get together in the streets for Dim Sum. It can be done during the week but it will not be the same experience as you will not be immersed into the Chinese culture as you would on a Sunday.
Opposite Tesco’s is a number of restaurants and on the weekend they have their tables all spilling into the street and totally full. Our favourite in on a corner and is Eden Dim Sun City. Aim to get their before 9am (weekend only, start later on weekday) and then sit back for a a few hours sipping tea and eating Dim Sum. They run around with huge steam baskets full off all kinds of Dim Sum and you just take your pick. Start slowly and enjoy your time there listening and watching the families as they come and go.
I suggest to also get Chinese Tea with Ice…they will bring out a pot of tea and a container of ice…the cold tea is refreshing with the morning heat. For Dim Sum my favourite is the Yams, try the Egg Custard and also make sure you try the Chicken Legs.
Don’t worry about price as I have no idea how that works…we have eaten their so many times and each time it is never more than MYR 50 for the four of us and a lot of Dim Sum – so it is not going to break the bank.
After Dim Sum you can stroll around as there can be a small market on Sunday’s and you can also pick another place, perhaps not Chinese and have a Teh Terik. Otherwise I suggest you head up to the furthest corner of the area from Tesco (about 200m walk), near the park and diagonally opposite the Mosque, to get a foot massage. The place pictured is one of the best I have found and I am going to recommend it as the start of my evening tour. They are traditional Thai Massage, which I much prefer over the Malaysian Massage, and they are once again safe. With a full stomach of Dim Sum it will be good to sit back and relax with an hour foot massage!!!
My evening agenda can be done any night of the week as it will always be busy. I suggest starting off around 5ish with a Thai Massage at my little massage place mentioned above – remember it is right at the far end of Jalan 3/62a up near the Mosque and as far from Tesco as possible in this complex. They really do a great Thai Massage but be wary that if you ask for a deep massage you will be pulled and stretched and walk away bruised 🙂
After your massage you can then stroll around and look into the many small businesses that are around and begin to choose from any number of eateries. Go for a stroll first because things will not start getting busy until 8ish. There are many places and you cannot really go wrong with any of them.
Our favourite Japanese which is positioned right in the middle of all the shops and streets on Jalan 8/62a– cannot miss. It is not cheap but then it is top quality.
But most of you will be here for the local experience and so diagonally opposite the many Steam Boat Restaurants start and continue to the end of the street. Steam Boat is one of the things this area is known for and so if after local I suggest you try this. Just up from Ketam Steamboat is a great Yong Tou Foo which is stuffed bean curd and something you must try.
My favourite Thai restaurant in the area is a street over towards Tesco on Jalan 11/62a.
Opposite Tesco’s is the place for Ramen…
Just explore – it is in the suburbs but it is safe and so you can just soak in the experience of being right away from any tourists and acting as a local.