Back in March I attended a two-day feline veterinary conference in Kuala Lumpur. The Boy joined me at the end of the conference where we stayed on for an extra day to explore the city together before flying onto Vietnam for our anniversary holiday. As I’m not accustomed to sitting still for long periods, by the time the Boy arrived after my two conference days had finished I was full of energy like crazed, caged animal. We had only allocated one day for KL so to cover as much ground as possible I planned a busy schedule of eating with some sight-seeing and shopping thrown in for good measure.
We stayed at the Renaissance Hotel which was where the conference was held and was conveniently located within walking distance to the shopping areas and the monorail station. Our room was one of the “Lifestyle Rooms” which overlooks the beautiful Petronas Towers. The room gave us access to the Lifestyle Club floors however I felt this probably was a waste of our money as I only went in there once. The bathroom had a good range of Tokyomilk amenities which were refreshed daily.
The breakfast on offer in the club lounge was much smaller than the buffet downstairs and wasn’t worth returning for. We didn’t get a chance to check out their free afternoon cocktail hour. The gym was huge and certainly one of the better equipped, more modern hotel gyms that I have seen. It was nearly as big as my regular gym back home. The breakfast buffet had all the usual suspects that I would expect in a South-east Asian hotel however I would have preferred better quality. They had gluten free bread and muffins available on most albeit not all days.
1. Local breakfast snack at Nyonya Colours, Suria KLCC
Unless I’m staying five-star, hotel breakfasts are not really a deal clincher for me as I prefer to get out and about to sample the city’s cuisine. We skipped our hotel breakfast and headed off on foot towards the Petronas Twin Towers. Located at the base of the twin towers is Suria KLCC; six heavenly levels of shopping with something for everyone ranging from high ends brands like Tiffany, Chanel, Gucci and LV through to some more affordable fashion, sport wear and accessories stores. The Boy was kind enough to tolerate a short spurt of shopping before stopping in at Nyonya Colours for a quick morning snack.
I flashed my home-made Malaysian gluten free, fructose friendly eating card to the cashier to which he initially frowned and shook his head. After giving my request more thought he then pointed to the only two suitable options in the glass cabinet; a type of fish cake wrapped in banana leaf called otak otak and a rose sago dessert. Beggars can’t be choosers I thought to myself so I ordered them both.
If they are made traditionally, Otak otak should be naturally gluten free but as always if you are Coeliac or very sensitive please ensure to check with the seller before you buy. Otak otak are a type of spicy fish cake made with coconut milk, shrimp paste, egg, rice or tapioca flour and spices such as kaffir lime, turmeric, lemongrass and chilli. They can often contain some shallots so for those sensitive to onion be aware of this.
Rose sago is another traditional Malaysian dessert made from sago, coconut milk, palm sugar and fresh coconut. It is flavoured with rose essence for a subtle hint of floral flavour. I have been a big fan of eating these “kuih” since I first tried Red Hot Spatula’s some years back.
The Boy wasn’t keen on any of the vegetarian options from Nyonya Colours so after I finished my otak otak we headed downstairs to the food hall in search of something else for him to eat. As we entered the basement area I saw a post office and dashed over to send postcards home to family and friends. Meanwhile the Boy found a food stall serving some vegetarian sushi. Whilst the stall holder nodded to me that his selection was gluten free, I didn’t want to take the risk it as there was some suspect looking marinated tofu inside that looked like it contained soy sauce.
As the Boy sat down to eat his breakfast, my eyes gazed around the mall and caught sight of a brightly lit Garrett’s popcorn store. I have been lusting over this world famous popcorn for a very long time and was dying to try it. I ran over to the store like an excitable child and ordered a large bag of their popular Chicago mix to eat later back in the hotel room. Most of Garrett’s popcorn flavours are gluten free but once again be sure to double check before you order. Oh, and another warning…it is very addictive and once you open the packet you need to be prepared to be unable to stop until it’s all gone.
2. Petronas Twin Towers
Our first touristy stop was the Petronas Twin Towers; KL’s 88 floor 452 metre tall skyscraper. We were on a fairly tight schedule so had I pre-booked our tickets to go up to the top online the day before. For those less organised there are also a small allotment of tickets available every morning at the ticket counter but get there early as they sell out quickly. The tickets cost 80 RM per person.
Our journey consisted of two parts; the first was up to the 41st level where the twin towers are joined by a 58 metre sky bridge. We were given around ten minutes or so to explore the bridge and take photos.
After this we were escorted to the 68th floor which is the highest point in the building that the general public are permitted. Once at the top we were left to our own devices to explore, read the display information and take in the 360 degree view of Kuala Lumpur CBD.
After our Petronas experience was over we headed back down to the ground level to find ourselves a taxi to Batu caves. On our way we passed a macaron stall allowing me to have a quick impromptu mac attack. Well, it’s not like I could walk past and not try a couple of flavours, could I?
3. Batu caves
Our next stop was the Batu caves. These caves are accessible by either taxi or train with a substantial difference in price. We paid about 80 RM for one way by taxi however we made the mistake of catching it outside our hotel, you could probably get a metered taxi for half the price if you were a bit savvier.
The Kommuter train line runs right out to the caves with a direct stop and our return trip on the train only set us back 4 RM each. We are not the biggest fans of public transport and found the taxi much easier and more relaxing. Additionally the connection from the Kommuter train to the Monorail at KL Sentral station wasn’t the easiest to find as the signposting was quite poor.
There are a few noteworthy things to see at the Batu caves. Your first hurdle is to climb the 272 steps to get to the caves. There is no lift available which is worth knowing in advance if you are injured, infirm or wheelchair bound. At the foot of the stairs is the world’s tallest statue of Lord Murugan, the Hindu god of war. He stands nearly 43 metres tall and it took 300 litres of gold paint to paint him!
After spending a few days cooped up in lectures, the stair climb was just the workout that I needed. I do have to confess that we both stopped halfway to catch our breath! Dotted all up the stairs were a multitude of long-tailed macaques all scampering about trying to forage amongst the rubbish left by messy humans.
The Cathedral Cave located at the top of the stairs is a huge area with an impressive high ceiling and was filled a number of Hindu statues and ornate shrines although they were not very well maintained with rubbish littered about the place.
After walking through the Cathedral cave, we also took a tour through the Dark Cave. Tours cost 35 RM per adult and last about an hour. Our tour guide Zarris was an entertaining chap who spoke excellent English and was very informative. In contrast to the cultural experience of walking through the temple, the Dark Cave tour is focussed on educating about conservation. It highlights some of the intriguing invertebrate wildlife living in the caves and if you are lucky you might get to sight a bat or two. We also got to view some beautiful large stalagmite and flow stone formations.
On our way to the Batu train station to return back to the city centre, the Boy stopped at one of the street food vendors to grab a quick on-the-go snack. Unfortunately the stall holder couldn’t read any of my translated eating cards meaning I couldn’t identify whether anything was gluten free.
Instead I settled for some durian popcorn. I can see why some people go nuts for this fruit, it has a very distinct and pungent flavour!
4. Shopping at the Pavilion and a Hello Kitty coffee at Komugi Cafe
My next checkpoint was to buy myself a Hello Kitty latte. As many of you know, I am a self-confessed crazy cat lady and whenever I’m on holidays I need to get a kitty fix from somewhere. A few weeks back I had seen a picture of cat coffee art at Komugi Café on my Instagram newsfeed and was determined to head there and score one for myself.
Komugi Café is a Japanese bakery selling a variety of Japanese baked goods including a lot of different types of breads and pastries. Regrettably none appeared to be gluten free so we settled on some chocolates instead.
The coffee tasted a lot milkier and was weakly flavoured, quite a contrast to my normal preferences. However the pure novelty of having a Hello Kitty face decorated in my coffee’s foam made this one of the best coffees I have ever had! 😉
Komugi is located in the Pavilion shopping centre which is also multi-level and has a different collection of shops to that in Suria KLCC. After doing a spot more shopping we were ready for something more substantial to eat having only nibbled on things throughout the day.
5. Jalan Alor Hawkers food
It was a short walk from the Pavilion to Jalan Alor where there is a wide variety of street food with prices that won’t break the travel budget. I brought with me all my translated eating cards written in Malaysian, Chinese and Thai and this made it a bit easier to find someone willing to help us.
Gluten free alcohol options are grim with most hawker restaurants only serving beer. I was happy to abstain and enjoy a fresh young coconut instead. Veterinary conferences can be quite heavy going with a lot of alcohol drinking so I’m sure my liver appreciated some time off.
Before choosing our dinner location we started off with some grilled corn and sambal stingray. After showing the stall holder my gluten free eating card I watched them carefully while they prepared our dishes to ensure there wasn’t any gluten containing sauces like soy added. The sting ray was a bit of a disappointment as it wasn’t as spicy as that I’ve had in Singapore and the meat wasn’t tender and flaky.
Our next round of meals were from Restoran Sun Chui Yuen who were very happy to accommodate and help choose some gluten free dishes for me. We ordered steamed ginger crab, prawns with egg yolk, fried tofu and fried rice. As we looked around us we saw that we had ordered a lot more dishes than any of our adjacent tables despite it just being for the two of us. Locals pointed at all our food and laughed while they rubbed their bellies to indicate our greediness. We smiled back sheepishly.
Whilst I had tried my best to explain to our waiter about potential contamination of gluten in food, this is the hardest part of ordering in a foreign country. Many waiters will understand about not including ingredients with gluten, but to ensure the frying oil and the chopping board is clean is much more difficult.
Later that night I did get a reaction however thankfully it wasn’t too severe and I am guessing it would have just been in the deep fryer rather than actually in the food. I should have used my common sense and stuck with steamed dishes.
6. Night cap at Marini’s on 57 Sky bar
The fact that the locals at Jalan Alor thought our eating habits were hilarious were well founded. We were feeling very full and ready for late night cap before hitting the sack. Before we did, I wanted to show the Boy how beautiful the Petronis Towers looked all lit up at night so we walked back to the city centre for a drink at Marini’s on 57 Sky bar.
Marini’s is located on the 57th level of Petronis Tower 3 adjacent to the Twin Towers and gives a spectacular view of the building and city below. It is claimed to be Malaysia’s highest rooftop bar and has floor to ceiling glass windows to maximise on the view. Marini’s has three areas with a funky bar, Italian restaurant and cigar lounge.
We made ourselves comfortable at the bar and I ordered a Mary’s Melon cocktail; made with 42 below Manuka honey vodka, Midori melon, rosemary syrup and vanilla syrup and garnished with a rosemary stalk and chunks of honey dew. Not exactly a fructose friendly drink but it was completely worth it.
Whilst it wasn’t easy to find a gluten free Kuala Lumpur; with eating cards in hand things were made a bit easier for me. For those foodies not restricted by the shackles of food intolerances it is definitely a city worth eating your way around. Street food vendors are everywhere and I wish I could have sampled more dishes. Alas I have learnt that whilst I can tolerant a bit of fructose here and there, gluten is my enemy and is simply not worth the pain.
Suria KLCC Shopping Centre | www.suriaklcc.com.my/index.html Petronis Twin Towers | Lower ground level, Petronis Twin Towers, KLCC 50088 Kuala Lumpur | +603 2331 8080 | www.petronastwintowers.com.my Jalan Batu Caves, 68100 Jalan Batu Caves, Selangor | +603 6189 6284 | en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Batu_Caves | Dark Cave Educational Tour, Batu Caves | www.darkcavemalaysia.com Komugi Café | Lot 24/1A, Tokyo Street, Level 6, Pavilion Shopping centre, Kuala Lumpur | +603 214 80369 | www.komugi.com.my Jalan Alor Street Food | Jalan Alor Bukit Bintang, 50200 Kuala Lumpur Marini’s on 57 | Level 57, Menara 3 Petronis, Persiaran KLCC, 50088 Kuala Lumpur | +603 2386 6030 | www.marinis57.com