Layovers can be an annoying hold-up in your trip, or they can be a fantastic way to see a new city without committing to a whole trip to a new country. There are some places in the world that, although you would love to tick off your bucket list, you don’t need to spend a lot of time in to really enjoy. I’ve never really made the most of my layovers, always too keen to reach my destination, I didn’t take opportunities to explore Dubai or Kuala Lumpur on flights across Asia and to Australia over the last few years. So when I knew I would be leaving Australia and planed to travel parts of Asia, it seemed a good opportunity to explore some of areas I hadn’t had a chance to previously.
Booking some seriously cheap flights in an amazing deal I found in CheapFlights.com - I planned to fly from Darwin, Australia, to Bali for seven hours, then on to Malaysia for a day’s layover and eventually to Sri Lanka. One heck of a trip and a lot of travelling, but less than $700 for two people, and a chance to get a LOT of work done in Bali Airport followed by a day exploring Kuala Lumpur, it was a bargain. We had a great time in the city and managed to really make the most of our trip, so I thought who better to share it with than all of Absolutely Lucy’s closest friends.
Arriving in Kuala Lumpur, I finally had a chance to try out Blacklane’s premier chauffeur service - think Uber but far more upmarket with a personal driver and a sleek black Mercedes. After a pretty serious car crash, two flights and a seven-hour layover in Bali Airport, this was just the luxury treat we needed and it really gave our exhausted bodies the motivation to explore the city. We were met at arrivals by a Blacklane representative who guided us to our car and introduced us to our driver, David D, who was quite a character and really looked after us during our 10 hour layover. He offered advice on our plans for the city, he made sure we knew where we were going, where to meet him and had us back at the airport in plenty of time for our flight. Sweeping us around the city in his plush ride, we arrived at the caves and Petronus Towers ready to explore, and we easily dodged the crazy KL traffic and avoided the chaos of public transport - a saviour for those with yet another flight ahead of them. While the cars may not be in the budget of the average backpacker, they are well worthwhile booking for anyone who is planning on a luxury adventure getaway, or anyone who fancies arriving in the city in style. Find out more about Blacklane and book your next ride here.
Escaping the City
I’m definitely not much of a city person and as soon as we arrived, I was already keen to leave the grey smog of Kuala Lumpur behind me, a far cry from the sunshine of Darwin. After an hour’s drive, we were dropped at Station Sentral where we planned to get the train to Batu Caves for just RM2 Just 8km out of the city, the train takes around 30 minutes and drops you right outside the Hindu cave temple, it really couldn’t be more convenient. First we wandered along the street towards the caves, watching the monkeys and tourists fight over food and selfies, then as we approached the caves we stopped to cover ourselves up - try and avoid wearing shorts (both men and women) out of respect, ladies make sure you have a shawl or sarong to drape around your shoulders. I really hate seeing people not pay their respects and cover up, it is a very small thing that means a lot to other cultures. Entry is by donation, then start the steep ascent up the stairs, stop every now and again to look behind and take in the view before you enter the caves and start exploring. I was less impressed by the main cave simply due to the number of people in there at the time, but it was majestic.
The Dark Cave
If you haven’t quite had your fix of caves, by not venture down the right side of the main staircase outside the caves and pop into the Dark Cave - these natural phenomenon are really work checking out. You can only explore by paying for a tour, but after paying RM70, I can say it was definitely worth it. We spent 45 minutes in hard hats exploring the huge caves by torchlight with our guide who seemed to know everything you wanted to know about these huge structures. It was great to walk alongside our guide and to hear her tell us about everything from the cave’s physical structure, to the biology of the organisms living in the cave including the bats and even the history of tourism. She was very knowledgeable and full of character which really brought the information to life for all of us on the tour. It was fantastic that we had time for both caves and we actually could have spent even more time there if we wanted. Afterwards, we strolled along the food stands outside and ended up enjoying a meal of vegetarian dhal and curry with fresh roti prepared in front of us - our first taste of the food that will be our diet for the next month.
Seeing the Sights
Of course you can’t spend a day in Kuala Lumpur without wandering the city and paying a visit to the Petronus Towers. Our driver dropped us off right at the base of the towers and we spent some time taking in the sight and taking photos around the base. Although you can get tickets to go up to the top of the towers to take in the view, we decided against it as it was a rather cloudy and rainy day, and we didn’t want to queue. For the shopaholics among us, there are also several huge shopping malls both inside and next to the towers for all your retail needs, plus they’re a good place to escape the rain if the weather is a bit rubbish as it was for us.
We managed to do all this in less than six hours and had plenty of time for travelling between places and back to the airport - we were back there in plenty of time to collect our bags, make it through security and get food in departures. One thing that really helped us to enjoy seeing the city was being able to leave our bags at the airport, we paid less than $30 (AUS) to store our bags there for the whole day and it meant we were free of our heavy loads and didn’t have to stress about them on public transport. If you’re planning to get out and see the city, I would highly recommend it as Kuala Lumpur is one of the best cities I have been to for sightseeing in just a few hours. And I would definitely recommend leaving your bags either at the airport or train station to give you more freedom around the city.
Where's the best city you've spent a long layover? Have you been to Kuala Lumpur - what did you get up to while you were there? Do you like taking a break in the journey, or do you prefer to blast out the whole trip in one?