Sunday, December 27, 2009

Reggae Bar,Changkat Bukit Bintang,Kuala Lumpur

Reggae Bar opened on Changkat Bukit Bintang just before Christmas.
Situated next door to Gypsy Bar,Reggae Bar is operated by the same guys who run the successful Reggae Bar in Chinatown.
In Chinatown,they have a virtual monopoly as there are no other bars in the vicinity but on Changkat Bukit Bintang,where there are over 30 F&B outlets chasing your cash they are going to have to work harder to make a success.
Opening night was busy,the next 3 nights when I walked past over Christmas,it was almost empty.
The only resemblance to Reggae Bar in Chinatown is the name.
The outside is covered in blue fairy lights so it's not easy to miss as it looks a bit tacky and stands out like a sore thumb.
There is a seating area outside with a few low tables and chairs whilst high tables and bar stools would have been better.Once inside,the bar-counter seems to take up 90% of the space.
It seems like a good idea,a big centre bar but it's so big that if you're sitting at the bar there is just enough space for people to walk behind you,so when it's busy and the bar was full as on opening night there was nowhere to stand without being in someones way.
There is an area at the back near the DJ console where you can stand but I'm guessing that's their intended dance floor.
Overall,it was a bit dark and the music was echoing from the bare walls.
The staff were friendly and welcoming.
Upstairs is slightly curious...
French cuisine in an almost fine-dining setting with round tables,white tablecloths and fish tanks on the wall and a small area given over to live music.
There is a large balcony that felt a bit too hot and sticky and in design belongs more to the downstairs atmosphere rather than the upstairs dining ambiance.
The beer price is disappointing with a dreaded Happy Hour system in operation.
A glass of Carlsberg is RM11.50 until 10pm and then RM 15.60 afterwards.

It seems that the concept of Reggae Bar is to compete with the more "clubby" places like The Social,Werner's,TwentyOne and the newly opened Elixir at Flams rather than to the back-packers and unpretentious pub going crowd of Reggae Bar in Chinatown.
It's always good to see new outlets open and I shall visit Reggae Bar in a few weeks once it has settled down and established itself to judge again but in all honesty it was not what I was expecting and I can't help feeling that the owners have missed an opportunity to do something a bit more adventurous.
Update 9th Feb-Reggae bar have introduced an interesting marketing strategy-during the week Monday to Thursday every night is Ladies Night which means drinks are free for women, it's probably a sickly-sweet cocktail that is barely drinkable but hey,it's free...and it seems to be working as the bar is getting busier and busier,especially later at night.
On the other hand,last weekend there were no free drinks and they had a RM40 entrance fee/cover charge-I think it was because of some special live music-so fair enough.
But if they decide on a permanent weekend cover charge just because it gets busy-well,that's another story.
Still not my cup of tea though....but I did actually hear them play some reggae music the other night......

Gypsy Bar,Changkat Bukit Bintang,Kuala Lumpur

Christmas Eve 2009
A rather good,fun night in Gypsy Bar to celebrate Christmas Eve.
Things started a little slow but you need to be early if you want to lay claim to some bar-space.
The music being played early in the evening was pretty dreadful with slow and miserable xmas songs but that changed at around 10pm when the crowds came.
The staff were all dressed-up in Santa outfits and handed-out goody bags and door gifts to everyone who entered. Silly-string,snow spray and party-poppers soon filled the air.
The atmosphere was great and the crowd very friendly with a good mix of locals and expats.
The service was very good-and very prompt.The staff didn't seem to get an order wrong and the bill was correct.
Scotch drinkers who bought a bottle were able to enter a raffle-to win more scotch! quite a good ploy and even non-whisky drinkers like us were given a small bottle "on the house".
It's also worth noting that the quality of the Tiger beer has improved quite considerably.There have been times when I've had to send-back a beer because it was either flat or too warm but I understand from one of the barmen that they now store the kegs in a chilled environment so hopefully bad beer is a thing of the past.
Also noted was that after serious alcohol-fuelled experimentation that it's more cost-effective to drink mugs of Tiger for RM10 rather than pints of Tiger for RM 18.
The water supply gave-up sometime late at night so clean glasses and flushing toilets became somewhat of a problem but that didn't seem to spoil the party atmosphere.
A top night out! and only an average hangover on Christmas morning.

New Year's Eve was even better!

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

The Only Bacon Sandwich in Kuala Lumpur ?

Lot 10 Shopping Mall, Bukit Bintang, Kuala Lumpur.

A rather strange topic to write about, but worthy of a mention....Lot 10 is the ugly, green eye-sore on Jalan Bukit Bintang. You can't miss it. The mall opened about 20 years ago and straight away became something of a disappointment having mediocre shops and zero atmosphere.
However,in view of increased competition from Pavillions and the soon to re-open KL Plaza,Lot 10 is going through quite a major refit.
Many new stores are planning to open next year such as Debenhams,National Geographic and some trendy celebrity named boutique clothing shops.

But of particular note are the new food and drink outlets in the basement and on the roof.
The roof now houses a gym,theatre-The Actors Studio,a nightclub, Rootz and bistro-Teeq and is billed as a "forest in the city"just because it has a little bit of turf.
The bistro,Teeq is a bit swanky and pretentious and has a rather limited and expensive menu.
Rootz is currently one of the hot places to go for the fickle club goers of KL, although who would name a nightclub on the roof of a building "Rootz"?
The place was raided in a much publicised raid late xmas eve with full TV coverage and I believe Rootz is closed at present.
You need to use the lifts at the front or back of Lot 10 to access the roof, the escalators inside the mall will eventually get you there but it's a bit tedious and involves going through the car-parking levels.
The basement,which now has street access via an escalator has a very interesting food court and is the only place in town I know where you can get a bacon sandwich.
The majority of the food stalls offer various types of Chinese and Taiwanese non-halal fare which may explain why it's so popular with the local Chinese as most food-courts in other malls are halal.
There is also a very good German food stall offering amongst other things real bacon sarnies. For RM12 you get a reasonably sized bread roll full of streaky-bacon,cheese, tomato,lettuce and dressing.
Definitely worth it!
Other dishes include various types of real German Sausages with either potato salad,sauerkraut,mash and mustard ranging in price from RM20-RM30 or you can go the whole hog! and order a pork-knuckle for two people for RM45,or a serving for one person at RM25.
And to wash it all down,amongst their beer selection they have a German beer that I've never heard of.
I was quite impressed with this place as it serves reasonably priced pork dishes in the middle of town.
What I wasn't impressed with however was the "dining ambiance" or lack of it-it's loud,echoes and has a constant loud drone of extractor fans and aircon units which keeps your clothes odour-free but makes conversation a bit of a challenge.
Apart from eating at the counter,the seating layout mixed with the hap-hazard layout of all the other food stalls is very confusing and easy to forget where you were sitting if you're in a group ordering different things from different stalls.
There is a (slightly) quieter area near the front escalators but it's not a place to linger,just eat and run.
Also worth a mention are two ground floor bars at street-level,one called Inner Circle the other BonTon. Although not destinations in themselves,they're OK if you're feeling thirsty and happen to be passing by....
Inner Circle Bar also sells non halal food and has Tiger at RM 10 a mug during the day,RM 14 after 9pm
It's a bit small and poky,has zero atmosphere but is OK for a couple of beers whilst you're watching the world go by.
BonTon is located at the back of Lot 10,has a large outside seating area and sells Carlsberg.
It's nothing special but more "open-plan" than inner Circle Bar.

There are very few places along Bukit Bintang where you can get a beer so these two establishments provide an oasis in a desert full of coffee bars, foot-massage places and tacky souvenir stalls.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Beach Club,Jalan P.Ramlee, Kuala Lumpur

A sort of "institution" among the bars of Kuala Lumpur, Beach Club Cafe has been operating for about 10 years now and despite constant rumours that it's "about to close down at the end of the year" it seems to stand the test of time.
When first opened it became a venue for local office workers and party-people but these days it's almost exclusively full of working girls, guys looking for girls (locals and expats) and a few tourists (male and female).
Love it or hate it,it's a unique bar on the KL scene.
It gets a police/immigration raid maybe once every six months or so and the local authorities raid and confiscate the sound-system every now and then...all to do with "licensing problems".
At present,the overhead big screen isn't working and the sound system is of poor quality and only temporary and they don't have live bands anymore, all this courtesy of a raid back in October.
As some sort of compensation for this,Beach Club are running a Carlsberg Bottle Happy Hour promotion; 6 beers for RM55. This equates to just over RM9 per bottle and is very good value providing you order before 9pm. After 9pm a bottle costs RM26, so it pays to be a Happy Hour drinker in a place like this.
During the week it gets absolutely packed,the later the hour the more claustrophobic it can become but Sundays are a bit more relaxing.
I always feel sorry for the sharks in the tank above the bar as the vibrations must drive them crazy but I understand that when they get too big, they get transfered to the KL Aquarium.
The crowd are generally a fairly friendly bunch but it can get a bit intense when the ratio of guys to girls becomes higher and the guys feel like they have to compete for attention.
It's also not unusual to find people throwing-up in the bathrooms.
The working girls are usually very quick to take the hint that you're not interested,unless that is you're a single guy out on your own,then they can become a bit more difficult to move-on.
but by and large a night out here is trouble-free.
After 9pm or when the bouncers feel like it there is a cover charge of about RM30 including your first beer. I would avoid the draught beer as it always seems to be watered down and if you order anything from the bar staff expect to wait ages for your change as they can conveniently "forget" to hand it to you,on the other hand, the floor staff will always return with your change.
Surprisingly the food,especially the Burgers and Pisa's is pretty good whilst a taxi home will cost you a fortune,it's best to ignore the taxis parked out front and flag one down walking towards Hard Rock Cafe just around the corner.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Healey Mac's Irish Bar, Changkat Bukit Bintang

The latest Bar to open on Changkat Bukit Bintang, Healey Mac's is billed as an Irish Bar cum Sports Bar.
Situated right next door to the long-lasting Green Man, Healey Mac's looks exactly as you would expect, which I guess is the point.
The decor consists mainly of dark wood and sombre colours with a few trinkets and posters stuck on the walls. It's nicely done in a predictable sort of way.
The interior looks very, very similar to Finnegan's a few doors up the road. The front of the bar is light and airy, not too bright and gives a good "people-watching" view of Changkat Bukit Bintang whilst inside the aircon makes it a little too cold for comfort.I would prefer a few more high-tables and bar stools at the front,instead of tables and chairs.
There is a giant screen against the back wall and a big open space for standing room-only.
It boasts a nice long bar-counter, with TVs above for sports fans and should have a good atmosphere for watching live events,but this is a double-edged-sword as if they have the commentary switched on,and you're not interested in the game,you may want to drink-up and go elsewhere.
Upstairs has the kitchen,comfy,sofa-seating,yet another TV and a veranda/balcony giving a good view plus it's own bar,so the staff don't have to keep running up and down stairs with your order.
I guess that if the concept of an Irish Bar is good beer and good company/conversation then Healey Mac's should do OK for itself.
Beer prices are acceptable during Happy Hour (until 10pm) when a mug of Tiger is RM11, but rises to over RM15 after 10pm-I always have a problem with bars that have a two-tier pricing system but offer no extra benefit/entertainment to justify the price increase, after all, you're drinking the same beer-why charge more when it's busy?

So,at the moment you can drink in Finnegan's/Healey Mac's until 10pm and then head to Bar Ceylon, The Green Man or Gypsy Bar to enjoy their same-price-all-night approach.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

SK Corner

One of the most popular and convenient food places around Changkat Bukit Bintang is SK Corner. Situated on Tengkat Tong Shin just past the 7-Eleven, SK Corner is a large,open-sided place that offers typical mamak style food (Muslim Indian) 24 hours.
The menu is pretty vast and even includes a few western favourites for homesick European backpackers.

The food is nothing fancy and certainly nothing to shout about but it is fairly good value for money.Basic noodle and rice dishes together with various Indian Breads such as Chapati,Thosi and Roti Cani are the main-stay,with a Tandoori Oven offering Nan Breads and Tandoori Chicken.
Prices start from as little as RM1.50 for a Roti Cani (great for a greasy-breakfast) and climb to RM15 for a lamb chop and chips with most dishes around the RM4-5 mark.
It's a good place for a late-night supper.
During the day a lot of the stalls are not open...the Tandoori oven for example only fires-up around 5pm.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Convenience Stores

A rather strange topic to want to write about but I've recently noticed just how many of the damn things there are within a 2km radius of Bukit Bintang.
Perhaps I should plot them on the Google map link and you'll see exactly what I mean.....
Changkat Bukit Bintang has 3,Jalan Alor has 4, Tengkat Tong Shin 3....loads of 'em!
It seems that every empty shop-lot I stumble across these days is turned into a Convenience Store,there are 3 or 4 local chains plus loads of independents and they often open next door to each other.
They all sell the same things,mainly stuff that has no expiry date or best before date.Soft Drinks and Potato Chips seem to be the most popular lines judging by how much space they are allocated in-store.
They never seem to be busy,the rents are certainly not cheap...I just wonder how they all manage to make a profit.
The big 7-Eleven on the corner of Changkat Bukit Bintang and Tengkat Tong Shin (Opposite the Radius Hotel) used to be a great 24hr food stop a few years back and is now a great big convenience store,although they frequently run out of Marlboro Lights,turning it into an inconvenience store!
Customer Service in heavily-touristed areas is OK but sometimes you have to wonder if they are not running some sort of "care in the community" programme and employing poor unfortunates who couldn't get work anywhere else.
I guess the only thing worse than the proliferation of Convenient Convenience Stores is the abundance of Foot Massage places that are also experiencing a boom around Bukit Bintang.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Gypsy Bar,Changkat Bukit Bintang

Gypsy Bar on Changkat Bukit Bintang is probably my favourite bar along the street right now.
It's been open for about 18 months and has built-up quite a name/reputation for itself.
The main reason I like it is for having good-value beer at RM10 for a mug of Tiger.
But I also like the good atmosphere.
On a street with a few too many bland up-market eateries, Gypsy Bar is a non-pretentious,non-posy "proper bar".
Few people go there specifically to eat but the food is reasonable if you get the munchies and need to soak-up the alcohol. For some reason French Fries seem to go well with a few beers!
Each night is different but usually starts-off fairly quite and relaxed with the early-bird,after office-hours crowd and then gradually fills with the after-dinner crowd , then the party people begin arriving from about 10.30pm onwards.
The quality of the Tiger can vary a bit....from "drinkable" to "has been sitting in a jug under the bar and is nice and warm" so if it doesn't taste fresh and cold-send it back!
Friday and Saturday nights can get really busy with the crowd spilling-out onto the pavement.
The crowd comprises of locals and expats and a few girls out looking for guys,which naturally then attracts guys out looking for girls.
There is an upstairs section offering a less rowdy scene,but most people prefer the downstairs bar.
The mix of the crowd can vary considerably form one night to the next.
Sometimes,it's predominantly local,other nights it gets really inundated with expats,some nights the working girls are a bit too visible and other nights they seem to fade into the background.
Apart form the value-for-money Tiger,Gypsy bar also offers reasonably priced Paulaner Beer at RM 26 for a big bottle and the cocktails include the ever-popular and fairly lethal Long Island Ice Tea.
The staff are by and large a friendly bunch and the service ranges from good to dreadful depending upon how busy the bar gets.It's not uncommon for the service to almost collapse around midnight as the staff get so overwhelmed. On nights like this it pays to keep track of how much your bill is as overcharging can happen,more out of confusion rather than any malice. On busy nights the queue for the toilets can take a while,so plan ahead.
Musically,the in-house DJ plays a good selection of sounds but can crank it up far too loud (ie distorted) some nights-or maybe I'm just getting old! Sunday night music is a bit different with R&B and hip-hop,whilst on Wednesday they have begun to experiment with live music,usually a duo with a backing track that seems a bit pointless.
All-in-all,Gypsy Bar is one of the best bars in Kuala Lumpur. It's a shame they don't have Carlsberg Draught though!

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Engka Portobello Restaurant and Bar,Changkat Bukit Bintang

Not only is the food a bit of a mouthful,so is the name!
I've been aware of this pace for a quite a while but never had the reason to enter.
It's a nicely done casual mid-priced restaurant that offers something a little different on the street.
Engka Portobello is a great place for a fried breakfast (non halal) So if you've got a craving for a Full English Breakfast,it's yours for RM16-which represents great value as other places on Changkat Bukit Bintang offer similar for nearly RM30.
Weekends they serve brunch from 10am until 3 pm and have a menu of about 30 tempting dishes,ranging from RM11 to RM22.
The evening menu still represents good value for money and ranges from Tapas,Western and International.
Mushrooms and Sausages feature quite heavily on the menu.

Service is pleasant and prompt,the decor relaxed and casual.

STOP PRESS. Now closed for refurbishment expected to re-open December 2009!

Pinchos Tapas Bar,Changkat Bukit Bintang

Pinchos has been open for about 12 months now and is fast becoming a popular hangout.
When I used to walk past a while back,it always seemed a bit empty and devoid of atmosphere,especially during the week.Weekends were a little busier but still not that great.
over time and word-of-mouth recommendations,Pinchos is now pretty much packed every night and has built-up a crowd of regulars, mainly expats with a few locals arriving later. So get there early if you want a table.Sitting outside is a bit more comfortable than being inside.
Happy hours are priced at RM11 for a mug,which isn't too bad but after 9pm rises to RM14.
As with lots of places on Changkat Bukit Bintang,the beer quality can sometimes be open to question.
The tapas (non halal) is pretty damn good though-no,on second thoughts it's excellent! and averages about RM16-RM25 per plate,which seems a bit on the steep side,but you get good quality and tasty snacks...leaving you hungry for more and perhaps with a bigger bill than you first anticipated!

The decor is plain,simple and comfortable, the service is very good and the staff are polite,friendly and knowledgeable.
It can get quite warm inside and surprisingly noisy with a slight,annoying echo as everyone raises their voices to be heard over everyone else. The Latin music can also become a bit tedious but what else do you expect from a Tapas Bar?

Definitely a welcome addition to the local scene.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Day Trip from Kuala Lumpur-Hill Stations

Hill Stations were what the old-colonials used to retreat to when Kuala Lumpur got a bit too hot and sticky and as the name suggests,they are settlements at a higher altitude and therefore offer cooler temperatures.
Bukit Fraser 100km north of KL at 1524m above sea-level offers a good chance to experience a Hill Station of old.The buildings resemble an English village from the 1930's and are very quaint and picturesque.There's not too much to do once you get there,but it's nice to just walk around the village,enjoy the breeze and cool air and soak-up the atmosphere.
A lot of the buildings have been converted into guest-houses,some are well maintained whilst others are ,sadly showing signs of neglect
The drive here can also be interesting,with lots of switchback bends,with the last part of the journey being a one-way stretch controlled by traffic lights known as "The Gap"
If you're a golfer,you can play a round otherwise you can walk around,or do some horse-riding.
In the village there are a few signboards detailing hiking trails, and you can get brochures and maps from a couple of places.The hiking-trails start with an easy 30 minute walk, whilst others are 2-3 hour treks which can get a bit strenuous, wet and muddy.
Keen bird-watchers and wild-flower enthusiasts should have a good time.
There are a few restaurants dotted around,the most famous being "The Old Smokehouse" that offers roast dinners.

It's possible to get to Bukit Fraser by public transport,but probably not worth the effort,if you're wealthy you can hire a taxi for the day to get you there but your money would be better spent doing something else.It's a viable trip if you know someone who can drive you there and back in a day.There are places to stay on the hill,if you want to make a night of it,or if you miss your connection going down.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Signs Of The Times in Kuala Lumpur

One of the main risks of walking around Kuala Lumpur is the ever-present threat of bag-snatchers. The local police and city council are taking the matter seriously as can be evidenced by this sign!
I'm sure it would make potential snatch-thieves think twice about taking another poor victims belongings...The high risk areas seem to be around Bukit Bintang and Changkat Bukit Bintang and both of these streets now have a more visible police prescence.
The parking jockeys along Changkat Bukit Bintang have been known to chase-down culprits and administer a little street-justice.
To be honest,I haven't heard of an instance for quite a while so the extra policing may be working...or maybe it's under-reported.
Anyway,it pays to be a little street-wise when walking around any city in the world,Kuala Lumpur is no different.
If you decide to go to the park,the sign above tells you what you can't do!
Perhaps a sign telling you what you can do would be easier to understand....

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Hakka Restaurant,Jalan Kia Peng

If you've already sampled the food along Jalan Alor and now want a slightly more up-market but not too expensive experience without all the street noise,touts,hustlers and smells then a trip to Hakka Restaurant would be just the thing.
Located behind the Novo Hotel on Jalan Kia Peng next to the Borneo Barak Club,Hakka Restaurant has been serving good Chinese food for 40 years (although the present location is about 18 months old)
It's a huge open air place with great views of the Petronas Twin Towers and is popular with tourists and locals alike.If it's raining, an automatic roof is deployed to keep you dry.
Another plus-point is the clean toilets.(try saying that in Jalan Alor!)
The menu is quite vast and in order to sample as many dishes as possible it's best to go with as many people as possible.
The staff are friendly and will help you navigate the menu and the girls selling the Tiger Beer wear some of the shortest mini-skirts in KL!
If you're staying around the Bukit Bintang Area you can walk to Hakka Restaurant by going through the food street of the Pavillion Shopping Centre and crossing the pedestrian bridge signposted to the Convention Centre.
The restaurant is also within walking distance of the bars and clubs on Jalan P. Ramlee

Monday, October 19, 2009

Day Trip from Kuala Lumpur-ATV Quad Bike Adventure

Another trip to take you out from the concrete jungle and into the real thing!
ATV Adventures are a small,friendly outfit operating in Ulu Kelang,about a 5mile drive from Kuala Lumpur.To get there follow the signs to the Zoo,on the MRR2 and then take the small road that goes past the zoo entrance and winds it's way towards Kampong Kemeneh.
In no time at all you will notice the road getting increasingly narrower and a definite "kampong feel".The air seems cleaner and a bit cooler whilst the small rivers are clear and fast flowing.
It's a nice serene scene,children playing in the river,families having a pick-nick and the sound of birds and insects fill the air.The city seems very far away indeed.
What better way to have fun than to rip-it-up brash,noisy quad bike!
For RM 100 you can experience a 2 hour trek through the jungle to reach a small waterfall.
The adventure begins with a safety and training brief including a few laps of the tricky training circuit and then,off you go following the leader on a narrow muddy path climbing ever higher in the hills and navigating your way over tree roots,smashing in to low-hanging branches and splashing through muddy puddles.
It's great fun!
Hopefully,you'll arrive at the picturesque waterfall tired,muddy and sweaty and can then appreciate a paddle in the cold water.
At the waterfall there is a camp site where ATV Adventures hold their jungle trekking and other exciting activities.
After a short rest it's back to the beginning for the return journey and just as you reach the start-point you have the opportunity to take the ATV across a small river.
Trips start from as low as RM20.
The bikes all look fairly new and are well maintained.You will be asked to stick to a speed limit of 30kph when driving on public road and 40kph when off road....which seems way too fast on a narrow path!
The instructors/leaders are knowledgeable and friendly and encourage everyone to have a good time and drive at a pace that they are comfortable with.
The only hassle,as far as I can see is actually getting there, as you will need private transport.A taxi may not want to venture that far off the beaten track.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Day Trip from Kuala Lumpur-Whitewater Rafting

Escape the concrete jungle for the real thing!

If you're looking for a fun day-out, away from the city a great experience would be to go whitewater rafting.
A two hour drive heading north from Kuala Lumpur towards Ipoh will take you to Nomad Adventures' Earth Camp where a host of activities awaits.
The most popular is their Whitewater rafting trips on the Sungei (River) Kampar.
In total you can navigate 22 rapids ranging from grade 2-3 and can opt for a half-day,either morning or afternoon or a full day.
The morning session starts at 9am sharp-or so they say but we actually commenced closer to 10am...nevertheless you will have to make an early start from Kuala Lumpur.
Upon arrival a lorry then transports you for about 45 minutes to the point of departure where you undergo a comprehensive safety briefing and then,to ensure that you're fully awake you begin by actually swimming through a rapid!
Then it's onto the raft and away you go.
The guides are pretty good fun and knowledgeable about the river.
The first two or three rapids we hit were pretty big and it's not uncommon to fall overboard but the swim beforehand gives you a bit of confidence so as not to panic (too) much
After that and as you get the hang of it and the rapids become less severe so the guide can decide to take some rapids sideways or backwards just for the fun of it.
The biggest danger is getting hit by a paddle or hitting a rock with a tender part of your body.
Our trip finished at about 12.30 with some lunch and then it was time to face the boring drive back to Kuala Lumpur.
The half day trip cost RM 150 and when you add-in the long drives and early start it seems like a whole day.We arrived back in town at 4pm after leaving at the ungodly hour of 6.30 on a Saturday morning!

The same company also arranges various rock-climbing and caving activities but the rafting trips are very popular.Other companies also run-the-river and it can jam-up with 8 or 9 rafts waiting at the top of a rapid.

All-in all a pretty enjoyable day out.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Day Trip from Kuala Lumpur- Batu Caves

Depending on whether you want man-made or natural sights there are quite a few possibilities for day-trips to get you out of Kuala Lumpur.
One of the more popular and nearest "natural" sights are the Batu Caves.
One of the surprises of Kuala Lumpur is that you don't have to go very far to be out in the country-side ( calling it "jungle" sounds a bit too exotic) and see lots of greenery.

Batu Caves are about 15km outside the city on the outer-ring road and are the focal-point for over a million Hindus during Thaipusum,at other times of the year it's less busy but they are on the tour-group day-trip itinerary and are a popular destination.The cave complex is in a huge limestone outcrop and offers an interesting excursion and some fresh air.A climb of 270 steps leads you into the vast main cave which is where the Thaipusam pilgrimage ends.There are a few other caves to visit,some with interesting statues and sculptures inside.
To get to the caves ,you can get a taxi for about RM 25 or a bus for about RM2 with

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Liberte,Changkat Bukit Bintang

Another little bar recently opened on the ever-popular street,Liberte has been carved-out from Le Bouchon restaurant at the top of the street,below Envie Nightclub.
Beer price is reasonable at RM 12.There are lots of tables and chairs outside on the patio to create a beer-garden type atmosphere,whilst inside most of the small interior is taken up with the bar-counter and it seems a little claustrophobic.
Nevertheless,it's always good to see new places open and it makes a good spot for a couple of beers before heading-out for something to eat or some serious partying.
The next new venue to open will be located at the Al Bait Restaurant,next to the Green Man where another bar is eagerly anticipated.......

Monday, September 14, 2009

Havana,Changkat Bukit Bintang

After a major and classy refurbishment Little Havana has now become Havana,although it's still the same size,it's now managed by the same guys who operate the Magnificent Fish and Chip Bar further down the street so we can expect the same level of quality and service. You will also notice a few similarities in decor and style.
Gone are the slightly wobbly bar stools ,tables and fountain to be replaced by an even floor with comfortable bar-height tables and a chill-out area with low seating and scatter-cushions.
The kitchen theme is Louisiana/Southern US style,with alligator on the menu and judging by the amount of wine bottles on the back wall,there is something for even the most discerning.
A barbecue area to the left of the bar also serves take-out.
The bar itself is a nice granite-topped slab whilst upstairs can still cater to private parties and events such as the Time Out Comedy Night,held on the first Thursday of the month.
For those that prefer aircon,the inside also offers a similar length bar plus TV.
All-in-all it's an impressive looking place compared to the Little Havana of old,especially the clean toilets!
As befits a major face-lift the pricing structure is a little higher than before and some may say that the previous rustic,almost run-down charm has gone but on the plus-side you still get an alfresco eating and drinking experience,a good size long bar to prop-up and clean toilets.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Jalan Bukit Bintang

Jalan Bukit Bintang is the premier street in Kuala Lumpur.Starting with the Pavilion Shopping Centre and running down to it's junction with Jalan Pudu the street is a hive of activity by day and by night.There are many up-market shopping malls and hotels located at one end of the street but as you walk further down past KFC it becomes cheap and tacky,especially at night.
There's absolutely nothing here except aggressive touts offering foot massage or young ladies and a few tacky souvenir stalls.
A pedestrian walkway at the side of Pavilion is lined with restaurants and cafes and you can get some very good value happy hour deals,it does get busy but you have to put up with the constant drone of aircon outlets,which doesn't make for a relaxing atmosphere.Each establishment plays it's own loud music in an attempt to drown out the noise from the aircon plus there are a couple of big screen TV's doing there own thing,the end result being a cacophony of sound.
La Bodega at the beginning of the walkway is probably the one that feels a bit more like a bar,whilst the restaurants at the other end have the best beer deals.
Star Hill Shopping Centre,which seems just to sell watches,has an interesting well-planned restaurant area downstairs in the basement and is worth a visit just to walk through the multi-coloured reflective link to the Marriot Hotel.
The only real nightspot not in a hotel is upstairs at The Ship situated opposite BB Plaza,it's been going for years and is a huge barn of a place with a very loud band and a hefty cover-charge.
It gets packed after midnight with a young,mainly local crowd.
The ladyboy show can also be good(harmless) fun and the "girls" quite like picking on expats in the crowd to try and embarass them.
The show has been runnung for years but it seems a bit of a contradiction that whilst semi-naked men pretending to be women dancing on stage is permitted by the authorities the same cannot be said for actual real women.....

For shopping,forget the bland homogeneous up-market malls and head to Sungei Wang/BB Plaza
It has a certain unique character and is full of owner-operated small stores selling cheap clothing,electronics and cheap shoes and is a breath of fresh air from the usual franchises and international brands.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Flying Air Asia from Stansted UK to Kuala Lumpur

Travelling direct from the UK to Kuala Lumpur has recently become 50% cheaper.
Air Asia,the region's leading budget airline fly the route in a no-frills Airbus for about RM 1,800( 300 Sterling) return as opposed to MAS charging RM 3,800 (650 Sterling) You get what you pay for and with the Air Asia flight you have to pay extra for everything including blanket,meals,water and mediocre entertainment.
On the plus side it's cheap.On the minus side,well if you get a day-flight it could well be the most boring and miserable 13 hours you'll ever spend.The seats recline all of 10 degrees and there's nothing to look at unless you want to stare at the not-unattractive cabin crew or gaze out of the window and guess where you are.
The food is inadequate and bland,best to sneak-on your own (officially not allowed) and it's probably best to take your own entertainment along with you as well.
But,having said that,it's cheap and direct.The cabin crew are friendly and always happy to sell things to you.
MAS sometimes offer good deals on their website to nearly match the above pricing and you get all the benefits of flying a scheduled service.
As alternatives you can also fly with a variety of the Gulf State's airlines (Emirates,Etihad,Qatar) all of whom offer competitive pricing with a stop-over to break-up the boredom of long-haul travel.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Jalan Imbi/Pudu

Jalan Imbi runs parallel to Bukit Bintang,along this street is the megalithic Times Square shopping mall.If you get a bit tired of concrete and steel the area behind Jalan Imbi can almost transport you back to how most of KL must have looked back in the 1970's before the construction boom.It's a self-contained suburb that still retains a certain charm.
Here you will find relatively traffic-free,tree-lined streets offering a respite from the normal chaos of most of the city's streets.The developers have yet too move-in and you can still find some old-unrestored shophouses being used as general stores,restaurants,repair shops etc.
If you're feeling a bit macabre,start at the old Pudu jail (best seen from the monorail) and then walk behind Times Square and wander aimlessly to see what you discover....The area only covers a few blocks and can offer some unexpected sights such as the Beryls Chocolate Kingdom housed in an impressive looking bungalow on Jalan Utara. Close-by are a few batik and leather warehouses/showrooms, a huge wholesale market and an interesting produce/wet market that are on the tour-bus route as well as hundreds of Chinese restaurants and a few karaoke lounges/cheap hotels.
Unlike the rest of Kuala Lumpur,there are wide pavements and shady-trees and it's a pleasant enough location to spend a few hours exploring.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Swanky Bars in Kuala Lumpur

If you've got a lot of cash to burn,there are many up-market,expensive bars and night-spots in Kuala Lumpur where you can spend your money.Dress smart,pack your credit-card and enjoy!
Here are just a few to choose from:
Zeta Bar at the KL Hilton,KL Sentral is one of the places to see and bee seen.A big beer will set you back at least RM35 so sip it slowly......The crowd is a mix of wealthy tourists and flashy locals who come to pose.There is usually a good band belting-out fairly mellow Jazz and R&B and if you can swallow the exorbitant prices,it's an OK place to spend an hour or so in.
Qba at the Westin Hotel,Bukit Bintang has a similar price structure as Zeta,about RM17 for a small's a more relaxed, laid-back,slightly less posy place with a Latin vibe,generally has a South American band playing.There is also the benefit of an open courtyard if you get bored of Latin music.
Pulse,at the Grand Millennium Hotel on Bukit Bintang is a relatively new kid on the block and has eroded the crowd that used to frequent Qba.It's similar to Zeta Bar,but has a more central location.Because it's new,it gets packed.
7atenine on Jalan Pinang,around the corner from Jalan P.Ramlee is much more chilled-out and offers good night time views of the KLCC Twin Towers.Pricing is similar to the above and is more of an eatery/chill-out bar rather than a full-on club.You can sit either on the terrace or inside with the aircon.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Accommodation-Bukit Bintang Area

Hotel/Guest House Accommodation in Kuala Lumpur is going through a mini-boom at the moment with a new hotel appearing every month or so.Prices are competitive and whether you book online or walk-in,it makes sense to shop around.
The area around Changkat Bukit Bintang/Jalan Tong Shin/Jalan Alor is fast-becoming the place to head for and there are hundreds of Guest Houses,Budget Hotels and Boutique Hotels in the area.It's a city-centre location,so expect a fair bit of noise but if you want to stay in the centre of things it's a great place to be based.You're within walking distance of some great restaurants and bars as well as the shopping delights of KLCC and Bukit Bintang.
Needless to say,if you're staying in lower-prices accommodation,always check-out the room first.
Amongst the favourites in this location are:
Pondock Lodge above Ceylon Bar on Changkat Bukit Bintang has been going for over 10 years and constantly gets good reviews.Prices start at RM50 for a clean,decent room,but I hear it may be getting a bit shabby-so check it out first.
Number8 Guest House,around the corner on Jalan Tong Shin is an interesting alternative.Nearby is the Corona Inn starting at RM130,around the corner on Jalan Alor is the Hotel Nova from RM 160.Slightly more upmarket is the Alpha Genesis (RM 200) on Jalan Tong Shin and the big Radius International with a pool starts at RM160.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Asian Heritage Row (Jalan Doraisamy)

Although you won't find much heritage here-you will find a truly happening clubbing scene.
Asian Heritage Row is situated in a row of restored Shophouses behind the Sheraton Imperial Hotel. The main attractions are various swanky restaurants and clubs,plus a couple of bars to cater for the "after office crowd".
Things don't really get going until after midnight and there's a host of venues to chose from.
It's one of the places to see and be seen. At the moment,Cynna at The Loft is probably the most happening...but things change,just pick one you like the look of.If you don't like it,there's always next door.....
Sunshine,at the end of the row is a more relaxed down-to-earth bar.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Jalan Alor

Running paralel to Bukit Bintang and at a right-angle to Changkat Bukit Bintang,Jalan Alor is one of Kuala Lumpur's more well-known streets.
At nightime it becomes jam-packed with restaurants and food-stalls that overflow onto the pavements.It's a "must-see" on lots of itinerary's and the food's not too bad either.
The cuisine on offer is mainly Chinese food,especially sea-food with a few Thai places further down the road,prices can be a bit "touristy" although each restaurant has it's own menu and price list.If you don't want to pay the prices on Changkat Bukit Bintang,Jalan Alor is a cheaper alternative
If eating outside is not your thing (or it's raining) a lot of the restaurants have indoor dining areas with air con.

Cars double-park on each side of the street so it can be very slow-going for walking and taxis hate it at night but they will drop-you off at either end.
There are also a few hotels along this street offering fairly decent accommodation.
Expect to see a few rats,hopefully at a distance and like most street-food stalls don't think too much about the hygiene....but it's very rare for anyone to get sick from eating here.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Good Bars-Changkat Bukit Bintang

This small street,just off the main Jalan Bukit Bintang (walk down the street next to KFC and keep going) is chock-full of bars and restaurants.At the last count there were over 30. Every night seems to be party-night in one bar or another and you're sure to find something here to suit your taste.Friday and Saturday nights are busiest with constant traffic-jams. The only hassle is navigating the cars that inconsiderate and ignorant drivers/jockey-parkers park on the pavement,so be prepared to walk in the road...Nevertheless, it's a great street for bar-hopping. Most of the bars offer pretty good food and most of the restaurants serve as pretty good bars...
Best Bars include: Finnegan's Irish Bar,Bar Ceylon,Magnificent Fish and Chip Bar, The Green Man and Gypsy Bar.The clientele in all the above is fairly inter-changeable,with a good mix of tourists,expats and locals as well as a few girls looking for short-term boyfriends with money.
Cheapest beer all night-long is probably found at Gypsy Bar, but check the other bars for some good Happy-Hour deals,for example Finnegans has happy-hour all night-long on Sundays.
Gypsy can get absolutely packed-out,especially Friday and Saturday nights after 11pm when the crowd can spill onto the pavement and it becomes increasingly difficult to get served.
The choice of restaurant includes French,Italian,Japanese,Indian,Chinese,German and Fusion as well as good old fashioned pub-grub and ranges in price from mid-market and upwards.
Best Eateries include,La Bouchon,Pinchos,the increasingly popular Tappas Bar,Twenty-One,Yoko's,Bermuda and Onion,Flams,El Cerdo , Ciccio's, Frangipani and the Magnificent Fish and Chip Bar
Lounge Bars/Clubs can be found at Envie,Twenty One,Werner;s and Frangipani.
Other places of note,just up the hill and around the corner are two fairly upmarket restaurants,Bijan for Malay food and Nerovivo for Italian,whilst new kid on the block is Bar Italia situated on Jalan Berangan, the road behind Changkat Bukit Bintang,
For cheaper food,head to SK Corner, Tengkat Tong Shin,just around the corner near the 7-Eleven

The area has lots of accommodation options ranging from 3 star tourist-class hotels to small,independent lodges and homestays.If you're looking for hotels in Kuala Lumpur this area is probably the best place to stay.

Friday, July 31, 2009

Good Bars-Jalan P.Ramlee area

Jalan P.Ramlee is one of the main party-streets in Kuala Lumpur. There's a couple of good bars and lots of clubs that don't get going until late.However, food options are a bit limited.Most places have live music and if you get there after 9pm expect to pay a cover charge.It's easy to walk the length of the street in 15 minutes or so and is a good bar-hopping street.
Negotiating a taxi home will probably be the only hassle you have.

Some places worth a visit include:

Hard Rock Cafe at the Concorde Hotel-almost an institution and a tourist attraction in it's own right having been around for over 15 years. Some people just visit to buy the T-Shirt. Sometimes it can resemble a McDonald's with Beer,complete with kiddies parties and balloons...but as the evening turns into nigh time the crowd changes as does the level of music.Drinks are fairly pricey but they do a good Happy Hour,buy-one-get-one-free.
It can get a bit too smoky and claustrophobic.A live band generally comes on around midnight.

Beach Club Cafe-another institution having been around for over 10 years.Has an "interesting" mix of patrons.Depending on your mood,you may see it as a bit of a pick-up joint,or just somewhere to have a bit of fun and a good night out. The girls are pretty friendly, relatively harmless and will leave you alone once they know you're not interested. Live music.

Similar to the Beach Club but with less obvious working-girls there is Sangria Bar,Thai Club and Rum Jungle. They all look strikingly similar to one another.
Modesto's and Retro Club are relaxed drink-dining places,whilst for a more "clubby" feel there is Aloha and,at the end of the street Poppy Garden,whilst the up-market 7atenine bar and restaurant around the corner is more chilled-out.
A short walk away towards the Novotel you can find the Borneo Barak Club or BBC,a huge barn of a place that offers food and live music.

Across from KLCC in Avenue K shopping mall is a bar complex Quattro that offers 4 themed places under one roof (Spring,Summer,Winter and Autumn) it even "rains".Slightly further afield and just within walking distance is the rooftop bar atop Traders Hotel which offers great views of the Kuala Lumpur skyline.The staff here will do their best to ensure that you don't fall into the central swimming pool.
If bars with swimming pools on top of hotels are you thing there is also Luna Bar atop Menara Pan Global at the other end of Jalan P.Ramlee.

Monday, July 27, 2009


After a hard-day's sightseeing,getting hot, tired and thirsty you may want to find somewhere to relax and look for some fun things to do.
There are quite a lot of bars in Kuala Lumpur...but not too many good bars.And even fewer Really Good Bars!
Unless you're coming from Singapore or Scandinavia you'll find prices ranging from a moderately expensive RM 10 for a mug, to downright exorbitant. RM 20 and upwards!
Most places have a Happy-Hour policy until 9pm-or sometimes 10pm when drinks are often half-price.Midweek Ladies' Nights are quite popular in many establishments where ladies can drink selected sweet and sickly concoctions for free...

Most of the larger hotels have lounges which usually comprise a cover band belting-out renditions of popular songs and can be very popular with the more mature crowd and have a relaxed ambience.

The main areas for bars and clubs within the City Centre are Jalan P.Ramlee,Changkat Bukit Bintang and Heritage Row (Jalan Doraisamy)
Further afield and a cab-ride away are the suburbs of Bangsar,Sri Hartamas and Petaling Jaya

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Getting Around Town

Kuala Lumpur City Centre is compact enough to walk around but any attraction more than about 30 minutes away may leave you feeling drenched and exhausted.

BUS. There is a pretty good-value bus service using (mostly) clean,fairly new buses with aircon
Around the city,RapidKL is the main operator.The service can be a bit overwhelming and best avoided at peak-hours but they go just about everywhere,and at RM1 per trip it may be worth getting lost every now and again.

TAXI. If you are very,very lucky you may find an honest taxi-driver who has a clean cab,uses the metre and knows where he's going.Otherwise you'll get overcharged by about 3 times the meter rate-or higher if you look very wealthy or very gullible..or both.
Taxis should,by law use the metre but few in the city do,mainly because the fares are so cheap that the driver wouldn't make any money if he used the meter (they say)
Fares will be increasing from 1st August- by about 40% let's see if the situation improves.
If you're selected cab refuses to use the metre,you can walk away and try another one,or you can try negotiate the fare.Anything more than RM10 around town should be questioned

MONORAIL. Although it's a confusing walk from KL Sentral, the monorail is an interesting way to traverse the town but apart from Bukit Bintang station for Shopping,Medan Tunku station for Kampung Baru and Bukit Nanas station for Hard Rock Cafe and the bars on Jalan P.Ramlee it doesn't really serve the visitor that well.But you do get an interesting "roof-top" view.

LRT. There are 2 LRT lines serving the city centre and suburbs.It's fast and efficient (most of the time) and inexpensive.The 2 lines are not very well integrated except at Masjid Jamek station

KL Hop-on Hop-off. Is a bus service specifically aimed at visitors.The buses run in a continuous loop around the city covering 40 attractions,served by 22 stops.There is an audio commentary and you can get-on and off as many times as you want.First bus is at 8.30am and the last at 8.30pm. and run at 20-30minute intervals.It's a good way to get an overview/orientation of the city.A day ticket costs RM 38,whilst a 48hr ticket is RM65

KL Aquarium

If you can't make it to the islands but would like to see some fish,KL Aquarium is a first-class alternative.
It's one of the newest and smartest attractions in Kuala Lumpur.
You can swim with sharks,get your toes nibbled by garrufa fish and learn all about water in different environments.
There are Discovery Zones with screen projectors with information and facts on the animals exhibited within the Aquaria. Interactive kiosks are also available for visitors to go on a virtual adventure in exploring other exciting creatures that inhabit the world’s oceans.
You can also view the spectacular ocean reef and its inhabitants through a large acrylic window at the Aquatheater. Witness daily fish feedings as well as diving sessions with the sharks.
It's a bit pricey at RM 38 and upwards, but very well done.

Kampung Baru

Kampung Baru is the oldest Malay residential area in Kuala Lumpur and still has authentic traditional Malay wooden houses set against a backdrop of the downtown KL sky-scrapers.
If you're not able to venture out of the city and want to see what an old Malay settlement looks like,then Kampung Baru can make an interesting visit.
Although lots of property developers are eyeing the place,for now at least you can see some nice old wooden houses and wander the streets in safety (but watch-out for the motorbikes)
Lots of restaurants and stalls with Malay food - Saturday night: Pasar Minggu (Sunday Market) 6pm - 1am, jewellery, clothes, fabric, Malay cooking, handicraft- Take Putra LRT (e.g. from KLCC) to Kampung Baru station - Monorail to Medan Tuanku station (5min walk from there) - 30min walk from Bukit Bintang or RM5 -10 by Taxi

Monday, July 20, 2009

Lake Gardens KL Birdpark and Butterfly Park

At the edge of the city,this area of landscaped gardens,statues and parks can be a welcome respite from the concrete jungle of Kuala Lumpur,or it can be a hot and sweaty walk....

The main attractions are the Butterfly Park,Bird Park and National Monument

The Bird Park houses more than 3,000 birds and 200 species from all over the world.If you've a few hours to kill and quite like birds or you just want to escape Kuala Lumpur and see some greenery the Birdpark is worth a visit. You'll come across miniature gardens, pools and water cascades, bridges, flowering plants ...and bird feeding stations. Divided into zones you'll find, a Flamingo pond, Pelicans, Hornbill Park, World of Parrots, a Waterfall Aviary, Amphitheatre, Children's playground and Seminar Room.Birds here include Flamingos, Hornbills, Water hens, Parrots, Cockatoos, Storks, Pheasants, Mynahs Pigeons, Macaws, and Ducks.

The Butterfly Park and insect museum is OK,especially if you like Butterflies and Insects.

The nearby National Monument looks suspiciously like the Iwo Jima monument in Washington DC and not surprisingly was designed by the same sculptor

Sunday, July 19, 2009

National Mosque

The National Mosque is the main house of worship for the inhabitants of Kuala Lumpur ,as the hundreds of cars parked outside on a Friday will testify.It has a 73-metre-high minaret and an 18-pointed star concrete main roof. The umbrella design of the dome gives the mosque a unique contrast to other onion shape domes and minaret of the buildings within its vicinity. Based upon the Grand Mosque in Mecca it has with 48 small domes and a grand prayer hall that is topped by the main dome with folded-plate roof in the shape of "semi-opened umbrella"

Pools and fountains are spread throughout the compound.Situated among five acres (13 hectares) of gardens, the building consist of a prayer hall, multi purpose hall, the warrior mausoleum, a library, offices, open courtyard and the minaret. The upper deck houses the main prayer hall and a pool.The Grand Hall which easily accommodates up to 8000 people, is surrounded by deep verandas which are screened off by white grilles of traditional Islamic designs.A very serene place to walk around for an hour or so

A short walk from the mosque is the Islamic Arts Museum,which contains amongst it's exhibits scale models of many famous mosques from around the world and exhibits from the days of the Ottoman Empire.

Exhibits are well labelled,the collections are quite extensive and the museum is definitely worth a visit