Even though it is only a couple of hours flight away, Sarawak feels very different to mainland Malaysia. Sarawak is hotter, the humidity is particularly intense, and it feels very rural. There is a lot of jungle, and you know, orangutans and proboscis monkeys. Lots of lovely primates. And while Sarawak may only be one of two Malay provinces in Borneo, most of which is actually Indonesia, you could fit the whole of Ireland into it one and a half times. It ain’t small.
Kuala Lumpur by comparison felt very urban, and while I was prepared for a very sticky situation in terms of heat and humidity, it felt cooler, although so would almost anywhere. Kuala Lumpur is a tall city, with the Petronus twin tours and several bars perched high with great views. Despite this, Kuala Lumpur feels very accessible and not overwhelming, and people don’t feel rushed. It is very doable as a stopover which is essentially what I did.
I laid my head at The Majestic Hotel, a Kuala Lumpur institution still very attached to its colonial roots (the doorman is dressed in old colonial gear). I had a Junior Suite, a large room with four poster bed, day bed, sofa, table for 4 and 2 desks! A bath too, and all of this at a very accessible price (rooms start at £170 a night). I hadn’t realised until I got to KL that it has a reputation for luxury on a budget, something that I plan to take advantage of another time.
We started with an afternoon tea in The Tea Lounge, there is also a beautiful orchid room which unfortunately was booked out. Breakfast was the best of the trip with a broad selection of dim sum, sushi, curries and my favourite fresh roti canai with dal. That roti canai was perfect, and I am trying to work out how to make it at home. It is all technique, swirling and swishing, teasing the dough like a tissue and introducing air. Then folding, frying and tearing it to dip it in dal or curry, which clings to the grooves and the pockets. So lovely, I could eat one every day.
We were very lucky in KL to have Guan lead us, and introduce us to some Nyonya food. Guan was born and raised in Kuala Lumpur, and while he is based in London now, he is devoted to his food culture through his own Nyonya supper club. You may remember Guan from The Taste, right?
Guan brought us to one of his favourite restaurants, Limapulo, which strictly speaking is Baba food (baba = grandfather and nyonya = grandmother). Guan ordered and the table was filled with food not long after. A rich Nyonya curry laksa was my favourite. We also had kuih pie tee (aka “Top Hats”), crispy outer shells with turnip filling, sambal sotong petai (sambal squid with ‘stinky’ petai beans), ayam rempah (braised chicken in nyonya spices, chillies and coconut milk), ayam pongteh (chicken stewed in fermented soy bean paste and palm sugar), hu chnee rempah (mackerel stuffed with sambal spice paste and udang masak nanas (prawn & pineapple curry). You mustn’t miss this restaurant when you visit KL. It is incredibly good value too.
There is lots more to see in KL, I am sure of it, but start here, and you will be very happy.
Related posts from Malaysia and Borneo:
Read my previous post on my trip to Kuching and surrounding Sarawak directly before
Cooking in Sabah: Two Healthy Sea Gypsy Recipes (Fish Soup & a Fish Salad)
The Street Food Markets of Sabah, Malaysian Borneo
Sabah: Observing Orangutans at the Shangri-La Rasa Ria Resort and Sepilok Orangutan Rehabiliation Centre
Visiting Sabah Tea Plantation & Facing My (Non Tea Related) Fears
A Postcard from Sabah, Malaysian Borneo
Dispatches from Brunei’s Bandar Seri Begawan in Borneo
My trip to Sarawak was sponsored by Malaysia Airlines, who are the only carrier to offer a twice daily non-stop A380 full service link between the UK and Malaysia. UK passengers can also take advantage of frequent onward connections to destinations across Malaysia, Asia and Australasia. Economy class return flights from London Heathrow to Kuching via Kuala Lumpur International Airport start from £817. Business Class from £3167 (prices including taxes and charges). To book visit www.malaysiaairlines.com or call +44 (0) 871 4239 090.