The moment you walk out of the airport, it hits you.
The humid heat engulfs every inch of your body, the smell makes your stomach rumble and there’s a whirring noise in the background.
Welcome to South East Asia… a part of the world I have been travelling to since I was a little kid.
But this time I’m taking my own children and husband Chris for Christmas, New Year and our belated Honeymoon (Mega Moon! We’ve already had a Mini Moon, but that was just Chris and I for a couple of days in Amsterdam.)
We travelled down Thailand for a week or so before flying to my second home-land… (Check out our family travel guide here).
It has been 10 long years since I last visited my family in Malaysia with studies, illness, work and having kids being in the way.
So I was desperate to return and for my husband Chris and daughters to meet some of our family for the first part.
And I also wanted Chris to experience the exotic array of food available (that way, if he loved it, we can come back every other year!).
We landed in Kuala Lumpur airport ready for our trip up to the national park (rain forest)…
I couldn’t find much online about Taman Negara. I wasn’t sure whether that was a good thing (not many Western tourists) or a bad thing (people don’t want to go there).
Fortunately it was the former and what we discovered was a real treat.
We also tasted delicious food, local to the Pahang region (Hubby Chris will be blogging more on our food adventure here on mamamei.co.uk).
Getting there =
I wasn’t sure what the best mode of transport would be, especially during holiday season.
We flew into Kuala Lumpur airport from Krabi, Thailand.
Due to the time we couldn’t get a bus & boat from KL city centre to Taman Negara so instead we opted to a hire-a-car from the airport for the next few nights.
There was something quite nice about having our own little family space with air-con.
And off we went on our road trip.
It was a long but interesting journey with plenty of streetfood along the way (although not many great toilets, see my loo review album on Facebook.com/MamaMeiBlog).
Also beware of the tolls when driving through Kuala Lumpur – there were so many and it took us a while to work out which toll to drive through, so it’s worth checking your route with the car hire people.).
We enjoyed the journey and watching the landscape change from busy city highways, to countryside and then rain forest.
Our sat-nav led us right up to a river. We then realised our hotel was on the other side of the river.
So we were advised to park the car in a secure car park at the top of the hill in case the river rises.
We stayed at Mutiara Taman Negara which was across the river in the national park.
Small boats transport people from one side of the river to the other it takes a minute and costs 1 ringgit per person (around 5 ringgit = £1).
We were impressed by our well-equipped chalets, the only accommodation actually inside the rainforest. But this was glamping style as we had a bathroom, air con, a tv, beds, a fridge and a kettle (hoorah)! There’s also a balcony which acts as a great hide-out to spot wildlife or like me, it’s a great space to do yoga, stretching and your daily exercises.
The hotel and national park has maps and is well sign posted for you to do your own exploring (although everyone must purchase pass for the national park and a photography pass if you want to take photos – these don’t cost much).
And there are, of course, plenty of guided tours you can pay to go on.
We opted for one our hotel (Mutiara) offered which was a guided tour to the rope bridge including access to the bridge (although if you do this alone it’s just 5 ringgit to get on the bridge).
The tour was brilliant however.
The guide instructed us about the plants that the Orang Asli (native tribe) people use for food, medicines and paint.
It was a great way to bring the rain forest alive for the kids.
They loved pretending to be Tarzan by swinging on the hanging vines and having their faces painted.
The rope bridge is very high but a wonderful and wobbly experience!
The kids loved it too but they have to be able to walk it themselves. As Arianna wanted carrying and I struggled carrying her safely whilst trying to keep my balance.
We loved the trip which lasted 3 hours. It was a great introduction to nature, wildlife and animals inside Taman Negara.
Night Safari: On another day we booked a night safari in a jeep through the tourist centre across the river from the hotel.
The guide used a large torch to point out wildlife along the road.
And then we turned into the jungle.
Most of the trees had been felled as they were old so didn’t produce good enough coconuts (apparently).
The journey was fascinating as we spotted Leopard cats, owls, foxes and lots of insects.
In previous weeks one of the tours had encountered a black panther.
We weren’t so lucky (or unlucky you may say), but we enjoyed a different look at the wildlife and it was lovely sitting on top of the jeep.
Definitely an experience to remember.
Accomodation: We were pleased to have gone for affordable luxury, it was part of our honeymoon after all (and we got a good deal on hotels.com).
Trips: It’s definitely worth booking one trip for your first day as an introduction and then see where you want to go after that.
We’d recommend the rope bridge and nigh safari. But also leave plenty of time to explore on your own as there’s plenty to do and see .
It’s worth taking some binoculars and a torch.
As it gets dark but there’s always plenty to see. There’s also several hide outs where you Ca n quietly watch and wait to see animals such as deers, wild bore, birds and there are… tigers (although rarely seen).
Food & Drink: Its worth trying the food from the restaurants on the river as well as grabbing fresh juices from there. It’s good home cooked food and very reasonable.
Kuala Lumpur (KL):
Overview = After an incredible time and a long journey driving back, we made it to Kuala Lumpur.
I was pleased to be back to city comforts although Chris was not (he’s a country bumpkin).
But we were both thrilled with where we were staying/reviewing in the centre of Kuala Lumpur.
Accommodation = After such a long and sweaty journey we felt out of place arriving at the beautiful Lanson Place.
Our anxieties were put to rest as we were all warmly welcomed inside the hotel/serviced apartments.
As soon as you enter you’re immersed into luxury and it only gets better.
Our apartment was on the 40th floor overlooking the Petronas towers and the KL tower.
To read my full review of Lanson Place, go to:
As it was Christmas things such as cookery classes had finished for the festive period.
- KLCC & Aquaria: The twin or Petronas Towers is home to KLCC shopping centre and gardens with water features. Plus there is now an aquarium and science discovery centre.
After enjoying a healthy lunch of vegetarian laksa from the food court, we were ready for Aquaria.
A compact aquarium complete with viewing tunnel, feeding sessions and educational displays.
The girls loved it and it was the right size for two little ones.
- KL Museum: We stumbled across KL museum as we were drawn to the photo opportunity with the “I ❤️ KL” sign.
Inside there’s a large detailed model of Kuala Lumpur as well as a little light show about the story of Kuala Lumpur. Opposite the museum there’s an underground shopping mall although most places were closed by the time we discovered it.
- Islamic Arts Museum & National Mosque: This pretty and free-to-enter museum is worth a visit for a leisurely lunch.
We met a friend there for lunch which was a set menu Meze style.
There’s also a kids library/play area.
And don’t forget a quick visit to the national mosque across the road.
- Night market: Pasar Malam
My chef hubby Chris really wanted to go to KL’s longest night market to try a range of delicious street food and pick up some ideas for his pop up restaurants. My Aunty and Uncle took us, with a little reluctance, and it was sensational.
It was right up our street and we were glad to have my Aunty and uncle there to point out the best food and drink as well as helping to haggle on our behalf.
It’s not the easiest place to take kids but I was glad I had the sling to conveniently carry Arianna.
As well as local cafes lining the streets there are also some fast food joints if you want to take the kids.
- Little Kingdom: A lot of the shopping malls have a whole host of activities for the kids from theme parks to soft play areas as well as toy shops and supermarkets for home comforts.
At Parkson Maju Junction Mall there’s a new edu-tainment park in town that’s not to be missed… Little Kingdom.
The girls absolutely loved it. Just make sure you call to book before you go to check what’s open.
- Central Market and Petaling street: If you want to grab some tourist bargains and yummy food head to Central Market which has a food court. There’s also a number of fixed price shops if you can’t be bothered to haggle. If not, haggle your heart out as often prices are hiked high for tourists.
Petaling Street is a few roads down from Central Market (walking distance) and is a lot more of a sober affair than it used to be. It now has a cover over it so you can shop in anywhere and stalls are there selling plenty of merchandise.
Food and Drink =
Malay, Indian and Chinese food dominates Malaysian cuisine due to the influences of communities living there.
I just love the array of food on offer in KL and it’s so affordable.
My grandpa used to always take us to the most amazing vegetarian cafes where he would insist we dipped our chopsticks in hot Chinese tea before eating.
It was a far from a celubrious affair sat on plastic chairs at old plastic tables that would even look shoddy in your garden… but the food was perfect.
And so cheap. We tended to go for Chinese food as a family as I loved mock crispy goose and all the other elaborate mock meats.
But you can pick up amazing Indian food too.
My sister and I’s favourite was/is the fresh roti canai (plain) or roti teloor (with egg). It’s paired perfectly with spicy dhal and other condiments. Often presented on a banana or pandan leaf.
And the norm here is to eat Indian food with your hands – which the kids loved.
You can also find tons of Malay food. I particularly like the outdoor food courts full of vendors selling street food.
Or if you prefer more sterile environments most malls have food courts too where you can find more expensive but still yummy food.
I’d recommend… Madame Kwan’s.
Or If you want buffet-style dining head to most of the big hotels Hilton and Shangri-la are my fave.
I’m biased but I totally love everything about KL… apart from the traffic. It’s often quicker to walk places or take the sky train.
We stayed at Lanson Place for our first two nights to review the accommodation but we wished we’d stayed there for longer as it was such a family-friendly place with all the amenities you could ask for as well as being centrally located right next to a range of bars, restaurants and a whole street of stalls selling food.
As we were visiting family over Christmas who live in Petaling Jaya, In the suburbs of Kuala Lumpur, we looked for a hotel last minute and was fortunate to find that Hilton Petaling Jaya had space. At least then we knew we’d have a very comfortable Christmas.
Ooh and what a buffet breakfast they put on.
Trips: Try KL city bus for free, pick up a leaflet at your hotel. Or do an open-top tour where you can hop on and hop off on the KL tour bus.
Food and drink: The street food here is cheap and divine. Try it all… Dim Sum style!
Family-friendly?: YES. There are tons of things for the family to do as above. The malls are a good oasis in South East Asia as you know there’ll be Air Con, food and toilets. Plus most have activities for kiddies to do.