KLCC from Jalan TAR
Credit: courtesy of Zinggof

Squeezed between two great Asian cities, Kuala Lumpur does not seem as exotic as Bangkok or as sophisticated as Singapore. But here's a secret. The city has the best of both worlds -- cheap food and awesome hotels.

Unlike the neighboring Singapore, Kuala Lumpur is not all about shopping and seeing colonial and modern architecture.  It is about finding street food in cramped alleys, about tasting local cuisines, and about being exposed to various cultures living in Asia.

To get the best out of Kuala Lumpur, you have to see the city through the eyes of a local. Here are 3 ways you can do that.

1. Breakfast at an Indian Muslim Restaurant

Ask for a dose of teh tarik (literally pulled tea) and a roti canai at nearby Indian Muslim restaurant. The tea will come in a tall transparent mug and will be too sweet for most westerners. And the oily flaky bread would look as if it has been tortured to death.

But they cost under a dollar, and is the staple breakfast for many Malaysian. While there, watch your cook toss the roti in the air like Jet Li while his colleague expertly drag a long stream of pull tea without spilling your drink on the floor.

2. Go to Jalan Tar night market

If you happen to be in Kuala Lumpur on Saturday, head on to the Jalan TAR night market.

It’s where you escape the air-conditioned mall and find authentic Malay food around the temporary stalls set up on the road stretching out from the Masjid Jamek LRT towards Jalan Melayu.

This night bazaar is similar to Chinatown, but the sellers are more polite and the focus is more on food rather than counterfeit Gucci.

The once-in-a-week fair is the place to see authentic Malaysian market – where stalls selling meat floss and shawl stands side by side, and where satay is cooked on the street just around an Indian jeweler store.

While there, try some freshly cut jackfruit or sapodilla sold for less than a dollar each.

3. Explore KLCC

KLCC is modern Kuala Lumpur at its best. There’s an upscale mall selling high end international fashion labels like Gucci and Prada, a plethora of Asian restaurants and eateries as well as a massive museum for kids.

 If you go during the day, you can explore KLCC to the max. You may go to the vast oceanarium called the Aquaria, book a classical or jazz concert at KL Symphony Orchestra Hall, laugh at the singing T-Rex at the  Petrosains or enjoy arts for free at the Petronas Gallery.

 Like a KL citizen, you may want to explore the park at night and marvel at the beautiful fountains in the KLCC Park. 

If you browse a hotel and attraction directory, you will find that there are so many things to do and places to see on your short trip to Kuala Lumpur. But to really enjoy the city, you have to see it through the eyes of a local.

The 3 places we’ve laid out to you is the best way to do that. Those skipping the 3 places will think that they have visited Kuala Lumpur – but it is far from the truth. They have only touched a surface of KL.

Like an iceberg, the KL they know is only a small part of a much bigger whole.