Why you should skip the walking tour and go for a hike to get the best view of Kuala Lumpur.
I have often had people tell me that if you’ve been to one major city, you’ve been to them all. I see things a different way. It was the French author, Marcel Proust who once said “the real voyage of discovery consists not in seeing new sights, but in looking with new eyes.” As I recently discovered on a 4-day stint in Kuala Lumpur, one way to refresh your eyes might be to get outside of it. And what better way is there than to go for a hike?
Why You Should Go For A Hike to Get The Best View of Kuala Lumpur
I have often heard people brush off KL as a trade hub, financial center, or simply a layover on the way to the rest of Asia. On the outside, KL may look like a skyscraper carnival designed for tourists. Leaving the city and all its distractions, however, reveals the city’s somewhat gritty reality. Beneath the shiny polished exterior likes the rich cultural life of the indigenous Malaysians.
The good people of REI, and organizations like the Appalachian Trail Conservancy, have long known that the outdoors is a panacea to the ails of expensive, crowded, and insincere city life.
However, not all of us are Ron Swanson‘s—born outdoorsmen who are fearless against anything nature might throw at them. Especially when I’m far away from home (and help!) I’m happy to go for a hike with a paid guide who can steer me away from deadly pitfalls.
My Hike In Kuala Lumpur
For my trip to Kuala Lumpur in January, I went with Open Sky Unlimited because it was rated “#1 in Outdoor Activities” in KL on TripAdvisor. The tours require a minimum of 2 people to book, so I was worried when I e-mailed them just a few days ahead of getting to KL. They were able to pair me up with 2 other solo travelers (both girls) for a hike up the Eastern section of the famous Bukit Tabur. (Most people know it as the “Dragon Back” because that’s what the mountain looks like from afar!)
What It Cost
The tour set us back 200 Malaysian ringgits (~$50 USD as of Jan 2016) each. It included pick-up/drop-off, a ~4 hour hike up all 4 peaks of the range, and breakfast afterwards at a traditional mamak serving authentic Malaysian-Indian cuisine. I had a great experience with OS, and would recommend the hike for anyone at a moderate fitness level looking for the best view of KL (although you’ll have to earn it!)
The trail itself was easy enough, though there were some places on the trail that required a quick lesson from our guide Ben in the “three-point contact” rule of rock-climbing. I definitely found myself climbing on all fours more often than I had expected!
As an amateur-to-intermediate hiker at best, I can usually hold my own hiking, but navigating a trail is another story. I’d never recommend hiking a new trail without a guide unless the trail is super easy, or you really know what you were doing. If you decide to find tour for your excursion, here is a checklist of things I focus on when booking online!
How to Find A Guided Hike
Look for Local Guides
On the way up Bukit Tabur, we were treated to a rolling commentary about KL history from our local guide. In my opinion, that’s way better than listening to someone recite facts off a Frommer’s guidebook!
More importantly, someone who may have grown up taking that trail may also be more aware of its idiosyncrasies. For example, where rocks are slippery, or avalanches are rare but possible. They may also be better equipped to guide you up and down a particularly dangerous terrain, and/or seek help if necessary.
Check the Level of Difficulty
The last thing you want to do is overestimate your physical fitness and make yourself miserable at best, or hurt yourself at worst. While hiking is a pretty accessible physical activity, it can also be extremely dangerous. Most tour companies will warn you about an excursion’s difficult because it’s in their best interest too to keep you safe. However, I’d still e-mail the tour guide ahead of time with any questions if you’re unsure.
Wilderness First Responder
The WFR designation is a well-known training program for handling emergency first-aid situations. They are called “first responders” because they’ll be the closest medical personnel out in the wild.
Don’t let that scare you! A good tour guide should assess your skill level and show you how to navigate the trail safely. However, I also like knowing he/she will also know what to do if something goes awry.
It’s a fairly easy perk for most companies to arrange things like pick-up/drop-off service. This is especially important to me if the trip begins early in the morning like the one in KL. Getting around a strange country early in the morning is no walk in the park. Getting picked up from your hotel may mean the difference between having a great experience and stressful one!
This list is far from comprehensive, and I welcome any suggestions to improving it! This post was not sponsored or requested in any way. I just really enjoyed my experience hiking in Kuala Lumpur and wanted to share the experience with others.
Would you go for a hike in a foreign country? What has your experience been?