There are plenty of ways to entertain kids at a cost in KL, but for good, free fun, combine these four top spots into one or two adventurous days. Start with a train ride to Batu Caves, then cool off at KLCC’s water park and mega outdoor playground. Head to Little India in search of cheap eats and funky Hindu temples, and cool your heels in Chinatown at an authentic tea shop or a noisy street side restaurant. Slurp steaming bowls of noodles and relax over a chilly beer while little ones snooze and older kids ponder which market bargains to blow their pocket money on.
Batu’s cool caves and all the cheeky macaques that tease as you tackle the 272 steps up and into this popular limestone hill, can’t help but impress any kid you carry with you. Filled with Hindu temples and shrines and open to the sky deep inside, Batu’s network of three main and several small caves makes a great day trip destination. Located about 13km from KL, access couldn’t be easier: take the monorail to KL Sentral and ride the train to the end of the line.
Free to visit and rated one of the most popular Hindu shrines outside of India, Batu Caves is dedicated to Lord Murugan. His glimmering gold statue marks the entrance to Temple Cave. The site becomes particularly lively during the Thaipusam festival in late January/early February. Don’t let the cave’s 272 steps put you off; the higher you climb, the better the vistas across the city get. Rock climbers tackling some of the 160 routes up the limestone surrounding the Temple Cave entrance will entertain older kids who can join half-day guided sessions with Verticale (from MYR118pp).
One tip though, keep food and drinks out of sight of the macaques and a tight grip on your bags.
On our recent visit we watched a troop of macaques rapidly empty one unlucky Mum’s nappy bag. When she tried to distract them by shaking out some snacks, the macaques swung in en masse and that nappy bag was history!
Get Wet at KLCC Park
Providing of the best ways to shake off a steamy morning in KL, KLCC Park lets kids stretch their legs on two-acres of play equipment before plunging into the paddling pool to turn the temperature down. A dozen different play areas create adventurous climbing and sliding circuits, while the water park, although basic by Aussie standards, is an irresistible antidote to KL’s humidity.
At nearby Lake Symphony, a series of musical water fountains shoot skywards outside Suria KLCC. Here you’ll find fresh food and grocery outlets and eateries serving familiar Western favourites too. Above it all, the sky scraping Petronas Towers dominate every vista. A tour of the towers may well impress your kids (adults RM85, kids RM35), but if not, you can happily ogle skyward as you play with your water babies. From the edge of the paddling pool you can capture the most excellent shot of the towers reflected in the water.
An easy stroller walk from Chinatown, the irresistible aroma of fresh Indian curries heralds your arrival in Little India. In this vibrant Indian part of town you’ll find moneychangers, sari shops, great cheap eats and several flamboyant Hindu temples whose elaborate, excessively colourful depictions of Hindu gods will delight kids.
Many travel guidebooks offer suggested walking tours around the district, but you and your kids may well be happy to get close and personal with just one temple. Enjoy the riotous colours before retreating for mugs of ice-cold lassi and thali platefuls of roti, dahl and curries.
See Chinatown by Night
What kid doesn’t love being up at night? As the sun goes down, Chinese lanterns begin to glow overhead along Chinatown’s Jalan Petaling and travellers converge to shop, sip cold ales and soak up the atmosphere. Weary babies and toddlers may well doze through the entire affair, providing a great opportunity to work your way through a Chinese banquet menu.
Older kids with pocket money to burn can splurge on rip-off designer gear and cheap Chinese toys, while under fives may be content to nibble sticks of fresh fruit and bakery treats as you stroll the market stalls or sip a cup of authentic Chinese tea in backstreet tea shops away from the fray.
Chinatown boasts some interesting Buddhist temples that welcome visitors too. Join the faithful burning bundles of incense sticks at distinctive, red-columned Guandi (or Kuan Ti) temple or marvel at the intricate terracotta friezes that adorn Chan She Shu Yuen. Sri Mahamariamman Temple is a riot too, the oldest Hindu shrine in the country.