chiang mai to kuala lumpur

The first entries of our Thai tourist visas were expiring soon, so we took a three-day border run from Chiang Mai to Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. It was time to activate the second entry on our visas and enjoy a few days of wandering around Malaysia’s capital city of Kuala Lumpur.

Chiang Mai to Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

We chose to do our border run from Chiang Mai to Kuala Lumpur because it was a short flight (3 hours) and the most affordable city to fly to from Northern Thailand at the time. Additionally, getting a visa in advance is not required to enter Malaysia. They actually grant American visitors a 90 day social visit upon entry at the airport. Although we looked at flights to Cambodia, Vietnam, and Laos, many of the larger cities in these nearby countries were too expensive to fly to on our budget. We also could have booked a bus trip across the Burmese border, but we wanted to do more research on the cost, time, and reliability. Maybe next time. For now all signs were pointing us from Chiang Mai to Kuala Lumpur.


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For accommodations, we chose My Hotel Bukit Bintang. The hotel was conveniently located in the Bukit Bintang entertainment area of Kuala Lumpur. We were pleasantly surprised to be right beside the internationally famous Jalan Alor Food Street, where one can experience an array of delicious local food. We ended up enjoying Chinese styled yellow curry and BBQ pork over noodles for our first lunch in the big city. We also sipped on some cheap, but amazing coffee!

Jalan Alor Food Street: Chiang Mai to Kuala Lumpur

Is There Public Transportation in Kuala Lumpur?

Kuala Lumpur has an extensive and affordable rail and bus system within the city. We were lucky in that one of the branches, the Rapid KL’s Monorail Line, was conveniently located only a ten minute walk away. The KL Monorail line is a 8.6 km sky rail that passes through 11 different stations, and so we got some excellent views of the city which we otherwise may not have experienced.

Rapid KL Monorail Line: Chiang Mai to Kuala Lumpur

Contrary to what we were told by a cab driver, we were able visit a popular tourist attraction in Malaysia, the Batu Caves via public transit. In order to get there we had to take the KL Monorail Line and then connect to the KTM Komuter at KL Sentral Station (as it was spelled in Malaysia).

The Batu Caves

After arriving and climbing a very steep set of stairs up to the Batu Caves, we caught our breath and toured the inside. The interior was decorated with Hindu shrines and seemed to be very popular with locals and tourists alike.

Batu Caves Kuala Lumpur

We were amazed at the opening in the ceiling at the back of the cave which revealed the forest top of the mountain. As it started to rain the cave started to fill with mist. It felt nice but we had to watch our step as the ground and a couple of steep sets of stairs became very slick and awkward to navigate.

Kuala Lumpur City Skyline from the Batu Caves

Our favorite part of our trip from Chiang Mai to Kuala Lumpur was seeing the skyline of Malaysia’s capital city from the cave’s entrance at the top of the tall set of stairs.

Kuala Lumpur Batu Cave Exterior Shrines

Food Variety In Kuala Lumpur

On our way back from the Batu Caves to our hotel, we enjoyed an early dinner of local Indian cuisine. The portion sizes were very large, and it definitely hit the spot after getting caught in a torrential down pour. We scarfed down some Beef Biryani, Chicken Tandoori, Naan with dipping sauce, and a refreshing Lychee Smoothie.

Kuala Lumpur Indian Food

Kuala Lumpur Nightlife

Our last night in Kuala Lumpur was on a Friday, so after it stopped raining we walked through Changkat Bukit Bintang, a trendy area lined with clubs and bars. This street in Kuala Lumpur reminded us a little of Bangkok. We ended up setting up shop at an Irish pub and people watched. We should mention that drinks in Kuala Lumpur are not cheap. Although you can limit the amount you spend if you order by the pitcher or jug instead. We highly recommend the Royal Stout!

Kuala Lumpur to Chiang Mai, Thailand

The next day we returned from Kuala Lumpur to Chiang Mai after our short border run. Our plane departed from the LCCT (Low Cost Carrier Terminal) terminal at Kuala Lumpur International Airport. We took the monorail from Kuala Lumpur and then took a connecting bus directly to the front doors of the airport. We recommend this route as a couple of the taxi drivers outside of our hotel would not agree to turn on their meters, and quoted us an outrageous fare.

Once having landed in Chiang Mai we had no problems entering Thailand on the second entries of our tourist visas. The Chiang Mai Immigration checkpoint was a breeze. The whole process only took about 10 minutes.


Even though we were only gone for three days we missed our Chiang Mai home by the end of our trip. It isn’t that we didn’t like Malaysia, we just prefer the coziness of the beautiful city of Chiang Mai to Kuala Lumpur’s busier city feel. We definitely recommend a short flight to Malaysia as a practical way to breakaway from the mundane land crossings that Northern Thailand expats often opt for. For those wondering, we avoided many of the tourist attractions during our first trip, such as the Petronas Towers. We foresee many more trips to Kuala Lumpur in the future, and to keep things interesting we will explore a little more each time we visit.

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