Kuala Lumpur, meaning the muddy estuary, is a thriving modern city with much room to grow. It’s rising as a major tourist destination and the city has a number of free tours throughout the week near Merdeka (Freedom) Square. A morning walk through Central Market for breakfast, then across the river, along the way to the City Gallery where most tours started revealed multiple layers of the city’s past, present and future. I made a Malaysian American friend who told me about the free bus line so we hopped on the red line to the National Museum then explored the Botanical Gardens. I found it a bit odd that very few people were out enjoying the park.
As evening approached, we found some nice views of the city along Jalan (street) Parimen before finally running into a large group of students organizing a feed the homeless campaign at the clock tower. My new friend connected with their Malaysian heritage and thus we joined the “suicide squade” which went down to the sewers to hand food out to the homeless throughout the city. Ultimately, we went back above ground and found a park where another group was offering medical care. We were encouraged to speak with the homeless migrants to hear their stories and understand their circumstances.
Many major cities have government funded free tours. They’re a great way to fill a first day with activities, but make sure to check in advance if it’s first come first serve or if you need to book in advance. The guides each have their unique stories and views of the city and country. If you don’t know what to do, they can help you figure out the rest of your plans.