Being a KL Greeter is a great way to get to know the city and re-learn to fall in love with it all over again.
If you would like to volunteer as a KL Greeter, or if you are looking for a KL Greeter to assist you with your visit, go to http://kualalumpur.greeters.info/
HOW TO DO A KL GREET?
I received a lot of questions about this. But first, let me explain to you what this thing is all about.
The Global Greeters Network is a worldwide network of volunteers that take tourists around their cities and teach them the basics like how to use train system, read maps, places to eat etc. You spend between 2-8hours per greet, depending on how much time you have and what the guests want to see.
There are many ways to customise a Greet. But the basic preparation would be to arm yourself with the KL Tourist map and LRT/GoKL map (easily available at info counter in KL Sentral). Then, map out where you want to take the guests and use Wikipedia and Google Maps to aid you; once you get the hang of this it should be a cinch.
Find out what the guests want to see, their dietary requirements, age group (kids need toilet breaks!) and find out where is the nearest washroom, money changer and prepaid card booth. Teach them how to use GrabCar or how buy LRT tokens and simple phrases like terima kasih, campur-campur, -lah, alamak and so on.
My standard 2-hour Greet would normally cover the following:
00:00 Meet at KL Sentral
- Go to the information counter in front of McDonald’s and request for the KL City Map.
- I usually bring a marker pen to mark interesting locations that the guests may want to check out at their leisure.
- I also mark out KL Sentral and the nearest train station to their hotel and remind them that if they are lost, simply find the pink LRT line and pick KL Sentral as the destination where they can regroup and get their bearing.
00:05 General Briefing
- I will explain about what we are about to do and the places that we are going to visit to check if these are okay with the guests. I change the itinerary if they would like to see anything specific.
- If the guests are unfamiliar with taking public transportation, I spend a little time to teach them how to buy LRT tokens and show them how to use the GrabCar app.
- If all is well, we will then buy a token to go to Pasar Seni LRT Station (Central Market).
00:10 Pasar Seni LRT Station
- During the ride, I point out the old KTM Railway Station, talk about its architecture.
- Point out the Klang River and explain the origin of the name Kuala Lumpur.
- Explain a little bit about KL/Malaysia history (major tin exporter, turn agriculture, turn manufacturing and k-economy).
- Point out Kompleks Dayabumi and its Islamic-inspired architecture.
00:15 Central Market (Pasar Seni)
- Before entering CM, give a little backstory about the building and what the guests can expect to see in there.
- Start with the shops on the LEFT side: the shop lanes are divided into 4 categories – Little India, Malay Street, Little China and Peranakan.
- Explain a little bit about the various races and cultures, the rise and fall of Melaka, colonization by the various European super powers (and the reasons why).
- Bring them to the Arch Collection shop on the RIGHT side to show the guests examples of wood carving. I always point out the Baju Kebaya and the traditional Malay House.
- Somewhere in the middle lane there is this great little (un-named) stall that sells various figurines in traditional costumes. This is good stop to show the guests our traditional and matrimonial costumes. The shopgirl is very nice so don’t be shy to ask for her permission to use her stall as a showcase.
00:45 Central Market Annexe Gallery and Flea Market
- If they have interest in arts and books, take them to the Annexe Gallery.
Then turn right into the open flea market on Jalan Hang Kasturi and walk all the way down to Jalan Tun H.S. Lee to get to Petaling Street.
- Usually this is when I will ask the group if they would like to stop for a quick teh tarik and roti canai break. Btw, being a greeter is a voluntary thing therefore you should not expect your guests to pay you for your time or expenses. If you were the one who suggested the stop, please pick up the bill. If the guests request for it, do pay for your own meal.
- Explain about roti canai and teh tarik and other kinds of food that are staples to the Malaysian diet like nasi lemak, laksa, durian etc. I usually order 4 kinds of drinks and ask the guests to try them: teh tarik, milo ais, nescafe ais and teh o ais. This is a good time to whip out any youtube video on teh tarik so that the guests can see how it is made.
00:50 Petaling Street
- This is where you can coax the guests to try various street food (if you are up to it). I usually use this time to let them soak in the sight and atmosphere.
- If the guests are interested in buying anything, help them to haggle.
01:00 Jalan Tun H.S. Lee – Guan Di Temple
- Explain about the road and why it was renamed Jalan Tun H. S. Lee.
Talk a little bit about our road to independence, integration and so on.
- Stop at Guan Di (aka Kuan Ti) Temple on the left side of the road.
- Explain about the two lions and the Door Gods that are guarding the door, and about Guan Di deity.
- During day time, usually guests would spend quite a bit of time here to take photos.
01:15 Jalan Tun H. S. Lee – Sri Maha Mariamman Temple
- This temple is only about a minute’s walk away from Guan Di Temple.
You will be asked to remove your shoes before you enter. It is customary to donate a small amount of money when you retrieve your shoes.
- Briefly talk about its history, point out deities and scenes from Ramayana; segue into Thaipusam and Batu Caves, puja prayers etc. To be honest, this is where I am weakest so I need to learn more about this temple so that I could be more accurate when talking about it to the guests. The temple itself is calm, serene and magnificent.
01:30 MRT Pasar Seni or Pasar Seni LRT Station
- Walk towards the end the road and then turn right at the traffic light. I usually ask guests if they would like to take the MRT to go to Bukit Bintang, or if they would like to go to KLCC Twin Towers. For this article, let’s assume they choose KLCC.
- Go back to Pasar Seni LRT Station, point out the free GoKL bus and explain to them that they can hop on/off any time and to refer to the KL Map in order to check the area that individual buses cover. If guests would like to go to Little India, I would take them to Brickfields (via Nu Sentral) and end the Greet there.
01:35 KLCC LRT Station
- There are several things to do here. Check if they want to go to the Petronas Galeri, Petrosains, Observation Deck, MPO or Akuaria; tell them the entrance fees to help them consider if these are right for them.
- Take them to KLCC Park lookout point so that they can take photos of the Twin Towers; if the greet takes place at night, take a break and sit on the steps by the fountain to enjoy the light show.
02:00 KLCC C Level (Concourse), near Maybank/Guardian
- Point out the route to Akuaria/KL Convention Centre and give them directions to Pavilion/Bukit Bintang.
That’s it. The Greet ends here. I normally teach the guests how to do salam the Malay way, ask them to text or call me if they get lost or need assistance, wish them happy holidays and let them be on their way.
These are the Top 3 questions that I get whenever I do a greet:
- Why does everyone in Malaysia seem to be able to speak in English
- How are Malaysians able to accept and be respectful of each other’s religion? (Usually asked after we go to Guan Di Temple and Sri Maha Mariamman Temple.)
- How do Malaysians learn to live together when there are so many different races and cultures? (Always when we stop for a teh tarik and roti canai break.)
- Bonus question: As a Muslim woman, don’t you think wearing the hijab is repressive and a means for the religion to control woman?
I have also been asked about the palm oil controversy (the unethical clearing of forests and that palm oil is bad for you), the quality of water (somehow, European travel guides mislead tourists into believing that our tap water is dangerous — I was told that some of the guests were even advised to use bottled water to brush their teeth and to never order iced drinks coz you could get a tummy ache!), and of course, Islam and life as a female Malay Muslim.
Keen? You sign up as a Greeter, then once you are vetted, the network will start sending you requests that match your preference. If you want to join me in my next Greet so that you can see how it is being done, hit me in the comments section!