Whenever I visit a city, I try to find viewpoints from which to photograph its skyline. Those are either outside the city's bounds or on top of some of its higher buildings. Accessing those rooftop views often requires an entrance fee or good connections. In Kuala Lumpur, all that's needed is to stay in the right apartment.
While traveling through Malaysia last month, I had three layovers in Kuala Lumpur. To make the most out of those stays, I did extended research to find apartments in buildings with great rooftop views. For this, I scoured Airbnb and Booking, looking through nearly a hundred apartments. What I could rely on during this search: If an apartment was located in a building with a view, the owner would use a photo of it as an advertisement.
Most of those photos weren't very good. But they gave me a rough idea of the possibilities. Once I had narrowed my selection to 10 candidates, I used Google Maps to get a closer look at the location of the buildings and the orientation of the rooftops. It helped me to find the, in my opinion, three most interesting views.
The first apartment I stayed at is located inside the Expressionz Suites complex, which lies at the northeastern edge of the city center. As with most of the apartments and hotels in Kuala Lumpur, you can reach it from the international airport via taxi in less than an hour for somewhere between $15 and $25. If you are on a budget, you can also get to the city center by public transport.
Expressionz Suites caught my eye because of the rooftop pool area. During my research, I saw countless photos of the infinity pool with the Petronas Towers in the background. On Google maps, I could also see a small lounge-like area next to the pool, which is perfect for setting up a tripod.
With a high enough tripod, which can reach above the railing, it's possible to photograph down into the city. The orientation of the buildings provides a good view of the Petronas Towers and the KL Tower. After looking through countless photos of Kuala Lumpur, I consider this one of the finest views in town.
As I explain in the feature video, there are currently some rules in place for accessing the pool area: Only a stay of one hour is allowed at a time for a maximum of 20 people, and there's an entrance fee of about 2,5$. But most importantly, they don't have a tripod policy yet, and there is enough space to set up a tripod. This allows you to take photos up there without getting in the way of the other guests.
This building is much more popular with photographers than the first one. I've seen many photos taken from its roof, and I remember Elia Locardi photographing from there during one of his Moments in Time episodes.
While in Expression Suites, it's all about the views from the rooftop, if you stay in Regalia Suites, you should try to find accommodation with a view. There are some apartments with a balcony facing the city. Get one in building A on one of the higher floors, and you'll not even have to access the rooftop to photograph the city.
It's a good backup if they restrict the entrance to the rooftop even more. To get to the pool area now, you must make a reservation for a specific time slot at least one day in advance and then wait for the approval letter. In that letter, you'll see a long list of things you won't be able to bring to the pool area, this includes bags, drones, and tripods.
And they are very strict and not open to discussion. When I tried to bring my camera bag, I had to either leave it at the entrance or return it to my room before I could enter. In the end, I went up there with just my camera, a towel, and a cable release.
The good thing is: That's all you need to take long exposures up there. There's a wall at the far end of the pool on which you can put a camera. I used my towel as leveling base and was then able to take photos for an hour, undisturbed by security.
For my third stay, I wanted a sunrise view of the city. While looking through different options west of the center, I found Ceylonz Suites. Of the three buildings I share here, it has the best location. You can walk to Chinatown, the center, and KL Tower to find additional photo subjects. Getting anywhere from the other two buildings requires a Grab as there are no pedestrian options — Grab is Southeast Asia's Uber on steroids.
But what about the view? Ceylonz Suites has little garden areas on different levels, with the largest on floor 39. The vista is not as expansive as from the other rooftops, but it's no less photogenic. Here, a long lens will allow you to single out the Petronas Towers and create a unique image of the skyline.
The biggest plus: There are no rules for accessing the rooftop. I was surprised it wasn't locked when I went up half an hour before sunrise one morning. And there's plenty of space for setting up a tripod. It's an all in all relaxed atmosphere to take photos.
I can recommend a stay in both Expressionz Suites and Ceylonz Suites. Not only are the views spectacular, but you'll also find beautiful apartments at affordable prices. While Regalia Suites also has a view, it's not in as good of a shape as the other buildings. Then there's a tram passing by every 5 to 10 minutes, which makes it nearly impossible to sleep through the night.
Those three are also not the only buildings with a rooftop view in Kuala Lumpur. If you invest some time, you'll find a lot more. If money is not a problem, you can check the Traders Hotel and book a room facing the Petronas Towers. Ask to get one on the higher floors. Then, you'll not even have to visit their SkyBar to photograph the city.
In case you've been to Kuala Lumpur already, let us know what's your favorite view.