Kuala Lumpur is a melting pot of multicultural modernity that has an uncanny way of charming anyone who takes to its streets. Historic monuments stand side by side steel-clad skyscrapers, lush parks and even rainforest (in the city!) – the old meets the new here to striking effect.
If you’re wondering where exactly to start exploring this hub and to really feel its pulse, look no further as we bring you three central locations that truly capture the essence of the capital in more ways than one. Chinatown, Central Market and the KL Craft Complex have long been pillars of the KL experience and here’s why!
Chinatown’s Chaotic Charm
Take a stroll throughChinatown’s back alleys and be prepared to step back in time as you experience a glimpse of old KL. The charm seeps through the rows of old shophouses, built during the colonial era when Chinese Kapitan Yap Ah Loy, regarded as the founding father of modern Kuala Lumpur, built his empire on the tin mines of the burgeoning city.
The hustle and bustle of Petaling Street is one of KL’s most popular tourist spots and filled with a vibrancy unmatched throughout the city.
Bargain hunters will feel at home here, with hundreds of stalls offering dirt-cheap products of all sorts; foodies can eat their hearts out with dozens of food stalls hawking local favourites (some of which can only be found in Chinatown); and culture vultures can get their fix with the wide array of temples including the Hindu temple of Sri Mahamariamman, plus many examples of Chinese architecture that give the area a unique look and feel.
Chinatown’s main draw is the abundance of shopping on Petaling Street. The busy market peddles a wide choice of products that saturate the bustling boulevard, from handbags to watches and many souvenir stalls.
The name of the game here is bartering, and as a rule of thumb you should never accept the first, second or third price offered. Be prepared for pushy shopkeepers, who will do just about anything to close a deal, but stand your ground, stick by your price, you’ll be fine – remember haggling is an art!
KL’s Creative Heart – Central Market
You name it: beads, bangles, batik, Buddhas; silks, souvenirs, scarves, statues; crafts, clothes, clocks, and carvings – Central Market has it all! But as well as being a shopper’s paradise, Central Market is also a Malaysian Heritage Site.
Apart from being a historical treasure, this 100 year-plus marketplace is simply a treat to stroll around: no hassle, hustle or haste. That said, it would be remiss not to sample just some of its wares.
To begin, sit with your feet in a shallow bath where they will be micro-massaged by tiny, toothless fish. From there, you can choose to peruse dozens of dramatically differing outlets offering anything from wonderfully worked wooden artefacts, and a brilliantly colourful array of native Malay batik materials crafted into all manner of garments, to antiques which include partitions made from timber with tastefully carved panels.
Central Market is currently closed for upgrading works and will reopen on 31 August.
Captivating Crafts at KL Craft Complex
If you’re looking for a place in the city centre to indulge your creative ambitions and produce beautiful batik, the Kuala Lumpur Craft Complex should be top of your list. This iconic landmark has served as the city’s handicraft epicentre for over three decades and is home to an expansive museum, souvenir shop, Artist Colony and Craft Village where you can try your hands at a variety of local crafts.
The Craft Village is where you can let your inner artist out and create your own masterpiece. Whether it’s batik painting or ceramics, the experience can be as relaxing as it is rewarding, and the perfect way to bring home something made with a personal touch. For a nominal fee you can plunk yourself down for an afternoon and paint to your heart’s content – who knows, there may be a craftsman in you!