Last week we told you about our travels from Kota Kinabalu on the island Borneo to Malaysia’s capital Kuala Lumpur. This week we thought we’d bring you a guide to KL, one of our favourite Asian cities.
KL has a flourishing contemporary art scene, and one of its best galleries – not surprising – is in a shopping mall. Galeri Petronas is in the posh Suria KLCC shopping mall at the base of KL’s iconic Petronas Towers. When we recently dropped by there was a fascinating exhibition of Malaysian figurative art called Figure Out, featuring 64 works on the themes of identity, work, leisure and politics by some of the country’s most important artists, including Simon Soon, Datuk Chuah Thean Teng, Anurendra Jegadeva, and Zulkifli Yusoff. Curated to mark the 55th year of Malaysia’s independence, the show is on until early November. If you’re an art buff, you should also check out Wei-Ling Gallery, The National Art Gallery and MAP @ PublikaLevel.
DO If you want to gawk at KL’s gobsmacking city vistas, then you’ll need to head to Petronas Towers first thing in the morning for free tickets to the Petronas Towers Sky Bridge (closes 7pm). After, head to the LRT just outside the Towers for a train to Masjid Jamek LRT to take in the beautiful mosque of the same name. Boasting pretty minarets and domes, it’s located in lush palm-filled gardens. Note: it’s important to dress modestly. Next, wander around the corner to Merdeka Square, a former cricket field and the site of Malaysia’s independence. From here you’ll have a great vantage point for appreciating the fantastic architecture around the square, including the black and white Tudor-style Royal Selangor Club, established in the 1890s, and the extravagant Sultan Abdul Samad Building, which combines Moorish, Mogul and Victorian architectural styles. From here, Chinatown is a ten-minute stroll away.
BARGAIN The bustling market that runs along Chinatown’s Jalan Petaling or Petaling Street is the best place in KL to practice those bargaining skills. Here you’ll find scores of stalls selling dirt-cheap and generally counterfeit goods, like ‘designer’ watches, sunglasses, handbags, wallets, sneakers, and clothes bearing the (occasionally misspelt) logos of posh labels like Prada, Louis Vuitton, Paul Smith, Tommy H, and Burberry. You’ll also see countless stalls selling iPhone and iPad cases and accessories, cheap tripods and camera accessories, tiny binoculars, torches, and the like. Handier if you’re heading to the beach are the stalls offering ‘Billabong’ boardshorts, bikinis, sarongs, sunhats, and baseball caps. And for kitschy last-minute souvenirs, you can trawl your way through novelties such as Petronas Towers snow-domes.
SHOP Jalan Bukit Bintang or Bukit Bintang Street (pictured above) is KL’s equivalent to Singapore’s Orchard Road. At one end it’s lined with colossal shopping malls and exclusive designer boutiques like Prada, Louis Vuitton, Hermes, Gucci, Bvlgari, and Versace. At the other, grittier end, you’ll find everything from massage shops and fish spas to Oriental perfume shops and cheap video stores. Head to sleek shopping malls like Starhill Gallery, for designer clothes and luxury watch shops, and, across the road, Pavilion KL, which is crammed with every kind of store imaginable. Bustling Low Yat Plaza is the place to shop for bargain-priced gadgets and electronics, while adjacent Sungei Wang Plaza iswhere you’ll also find affordable disposable Asian fashion.
BUY As we’re permanently on the road, I buy very little when we travel, but when I do I seek out things that are locally made and original. One of my favourite shops in KL is at Starhill Gallery on Bukit Bintang. Jendela KL specialises in beautiful one-off batik textiles, gorgeous garments made from batik, like flowing cotton kaftans to raw silk dresses, as well as bespoke items, like tailored shirts and evening gowns. All pieces are unique using traditional Malaysian batik techniques, and while there are plenty of things on the racks to choose from are made, bespoke items can take two weeks. If you want something bespoke, make sure you take sketches or photos of patterns and motifs. You’ll pay anything from RMB 300 for a scarf or tie to RMB 2000 for a bespoke item.
EAT-DRINK Just off Bukit Bintang, Jalan Alor is KL’s liveliest eat street, and while it is touristy, the street is also popular with locals. Crammed with food hall-style eateries that are home to hawker stalls, you’ll find Chinese, Malay and Thai cuisine, as well as local sweets. Our favourite place is a soup and noodle stand on the corner called Alor Corner Curry Noodle, which has one of the best curry noodle soups we’ve ever had for just RMB 5 each or around $1! If you need a break from the heat, back on Bukit Bintang, Lot 10 Hutong, is an air-conditioned hawker place marketed as a ‘gourmet food heritage village’ that is home to the second shops of proprietors with old businesses in Chinatown. Try the tasty Char Siew Wonton Mee from Ho Weng Kee and the Popiah (minced chicken rolls) from Campbell Mini Popiah where you’ll find 65 year-old Chang Bak Hok whose wife has been rolling these things for more than 30 years. A good restaurant choice for top quality Malaysian food is Bijan (3 Jalan Ceylon; ), which has a lovely atmosphere and does a delicious dry Beef Rendang. They also have reasonably priced wine and cold beer.
Next week we’ll be taking you to New Zealand…
This post was written by our Lara Dunston and Terence Carter of http://grantourismotravels.com, with whom InsureandGo has a special partnership. We would like to thank Lara and Terence very much for sharing their passion for travel. If you would like to contribute to our blog by sharing your travel experiences with us, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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