Kuala Lumpur Chinatown is a less glamorous area than the skyscraper-rich neighbourhoods of downtown, but it has a more unique charm amongst the ramshackle market stalls and brightly painted temples. A favourite area for the budget traveller crowd, Chinatown in KL has much more to offer visitors than just cheap beds and noodle stands.
The market on Petaling street is the centre-point for Kuala Lumpur’s Chinatown, and all manner of imitation goods can be found here from ‘designer’ watches to the latest threads. Originally known as ‘starch factory street’ (Chee Cheong Kai), the area was the centre of the city’s tapioca industry.
Temples in KL Chinatown
Chan See Shu Yuen Temple
This century-old temple has symmetrical pavilions, open courtyards and embellished roofs in the Oriental style. The roof contains ornate carvings depicting stories from Chinese history and mythology, with sculptures of warriors fighting strange beasts occupying the inner shrine.
Sri Mahamariamman Hindu Temple
This Hindu temple, constructed in 1873, is the most elaborately-designed and oldest place of worship for Malaysia’s Indian community. It has been designated a national heritage site and attracts tourist from around the world.
The building contains an striking five-tiered tower (gopuram) adorned with intricate sculptures of Hindu deities. Around 350kg of silver was used in the glistening chariot that took Lord Murugan’s statue to Batu Caves.
Kuan Ti Temple
This Taoist temple (also called Kwong Siew or Guan Ti) is dedicated to Chinese god of war and literature, Kuan Ti. The two imposing stone lions which guard the building’s entrance are popular with tourists wanting to take a souvenir photo. And the twin statues of the Chinese god of the elderly and god of examinations and fate in the main lobby are well-visited by local students. A statue of Kuan Ti occupies pride of place at the main altar in the central chamber.
Nightlife in KL Chinatown
After dark the restaurants along Petaling Street become casual bars as throngs of budget tourists who are not willing to splash their cash in swanky Bangsar nightspots descend looking for a good time. Sitting out on the street people-watching is great fun, otherwise Reggae Barplays some decent music with sports on the TV and cheap drinks until late. Just around the corner is The Beatles Bar, named in honour of the fab Liverpudlian foursome. A relaxed space with classic tunes and cheap beers, it fills up quickly especially on the weekends.
Shopping in Kuala Lumpur Chinatown
Kuala Lumpur Chinatown, more than anywhere else in the city, has a wealth of fascinating places to shop for bargains and find some great souvenirs. Central Market (Pasar Seni) is great for finding some brilliant gifts from batik textiles to locally-produced honey and pollen products.
Petaling Street Market
This huge market is covered by a recently-repaired green roof which protects shoppers in KL Chinatown from sudden sub-tropical downpours.
All manner of fake cloths, jewellery and watches can be found here but remember to bargain like your life depended on it. Prices can plummet as quickly as the rain with 90 per cent sometimes knocked off in the space of a few seconds, as long as you play your cards right.
Kota Raya Shopping Complex
Situated opposite Petaling Street by Central Market, this shopping complex in Kuala Lumpur Chinatown is ranked amongst the oldest in the city. For this reason it has been somewhat usurped by the trendier marble offerings of Bukit Bintang, but still holds a few treasures for dedicated bargain hunters. Best for cheap fashion, accessories, hairdressers, beauty saloons, electronics and games.
Nearby to Kota Raya can be found the S&M Warisan budget department store. Although smaller than its rival, it is relishing life after a recent refurbishment and is popular amongst locals searching for cut-price DVDs and music. (website: www.uo.com.my).
There are a great number of jewellery shops dotted all around Chinatown in Kuala Lumpur where tourists can source crystals, gems, pearls and gold. Be careful you know what you are buying and if in doubt do not take the risk. If something seems too good to be true then it probably it. There are also a large number of book stores stocking English language titles especially along Jalan Sultan.
Massage in Kuala Lumpur Chinatown
If you are looking for a little pampering with a traditional element, there is nowhere better than Chinatown in Kuala Lumpur for a special treat. All manner of massages are practiced in the various parlours including reflexology where touching specific pressure points on the soles of the feet are supposed to alleviate all manner of ailments.