With the Chinese New Year approaching, what better way to soak in the festivity than exploring Kuala Lumpur’s historic Chinatown district?
By Khalil Adis
Whether you love it or hate it, Kuala Lumpur’s Chinatown district has a colourful personality that attracts both Malaysians and tourists alike. While Malaysians lament about the loss of its authenticity and some have chosen to avoid it altogether, this vibrant area has its own quirks that make it oh-so-charming thanks to the many rustic shophouses. Here is a quick guide on exploring Chinatown.
#1: Plaza Rakyat LRT station
Plaza Rakyat LRT station is an elevated station along the Ampang and Sri Petaling Line. Situated next to a massive proposed mixed-use development that has since been abandoned, the whole area unfortunately reeks of urban decay. Once you exit from the station you will likely come across the occasional beggars and the rancid smell emanating from the air - not for the faint-hearted. Taking the LRT station is ideal if you intend to head to Menara Maybank or to savour the street food at Jalan Sultan as it is located within the vicinity.
#2: Pasar Seni MRT station
Pasar Seni MRT Station is an underground station that is integrated with the existing Pasar Seni LRT station serving the Kelana Jaya LRT Line. Located in the heritage area of Chinatown, Pasar Seni is located within walking distance to backpackers’ lodges, boutique hotels and the tourist trap flea marts of Petaling Street.
There are plans to also connect the station to the iconic Central Market. An added feature is a bus interchange located just above the station that will connect buses from Kuala Lumpur to Petaling Jaya.
#3: Petaling Street
Petaling Street is a must visit street if you want to buy branded knock-offs ranging from bags to watches. Ironically, while this is the heart of Chinatown, the vendors selling the wares are mostly foreigners comprising Bangladeshi workers. The imitation watches, in particular, are rather pricey and do not last long. You are better off buying the real deal while taking in the rampant piracy that occurs along this stretch.
#4: Pasar Karat
Known locally as ‘Thieves Market’, Pasar Karat is a treasure trove for antique and trinket lovers as well as the occasional luxury goods that are believed to have been stolen. From Montblanc luggage bags to second-hand electronic goods, Pasar Karat is KL’s version of the now-defunct Singapore’s Sungei Road. Pasar Karat is open in the wee hours of the morning at around 4 am and shuts down by 10 am. Be sure to come early before the goods run out.
#5: Food street at Jalan Sultan
Located within the Petaling Street enclave, the food street comes alive at night with a serving of local Malay dishes, mamaks as well as Chinese cuisines in a fuss-free alfresco setting. If the dark and dirty alley makes your stomach turn, fret not as you can opt to dine at the slightly upmarket Nando’s or KFC located nearby.
#6: Weng Hoa Flower Boutique
No 1 Lorong Hang Lekir
Off Jalan Hang Lekir
50000 Kuala Lumpur
Opening hours: 8 am to 10 pm
Forget overpriced flowers sold at upmarket malls. Instead, head here for fresh plants and roses sold at wholesale prices! There are even ready-made bouquets for you to choose from. Ladies and wedding planners will definitely find delight in the freezer room located at the back of the shop where you can choose from the many arrays of local and exported roses as well as other exotic flowers. In addition, you can buy flower petals and kaffir lime to cleanse your chakras for that montly flower bath ritual. For the freshest produce, head here when the store opens.
#7: Central Market
Lot 3.04-3.06, Central Market Annexe,
Jalan Hang Kasturi,
50050 Kuala Lumpur.
Telephone: 03-2031 0399/5399/7399
Central Market is the place to go to for slightly upmarket goods within an air-conditioned environment. Housed within an art deco facade, Central Market first started out as a wet market in 1888 but has since been repurposed as a one-stop centre for Malaysian batik, souvenirs, collectables and handicraft. From textiles to tableware, the choices are endless.
#8 Kasturi Walk
Kasturi Walk is located alongside the main Central Market building. This newly transformed, pedestrianised and covered walkway features an al fresco ambience with a wide variety of stalls selling local snacks and exquisite souvenirs.
Price: According to Brickz, the median price for office buildings and shophouses here are around RM858 per sq ft and RM1,056 per sq ft respectively.
The good: Buying a property here will mean constant human traffic from both locals and tourists alike as Chinatown is rich in popular tourism landmarks such as Central Market and Petaling Street. The quaint rows of heritage shophouses house hip boutique hotels to quirky cafes and restaurants that attract the cool, creative type. The area is also a haven to some of KL’s famous hawker food such as Shin Kee Beef Noodle near to Central Market and the birthplace of Hokkien mee, Restoran Kim Lian Hee located at the junction of Jalan Petaling and Jalan Hang Lekir. All these attractions make it suited for Airbnb type of accommodations.
The bad: If you intend to buy a property here, you are only limited to office buildings or shophouses. Land here is extremely scarce and there are no existing or future residential projects in the pipeline. As such, this area is a no go for most investors unless you are an institutional investor or have deep pockets.
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