Normally when my husband and I travel to new places, we spend most of our time seeing the sights and visiting the cultural attractions that particular location has to offer. We also do a lot of eating and tasting of local food (eating seems to have become one of our biggest passions). So on our first trip to Kuala Lumpur – a comparatively larger city than the one in which we are currently living – after living in Malaysia for almost 10 months, we did fully succeeded in fulfilling our requirement for eating. And any shopping-itch I had was most definitely scratched!
Miri has an unquestionable mall-culture, but nothing prepared me for the malls to be found in Kuala Lumpur (KL, now that we are acquainted). It is almost mind-boggling the enormity of the shopping centres in KL! Really, I found them almost overwhelming (perhaps because it has been many, many months since I stepped foot into a western-sized mall. I’m so deprived!). We don’t suffer at all here in Miri, but we are somewhat limited in choice when it comes to both food and clothing, particularly of western origin or style. The sheer volume of options may have been what made me a little unsteady in the gigantic KL malls. But, I recovered for the good of my wardrobe and persevered in exploring the interior of several shopping centres.
KLCC Shopping Mall at the bottom of the Petronas Towers
If you are into Haute Couture, KL is the place for you! At KLCC (Kuala Lumpur City Centre) shopping centre, located at the bottom of the Petronas Towers, you will be able to shop a good many of the well known fashion houses, such as Prada, Armani and Versace, as well as mainstream brands such as Zara and Top Shop. If you tire of shopping, you can go to the movie theatre, aquarium or to the music hall. Or go up the impressive Petronas Towers for a 360 degree view of the entire city from 360 meters (almost 1200′) above ground.
My ant’s-eye view of the Petronas Towers
The Pavilion shopping paradise boasts a ‘Couture Pavilion’ within its 1.37 million square foot (!) space, which also encompasses high street fashion, as well as plenty of eating options in its ‘Gourmet Emporium’ and at its sidewalk-style restaurants. Or you can choose to cruise Tokyo Street or go for a relaxing session at one of the available spas.
If you are more in the market for a deal, Jalan Petaling may be more your speed. Here you can get a knock-off just about anything, but be warned – they look like knock-offs! You will have to dig deep and ask the right people to pull out the more masterly copies if they have them. They most certainly aren’t on display. Regardless of your purchasing requirements, it’s a colourful street and worthy of a stroll through if you are in the Chinatown area.
Jalan Petaling in KL’s Chinatown
Foodie (husband) wanted to hit a good cook shop that had been recommended to us by friends, so we made our way out to Bangsar Shopping Centre one afternoon, which was a little out of the way, but it was worth it – it was an epicurean dream! Never mind the cook shop, as we walked in, we were confronted with the most glorious food store I think we have ever seen. Jasons Food Hall has it all and then some. My favourite section was the oil and vinegar section where we were poured a taste out of the cask of our choice, which may contain one of a couple of dozen or more amazing olive, pumpkin seed, or nut oils or aged and flavoured balsamic vinegars. Our purchase was then decanted into a lovely glass bottle of our preference by a smiling staff member and sent home with us. We need something like this place in Miri!
The glorious selection of oils & vinegars at Jasons Food Hall
So we failed miserably on the sight-seeing in KL (though we did go up the Petronas Towers, honest!) due to our need to devour big city offerings after being on the island for such a long stretch, but we know we’ll be back and cultural sights will definitely be on our list of things to do next time. After we eat and shop, of course!
My Top 10 do’s & don’t’s in KL
- Don’t get in a cab unless they agree to run the meter. Fares are really inexpensive, but will fluctuate greatly without the meter running.
- Don’t shop on Saturday afternoon unless you like hordes of crowds! I mean hordes.
- Do shop during Ramadan. Discounts galore including great prices on hotels. Remember Ramadan moves during the year, so check dates if you are planning a shopping trip to KL.
- Do check out Jalan Alor (aka Jalan Kejora) for cheap & cheerful local food with great street ambience in the evenings.
- Do visit neighbouring Jalan Changkat Bukit Bintang for higher-end ‘expat’ food, bars & whiskey bars, etc
- Do check out Central Market (aka the wet market) on Jalan Hang Kasturi in Little India for Southeast Asian handicrafts, art & textiles and for a break from the heat – it’s air conditioned.
- Don’t overlook hotel dining. In SE Asia these may be some of your best meals!
- Do book your tickets to go up the Petronas Towers, then head into KLCC shopping mall while you wait for your scheduled time (time slots may sell out, so arrive early if you would like to choose when to go). Do a bit of shopping or have lunch while you wait. You can store your bags for free after you go through security and before you go up the towers.
- Do be cognisant of your attire if you travel during Ramadan. It’s respectful to cover your shoulders at the very least.
- Do buy a ‘myrapid’ transit card. They are only available at the ticket kiosk at KL Sentral station, but can be topped up anywhere. For RM12, you will get a RM10 credit, which allows you to travel on the LRT (Light Rail Transit) and Monorail systems allowing you easy access to most key areas of the city.
My top dining experiences in KL (well researched by my very foodie husband & myself despite how it looks by their close proximity! Listed in no particular order):
- Hanare Restaurant – This is Japanese food at its best. We have a serious lack of good Japanese restaurants where we live and had been salivating days before our arrival in KL for some of the good stuff (so much so that we ate at three sushi restaurants while in KL!). Hanare offers a fresh sheet of sushi that has been flown in from Japan that morning (which doesn’t remotely support my low carbon footprint beliefs, but it was a special occasion – it was sushi!). It was delicious, fresh, amazing. And the Wagyu beef is something everyone should try once in their lives. Incredible! In the Doubletree Hotel building on the corner of Jalan Ampang & Jalan Tun Razak (Ampang Park LRT station).
- Ciccio Ristorante – Ahhhh, Ciccio! Glorious meatballs, fab Tuscan red by the glass and excellent service. I only wish I had gone to this restaurant with a better appetite! I’ll be back. Found on Changkat Bukit Bintang. Book a table or be very sorry.
- Makan Kitchen – If you want a taste of the multiple cuisines available in Malaysia in a more upmarket atmosphere than found on Jalan Alor, try Doubletree Hotel’s all-you-can-eat buffet on Saturdays and Sundays. For RM48++ (plus, plus equals taxes and service charge) you can sample excellent Malay, Indian and Chinese food. Corner of Jalan Ampang & Jalan Tun Razak (Ampang Park LRT station).
- Tanzini on the 28th floor of the G-Tower Hotel offers very successful Italian Asian fusion cuisine with gorgeous views. This Canadian girl was very impressed with the scallop dish. I love a good scallop! After dinner head to the basement of the hotel to catch the excellent three-man cover-band (Fridays only) or hit the 30th floor View Bar for a night cap overlooking the Petronas Towers. On the kitty-corner of Jalan Ampang & Jalan Tun Razak from the Double Tree Hotel (Ampang Park LRT station).
- Frangipani – definitely not the least expensive restaurant we dined in, but worth the money if you have the budget. Great wine list and delicious French cuisine in a really lovely setting. Start your night on the outdoor patio with a glass of bubbly and some oysters. Yum! Located on Jalan Changkat Bukit Bintang.
Where are your favourite spots to travel, eat and shop? Do you try local food when you’re away from home or do you stick with what you know?