Things to Do in Chinatown, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia (Petaling Street)

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Chinatowns have always fascinated me. It started when I went on a trip to Hong Kong a few years back (my 1st trip abroad) and an unplanned visit to their Chinatown sparked my interest that eventually led me to visit each Chinatown community in all countries that I traveled thereafter.

Not only it is a melting pot of the predominantly Chinese culture mixed with other cultures, Chinatown is also a good place to trace back the country's history and to understand how the different cultures continue to thrive together all these years — not to mention it has become the modern-day shoppers' paradise (more of that below).

In Kuala Lumpur, their Chinatown is located in Jalan Petaling (Chee Cheong Kai in Cantonese) but the market originally centered along Jalan Tun HS Lee due to its high elevation. Its history dates back in the 1800s when the tin industry was started by the Hakka and Cantonese. Year passed, civil war broke out and the mines eventually closed down due to the floods; however, the workers were persuaded to stay.

Today, it had become one of the bustling shopping meccas of Kuala Lumpur with thousands of people wandering about each day and below are some of the things I recommend you can do while you're in Chinatown.

1. Shop.  
Kuala Lumpur's Chinatown offers a wide range of products from street food to batiks to souvenir items like shirts and key chains that are reasonably cheap. Counterfeit items like designer bags and watches are also quite common in the market (in fact, in all Chinatowns I've been in to) so if you're planning to buy anything, be sure to triple check the quality of the item.

The basic rule of thumb is to visit as many stalls as possible to look for the lowest price of the item that you want. While I was looking for shirts for pasalubong, I found one stall that sold shirts for RM10 (PHP130+) but I found another stall that sold shirts twice the price but with better quality. Sometimes it pays to be a little patient.

You can even bargain for a cheaper price if you know how. Try to haggle down to 50% and work your way up. Shops open as early as lunch time till midnight.

2. Go Local. Eat Local.
One of the joys of traveling to a foreign country is tasting the local food. If you happen to be in Chinatown, try the hawker stalls along Jin Sultan and Jin Tun HS Lee streets that serve a wide array of Malay and Chinese dishes. Stick to stalls that have a lot of customers but don't let that stop you from trying out other stalls.

There are also sidewalk stalls selling local food, where you can eat standing up. I tried the tom yam soup in one of those stalls, which seemed to be a combination of little meat balls in chili soup, and it was delicious!

3. Interact.
Malaysians are one of the friendliest people in the world. In fact, Forbes included Malaysians in the 10th spot in the World's Friendliest Countries last October 2012 with Philippines in 8th, of course. According to the respondents, Malaysia is "culturally interesting" and an experience in Kuala Lumpur's Chinatown will prove how that rich tapestry of Hindu, Buddhist, and Islam cultures help mold to what Kuala Lumpur is today.

Not only they are one of the friendliest, Malaysians are honest people, too. While I was shopping for shirts, I accidentally dropped my money and one of the vendors called my attention.

Try to talk to other foreigners as well. Who knows, they might have some tips for you as well.

How to Get to Chinatown, Kuala Lumpur
Chinatown is located in Petaling streat (Jalan Petaling) near the Maharajalela monorail station. If you're coming from the Bukit Bintang area, take the monorail from the Bukit Bintang monorail station to Maharajalela (costs RM2.80). You will pass the Imbi and Hang Tua monorail stations before reaching Maharajalela

Once you get out of the Maharajalela station, walk to your right towards Bulatan Merdeka and go straight to Jalan Petaling where you can see the iconic "Green Dragon" standing at the entrance.

View Larger Map

In this series, I showcase all the good things in Malaysia and provide you with tips that you can use for your next travel to Malaysia. Watch out for more posts in the coming weeks and feel free to drop some comments below. 


Anonymous said...

Cool facts there! If anyone is looking for a play to stay in Chinatown that is a little bit more luxurious but still affordable, you can try booking at

Post a Comment