By Gordon Lethbridge
KUALA Lumpur is a shopper’s paradise with malls, mega malls and super mega malls selling everything imaginable. However, there is another more intimate side to shopping in Kuala Lumpur away from the glitz of the many malls.
Kuala Lumpur’s local markets are a great feast for the senses. One of the best known and where most tourists head is Central Market, or Pasar Seni. A covered market, it is housed in an attractive Art Deco building completed in 1923 and was once the largest wet market in Kuala Lumpur. Times have changed and although you can still buy fresh fruit and vegetables it is mostly aimed at tourists and the majority of stall holders sell handicrafts that reflect the multicultural make-up of Malaysia. Some also come from India, China and Indonesia.
The food here is also aimed at tourists and is reflected in the price. It is a good place to get a feel for the markets of Kuala Lumpur while shopping for souvenirs; especially the popular batik and pewter work.
Another popular market is Chow Kit, or Bazaar Baru Chow Kit. This daily market is the largest indoor market in Kuala Lumpur and a maze of stalls and narrow passageways reminiscent of an Arab souk. It is the largest wet market in the city – one that sells meat, fish and fresh fruit and vegetables along with spices and other dried foods. As the name suggests it is wet underfoot as water is sprinkled on the fruit and vegetables to keep them fresh and ice is packed around the meat and fish. In addition there are all manner of household items, clothes, shoes and fabrics.
Chow Kit is the place to rub shoulders with the locals. There are very few tourists and as a result there is less pressure to buy. Street food from numerous hawkers is available and the aroma of their cooking permeates the whole market.
Pudu Market is another wet market with a local feel. It does however require an early start as it opens at 3am and finishes by 7am. It’s predominantly Chinese however there are some Indian and Malaysian stalls. This is one of the best places to come for Chinese medicine and ingredients for home cooking. It is also one of the noisier markets with vendors all clamouring for business. You can also buy fabrics and clothing here.
Kasturi Walk is the newest of the local markets having been established in 2011. It is a covered flea market along a lane running close to Central Market. There are often better bargains here than in the tourist orientated Central Market.
Kampung Bahru Sunday Market is in the residential district of the same name. The name “Sunday market” is a bit of a misnomer as it actually opens Saturday evening and finishes about 1am Sunday morning, just. Typically Malaysian it is the best place for authentic Malay food, clothing and jewellry.
Night markets, or Pasar Malam, are a big feature of Kuala Lumpur’s retail scene. One of the best-known night markets is Jalan Petaling in Chinatown that starts at 6pm. The market is noisy, crowded and hot but great fun. Some of the items on sale are fakes but there are plenty of bargains to be had and lots of haggling to be done.
One of the biggest night markets is Lorong Tuanka Abdul Rahaman. Named after the street that is closed on Saturday night it is popular as a market to wander through. There are a staggering array of goods on sale and plenty of street food being hawked. For a night market it closes early at 10pm.
Local markets in Kuala Lumpur of can be noisy, chaotic and hot. All five senses are assailed and there is a distinctive vibrancy. Above all they are fun.
If you enjoyed this article and would like to find out more about travelling to Malaysia, please visit the Tourism Malaysia website
About the author…
Gordon Lethbridge (UK)
Gordon is a freelance travel writer, blogger and photographer based in the UK who has articles published in numerous publications. He has also written or updated guidebooks to France, Austria, Singapore, Madeira and Birmingham for Michelin and Thomas Cook. His writing is also featured on his website www.travelunpacked.co.uk