If you step away from the glamour of Bukit Bintang and nearby KLCC, and head on over to an older part of KL, you’ll come across Petaling Street or China Town, a street market worth visiting.
A walk along these bustling streets and you’ll be overloaded with the sights to see, the food to eat and the things to buy!
One stroll around China Town and you’ll realise that there’s so much history behind the Oriental styled, albeit slightly dilapidated, buildings. Kuala Lumpur rose to power with tin mining as it’s background, but in the 1870s, after the Selangor Civil War, people found the mines to be flooded. That’s when Yap Ah Loy, an influential man in the Chinese Community, decided to open up a tapioca mill in the area, urging the rest of the Chinese traders to open up shop on Petaling Street.
And so, over the years, Petaling Street has transformed from it’s humble beginnings into the bustling street we know of today, filled with food stalls and bargain buys.
At the entrance of Petaling Street you’ll find a large awning welcoming you to the hustle and bustle of this street market. Lined on both sides with small stalls selling anything from incense sticks and crystals to fake wristwatches and handbags, a walk down this pedestrianised road is an exhilarating experience. Smells of local Chinese dishes and roasted chest nuts waft down the crowded street, and you’ll find many people walking by sipping on soya bean drinks.
Petaling Street has some good shopping deals if you’ve got a keen eye. The vendors offer great practice when it comes to honing your bargaining skills. Shopping in Petaling Street is certainly a fun change from the usual malls in KL.
Central Market is your one-stop shop for everything related to handicrafts, souvenirs, traditional clothing and hand-made pieces. This Central Market has been standing for more than a century, having had many renovations along the way. Today Central Market boasts a labyrinth of shops and local merchandise in an air-conditioned building. From traditional batik print to the tribal art of the Orang Aslis, Central Market holds Malaysia’s culture in its numerous shops, offering quality products at affordable prices.
Located right next to Central Market, Kasturi Walk is a covered street that has a whole bunch of touristy kiosks lined along the walk. Not as crowded as Petaling Street, you can amble along Kasturi Walk, eating some fresh fruits and buying cute souvenirs.
Finding a place to eat Chinese food in Petaling Street shouldn’t be a problem. In every nook and cranny you’ll find a stall serving some great Chinese dishes with an affordable price tag attached! Some of the dishes Petaling Street is known for include:
This fruity drink is the perfect reprieve after a tiring walk along Petaling Street under the hot sun. This is a favourite amongst locals.
Soya Bean is one of the delicacies here in KL, and you can find one of the best drinks at this little stall that’s been in the market for ages! Try out Kim Soya Bean, a small street stall that is favoured by Prime Minister, Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad.
The smell of roasted chestnuts permeates the air around Petaling Street, and soon enough as you head further down the street you’ll find some steaming cauldrons filled with chestnuts! You must grab a packet!
Sze Ngan Chye’s Salted Roasted Duck is one of the best dishes you can find in Petaling Street. This little kiosk is so popular that they had to open a restaurant to accommodate their fast growing clientele!
PropertyLife Tip: If you want to try out another cuisine, then you must check out this small shop on the side of the street, serving KL’s finest Arabic shawarma! Simply know as Arab Shawarma, this one-man kiosk is very near to Central Market and is worthy of all the hype around it!
If you’re on a tight budget, or just prefer to stay in this side of the city, Petaling Street offers some of the most affordable options out there. Here you can find backpackers inns, hostels, and affordable family hotels in abundance. Some of the well-reviewed hotels in the vicinity of China Town include:
This Hindu temple is said to be the oldest standing temple in Kuala Lumpur. Frequented by devotees and tourists, this opulently decorated temple has intricate carvings and sculptures of Hindu mythology.
Often know as being one of the first Taoist temples in Kuala Lumpur,
Sin Sze Si Ya Temple holds deep cultural importance for many of its believers. During the festive seasons (e.g Chinese New Year), this temple is flocked by followers for special prayers.
Annexe Central Market is an art gallery that aims to showcase local artists and exhibitioners. This exhibition centre holds book signings, performance arts programs, local movie screenings and even fashion shows! You can find it behind the Central Market building, and should certainly be visited by art enthusiasts!
China Town is in the centre of old Kuala Lumpur, and is as such an easy area to get to. Numerous buses can bring you to China Town as one of the main bus terminals, Pasar Seni, is just a few metres away. If you’re coming in by train then the following stations should help:
To get to this area from either Kl Sentral or KLCC, your best bet would be to hop on to an LRT and get off at the Pasar Seni station. From there, you’ll just have to cross the road and walk a few metres to reach Petaling Street.
You can also reach China town via the monorail line by getting off at Maharajalela station, again within walking distance.
The Petaling Street market opens up daily between the hours of 10 AM to about 11 PM at night. However, the true magic happens as the sun sets, and even more vendors set up their bases right in the middle of the street, transforming the narrow lane into a thriving night market. Many restaurants are open until much later, sometimes going into the early morning hours.
And that is China Town in a nutshell - a truly unique place in the heart of Kuala Lumpur. We hope you found this guide useful! Please do share this article!
Born in India, raised all over the world, I’m currently based here in Malaysia, truly enjoying this Asian enclave. Starting off as a fiction writer for many online publishing sites, I’ve moved on to following one of my major passions: Copywriting. For more than a few years now I’ve worked with companies to create some great web content, particularly in the real-estate field. From reviewing property developments to writing home improvement articles, I do believe the property world is my calling. When I’m not holed up behind a computer screen, you can find me reading a good book, gallivanting across the globe or merely listening to some tunes on my iPod.