KL Chinatown - Shopper's Paradise & Gastronomic Haven

Posted by shloke 01 December 2009
I was born in Petaling Street, Kuala Lumpur a.k.a. KL Chinatown. My father was a full time hawker selling T-shirts and jerseys in Petaling Street. It was a small but profitable business. During that time, the traders in KL Chinatown were simple, friendly and courteous. They just set up huge umbrellas and some portable tables. After that, they utilize their creativity to attract potential customers.

During school holidays, I followed my dad to KL Chinatown. It was the best time of my life. I remember playing 'cops and robbers' with my cousins at the Chinatown alleys (also known as Lorong Bandar). I also contributed my little manpower to help out my pop. My dad handles all his customers with equal respect and treatment. I see that in almost all traders. I still remember his words of wisdom - "A man needs to be respectful, courteous and helpful in order to succeed". I'm still living to that slogan. It's like a mantra to me :)

Well, that was decades ago. It's been a long time since I visited KL Chinatown. Currently, I'm working in a private firm. I met some great expatriate colleagues in my company. Lately, I had a great time chatting with them (during one of my company function). The Aussie girls just returned from a half day trip to KL Chinatown. They were showing off their 'branded' ladies bags and 'jeweled' watch purchased from Petaling Street. I'm happy to say that our visitors truly enjoyed their unique shopping experience. But then again, they were upset and intimidated with sleazy tactics used by certain traders.

Clockwise: a) The famous Sze Ngan Chye roast duck stall - featured in 8TV HO CHAK! b) Lovely oranges & c) My all time favourite - wax duck. Pictures taken with my Nikon D60.

I was disturbed by their negative comments. So, I decided to revisit KL Chinatown and discover the truth myself - the good, the bad and the ugly. When I first arrived, I was surprised to see a huge makeover in KL Chinatown. Kudos to Dewan Bandaraya Kuala Lumpur (translation: KL City Hall) and KL Hawkers & Petty Traders Association. The two organizations had work closely to build two wonderful Chinese arches. According to Wikipedia, the road to Chinatown underwent a major RM11.3 million face lift with two large Chinese arches placed at both ends of the street to welcome visitors. Source: Wikipedia

In addition, the entire Chinatown was covered with 'Green Dragon' roofs. On my latest trip, I saw contract workers replacing the old roofs with brand new stretch of blue roofing. Simply refreshing and inviting! Thank you DBKL! Thank you KL Hawkers & Petty Association!

It was a Saturday morning (28/11/09). But, KL Chinatown was packed like sardines. I spent nearly three hours exploring the entire place - including the century old wet market and famous food stalls - mostly endorsed by 8TV HO CHAK show.

Clockwise: a) Chestnuts roasted with hot sand, b) Children's bags & c) 'Branded' caps. Pictures taken with my Nikon D60

Let me start with the shopping experience in KL Chinatown. Overall, the traders are approachable and willing to bargain for a good price. Bargain hunters (local and tourist) can be seen haggling at many of the stalls. As usual, the luxury goods on display are mostly bootleg items imported from Thailand or China. You can get a Prada or LV bag below RM50! But do not underestimate these products. I managed to scrutinize the quality of the materials. Well, the quality is not bad - its durable and usable for a long time.

Word of advice, bring a local friend who is accustomed with the ways of Petaling Street to help you with your shopping. Some traders tend to swindle unsuspecting tourists, foreigners and even locals.

For the last ten years, locals and foreigners were complaining about being harassed and shortchanged by these sellers. It was BAD PUBLICITY for Malaysians. I've read countless news articles and complains in travel forums. WHAT A SHAME! It has portrayed a negative attitude towards KL, crafting a damaging impression on us.

Overall, the traders are trying their best to improve the shoppers' experience. I do not see any verbal abuse or cursing during my three hour trip. But then again, I had a horrible time trying to get some up close and personal shots. The traders were VERY SENSITIVE upon seeing my Nikon D60 camera. They do not want me to publish pictures of their so-called branded items. Luckily, I managed to get some pictures for this article...discreetly :)

Clockwise: a) A happy tourist, b) The fish section & c) Butchers in A.C.T.I.O.N. Pictures taken with my Nikon D60. Location: Chinatown Market.

Halfway exploring Chinatown, I stumbled upon the one and only traditional wet market in KL. It is a small market hidden right behind a pork stall. The market really brings back good old memories. I remember playing hide and seek with my brothers in the market. Surprisingly, this market is still the same. Check out my YouTube video below for an overview of the market.

My YouTube Video - Petaling Street Traditional Wet Market

It's a beautiful market hidden in Chinatown. KL-lites living in Chinatown still patronize this traditional market to get their veggies and meat. I snapped loads of pictures and also recorded a short video with my Nokia hand phone. Along the way. I bumped into an elderly veggie seller. He was sleeping with his eyes half open. I remember him but I forgotten his proper name. I used to call him 'suk suk' (uncle). I introduced myself to him but he was still in a daze. I tried to refresh his memories. But, he has no idea at all. It was like talking to a total stranger.

After that, I visited the famous food stalls in KL Chinatown. The stalls can be found towards the centre of the street. Remember to taste local Chinese delights such as Hokkien mee, BBQ sting ray, Assam Laksa and many more. Most of these stalls have been in operation for decades. Again, it was packed like sardine! I ordered myself a big bowl of Assam Laksa. It has generous portion of fish meat and served with thick YUMMYLICIOUS sweet and sour gravy. Beside that, you can savor curry noodles and the famous Yong Tau Foo.

Clockwise: a) The famous 'Air Mata Kucing' (Longan drink) - also endorsed by 8TV HO CHAK! b) Piping hot yong tau foo & c) Wonderful ingredients in Assam Laksa (sour fish-based soup). Pictures taken with my Nikon D60.

Overall, KL Chinatown is still a preferred destination for local and foreign visitors. It is a great place for shoppers seeking 'exclusive' products with knockdown price. Nonetheless, the traders still need to improve their PR (Public Relation) skills to make our KL Chinatown a perfect shopping experience for global shoppers. As usual, good news spread by word of mouth.

KL Chinatown (Petaling Street) - Contact Details:

For more information, please contact:

Kuala Lumpur Tourist Office
Tel: +603-2615 8188
Tourism Infoline : 1-300-88-5776

KL Chinatown (Petaling Street) - Getting There:

By Foot or Taxi

Petaling Street is opposite the Kotaraya Shopping Complex and Central Market.

By Train

The Pasar Seni station on the PUTRA LRT down the street from the beginning of Petaling Street.

KL Chinatown (Petaling Street) - Google Maps:

View Larger Map

KL Chinatown (Petaling Street) - Things To Do/See:

Taste great food:

  1. Hokkien mee
  2. Ikan bakar (barbecued fish)
  3. Asam laksa
  4. Curry noodles
  5. Yong tau foo

Shoppers Paradise

  1. Clothes
  2. Fabrics
  3. Souvenirs
  4. Electronic items
  5. Watches
  6. Wallets
  7. Shoes
  8. Handbags

KL Chinatown (Petaling Street) - Read More/Useful Links:

  1. http://www.malaysiasite.nl/chinatowneng.htm (Excellent Reviews)
  2. http://tinyurl.com/yzajd6p (Travelers' Review From TripAdvisor Forum)
  3. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Petaling_Street (Wikipedia Article)


  1. Anonymous Says:
  2. I used to study in Singapore for about 3 years.
    Their Hokkien mee is really different to KL Hokkien mee...
    I love them both. ;-)
    Even Johore Hokkien mee, also tastes (texture wise) from KL!?
    Ha ha... I miss mee goreng, mee rebus as well...

    PS: I submitted the previous comment in the wrong section... Sorry.

  3. emilayusof Says:
  4. great post, mylo!! what a thorough research!

  5. shloke Says:
  6. 1ondoncaller

    It's OK...no worries about the comment thingy :)

    The ingredients and 'foh hau' ('the fire') are very important to make a perfect plate of Hokkien Mee. I LOVE the Hokkien Mee in Kepong Baru. The cook is a PRO! The smell, the taste and the gravy - everything PERFECT!

    You should come back to Malaysia and savor our wonderful mee goreng. I've tasted the BEST mee goreng in Cameron Highlands. It makes me me salivate thinking about Cameron mee goreng :)

    Kak Emila

    WOW! Thank you for your wonderful comments. This article brought back memories on my younger days - always free and happy :)

    Cheers to all!

  7. cyza Says:
  8. Hi...

    I've been to China Town in Malaysia, UK. But I see only the surface. It's good that you've covered a lot more detail on this story.

    Well done. Thanks for sharing such interesting post + photos with us...

  9. fufu Says:
  10. erm i dont like the way you edit your pictures here... the size of the pictures dont fit with each other >< and the video... it will be better if you show us more what is inside instead of standing at the same point turning around >< not a complain but suggestion to make the entry more interesting to read with good quality of pictures(you used to have in other previous entries) and video =p all the best =p

  11. uh... i think the editing is fine. doesn't spoil anything. just saying =P

  12. shloke Says:
  13. cyza

    Hi Zaki! Welcome to my photo & travel blog!

    Thank you for your kind compliments! I started blogging since August 2008. I'm really happy to receive positive feedbacks from you and other readers across the globe. It motivates me to work harder and better :)

    Well, our KL Chinatown is a small little place compared to Ja Tu Jak weekend market in Bangkok. But, our very own Chinatown still manage to attract loads of tourist. We have the cheapest 'branded' goods. No country can beat that :)


    Hi! This Chinatown article is a bit long and winding. So, I try to minimize the loading time by compiling the pictures into tile-like layout.

    Also, I tried to capture a 360° video view of the market. Well, it might look a bit confusing with my lousy hand phone.... but I'm still OK with the outcome. Will try to do better next time :)

    Cheers to all!

  14. eunice Says:
  15. oops I also submitted my comment in the wrong section.

    hmm... somehow, I don't like KL Chinatown. Went there years ago and also find them rude and using sleazy tactics to sell their "branded", and I would think it's not worth to bargain with them if that makes me uncomfortable just to buy some average quality products.
    As for the food, after looking at how the hawkers handle them, I'll lose appetite. :P

    wah.. complained so much :P

    OK! But I've tasted some great food at KL city!

  16. shloke Says:
  17. eunice

    I belief the hawkers in Chinatown are trying their best to improve the shoppers' experience.

    You need to travel back to KL Chinatown. Better environment and cleaner stalls. The assam laksa in Petaling Street is the BEST in KL :)


  18. Unknown Says:
  19. Its Pleasure to read your blog.The above articles is very impressive, and I really enjoyed reading your blog and points that you expressed. I love to come back on a regular basis,post more on the subject.
    Thanks for sharing...keep writing!!!
    Rank A Website

  20. Dennis Says:
  21. Nice blog. Visit my blog on Melaka.



  22. Ken Says:
  23. Nice blog Loke.

    Long time not been Petaling street. I used to be there during school day when my Tuition Center is nearby this area.

    I still found the Air Mata Kucing still is the best among the town. I also used to buy flower during special occasion, it's fairly cheap.

    On the other hand, I am newbie travel blogger. welcome to drop by my site http://letsgo-travel.com

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Traveling & photography are the most rewarding & enriching experiences in my life. Photography is all about discovery, enjoying myself, having adventure, learning people & nature. The greatest experience for me is the connection I felt with NATURE. If you haven’t seen Malaysia, you haven’t seen the world! My photography works are licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported.
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