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Kuala Lumpur's Chinatown

The market at Petaling Street begins during the day and runs into the night. One of the best things about this magnetic slice of Kuala Lumpur is definitely the hawkers who sell their wares with eloquence and enthusiasm. The decibel level can get pretty high as the din of the passing traffic along the main road mingles with the zealous cries of the hawkers and stall owners trying to entice shoppers by promising a “cheap, cheap price”.

Over the years, Petaling Street, which borders Jalan Petaling, Jalan Sultan and Jalan Bandar, has gained a legendary reputation as the best place to go for astoundingly well-made imitation goods. These run the gamut from designer watches and sunglasses to shoes and clothes. Shoppers who love bargains will believe they’ve arrived in heaven. It is unquestionably a paradise of affordable goods of surprisingly high quality.

A walk along Petaling Street is an all encompassing experience. The scent of delicious fried noodles and fresh local fruit mingle enticingly in the air. You’ll see rows and rows of colourful T-shirts hanging in one stall and brilliant, multihued handbags in the next. You’ll watch as both foreigners and locals stroll by, sampling a Malaysian snack or quenching their thirst with fresh coconut water. Further along, you might be mesmerised by the sight of an old-style barber shop – the barber and his customers almost as old as the shop itself!

 

Things get even more interesting during Chinese New Year celebrations each year. You’ll catch the memorable sight of hundreds of pretty lanterns strung up across the street and might even manage to watch a lively performance of the traditional lion dance.

 

If you’ve never tried to bargain for something, Petaling Street is the best place to start. The rule of thumb is to ask for 70% less than the sticker price and see if you can meet the seller, somewhere in the middle. Half the fun is in trying to see if your skills improve as you make your way from one stall to the next!

 

Petaling Street is also a great place to head to for some excellent local food and drink. Many restaurants are run by generations of the same family and their decades of experience can be easily detected in the scrumptious fare. A cup of aromatic, sweet, milky local coffee is a must and so is a plate of delicious Hokkien noodles drenched in thick soy sauce. Petaling Street is supposed to be the place to go for the most famous dried meat to be found in both Malaysia and Singapore!

 

Not too long ago, Petaling Street was an open-air affair which turned into a nightmare for shoppers and sellers every time a tropical thunderstorm happened to roll by. These days, new life has been infused into the old

street. Gone are the uneven roads, littered with all manner of plastic food bottles and stray wrappers. An artful refurbishment has transformed it from a hot, overcrowded stretch of road to a clean, spacious, covered space where anyone can shop to their heart’s content come rain or shine.

 

The new entrance is framed by tall, crimson pillars with an arched, green roof featuring two elaborate, golden dragons perched at the very top. The roof shades a large plaque which proudly announces the street name in enormous, gold letters: “Jalan Petaling” or Petaling Street.

 

Many of the restaurants along the street have been given a much-needed fresh coat of bright paint which adds to the attractive colours of the street. Thankfully, these modifications have done little to shift the original ambience which remains as unique and as charming as it ever was.