My Kuala Lumpur Is Better Than Yours
Moving to the capital of Malaysia inspired writer Robyn Eckhardt to launch EatingAsia, a blog that explores Kuala Lumpur through its food. For a city filled with people who live to eat, we just couldn't ask for better guides than Robyn and her photographer husband.
KL's Chinatown is a great place to shop as well as eat. The stalls lining covered, pedestrian-only Petaling Street attract bargain hunters looking for knockoff Rolex watches and Louis Vuitton bags. A wider range of souvenirs can be found inside the nearby Central Market (also referred to as Pasar Seni), which houses crafts shops, restaurants and cafés, and a couple of food courts. The best store of the bunch is Asli Craft, which sells items that can only be found in Malaysia, like tudung saji, colorful handwoven cone-shaped food covers. We find that they look as good on the wall as they do on a table. Peter Hoe Evolution, a sliver of a store opposite Central Market, sells modern batik-print fabric in the form of kimonos, bags, and household items such as napkins, runners, tablecloths, and bedcovers. The large sarongs, or pareus, which come in striking color combos like turquoise and citron, make excellent gifts, and are cheap enough to buy in bulk. Evolution's sister store, Peter Hoe Beyond, just up the street, stocks more housewares and has its own café.
Tea lovers shouldn't leave Chinatown without stopping at Purple Cane Tea Art Centre, which carries accessories for making and drinking tea, as well as an impressive selection of compressed green teas. Each round tea cake, wrapped in paper and stored in a cloth bag, is marked with the factory of its origin and year of production; the older the tea, the more delicate its flavor. The cakes start at $19 for 500 grams, and the staff regularly holds free taste tests in the back of the store.
Bangsar, a part of town known for its large expatriate population and weekend nightlife, has more recently become home to a clutch of innovative clothing and design shops. While some locals love Kitsch, a boutique in the Bangsar Village II mall, for its selection of girly-girl accessories and dresses, we go for its T-shirts with quirky logos by American outfit Junk Food. The whitewashed café Marmalade, next door, is convenient for a quick caffeine fix. Just over the walkway connecting Bangsar Village II with its predecessor, Bangsar Village I, sits Whimsical Articles, a store devoted to brightly designed note cards, papers, and books. Many of the shop's bags, T-shirts, and miscellaneous items, such as a collection of plush creatures called Dooodolls, are made by Malaysian designers.
You can bring home some of Malaysia's literature at Silverfish Books, which has an unrivaled selection of contemporary fiction and nonfiction by the nation's best writers translated into English.
- Sungei Wang Plaza Jalan Bukit Bintang at the corner of Jalan Sultan Ismail, sungeiwang.com
- Crumpler Level 3, Suria KLCC, Jalan Ampang, 011-60/3-2161-2160, crumplerbags.com
- Pucuk Rebung Level 3, Suria KLCC, Jalan Ampang, 011-60/3-2382-1109
- Kinokuniya Level 4, Suria KLCC, Jalan Ampang, 011-60/3-2164-8133, kinokuniya.com
- Central Market 10 Jalan Hang Kasturi, centralmarket.com.my
- Asli Craft No. G23, Central Market, 10 Jalan Hang Kasturi, 011-60/3-2274-1811
- Peter Hoe Evolution 2 Jalan Hang Lekir, 011-60/3-2026-0711
- Peter Hoe Beyond 2nd Fl., Lee Rubber Building, 145 Jalan Tun H.S. Lee, 011-60/3-2026-9788
- Purple Cane Tea Art Centre 11 Jalan Sultan, 011-60/3-2031-1877, purplecane.com.my
- Kitsch 1st Fl., Bangsar Village II, 1 Jalan Telawi Dua, 011-60/3-2282-8261, bangsarvillage.com
- Marmalade 1st Fl., Bangsar Village II, 1 Jalan Telawi Dua, 011-60/3-2282-8301, ilovemarmalade.com.my, coffee $2
- Whimsical Articles 1st Fl., Bangsar Village I, Jalan Telawi Satu, 011-60/3-2283-4600, whimsicalarticles.com
- Silverfish Books 58-1 Jalan Telawi, 011-60/3-2284-4837, silverfishbooks.com
When KL-ites aren't eating, they're shopping. But the city also has an evolving art scene, modern and colonial architecture, and a lush park in the city center. If that's not enough to keep you busy, there are plenty of day trips worth taking to nearby fishing villages or an elephant sanctuary. A word of warning: The country has two seasons—hot and wet, and hot and wetter. If you're planning outdoor activities, it's smart to build room into your schedule to work around any of the inevitable short but intense bursts of rain.