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Shop Till You Drop in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

Keith Jenkins is a thirtysomething who lives in Amsterdam and writes about his travels on his Velvet Escape travel blog. In addition to being a travel blogger, Keith offers travel writing services as well as social media consultancy and marketing services. Keith has lived in Kuala Lumpur for 15 years and he goes back 2-3 times a year to visit. If anybody knows his way around the city, it's this Journey Man...

Malaysians love to shop. I believe the favourite national pastime in the weekends is strolling through one of the many shopping malls. For the locals, it’s a family-outing or a way of spending time with friends. It’s also a great opportunity to people-watch or escape the scorching tropical heat outside! For tourists, Kuala Lumpur is a true shoppers’ haven. The number of malls and the variety of products are simply mind-boggling. In addition, the favourable exchange rate of the Malaysian Ringgit against major currencies makes shopping here a bargain!


City centre malls...

Kuala Lumpur (KL) has loads of malls. In the city centre, Suria KLCC (at the base of the Petronas twin towers) and the Bukit Bintang/Jalan Imbi areas dominate the shopping scene. Suria KLCC is one of my favourites as there’s a wide choice of labels and probably KL’s largest bookstore, Kinokuniya.

In the Bukit Bintang area, you have a variety of malls such as the high-end Starhill, the mid-end Lot 10 and the wonderfully chaotic Sungei Wang Plaza (great bargains here for electronics, jewellery, watches and clothes) and the adjacent Bukit Bintang Plaza, with its anchor tenant, Metro department store, a Malaysian household name. Not far from Sungei Wang, there’s another massive mall: Berjaya Time Square which features Cosmo World, Malaysia’s largest indoor themepark, with its 8-storey indoor rollercoaster!

Also located in the vicinity are two of KL’s most popular IT malls: Imbi Plaza and Low Yat Plaza. IT geeks will be awe-struck by the huge range of IT hardware and software at these two malls.

Starhill Gallery, with its upmarket boutiques (Louis Vuitton, Christian Dior, etc..) is certainly worth visiting. In addition to being a quiet retreat from the hustle-and-bustle outside, it features a stylish interior, an amazing atrium and a variety of some of the best restaurants in KL (in the Feast Village). Opposite Starhill is the Pavilion, a ginormous mall with more designer boutiques and a breathtaking atrium. The designer boutiques (Gucci, Zegna, Chanel, etc..) are on the ground floor. There’s a huge food court in the basement whilst the top floor has several excellent fine dining options.


Suburban malls...

If you’re still not done with shopping, then head to the Mid Valley City Megamall, about a 15 minute drive outside the city centre. This mall is one of Southeast Asia’s largest – I believe it’s almost a mile long. The serious shopper can definitely spend a day or two there. Next door, shoppers can continue to splurge at The Gardens, an up-market mall with a whole range of designer boutiques and ditto restaurants (check out the beautiful Alexis bar/restaurant for some great food and drinks). The design lavatories are definitely worth a quick pitstop! The one on the ground floor even has a concierge in crisp uniforms! You’ll have to pay to get in but the lavatories on the upper floors are free.

The major suburbs all have their own shopping malls. In the Damansara suburb, there are several major shopping malls such as One Utama (another massive mall around the same size as the Megamall) and The Curve. In the swanky Bangsar suburb, there’s the Bangsar Shopping Centre and the Bangsar Village (I & II). And Subang Jaya has its Subang Parade.

P.S. Don't have a car? No problem. Take a taxi. The taxis in KL are very inexpensive. For example, from the city centre to for instance Mid-Valley MegaMall/The Gardens would set you back about USD $2 to $3. It's about the same price for the distance between the city centre and the Bangsar suburb. For the Damansara suburb, the fare from the city centre would probably be in the range of $4 to $6. Go ahead and splurge!

P.P.S. Of all the suburban malls, Mid-Valley MegaMall and the adjacent The Gardens are the MUST-SEE. It's seriously jaw-dropping huge!


Alfresco shopping...

For those who are more into alfresco shopping, head for Petaling Street in Chinatown for souvenirs and the latest (fake) fashion accessories. Don’t forget to bargain furiously! Across the road from Petaling Street, you’ll find the Central Market, another great spot for souvenir-hunters. The Central Market used to be KL’s wet-market but was converted into an artisan’s centre in the eighties. It’s a great place to find beautiful wood carvings, batik prints, songket weaves, paintings, pewter and locally-made fashion accessories.

One last note, the shopaholics in Malaysia go crazy three times a year (March, August and December) – that’s when the Mega Sales are held. All shopping malls will be packed with bargain-hunters (both local and foreign). During these periods, unless you’re a die-hard, avoid the main shopping malls during lunch time, weekends and in the evenings. The best time to go is before noon.

One last tip: wear a pair of comfortable walking shoes when you head out to the malls. Once you start exploring the malls, it’ll be hard to stop!


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