21 November 2015

Things To Do In KL - Colonial District, Central Market And Petaling Street

The Central Market and its surrounding area is one of the main tourist hotspots in the city but this does not mean that they are not worth exploring for a few hours. 

Merdeka Square KL
Spot the flag!
Malaysian cities with their high kerbs and poorly maintained pavements are not renowned for being pram friendly (it must be near impossible for people in wheelchairs).  Having tried it once or twice and almost died of a heart attack I now do not go out on any pavement based walk with all three children on my own.  It is simply too challenging to wrestle a pram up and down the kerb while holding the handbag tight enough to deter pickpockets and keep an eye on Master and Miss EE who have to walk holding hands behind me because the walkways in the 5 foot way shops are too cluttered with wares for them to be able to hold on to either side of the pram.  Not to mention having to walk in the road at times constantly worried that one of the children will be hit by an inattentive driver.  Instead experience has won out and I now behave like a real wimp and wait until I can rely on the services of another adult to share the pram wrangling and hand holding duties.   

Colonial KL
The colonial buildings have hardly changed at all
With that in mind, the area between Central Market and Petaling street is not too bad, mostly because it is so busy that everyone walks in the road and cars take that little bit more care, and, a big plus, there is parking at the Central Market which means that there is no need to wrestle with the KL transport system, fine on your own, a nightmare with a pram.

KL Rivers Jamek Mosque
The embankments could be beautiful but are, for the present,
an underutilised part of the city (Jamek Mosque in the background).
The Market is very close to Merdeka (Independence) Square and the colonial district and it can be quite fun to take a short walk over to enjoy the buildings, look at the flags and try and get the children to identify as many Malaysian states as they can.  The streets are now very busy but with a little imagination it is possible to imagine what this part of the city was like in the past with its distinctive Moorish style buildings.  This part of the city sits on the confluence of two rivers the Klang and the Gombak.  The embankment could be beautiful but it is not and has been very little cared for in recent decades.  It looks as though that will change in the future, however, and not before time because at the present they are eyesores. 

KL Central Market
Central Market And Outdoor Stalls
The Central Market itself is an Art Deco building that was designed as the wet market for KL.  It was converted, about 30 years ago now, into a centre for arts and crafts.  Various streets within the building are dedicated to crafts from different Malaysian ethnic groups and there are plenty of shops selling batik, clothes, t-shirts, cheap souvenirs, silverware and pewter indeed just about every form of Malaysian souvenir you can think of.  One or two of the shops do sell antique items but they stock a lot of rubbish so be prepared to rummage which is, of course, all part of the fun. 

KL Central Market
The inside is beautifully designed and shops are grouped by ethnic theme
There are plenty of places to get some food including a Secret Recipe (they do the best cakes in Malaysia) and a reflexology spa where you can get the pain of sightseeing rubbed out of your soles.  Pretty much everything on sale in the market can be bought cheaper elsewhere but the atmosphere is fun and it is a convenient place to shelter from the rain if It comes.  The newer ‘annexe’ houses a lot of artists whose work is original if, for the most part, mediocre.  Outside there are plenty of places to sit down and stalls to sell snacks and fresh fruit juice.

KL Petaling Street
Petaling Street is decidedly less manicured than the Central Market
but is a lot of fun.
Chinese New Year Decorations
Decorated for Chinese New Year
A short (but busy) walk down the road will bring you to Petaling Street the bustling centre of KL’s Chinatown.  This is a popular draw with tourists and the trade here is lucrative with pitches being very much coveted.  It was the site of some inter-ethnic protests a few months ago but things have since calmed down. Stalls selling just about every knock off good you can think of line the street, come here for all your ‘fake designer chic’ needs.  The buildings themselves are home to more substantial shops or restaurants.

Garlands and Bamboo
Garlands and Lucky Bamboo

Sri Maha Mariamman Temple
Can you decode the meanings of the statues?
It is worth taking a walk down some of the side streets and take in the frontage of the impressive Sri Maha Mariamman Temple and try to decode the various scenes from the Ramayana that are depicted by the statues on the sumptuous gate.  The road to the temple is lined with shops selling flower garlands and fruits to be given as votive offerings to the shrine.   Very close by you come to the Kuan Te Temple and, a short walk further down the street, to the See Yeoh temple which are cool and welcoming in the heat of the day as well as being interesting in their own right. 

Fresh fruit and juice is available everywhere.

Having done all this there are plenty of restaurants to choose from for a well deserved refuel.  

Click on the picture below for more posts about Malaysia.

Ersatz Expat

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