Chinatown shopping

Kuala Lumpur China town

Kuala Lumpur China town quickly became my favorite neighborhood in the Malaysian capital. Here, ramshackle Chinese shophouses line the narrow streets and passageways, while smoldering coils of incense emit smoke from every doorway. Despite being home to a predominantly Chinese-Malay population, Kuala Lumpur China town is a melting pot of local cultures. Islamic mosques, Taoist temples and statues of Hindu deities all stand shoulder-to-shoulder in this bustling KL neighborhood.

Chinatown Kuala Lumpur boasts some of the best nightlife and street food dining in the city – with plenty of eccentric, “secret” cocktail bars tucked away down side streets, and atmospheric hawkers markets such as Madras Lane, and the Petaling Jaya night market.

You would be forgiven for assuming that Chinatown Kuala Lumpur was quite a touristic neighborhood. After all, that is how it presents itself at first impression. The main street of Petaling Jaya is jampacked full of budget hotels, backpacker hostels and stalls selling souvenirs. Don’t be so quick to judge though, most of the neighborhood’s charms are hidden from view down unsuspecting side passages.

Chinatown Highlights


Katsuri Walk, Chinatown Kuala Lumpur
  • Hanging out in eccentric speakeasy bars owned by expert cocktail mixologists
  • Visiting some of the most beautiful temples and spiritual sites in Malaysia
  • Sampling traditional Chinese delicacies
  • Navigating the city’s most atmospheric hawker’s street food markets
  • Sipping an iced coffee at Kuala Lumpur’s most photogenic hangout spots

I have tried to make this guide as comprehensive as possible and therefore it runs through many aspects of KL Chinatown – from the sightseeing options to the best bars in Kuala Lumpur China town. Feel free to use the table of contents to navigate and skip forward to the relevant sections.

Coffee Shops in Kuala Lumpur Chinatown


Merchant’s Lane, Kuala Lumpur

In recent years, Kuala Lumpur China town has seen a new lease of life injected into it with the emergence of several quirky “hipster” style coffee shops.  The beauty of these establishments is that they have not renovated or modified the old buildings in any way, but simply polished up and restored them to their former glory.

There are more ways to fully immerse yourself in the culture of the places that you visit when you travel than simply by seeing the sites and landmarks. One such way is to take your tastebuds on an adventure and sample the local delicacies. This is precisely what I had the opportunity to do on my Kuala Lumpur food tour with Simply Enak.

A culinary tour such as this provides you with the opportunity to see the city through the eyes of a local. It enables you to trial the very best of the local cuisine and it helps you to uncover wonderful local eateries away from the tourist traps that you may not have otherwise discovered.


This foodie adventure explored the hidden backstreets and quaint stores of Chinatown that are typically tucked away
from the view of most tourists.

Kuala Lumpur Food Tour Highlights

  • Starting the day with a flavourful, traditional Indian breakfast washed down with a spiced ginger tea.
  • Braving the infamous “durian” fruit in its various forms
  • Indulging in traditional Chinese Malay desserts and pastries
  • Trialing beloved local delicacies prepared by street food vendors such as bao buns and Malay curry puffs
  • Visiting one of the oldest Chinese medicine stores in Kuala Lumpur
  • Uncovering the trendiest hipster hangouts of Kuala Lumpur’s Chinatown district

Kuala Lumpur Food Tour in Chinatown

I will just preface this post by saying that I don’t want to ruin the surprises and the excitement of Simply Enak’s Kuala Lumpur food tour by revealing every little detail and location of the tour. I have summarised a few of the stopping points below but I will leave the rest as a surprise. We sampled more than 11 different delicacies along our route in total!

Breakfast, Indian Style

After meeting at Pasar Seni, Pauline and I ducked inside a traditional Muslim Indian canteen just outside the station. It was a lively, vibrant place filled with Indian locals. Colorful mala garlands hung from the ceilings and doorways, and Punjabi rhythms echoed through the canteen.

Almost 10% of Malaysia’s population is Indian, and Indian food makes up just as much of the tapestry of Malaysian food culture as Chinese or Malay dishes. A popular breakfast choice is to take a roti – Indian flatbread that is typically served with an array of curries and dhaals for dipping. There are quite a number of different rotis available in Malaysia, however, we had a thin, crispy roti with cheese stuffed inside. The dhaal at this place pretty much became my obsession while in Kuala Lumpur. The roti was served with a fish curry that was slightly spicy and two different dhaals.  To wash it down, we had a delightful milk ginger “chai” (Indian tea).

The Street Food Vendors of Kuala Lumpur Chinatown

After our roti, we embarked on a short tour of Kuala Lumpur’s Chinatown. “Petaling Jaya” is a long stretch of road that is essentially the central point of Chinatown. Filled with backpacker’s hostels and souvenir stalls, you would be forgiven for thinking that this is a touristic area at first glance. Away from the main street though, Chinatown holds many secrets that you would only find in the company of a local who knew where he/she was going.

We passed through Pasar Karat – an old “rusty” market where vendors set up shop to sell an array of weird and wonderful metal products. Practically everything from trinkets and antiques, to used batteries and random junk, can be found here.

At this point, we approached the highlight of the Kuala Lumpur food tour from my perspective – meeting local street food vendors and watching them as they prepared their produce for the day. We spoke with two Chinese locals who were essential “celebrities” in Kuala Lumpur as they are now the only vendors who still prepare “bao” (traditional Chinese dumplings) by hand. The dumplings were filled with meat and vegetables and were some of the most delicious I have tasted.

We made several stops with local vendors – also trying the infamous Malaysian curry puffs, and the notorious durian fruit before visiting one of the oldest Chinese medicine stores in the city. A lot of the vendors could only speak Mandarin so the food tour opened up the possibility to converse and interact with people whom we would otherwise have been unable to communicate with.

Hipster Hangouts in KL Chinatown

I fell in love with KL’s Chinatown district after my exploration with Pauline. In recent years, a lot of new businesses have opened up in the area, injecting a new lease of life into it. After sampling various little street food snacks and light bites around the neighborhood, we stopped for a full lunch at a hip hangout popular among trendy KL locals and businessmen working at nearby offices. Here we ate delicious roti jala and spicy Malaysian chicken. Roti jala is a special kind of roti as it possesses a kind of “spider web” netted appearance.

Coffee in a Converted Brothel

KL’s Chinatown is home to an array of quirky coffee shops and speakeasy-style bars which you should absolutely take the time to explore after your Kuala Lumpur food tour draws to a close. Our adventure ended at Merchant’s Lane – a former brothel that had been converted into a coffee shop.

From the outside, Merchant’s Lane looks unsuspecting – a random closed door with old, worn signage above it that opens to reveal a narrow, ramshackle stairway. At the top of the stairs though, it opens out to reveal what is perhaps the most bright, airy and Instagrammable spots in KL. Merchant’s Lane is popular among expats and locals alike.

Article courtesy of – highheelsandabackpack.com

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