2 years ago my sister and I took a girl’s trip to Paris. Instead of using public transport to get around, we took advantage of our feet and stamina. With the map of Paris in my hand, we navigated our ways through the major districts of the city with pleasure and ease. It is at that point that I discovered the adventures of soaking in the city life, paying attention to all the small details you find on the way and basking in the glory of such major cities, something which goes amiss on underground metros and zooming taxis. Carrying on the newly found tradition of discovering cities on foot, I decided to uncover the entertainment district of Kuala Lumpur, Bukit Bintang, much to my hungry husband’s dismay.
First stop had to be the Malaysian Tourism Center which would arm us with our biggest weapon; the map of Kuala Lumpur. We took the monorail from KL Sentral Station to Bukit Nanas and the center was located just a stones throw away from the station on Jalan Ampang. An airy courtyard lined with palm trees greeted us as we made our way in and grabbed every brochure in sight. The center itself had a souvenir shop, an open air restaurant and breathtaking views of the famous Petronas Towers, towering over the city skyline.
With our tour guide, the map of KL, we set out to venture into the heart of the Golden Triangle. The route was simple, turn right onto Jalan Sultan Ismail from Jalan Ampang and walk straight down for about 25 minutes till you reach Bintang Walk, which will be on both sides of the road. It was a breezy day with no rain, hence the journey was delightful. Cars whizzing past, tourists trekking along and office workers leaving their workplace brought life to the main Jalan Sultan Ismail Road. The first building to catch my eye was the KFC building. Standing tall with KFC signs dotted all over, it seemed to be their Malaysian Headquarters. What was even better was they had pasted their advertisements on the poles of the overhead monorail tracks as well. Huge posters of fried chicken and fries made my already hungry husband even more hungry, insisting we stop for lunch. It had only been a few minutes into our journey, hence the idea was dropped but great marketing on the part of KFC.
Major international banks, investment banks, airline offices and famous hotels were a frequent sight during our walk. Hence, it was the perfect location for a pub, to let people relax after a hard day’s work. The entrance, shaped like a large beer keg, was sure to grab any passerby’s attention but it was the name, OverTime, that proved the genius of the person behind this outlet. The pub seemed to be closed at that time, hence could not take a peak inside, but it is now on my to-do list, just to see what other ideas they have up their sleeve.
As we passed by more and more buildings, a strong smell of flavored tobacco seemed to be filling the atmosphere. As I looked closely towards my right, I could see an area approaching, donning the flags of most Middle Eastern Countries.
This was the Arabian Quarters, located right before Bintang Walk, called Ain Arabia. Here you can find authentic Middle Eastern cuisine, handicrafts and just a sense of being in any country in Arabia. Sounds of Arabic music could be heard as we came closer and the strong fragrance of shisha (Arabian Water Pipe with flavored tobacco) reminded us of a cafe in Dubai.
Dancing to the tune of the Arabic music playing we finally ended up at our destination: Bintang Walk. Awash with culinary delights, retail outlets and entertainment for all, this area has risen from the race riots of May 13, 1969 to become one of the hippest areas of Kuala Lumpur. The best part about it is that there is a place here that suits the budget of all. Since we were standing in the middle of the Walk, we decided to go right first. Iranian and Lebanese restaurants seemed to be throbbing with business at that point. Their staff was standing on the road trying to lure tourists into their restaurants. And talking about shopping on a tight budget, street hawkers made their presence felt by selling fake watches on the side walk.
And they had buyers too, haggling to bring the price down.
At the end of the street was the famous Pavilion Mall, a high end shopping outlet with all the major brands such as Louis Vuitton, Ralph Lauren, Burberry to name a few and a Michael Kors outlet opening soon. Tourists thronged the foyer outside the mall, taking pictures and enjoying their day out.
On the left side of the mall was a small covered street, it was more like an upmarket food court. There were European Bars, Spanish Tapas Restaurants, Al-Fresco cafes and Irish Pubs on either side. Activity in these places were at its peak as it was Happy Hour, and most beers and drinks were at half price.
The other side of Bintang Walk was more budget-friendly. The restaurants seemed to be light on the pocket and retail outlets not so high-end. It seemed to have a different atmosphere with people in fancy dress trying to promote their businesses, men pretending to be statues to earn a few extra Ringgits.
Another frequent voice you will hear on the Walk is “You want Massage? 35 Ringgits”. Every second shop is a massage parlor, with their staff trying to advertise their rates, which some are willing to negotiate on. One was willing to give us a half an hour leg massage for 25 RM, but our legs were not that tired yet. It seemed to be a popular place, with many customers lying on the flat-beds comforting their fatigued feet. Some places were even offering the fish pedicure. Dip your feet into a large tank of water filled with little fish, who nip at your feet and eat away all the dead skin. If you can take the tickling, you should give it a try, I sure could not.
Our last stop was the Low Yat Plaza, a multi-story electronics mall. Each floor was filled with shops selling all sorts of gadgets and kiosks of mobile and internet companies. One word of advice though, barely anyone could understand English, hence our queries regarding our mobile phone account went unanswered. As we were about to exit the plaza, the smell of freshly baked cookies sent us into a tizzy. It was the Famous Amos shop, a treasure trove for kids and adults alike. Filled with candy, cookies and ice-cream, it was a dessert lovers haven.
The only thing they gave for free in that shop were smells. That was enough to rile up our appetite. Our stomach’s could not take it any longer and we had to give into temptation, but dessert before a late lunch? How was that possible? So we decided to give it a miss just this once.
The free smells had put us in a trance and gave us the impetus to walk some more to find a place to eat. And that is exactly what we did. So watch out for the next blog to find out what we ate and where.