The streets were empty and most of the shops were still closed except for some noodles and congee stalls at the corner of Petaling Street. This corner was brimming with locals starting their daily routine. It was almost 7 in the morning but it was still quite dark and the bustling market of last night was still in slumber. They seem to start late here, unlike in the Philippines where markets have seem to spring to life at the first hint of daylight.
Corner St. of Jalan Petaling later in the day
It was intriguing to see this alternative personality of China Town, a short but serene period when the tourists and vendors of the previous night were long gone but the new day’s visitors were yet to arrive. For some reason, I found myself wandering its alleyways looking for a power adaptor at 6:30 in the morning without success. Instead I found a popular dim sum eatery at the end of Petaling Street packed with mostly local Chinese. I went back to Restoran Yook Woo Hin later with Charles who was just as keen on trying out cheap dim sum and congee for breakfast yum cha style.
After loading up on carbs, we went back to our hostel to gear up for a day of walking (by that I mean getting my camera and umbrella, which felt quite at home in Malaysia). Our first stop was the yellow painted Art Deco- styled Lee Rubber Building just a few steps away from our guesthouse.
It was built in 1930’s and reputed to be the headquarters of the Japanese secret police during the war. We didn’t know its significance at the time of our visit and were just after buying some bottled water and small notepad from its aptly named bookstore located on the ground floor.
Sri Mahamariamman Temple
With only a day to spare and still a long list of sights to explore, we quickly breezed through two temples along Jalan Tun HS Lee. It was hard to miss the 22-meter high gate tower of Sri Mahamariamman Temple and the sweet scent of jasmine and colorful garlands being sold near its doorway. The temple is considered the oldest and richest temple in Kuala Lumpur and the oldest functioning Hindu Temple in Malaysia.
Hindu worshippers at Sri Mahamarimman
Across from the Hindu temple and further along the street, a heady smell of incense coming from coils of spiral incense and joss sticks greeted us at the doorway of another temple. Worshippers muttered their prayers with burning joss tick clasped between their hands while others were burning paper offerings at the brick kiln. Guan Di Temple is one of the oldest Chinese Temples in the city dedicated to Guan Di, the Taoist God of War.
Guan Di Temple
On the way to the Central Market, we dropped by near the riverbanks littered with interesting street art and graffiti to get closer to the 35-storey marble-clad Dayabumi Complex (Kompleks Dayabumi). Previously the headquarters of Petronas, this imposing structure is one of the earliest skyscrapers in the city and presently houses several commercial facilities. The facade of the tower is adorned with patterns of eight-pointed stars, recurring motifs and Islamic arches at the top and bottom of the tower.
With intensifying noontime heat, it was a relief perusing the shops and stalls inside the air-conditioned Central Market. If you’re looking for one place to find high quality handicrafts produced by local craftsmen and local culinary delights, this popular landmark will not disappoint. I had interesting conversation here with Rami about his batik shop and with the owner of the handblown glass items, which were apparently made by the locals of Borneo.
Handicrafts at Central Market
After breezing through every nook and cranny of Central Market, we continued walking to Masjid Jamek known as the oldest mosque in Kuala Lumpur. The striking redbrick and marble structure served as the main mosque of the city until the National Mosque was built in 1965. The building is conveniently situated near Masjid Jamek Station and is usually the starting point for a self-guided walk around China Town and Little India.
With plans on staying at Little India after our trip to the East Coast, we didn’t feel the need to explore it much. We briskly walked along the atmospheric old Indian streets lined with old shop houses, kopitiam, and vendors selling colorful fabrics, fresh and plastics flower garlands, ceramic peacock tiles, and appetizing street food.
While nibbling on some fresh fruit and tasty samosas under the sweltering heat, we weaved our way through the festive atmosphere at Jalan Masjid India. Just like other “Little Indias” I have seen before, the heart of KL’s Little India had a bazaar-like atmosphere complete with the ubiquitous sari and scarf stalls, gold jewelers, and DVD and CD shops blasting Bollywood soundtracks.
Loving the fresh fruit sold on the streets
There was a covered arcade of market stalls at the pedestrianized end of the street and an Indian-styled mosque called Masjid India (that the popular street was named after) sandwiched among the tightly packed stalls. At the time however, we were more interested in gorging on cheap street food rather than seeing another temple or mosque.
Top: Crispy pancake and Indian Snacks Bottom: Street style Cendol and Steamed Fish
If it wasn’t that hot, I think we would have walked all the way to the Petronas Tower mainly to do some errands at its posh mall. But since, I was still at the peak of my “winter unfitness”, and still adjusting again to the intense humidity, crankiness got in the way. We eventually caught the train to KLCC after walking to Wang Dangi (the nearest station).
The Petronas Tower
Nothing has really changed with KLCC Suria Mall. It was still just as popular and quite crowded just like when I first visited it a few years ago. We had a short glimpse of the Petronas Towers, went inside to find a waxing salon and adaptor, and I took a nap at Starbucks. Their coffee was even more expensive than Sydney but I was too tired to look around for a place to nap.
Back to China Town
Later that night we walked back to Petaling Street, had the delicious claypot chicken, washed it down with Mata Cucing and had more fresh fruit for dessert. Mata Cucing is a popular drink made of winter melon, longan, a fruit that looks a bit like passion fruit and loads of sugar. It tastes like the gulaman at sago of the Philippines.
The night was still young but I wasn’t keen on another walkathon so we found a spot along the busy street and shared one expensive cold beer. Carlsberg, Anchor and Tiger seemed to be the most popular beer in this country, but unlike the dirt cheap price of San Miguel or Laos beer, it is somewhat expensive. Deciding that indulging this early in our trip wasn’t a good idea, we headed back to our guest house after one big bottle and started to pack for our journey up North.