Shop in comfort and style at Malaysia’s large and modern shopping complexes. These complexes are usually multi-story buildings that house various shops selling, as one shopping mall proclaims, everything under the sun - from gifts to clothes, from houseware to games, from local souvenirs to international handicrafts, from branded designer goods to handmade items.
Malaysian shopping complexes usually have within them a supermarket selling groceries and household needs, a department store, a cinema, a video arcade, and lots of little shops including selling shoes, books, music, watches, computers, mobile phones and electrical appliances.
A major shopping district in Kuala Lumpur is the Golden Triangle area bordered by Jalan Imbi, Jalan Raja Chulan and Jalan Sultan Ismail. The various shopping complexes there include Starhill, KL Plaza, Lot 10, BB Plaza and Berjaya Times Square. Starhill and Lot 10 carry international brands like Calvin Klein, Charles Jourdan, Christian Dior, DKNY, Gucci, Louis Vuitton, Prada, Ralph Lauren, and Salvatore Ferragamo.
The Golden Triangle is also the place to find famous local designers such as Zang Toi and Bernard Chandran. Zang Toi’s collection has a New York flair, which makes his designs unique and rather flamboyant. Bernard Chandran’s designs speak volumes of the Chinese and Indian influences in his life, resulting in dramatic creations with rich cultural accents.
The exotic and striking motif of the Sarawak Pua Kumbu is the signature of Tom Abang Saufi’s fashions. A true daughter of Sarawak, she draws her energy and inspiration from her rich background, translating it into East-meets-West designs on her long and short cardigans, hanging jackets, vests, skirts and dresses. This fashion veteran has taken her creations to the catwalks of Paris, London, Rome, Tokyo, Los Angeles and India.
Salikin Sidek works with silk brocade, also known as kain songket, which has always been the fabric of choice for Malaysian royalty. He uses it to create both contemporary and traditionally inspired outfits. The result? Well-tailored garments combined with elegant accessories that convey feminine beauty.
The biggest retail music shop in Kuala Lumpur is also located in the Golden Triangle Area. Tower Music Records has an extensive selection of music from R&B, world music, jazz, classical, local, pop to rock.
Within the Golden Triangle, specialty shops and boutiques line the roads. There are also nightspots, cafes and restaurants serving authentic and fusion cuisine. Check out Dontaku Japanese restaurant, Planet Hollywood for some live music after your American diner’s experience, Tarbush for Middle-Eastern fare, Frangipani for a taste of France and Piccolo Mondo or the very New-Yorkish Grappa SoHo for exciting Italian dishes.
Other major shopping districts in Malaysia are Jalan Ampang where the Suria KLCC shopping complex, Ampang Park, Ampang Point and Great Eastern Mall are situated in Kuala Lumpur; beachfront shopping in Penang’s Island Plaza and Gurney Plaza; and Kuala Terengganu’s Sutera Semai Centre for beautiful fabrics of silk, songket (brocade) and batik (a Malaysian fabric with wax and dye designs).
Street shopping is fast becoming a favourite pastime among shoppers. It’s a great way to take in the sights of Malaysia as you shop, stop for a leisurely lunch, appreciate the fine architecture and shop again – all on the same street.
Jalan Tuanku Abdul Rahman in Kuala Lumpur is a road flanked on both sides by pre-war buildings whose interesting facades house mostly shops selling textiles like cotton, organza, lace, silk, crepe de chine and chiffon. Some textile retailers offering fabrics at competitive prices are Globe Silk Store, Tang Ling and Kamdar. For fine quality materials suitable for evening and bridal wear, look at the imported fabrics in Euro Moda, Binwani’s and Gulati’s.
Euro Moda, known as the house of high fashion originals, has designer textiles from Gianni Versace, Ungaro, Balenciaga and Valentino. Rows and rows of lace, silk, chiffon and organza line the walls, some priced at RM10,000 (about US$2,500) a metre. Catering mostly to high society patrons, the boutique offers personalized shopping service as well as design and tailoring consultation.
Along the same road are shops selling oriental art, antiques and curios; fine embroidered bed and table linen, carved rosewood furniture, chests and cabinets; Chinese ceramics; and jade and ivory carvings. Shops dealing in oriental carpets are also found there. Jalan Masjid India, which runs almost parallel to Jalan Tuanku Abdul Rahman, is the place to go to for ethnic goods of Indian origin, sarees, sarongs and textiles.
Jalan Petaling (best known as Petaling Street to the locals) in Kuala Lumpur bustles with traders selling bags, clothes, watches and anything you can imagine.
At Jonker Street in Melaka, take a walking tour of the old buildings and shop for antiques and curios. In Penang, stroll through George Town to see pre-war shophouses which sell Chinese linen, organza and cotton textiles, velvet slippers and pillowcases.
Another outdoor shopping experience gaining popularity in Malaysia is the flea market. Enjoy a weekend afternoon browsing through indoor and outdoor stalls at the city’s flea markets where hundreds congregate to trade their wares. The atmosphere is often vibrant and colourful and it’s a place for antiques, hand-made crafts, jewellery and curios.
Check out the flea markets at Amcorp Shopping Mall in Petaling Jaya, Selangor (mainly antiques and curios); Mont Kiara (household items, jewellery and trinkets, and imported goods from Thailand, China and Vietnam); and Bangsar Shopping Centre in Kuala Lumpur for nice bags, embroidered and traditional apparel, candles, aromatherapy and varied items from all over the world.
In Sabah, visit the Sabah Filipino Market and the Gaya Street Fair. At the former, you will find local handicrafts, carved wood décor items, pearls and other jewellery. The Gaya Street Fair is an open-air Sunday bazaar where the locals do their shopping. Goods like pearls, plants, fresh produce, souvenirs, clothes and textiles are available at reasonable prices.
Sarawak’s Main Bazaar at the Kuching Waterfront is also a great place to shop and find bargains. The shops sell local handicrafts, antiques, wood carvings and fabrics. Fabriko, one of the stores, is a lovingly restored Chinese shophouse selling souvenirs, clothes and fabrics.
PASAR TANI (FARMER’S MARKET)
To enjoy the typical Malaysian way of life, go to the local farmer’s market – or pasar tani as the locals call it. Held in the mornings, it is a hive of activity when farmers gather once a week with their fresh fruits, flowers, poultry, meat and other farm products, It’s where womenfolk do their early morning shopping and stock up for the whole week.
Another kind of shopping begins as early as 5pm until 11pm along an otherwise quiet stretch of street – the Malaysian pasar malam, better known as the night market.
Normally catering to residents of a particular neighbourhood in a housing area, the pasar malam is where you’ll find Chinese, Malay and Indian traders side by side selling their wares from little stalls. Most full-time pasar malam traders go from one pasar malam to another nightly, travelling through the various neighbourhoods peddling their wares.
At these pasar malams, you can sample authentic Malaysian foods – Malay fish crackers, Chinese herbal drinks, Indian cakes and sweets and more. It’s common to see Malaysians with their whole families having their dinners at the stalls. Besides food, the pasar malam is the best place to get your supply of meat, poultry and fruits, as well as some good bargains on clothes and costume jewellery.
A new trend in Malaysia’s shopping scene is the hypermarket concept. While supermarkets and sundry shops were the norm before, more hypermarkets are opening their doors to shoppers these days.
Tesco from UK, Carrefour from France and Giant hypermarkets are among the mammoth-type supermarkets that are providing Malaysians with the comfort of air-conditioned shopping, wide ranging goods and competitive prices, all under one roof.
Duty-free shopping in Malaysia promises great value and variety. It provides shoppers with the lowest possible price on high quality products. With the Malaysian currency pegged at RM3.80 to US$1, shoppers can really stretch the value of their money.
For those travelling with Malaysia Airlines on international flights, duty-free shopping begins on board. In the comfort of their seats, passengers can choose from a range of branded items available in the Golden Boutique in-flight shopping service.
Upon arrival in Kuala Lumpur International Airport, the duty-free shopping centre, Tropikul, awaits with its haute couture labels such as Christian Dior, Versace and Salvatore Ferragamo; international array of fine quality chocolates; gems and jewellery from some of Malaysia’s largest retailers like Habib Jewels, Selberan Jewellery and Zam Gems; and pewterware from Malaysia’s own Royal Selangor.
Other popular duty-free shopping areas in Malaysia include Pulau Langkawi, Padang Besar and Bukit Kayu Hitam in Kedah, Labuan and Pulau Tioman,. An interesting mix of duty-free shops are found at city centres and airports in Johor Baru and Penang.
Malaysian retailers are turning to the internet to reach out to more shoppers. With such technological advancements, shoppers can buy easily and comfortably virtually anything their hearts desire!
Some retail websites that have become favourites with home-based shoppers include www.buysell.com.my, an on-line trading website to buy and sell goods by auction; and www.all99.com, a web-based retailer offering a home delivery service for products such as electrical products, house ware, toys and games.
Note: In general, most Malaysian shops and shopping complexes open from 10am to 10pm. However, some smaller shops, specialty stores and boutiques may open later and close earlier.