Jalan Bukit Bintang, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
Written by Mark Eveleigh Illustration by Marion Vitus
Malaysian writer and TV producer Xandria Ooi loves to spend her time exploring what she calls the shoppers’ paradise of Jalan Bukit Bintang in the heart of Kuala Lumpur’s business district.
“I’m a huge shopping nut,” says Xandria Ooi. “For this reason alone I would have to say that Jalan Bukit Bintang is undoubtedly my favourite street in Kuala Lumpur.”
Kuala Lumpur is Malay for ‘muddy estuary’, but in the centuries since the first ramshackle rubber-tapper hotels and Chinese shophouses were built along the banks of the Klang River, the city has evolved into a booming metropolis.
Jalan Bukit Bintang (‘Starhill Street’) now runs as a major artery across the heart of Kuala Lumpur’s ‘Golden Triangle’ business district. “It is the most commercialised and busiest street in the city and is nothing short of heaven for shoppers!” enthuses Xandria.
For high-end, brand-name shopping, KL’s chic and trendy head for the Pavilion Mall (or to chill at ‘Seventh Heaven’, the spa and wellness centre on the 7th floor), but Xandria Ooi also recommends moving on down the street to the huge Sungai Wang Plaza. “I can spend a whole day rummaging through the little boutique stores down there. You can haggle here, which means you not only pick up some incredible bargains but it’s also a lot of fun.”
Even here, among the skyscrapers of what has been described as a Manhattan of the East, traditional Malaysia can be tracked down easily. Xandria recommends taking a detour just around the corner (past the Jade Museum on Jalan Kampung) to visit the Jadi Batek Gallery on Jalan Inai. “You can pick up the perfect souvenir or gift here in the form of traditional Malay textiles. The best thing is that there is a workshop, and for 50 Ringgit [US$16] you can make your own batik to take home!”
Bukit Bintang stretches well over a mile from its northern Jalan Tun Razak end down to Jalan Pudu at the south. There are gyms in most of the major hotels here (JW Marriott, Grand Millennium, or the Ritz-Carlton), and Xandria is no stranger to working out. “But,” she says, “you spend a whole day trawling up and down Bukit Bintang checking out the shops – it’s a workout in itself.” For the perfect rest stop, grab a table on the Pavilion terrace. The scene here is spectacularly cosmopolitan – offering everything from Italian coffee to hearty German country fare – and the terrace is a great place to people-watch.
Starhill Gallery Feast Village is also a local favourite: “It’s a feast for the eyes as well as the stomach! But, for more formal dining, my choice would be the Shanghainese restaurant at JW Marriot Hotel,” says Xandria. “If you want to eat local street food though, cross to Jalan Alor, which runs parallel to Bukit Bintang. That’s where you find traditional coffee shops and everything from martabak pastries to satay to nyonya [Chinese-Malay fusion] cuisine.”
If you still have any energy left at the end of the day, take the elevator to the upper floor of Lot 10 to the Rootz nightclub. There, among the glittering Golden Triangle neon, sipping a chocolate martini (Xandria’s favourite) among the beautiful people, it can be very hard to imagine that you are still perched on the banks of a ‘muddy estuary’.
Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
Distance: 5,894 km
Flight Time: 7 hours, 40 minutes
Frequency: 3 flights a day