Monday, June 17, 2013

A walk around KL's Chinatown - Central Market, Petaling St, Sultan St, Guan Di and Sri Mahamariamman Temple - Day 1 in Malaysia

My friends call me an expert on booking promo flights. I was able to book flights going to Malaysia via Air Asia for less than 650 pesos. How nifty! I later found out that they were cancelling the Kota Kinabalu-Clark route which I have previously booked. After tons of calls and emails via their customer support, I was able to have my money refunded on the cancelled flight. I am not sure if I will be flying through Air Asia again because of that. So anyway, I ended up booking a more expensive flight (Singapore-Manila), no thanks to Air Asia, since I decided to push through with the trip regardless of what happened.

Me and my friend decided to Couchsurf, because sincerely, I love traveling and meeting locals at the same time. We planned to travel through 8 days to Malaysia and 3 days in Singapore. We didn't have an itinerary since it was a very busy time at the office so what we did during our trip was to ask our hosts for recommendations and if we had time, look for something in the Internet.

kl tower
overlooking the grand Kuala Lumpur Menara or KL Tower

We were up quite early for our first day in Kuala Lumpur. I was feeling excited to tour around the city even though the temperature here was probably even hotter than Manila. Our host offered to tour us around which we did not hesitate to accept. We got off at Pasar Seni LRT station where I was greeted by a great view of the buildings around Masjid Jamek and Pasar Seni. Near the station, I also had a great view of Klang River wherein one can see Kuala Lumpur street art. It would have been nice if we knew how we could go down. so we can have some street art photo op.

kuala lumpur street art

kuala lumpur art
Kuala Lumpur street art in Pasar Seni station

Our first destination was Central Market, translated in Malaysian as Pasar Seni (thus the LRT station name). I was told that formerly, the place was just your ordinary wet market but was transformed later on to this building that not just sell food, but also focuses on arts and crafts-related products imported from different countries such as Thailand, Indonesia, China and India. The area dates back as old as 1888 but the building was said to be constructed in 1933 using the then popular Art-Deco style. Now, the place is packed with tourists for its popularity as one of Kuala Lumpur's unique destinations.

kuala lumpur central market
Central Market
kuala lumpur travel
the Katsuri,which is the new pedestrianized market that has stalls selling food and clothes

Unfortunately, we came here too early so we were not able to go inside since they open around 10AM. We were able to sneak inside and haggle with some vendors but we did not but anything though. One can buy souvenirs, Malaysian/Chinese/Indian food, local fruits, clothings such as sarongs and other traditional wears, and a whole lot more. I would have loved to buy a painting but of course, I do not have the capacity to carry it all through out the trip.

closed stalls :(
I presume that this side mostly sell Chinese products

Just across the road near Central Market is Petaling Street which is probably considered as the heart of Chinatown. Our goal was not to do some shopping (yet!), but just to do some sight seeing, people watching and probably to have some bite of good cheap Chinese food in the hawkers stalls. Jalan Petaling is one of the city's bargain hunter paradise. It's also similar to our own Manila Chinatown though the vendor stalls are more organized and the area is way more cleaner in KL.

kuala lumpur travel malaysia
colorful buildings near Central Market

peaceful pedestrian near Petaling st

old buildings in KL that probably dates back as early as 1900s

I guess we really went there too early as the vendors were just opening their stalls so I was not able to take pictures of the goodies. I walked around and noticed that the items being sold there were imitation goods (clothings, accessories, DVD and CDs) and various Chinese foods such as herbs and teas, souvenirs stalls were dime a dozen as well. Of course, haggling is the way of life here. One trick that I always practice is that I negotiate for almost 30-80% off the price, if they don't budge, I'll just threaten them to walk away and look at other stores. ;)

Jalan Petaling Street and my photobomber of a friend
kuala lumpur petaling street
colorful and lively Petaling

We came across a street called Jalan Sultan where there were also pretty cool street art just like the ones in Klang River. We were told that the vandals here were created for a protest on preserving the old buildings at this street and hopefully halting railway extension in the area. We dropped by to admire this little quaint art display as if we were inside a museum.

Jalan Sultan

such a beautiful vandal
patriotic street art

We went off to take a quick bite on one of the food stalls at Chinatown to figure out where we would be heading out next. We discovered that there were some temples around Jalan Tun HS Lee that were also areas of interest for us.

petaling street
one of the buildings threatened to be demolished for the railway addition

Guan Di Temple is one of the oldest Chinese Temples in the city dedicated to Guan Di, the Taoist God of War and Literature. The structure was completed in 1888 and is said to be frequented by worshippers to seek for protection and well-being in line with Guan Di's heroic and righteous character.

kuala lumpur guan di temple
Guan Di Temple
war generals guarding the place

It is said that the statue of the said Taoist god has special powers that will grant its devotees of protection and make their wishes come true. All it takes is to have a pure heart and mind (that sure is tough!)

The 59kg cooper Guan Di that is said to have powers

The temple was quite small and some might find its designs similar to any other Chinese temple but the interesting fact here is that it hosts the god of War which was a pretty interesting insight in the Chinese culture. I think it's also similar to how Christians pay their respects and worship saints to guide them on the virtues that they were known to exhibit.

hanging coiled incenses that gives the temple a calming atmosphere
roof details
awkwardly posing with a lion- dragon statue

Just across the Guan Di temple, you will come to see one of Malaysia's oldest and richest Hindu temple called the Sri Mahamariamman that will certainly catch your attention with its finely decorated entrance and exquisite high gate tower that stand 23 meters. This dramatically tall tower, or gopuram, features the 228 brightly colored figures from one of India's greatest epic tales, the Ramayana.

Sri Mahamariamman Temple
Sri Mahamariamman Temple
Sri Mahamariamman Temple malaysia
the very elaborate tower of the temple. look at those details, so lovely!

It is said to be the oldest functioning Hindu temple in Malaysia since 1873 and was remodelled last 1968. The temple is an important place of worship for the Indian immigrants in the country and is also preserved as it is also one of the cultural heritages in Kuala Lumpur.

To enter, you have to take your shoes off, you can either have it safely kept in a locker storage for a fee or leave it outside the entrance. The area was a bit crowded that time as it was almost time for the noon prayer ritual or Puja.

hinduism malaysia

lions all over

Mariamman is the deity of this temple and famously know by Southern Indians or the Tamils. She is regarded as their protector especially to those who are traveling and living in foreign lands. It was not my first time to go to a Hindu temple but I was still amazed on how stunning and colorful the Sri Mahamariamman temple is. The design and display of the gods were delicately hand-painted to show its full intricate details.

locals doing their prayer ritual
sweet scent of these pretty garlands and jasmine catches my attention

Kuala Lumpur's Chinatown sure is a very interesting and colorful place. Not just that it is a great place to catch shopping bargains and souvenir items, but a great spot to see how the different culture and religions peacefully coexist in Malaysia. It sure was a nice way to kick off our tour of the country and has opened my eyes on what is in store for us in this country for the next couple of days.

Sri Mahamariamman Temple kuala lumpur

Day 1: Kuala Lumpur

Petronas Towers

Day 2: Kuala Lumpur
Batu Caves

Merdeka Square

Day 3: Putrajaya / Shah Alam
Pink and Blue Mosque

City Tour

Day 4: Malacca/Melaka
City Tour

Food Tour

Day 5: Kuala Lumpur

Day 6: Penang
Kek Lok Si Temple

Day 7: Penang
George Town

Street Art

Day 8: Penang

Malaysia Travel Report
Itinerary and Tips

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