Chinatown Kuala Lumpur is blessed with a collection of beautiful temples, sprawling flea markets, handicrafts, and art galleries that are must-see items on any traveller’s itinerary. It is accessible by a five minute walk from Pasar Seni LRT station. Many of the attractions in Chinatown are perfect for those who want to soak up the local culture, as there are plenty of ornate Buddhist and Taoist temples that are hundreds of years old.
Kuan Ti Temple (also known as Guan Di Temple) is a 121 year-old Taoist temple located along Jalan Tun HS Lee. An easily recognisable building with a bright orange façade, it is dedicated to Guandi, the Taoist God of War and Literature. There is a red-faced, long bearded statue of Guandi at the rear of the temple.
In the Sui Dynasty (580-618 AD), devotees believed that Guandi’s weapons had special powers and that they will be blessed by ‘touching’ or ‘lifting’ the 59kg copper guan dao three times. Aside from that, you will also see two stone Chinese lions (used as protective symbols to ward off negative energy) on pedestals guarding the entrance of the temple. They form a happy, protective ‘family’ that guards the temple: the male (with a ball) is on the left side of the door, inside looking out, and the female is on the right with a baby Chinese lion.
Interesting fact: in China, Guan Di, the patron saint of the martial arts, is extremely popular with the police and triads and both pray to him for divine protection.
- Opening Hours: Daily, 07:00 – 19:00 (opening hours may vary, so please check with the temple keeper)
- Location: Right across the street from Popular Bookstore, and just opposite Sri Mahamariamman Temple.
- Address: Along Jalan Tun H. S. Lee
As you move along the south of Jalan Hang Lekir, tucked away on Jalan Tun HS Lee, you will see the extravagantly decorated Sri Mahamariamman Temple. The temple incorporates Spanish and Italian tiles, precious stones and gold in its design. This is KL’s main Hindu temple, situated between two Buddhist temples at the edge of Chinatown.
Construction of this large and elaborate Hindu temple began in 1873 with plenty of ongoing restoration and embellishment occurring over the years. After which, significant renovation took place in 1968 with the construction of the impressive 75ft, deity-clad ‘Raja Gopuram’ tower – said to be the threshold between the material and spiritual worlds. There are 228 Hindu idols – frozen in dozens of scenes from the Ramayana – adorning the five tiers of the polychromatic gopuram (entrance gate).
The main prayer hall features a richly-decorated onion-domed ceiling where three shrines are located; four smaller shrines are located peripherally around the main temple building. All in all, these shrines house effigies of Lord Ganesha, Lord Muruga, Lakshmi (Goddess of Wealth) and more images.
- Opening Hours: 06:00 – 21:00
- Address: 163, Jalan Tun H. S. Lee, Kuala Lumpur.
- Tel: +603 2078 3467
Chan See Shu Yuen Temple is one of the largest and oldest surviving Buddhist temples in Malaysia. Located at the southern end of Jalan Petaling, it is characterized by a typical open courtyard and symmetrical pavilions, and decorated with colourful paintings, woodcarvings and ceramic fixtures. It is easily accessible via the Pasar Seni LRT and is only a 15-minute walk from the station.
It is quite an elaborate temple, built between 1897 and 1906. From the outside, you can see the intricately carved kwang-tung roof, gables and specially-crafted terracotta friezes with monumental Chinese history and mythological scenes. The interior of the main temple has pillars with scenes of gold-painted warriors battling lions, dragons and other mythical creatures.
You shall see the statues of the Chan See Shu Yuen Temple’s three main deities right behind the glass wall in the main temple. That includes Chong Wah, an emperor of the Sung Dynasty and above them is a mural of a brilliant yellow sun.
During your visit to the temple, besides the temple’s beautiful architecture, you can also see black-and-white pictures (some are hand drawn) of deceased clan members above the altars on the right and left of the main temple.
Opening Hours: 08:00 – 18:00
Housed in a colonial-style, 100 year old former textiles warehouse in Chinatown, The Warehouse is an art gallery with a café, bar and restaurant (Ril’s Steakhouse) attached to it.
During the day, you can have a light breakfast, lunch or just cakes at the small Café Art, play board games or surf the internet there. One of its special features is serving drinks with artistic flourish – like a cappuccino that is served with an impression of US President Barack Obama done in the foam.
The gallery, which has a series of rotating exhibits by modern local and regional artists, plays 90s indie rock music such as Radiohead and Collective Soul. Highlighted by spotlights, each gorgeous painting spices up the walls and instantly grabs your attention!
The loft-like studio has a very ‘hidden away’ feel to it but it really comes to life at night when the humble-looking Bar Art opens. Besides serving beers, they also serve some pretty amazing, reasonably-priced cocktails, like the classic martini. You will love it!
The Ril’s Steakhouse is right on the top floor. Their menu is western with heavy emphasis on steaks. Ril’s Steakhouse is an elegant and friendly fine-dining venue. There are three enormous picture windows providing views of the Chinatown streets and dim lights. Not only that, the slanting 30ft ceiling, leather Chesterfield booths, high back chairs and raw industrial accents give the place an intimate, sexy feel.
- Opening Hours: 10:00 – 1:00 Tuesday – Sunday
- Location: Chinatown
- Address: 198 Jalan Tun HS Lee, KL.
- Tel: +603 2022 0528
Central Market is one of KL’s most familiar landmarks and a popular tourist attraction. It was built in 1928, just a short walk away from Petaling Street, along Jalan Hang Kasturi. It used to be a simple wet market but in the early 1980s, it was revamped into a handicrafts outlet. Central Market is strategically located close to major public transportation links, making it easy to access from all major KL destinations. The second floor has several restaurants and a food court serving Asian cuisine.
Central Market is the focus of the city’s artistic community and inside the building are various boutiques, handicraft and souvenir stalls with traders selling local merchandise such as authentic Malaysian batik prints and more.
As a Malaysian cultural landmark, it has been classified as a Heritage Site by the National Heritage Department. Similar to London’s Covent Garden or San Francisco’s Fisherman’s Wharf, the 120 year-old Central Market has undergone several renovations over the years to attract the younger generations and to foster greater appreciation for racial tolerance and integration.
- Opening Hours: Daily, 10:00 – 22:00
- Location: Just around the corner from Kota Raya Shopping Centre
- Address: No. 10, 1st-3rd floor, Jalan Hang Kasturi
- Tel: +603 2031 0399 or +603 2031 5399 or +603 2031 7399
The Malaysia Heritage Walk, also called Kasturi Walk by the locals, is a covered, open-air flea market along Jalan Kasturi which is a lane running alongside the Central Market.
Established in early 2011, it is similar to Petaling Street, but not as crowded. You can find vendors selling local snacks, fruits and fake goods (such as T-shirts, flip flops, watches) set up side-by-side. Additionally, the goods are reasonably priced plus its convenient location makes a trip here worthwhile.
Food stalls sell everything from Malay kuih and Chinese dim sum to Indian rojak and other local snacks. As a popular spot with tourists, Kasturi Walk organizes cultural performances during special events and festivals.
You must not forget to take picture with this pewter wau bulan (a type of Malay kite) which looks like a butterfly. It is located right over the front entrance of the tiled walkway and it was established in early 2011. It looks fairly new with clean kiosks and stalls.
To get there using the LRT, get down at the Pasir Seni station: from there it is only a few minutes’ walk to Kasturi Walk.
- Opening Hours: 10:00 – 21:30
- Location: Jalan Kasturi
If you are a fan of Art, a great addition to your “must go list” is the Annexe Gallery, a modern art gallery located on the second floor of Annexe Central Market. You can’t miss it if you’re coming from the back entrance of the local handicraft centre, but if you’re coming from the main market building, take note of the Gajah-Gajah Gallery on the ground floor, and climb up the stairs to find it.
Annexe Gallery, is aimed towards the more laid-back and modern contemporary arts scene. It hosts a series of numerous talks, art exhibitions, book launches, movie screenings and fashion shows throughout the year. One of the premier events of the space is Arts for Grabs, the arts and crafts bazaar held several times a year to promote affordable art pieces. The gallery spans over three interconnected spaces that can be partitioned for smaller events, and may accommodate several exhibitions at a time.
- Opening Hours: 11:00 – 20:00
- Address: 1st and 2nd Floor, Central Market Annexe, Jalan Hang Kasturi, Kuala Lumpur
- Tel: +6 016 489 2603
Sze Ngan Chye (it actually means 4-eyed boy in Cantonese Dialect), is famous for its delicious Roast Duck and Duck Feet Parcel (duck feet and duck liver wrapped with intestine and coated with sweet caramelised sauce). There’s always a queue of people waiting to take away the roasted duck. The queue is usually much longer during major Chinese festivals.
While you shop around in the Malaysian weather, you will be re-charged by this Cold Loh Han Guo drink along the street. This famous Petaling Street Air Mata Kucing Stall is located right in front of Hong Leong Bank. Their famous Loh Han Guo with Longan drink is sweetened with rock sugar. This drink is very refreshing and is perfect to drink on a hot day.
This Kim Lian Kee Chee Cheong Fun stall serves Cantonese style chee cheong fun with sweet sauce and chili sauce topped with a sprinkle of sesame seeds. Though it’s just plain rice rolls, it’s absolutely delicious. The business is so good that the chee cheong fun is usually sold out by noon.
Early in the morning, while you are staying around Dragon Inn Hotel, if you wish to have a hot bowl of porridge for breakfast, do try this famous original Hon Kee Porridge stall in Petaling Street which has been around for more than 60 years. It offers a wide variety of porridge such as Raw Sliced Fish Porridge, Pork Innards Porridge, Pork Meatballs Porridge, Steamed Chicken Porridge, Century Egg Porridge, Frog Leg Porridge and more. Their porridge is silky smooth in texture and is really yummy. Don’t forget to order a plate of fried crullers (you tiao) to go with your porridge. Business is so good that they set-up more tables outside Hong Leong Bank to accommodate more patrons.
When you are in Chinatown, please do not miss this Portuguese Grilled Fish at Petaling Street. It is hidden in the walkway next to Hong Leong Bank, the stall is famous for its hot and spicy Portuguese Grilled Fish. The fish is wrapped in aluminium foil with special homemade chili paste and is grilled on the spot with charcoal fire when an order is placed. In addition to fish, you can also add in vegetables, prawns, squids, and so on to enhance your dining experience.