Petaling Street or China Town is a pretty standard entry on every tourist’s itinerary when in KL. KL is a city, and hence all there is to explore really (besides food, of course) is the city life, which is illuminated more once the sun sets, against the night sky. Another beautiful way to immerse yourself into the street-night life in KL is to go to a Pasar Malam, but that’s another post for another day.
I remember going here on my first trip to KL back in 2008, and on every subsequent trip to KL since then, because these folks sell the funkiest collection of T-shirts. No, I’m not talking about the fake Paul Smiths and “Burrberrys”, but just the plain old black T-shirt with the coolest art on it. My sister got one back in 2008 with a huge Joker face, and this was back when The Dark Night was a totally big thing, so we were totally excited. It is not 2016, and she still wears that T-shirt and it’s still very much alive.
This time, however, I went with a different agenda–mainly because I’m now married to a party-pooping kill-joy who doubts the integrity and safety of “cotton” T-shirts sold at RM. 18 a pop –the price has gone up. In 2008 we paid RM 15. He worries about what potentially harmful chemicals were used in them and refuses to buy any of those awesome fun T-shirts, nor does he let me buy any.
Other than these awesome T-shirts, Petaling Street doesn’t have much more to offer than low-quality knock-offs that even a completely fashion handicapped person like myself can identify as fake. This includes bags, shoes, wallets, sunglasses, watches etc. Yes, you can find a lot of food stalls too, but then again that’s everywhere in KL/Selangor so I wouldn’t really count that as a unique feature. The one thing I do always associate with Petaling Street are the coffee-roasted chestnuts–I’ve never seen them anywhere else.
It is extremely difficult to take pictures of the merchandise in Petaling Street, partly because the shopkeepers are mean, and unfriendly, and partly because they believe you’re there to steal their ideas. If you’re lucky, you’ll sternly be told not to take pictures, otherwise you’ll be heckled and shooed away. I’ve experienced both.
Keep walking, nothing to see here. Just a casual stall selling some innocent party supplies, no big deal. My heart was on pause while I was taking this picture, and M was furious at my guts.
Almost all the shopkeepers at Petaling Street are of Chinese ancestry, and they’re in the mood for just about zero nonsense. There are a few rules you need to remember in China Town:
Rule No. 1 of surviving Petaling Street: Understand that everything is open to negotiation. You will be quoted a price of R.M. 200 for a pair of sunglasses that the shopkeeper might very well value at (and be prepared to sell for) only R.M 30.
Rule No. 2 of surviving Petaling Street: However, if in response to a verbal price tag of R.M. 200 you make a counter offer that is too low, you will undoubtedly offend the salesman, and most probably earn his wrath in the form of grumbling, cussing (under his breath), and angry, dagger-like stares. So the counter offer is part gamble and part intelligence.
Rule No. 3 of surviving Petaling Street: (and perhaps the most important rule): Never, ever, EVER waste the shopkeeper’s time. That’s just basically punishable by death in his head. If you don’t intend on buying something, don’t haggle. If you don’t intend on buying something, don’t even bother asking it’s price. Once, I asked the price for something, and it turned out to be way overpriced so I simply said “wow”, thanked the shopkeeper with a smile and politely started slipping away. The clearly offended shopkeeper then mocked me with a series of angry “wows”, each “wow” louder than the last. Scary stuff.
Here’s the only thing we purchased on this trip to Petaling Street, and thoroughly enjoyed: a chilled, thirst-quenching glass of soy milk. It may sound like a meagre glass of soy milk but it was just the refreshing treat the night called for.
Have you been to Petaling Street or any other China Town in the world? What has your experience been like? Do comment 🙂