Tourism Malaysia

24 hours in Chinatown

24 hours in Chinatown

I visit Kuala Lumpur so often each year I’ve started to feel like a local. That is a local of Chinatown where I invariably spend all my time.

It’s probably a little sad but if I’m only in KL overnight — frequently I am there longer also — I go directly to Chinatown to the same shops, hairdressers and hotel I always go to.

The night time action in Chinatown. Pic: Joanne Lane.

The night time action in Chinatown. Pic: Joanne Lane.

I’ve kind of developed a bit of a routine that doesn’t change much from visit to visit. This is because it’s really nice to wander a familiar neighbourhood when you’re so used to being out of your home territory and do the same things and not feel like a tourist, despite it being a touristy area of course.

I don’t promise these experiences are for everyone, but here’s my schedule and the things I like to do.


I more often than not arrive at LCCT airport where there are regular buses to KL Sentral for as little as RM 8 one way or RM 14 return. These pretty much run 24 hours a day so you never have to wait too long. They also have buses for other destinations including KLIA, Genting and other areas. If you arrive at KLIA there are similar bus services and trains.

Once I’m off my flight and have my luggage I head for the bus – leave the departures area and head outside and walk around to the right of the arrivals area where you’ll see lots of buses.

I’m usually pretty tired after a flight so I try to get a bit of shut-eye on the ride as it’s incredibly smooth and long enough to sleep (about one hour duration).

From LCCT I then take the LRT to Pasar Seni where it’s a short walk to my guesthouse.


I always stay at Matahari Lodge (Jalan Hang Kasturi, tel. +603 2070 5570). I’ve been going there for years – ever since they opened and they’ve even changed hands once. It’s a budget establishment but you get a private room which is incredibly clean. The bathrooms are shared but also impeccably managed—they provide shower shoes–and they have free WiFi and breakfast in the morning. There’s also a lounge, a TV, plenty of books to read and you can keep food in the fridge if you like.


By this stage if I’m tired it’s bed time, if not I’ll pop into the night market in Chinatown to get something to eat. There’s so much to choose from – chicken cooked in clay pots, banana and chocolate roti, satay chicken, grilled fish, buffet style free for alls (usually at lunch time and a great one under one of the overpasses on Jalan Tun Tan Cheng Lock) and more. You can eat from streetside stalls or sit down and watch life go by with a Tiger Beer or two. I love it. I also love to wander around and look at some of the odd things being brewed, cooked and eaten – durian unmentionables (not for me), cubes of rice, soya bean matter, prawn on sticks, coconuts and numerous unidentifiable objects.

Clay pot chicken. Pic: Joanne Lane.

Clay pot chicken. Pic: Joanne Lane.



I always schedule in a bit of pampering during my time in Chinatown. I know it’s touristy but there was excellent Chinese reflexology on the second floor of Central Market when I was there earlier in the year. The manager told me they have quite a high turnover of staff but the quality is much better than the options in Jalan Petaling – I’d concur with that. It was something like RM 60 for an hour.

I’ve also been to a hairdresser near the Reggae Bar (literally around the corner) a few times where they do fantastic hair cuts and massage. There was an Indonesian girl there last time I went who did the Indonesian style cream bath – ask for it!


As I’m usually heading home from KL I always pop into Central Market to do some souvenir shopping. My nieces love the little knicknacks I pick up there and I’ve got their Christmas presents there the last few years. There are little Malaysian dolls on pencils, cute Batik purses, little boxes to store things in, kitchenware, scarves you name it. It’s the perfect place to spend a few Ringgit and get the last things you need.

The other shopping item I’m guilty of is DVDs. These are sold throughout Chinatown and I always pick up a few movies to bring home – something to watch on my laptop on the next flight. It’s worth bargaining—I’ve paid various prices over the years—and you should always ALWAYS check the quality first – they have DVD players there and will give you a viewing.

A wander

If I still have time I’ll usually wander down Jalan Petaling to enjoy the activity. Because it’s a historic area with plenty of interesting Chinese shophouses and temples I’ll usually pop into one or two of the latter of these – most often than not the Guandi Temple that’s just around the corner in Jalan Tun H S Lee from the Matahari Lodge. This is a very local joint with people coming in and out and lighting incense, saying their prayers and making merit. I enjoy sitting in the corner and watching them passing in and out. It’s quite atmospheric.

Atmospheric sights at the Guandi Temple. Pic: Joanne Lane.

Atmospheric sights at the Guandi Temple. Pic: Joanne Lane.



As on arrival, getting back to LCCT or KLIA is a breeze. It’s worth checking the schedule for buses departing KL Sentral however just in case you find you have to wait there for a bit – not worth missing your flight.