Like elsewhere in Southeast Asia, Malaysia has more than its fair share of local markets – some low key, others less so. For lower prices, a great selection of goods and interaction with real locals in an authentic Malaysian atmosphere, this – rather than the admittedly impressive glossy skyscraper malls – is the way to go.
Whether you are on a spree for clothes, handicrafts, DVDs or anything from a myriad selection of amazing food, Malaysia’s long-standing markets dotted across the country are ready and waiting to cater to your needs. Just remember to bargain, rather than settling on the first price you are offered!
Jalan Petaling Market (open from 10am) in the capital Kuala Lumpur is a crazy, crowded night market in the city’s Chinatown area, which brings with it a dose of the intoxicating mix of Chinese and Malay cultures, just one of many chances to experience the impressive tolerance and coexistence of cultures that sets Malaysia out from the crowd. Among the many bargains on sale here you are likely to come across clothes, shoes and sunglasses – plus, as a popular night market, there are plenty of chances to grab something to eat at many of the outdoor restaurants that spring up when things get going here in the mid-afternoon.
Also in Kuala Lumpur, Bazaar Baru Chow Kit Market (on the corner of Jalan Tuanku Abdul Rahman and Jalan Chow Kit, open 9am-5pm), is another great chance to mingle with Malaysians with very few tourists. This wet market sells fruits, vegetables, seafood and the like and, even if you don’t have a kitchen to take all this amazing produce home to cook, you will wish you did! A wander around Chow Kit is a great way to see what locals are buying, cooking and eating – and, with the target market being local Malaysians, it is cheap!
For something a little – okay, very – different, the Penang Flea Market (Lorong Kulit, open 8am-2pm) is worth a visit. With something of a reputation as a ‘thieves’ market’, reports float around that people whose shoes and other belongings have disappeared have been told their best chance of recovering them is at the market! With this in mind, this might not be your kind of place – but give it a go and you will certainly come away with a different experience than most who stick to more traditional markets. The pirate DVD operations which existed at the market until a few years ago have been shut down by the government, and this place really is now a treasure trove of odds and ends. While lots of it is worthless junk, in amongst it there are also some worthy finds for those with the ability of recognising something good when they see it!
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