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Kuala Lumpur ChinaTown

Petaling Street

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The stalls at Kuala Lumpur ChinaTown are open from 4:00 PM to about 10:00 PM. However, the shops there are open from as early as 9 in the morning. During weekends and festive occasions the hours are a little longer. Kuala Lumpur China Town or locally known as Petaling Street, is famous for it’s "Original" imitations like:

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You can easily find cheap hotels in this area. They are very good value for money.

It is also a very convenient location from which to move about in Kuala Lumpur. Some of the best value for money Kuala Lumpur Hotels can be found here.

History of Kuala Lumpur ChinaTown

It all began in the area called Market Square. Today Market Square is the financial district of Kuala Lumpur. As the number of people in the town grew it was relocated to it’s present location at Kuala Lumpur China Town. This was because it was on a higher ground than the rest of the town that was prone to flooding as it is situated close to the Klang River.

Kuala Lumpur ChinaTown or Petaling Street

Petaling Street is locally known as "Chee Cheong Kai" in Cantonese. Chee Cheong Kai means starch factory. It was call Chee Cheong Kai as there used to be a tapioca starch factory there.

Yap Ah Loy

The British sought the help of the third Kapitan Cina, Yap Ah Loy, to contain the triads and to unite the various clans.

He did that and went on to become the most famous Chinaman in the history of Malaya. In the earlier days, our history books used to honor him as the founder of Kuala Lumpur.

Unfortunately history books, especially for schools, no longer give him the honor.


Chee Cheong Kai

Today, Chinatown is locally referred to as Chee Cheong Kai or tapioca starch factory. This factory was started by Yap Ah Loy.

Tapioca was harvested from his plantation just outside of Kuala Lumpur ChinaTown. He also took control of most of the gambling dens and brothels in Kuala Lumpur during his time.

Kapitan Cina or Chinese Captain

The early Chinese settlers who came to Kuala Lumpur were the Hakkas and the Cantonese. Most were involved in the tin mining industry. They were under the control of the clan headmen also know as "Kapitans" or captains. Like most towns that had attracted many Chinese communities overseas, the area around Kuala Lumpur began to boom. Many of the early Chinese settlers became very rich as a result of the tin trade.

Prostitution, Gambling and Opium

Both legal and illegal business started to expand. Kuala Lumpur became the center of gambling, prostitution and opium trade.

They were controlled by the Chinese triads or secret societies. You will still find some illegal gambling houses and brothels today.

They are all done very discretely and the police don’t seem to mind. However, the opium trade has long since stopped. Malaysia is very fortunate that we do not have a serious drug problem as in some other countries.

1870 Civil War

Civil war broke out in 1870 due to the fight for control of the tin and it’s related trade.

Two powerful Chinese triad emerged from this war. Hai San which represented the Hakkas. And Ghee Hin represented the Cantonese.

Trade was disrupted and the economy was badly affected. The tin mines were left abandoned. The British were invited to help bring peace and order to Kuala Lumpur.

They achieved that and more. Resulting in Kuala Lumpur booming once again at an even faster pace.

Kuala Lumpur ChinaTown Upgrade

In 2007, the area went through a multimillion RM upgrade. This involved two perpendicular roads. Petaling Street is where you’ll find most of the "original" imitation or fake Rolex traders. In addition to fake watches, you’ll also be able to find the latest pirated DVD’s and VCD’s of movies. Some which have not even reached our shores. Some may not reach Malaysia at all due to censorship.

The other road is Jalan Hang Lekir or Cecil Street. This is where you’ll be able to feast yourself to delicious Chinese food. The most famous of which is the fried pork noodle. Just thinking of it makes my mouth water.

The upgrade involved paving these two roads with interlocking red tiles. A long dragon-like canopy was also installed. Sad to say that it is not very functional and you’ll still get wet when it rains. Maintenance has not been up to mark. Some of the sheets of the canopy have since been blown off and have yet to be replaced.

Places of Interest around Kuala Lumpur ChinaTown

This is an excellent location to start your Kuala Lumpur Tours. This is especially so if you like to walk. You’ll be rewarded with amazing sights, sounds, smells and taste of life in the heart of Kuala Lumpur. There is a wet market which opens from early morning to noon. You’ll also be able to find lovely fresh flowers and local and imported fruits around the Chinatown area.

Masjid Jamek

Within 5 minutes walk is the Masjid Jamek. This mosque was built in the early 1900 and was the first national mosque of Malaysia. It was designed by AB Hubbeck, a British architect. This lovely mosque, looks like many tiny spaceships waiting to launch. It sits right at the confluence of the two rivers from which Kuala Lumpur derives its name. A truly must-not-miss sight, especially if you like photography.

Central Market or Pasar Seni

This art deco building was originally a wet market, built in the early 1900s. Today this is one of the better places to hunt for local handicrafts. It is located just between Kuala Lumpur China Town and Masjid Jamek.

Sze Ya Temple

The Sze Ya Temple is one of the few remaining objects that remind us of the troubles that Kapitan Yap Ah Loy went through to develop Kuala Lumpur. He built this temple to honor Kapitan Shin Kap of Sungai Ujong, whom he worked for during the communal struggles before coming to KL.

Sri Mahamariamman Temple

Located just next to Kuala Lumpur ChinaTown is the lovely Sri Mariammam Temple. Built in 1873 and where the chariot of Lord Murugan is kept. It is here that the famous festival of Thaipusam starts in it’s journey to Batu Caves.

Cheap Hotels in Kuala Lumpur ChinaTown

Some of the budget hotels around the this area are really good value for money. And in terms of location, it is hard to beat. These are some of the cheap hotels in Kuala Lumpur which you can get for about RM80 per night. There are also many backpackers inn which goes from about RM50 per night.

Kuala Lumpur ChinaTown Map
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View KL China Town Map in a larger map
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How To Go There

LRT Light Rail Transit

The Pasar Seni station is almost right in Kuala Lumpur ChinaTown itself.

KTM Commuter Train

KTM Alight at the Kuala Lumpur Station and exit by going up the escalator. It’s a refreshing 10 minutes walk from the Kuala Lumpur Kommuter station.

Rapid KL Bus

Located just next to Chinatown and the Pasar Seni LRT station.

Metro Bus

Stops right in front of Petaling Street.


Should cost you no more than RM10 from anywhere within the city.

Comments By Visitors

You MUST visit Kuala Lumpur ChinaTown!!

What do you think? - Tell YOUR story here


On my last visit to Chinatown, particularly Petaling Street which is the hub of Chinatown, I was taken aback by the people manning the stalls. It felt somewhat strange seeing foreigners, mainly Burmese and Nepalese, manning the stalls which used to be manned by people of Chinese descent, after all it is Chinatown.

Chinatown is no longer Chinatown in its true sense. I am not racist nor have I ever been but it brought home that times they are a-changing and we have no choice but to move along with the times.

The redeeming factor is that the food stalls are still being operated by the original owners or their family. Food-wise, Chinatown is still intact - the taste is still very much authentically Chinese. In this part of Kuala Lumpur, you can still find KL’s best Hokkien fried noodle, best roast duck, best soya bean drink, and more.

A common sight I delight in is of visitors (Caucasians mostly) hanging out having a beer or two soaking in the sights and sounds of Chinatown. It always puts a smile on my face.

I am glad Chinatown is still attractive enough to entice visitors. It is often said that, you have not seen Kuala Lumpur if you have not been to Chinatown. Just the other day, a visiting colleague was given a shopping list which included football jerseys from Chinatown. His friend even equipped him with the stall number and the contact person!

Some said they were ok with foreign workers selling the merchandise, but were not in favour of the cramped placements of stalls. Fortunately, Kuala Lumpur City Hall (DBKL) has shelved a plan to add 94 new stalls at Petaling Street following strong objections from traders who find it increasingly difficult to do business in the area.

Another visitor, Lindy from Australia likes "the atmosphere here - red lanterns, haggling, good food - and I can shop cheaply, it doesn’t really matter if those who man the stalls are foreign workers."

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