Malaysia Part One: shopping in Kuala Lumpur

18-19th June 2010

The Gap Year Buddy and I caught the bus from Singapore to Kuala Lumpur after a McDonald’s breakfast (somethings are just the same in any country). Our Aeroline coach wasn’t what I had expected. Instead of your average coach seats, this one had big seats with lots of leg room and even some pretty good in-coach food. The in-coach movie was a bad quality copy of 2012, which was quickly replaced by The Blind Side, which mostly had no sound. Even so, this was still a step up from a lot of the buses I have frequented.

As we passed through the border check into Malaysia, we looked at our documents and noticed the dates didn’t quite match up. We’d planned for a week in Malaysia, but somehow we’d booked 10 days into our itinerary and forgotten this – that was clever. The Gap Year Buddy had some family friends in Kuala Lumpur who had kindly agreed to put us up and thankfully they didn’t mind about our extended stay.

We were picked up at the bus stop and taken to the house that we’d be staying in. We turned out to be luckier than we thought, not only did we have a place to stay but our hosts were lovely and treated us like part of the family. We chatted over tea and biscuits before going out for dinner at a nearby golf club, and then heading over to a coffee shop for dessert.

In the morning, the Gap Year Buddy and I went into the city to meet up with two girls we’d now met in New Zealand, Australia and Singapore. We weren’t seeing them until later so we took advantage of a day of shopping. We found that Central Market was the place to go for all our Asian holiday souvenirs: fabric bags, jewellery, clothing (including lots of harem pants) and other trinkets.

After some exhausting spending, we took a break and paid to stick our feet in a water bath and have our poor, tired feet eaten by fish. After months of being on our feet, wandering around new place after new place, they needed some pampering – I’m sure they appreciated the experience. It tickled a little.

Refreshed, we hit the market once again and I treated myself to a couple of bits from the stalls and bought some presents for people back home. However I didn’t go too crazy as I planned to leave the majority of my shopping to Vietnam – our last stop in Southeast Asia. This turned out to be a mistake, the shopping in Ho Chi Minh City was not quite as good at this place and I missed out on so many beautiful harem pant opportunities.

We then moved on to our next shopping destination of Chinatown (which I will tell you about in a bit- stay tuned) and then the giant shopping centre at Berjaya Times Square but this turned out to be way out of our budget and full of shops selling the kind of things we could find at home anyway.

After more McDonald’s – shamefully not cultural I know, but in my defence, it is slightly different in every country – we were told about a night market by a woman at the Information Centre. Unsurprisingly, we got lost, despite being told by people that we were headed in the right direction. We eventually ended up on what felt like the outskirts of the city. People were yelling at us, the two obviously lost tourists, from windows and bikes and, finally, realising our error, we traipsed back to meet up with our friends.

We all met back at Central Market, where I picked up some more bits, including a floral maxi dress and a scarf for an upcoming wedding we were going to with our host family. We then went back to Chinatown for dinner but made the mistake of going to the first place we saw, instead of looking around to see what looked best. We chose an all-you-can-eat buffet which we were told was $4 but somehow came to $7 in my case. I couldn’t really complain about the price but I’m not sure I got my money’s worth in terms of food. Still, it was a good place to get a beer and watch whatever World Cup 2010 match was on that night.

Fed and watered, we hit Chinatown’s market once again and found that it had completely transformed from what we had seen early. During the day, there were stalls lining the walkway selling various bits and pieces, now there was no walkway. Instead there were stalls upon stalls, selling everything you could think of: bags, purses, sunglasses, there were probably clothes too but I forget the specifics.

After watching my friend impressively exercise her bargaining skills, I attempted to try my haggling for myself when I spotted a pair of sunglasses that I fancied but, apparently, I did it wrong. For some reason, the market seller got his wife over to bargain with me and she was slightly insulted by my offer and shouted at me as I ran away from the stall. It was my belief that they started too high and you started too low and then you met in the middle. Apparently I started below too low. I’ve been scared to try haggling ever since.

Read about the rest of my trip:

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