Kuala Lumpur is a Shopping MeccaKirsten Kindermann
All great cities have one street that defines its character. In Paris it’s the Champs Elysees, London has Knightsbridge, and New York’s Fifth Avenue is where it’s at in the Big Apple. Kuala Lumpur’s most fashionable street is Bukit Bintang, meaning Star Hill. The aptly named street lives up to its name attracting both famous and infamous stars from all regions of the globe. Famous celebrities such as Jackie Chan and Cindy Crawford have stayed here as well as a frequent flow of Asia’s A-list of music and movie stars. It is the place to go if you want to see and be seen.
Bukit Bintang is the bustling breath and pumping heart of the city where the majority of exciting events and live performances take place. It is an international shopping and feasting extravaganza, offering numerous venues for every taste and means. The monorail runs through the heart of the area, offering access to other parts of the city.
A host of hotels within the area grants a variety of accommodation from charming three and four-stars like the Alpha Genesis and Royale Bintang to the luxurious five-stars such as JW Marriott, the Regent and Ritz-Carlton. A bit of research told me that the JW Marriott is conveniently connected to Star Hill Gallery, the most opulent of Bukit Bintang’s shopping malls where most of the world’s iconic luxury brands are housed under this one roof.
I decided to indulge and book myself into the JW Marriott. The window in my room presented me with a dazzling view of the famous KL Twin Towers. As I admired their silver sheath, the city seemed smaller, more manageable than I had anticipated. I put on my walking shoes, ready to initiate myself into "Bintang Walk".
Star Hill Gallery is a classy, creative place to treat, feast and entertain. Floors and sections are appointed with imaginative names such as Adorn instead of Jewellery, Indulge rather than Leather Goods, Pamper substituting for Spas and Cosmetics, and Feast Village as an alternative to Food Court. Standing on the ground floor next to the big stage in the entertainment nucleus, I looked up to find myself encircled by a tower of open floors reminiscent of a Mediterranean palace or coliseum.
Aside from the architecture, the feature that impressed me the most at Star Hill Gallery was Feast Village. Every mall has a food court, but Feast Village is the most unique and chic one I have ever seen. Entering the Village feels like walking through a sophisticated Disneyland. A wooden boardwalk meanders around 15 different restaurants set within an elegant village atmosphere. Each restaurant has a unique personality that conveys enchanting visual images. One does not necessarily need to dine here to be charmed by the diverse designs of each venue.
With world-class chefs in the house, a feast in the village is guaranteed to gratify your every craving. Dining at Feast Village is not constricted solely to the restaurant you are dining in. I was craving fresh seafood so we sat down at Fisherman's Cove. However, my friend felt like having Korean BBQ, so we simply placed an order at Koryo Won and they graciously brought the dish over to Fisherman’s Cove. Any culinary disagreements among dining partners are solved by such an ingenious concept. Both of our meals were absolutely delicious and we were able to enjoy them together.
The Village Bar is the place to chill, mingle and enjoy live music. As if there wasn’t enough choice already, the Village Bar encompasses five different bars; offering a wine bar, beer, rice wine, hard liquor, and juice bar. The Pamper Floor of Star Hill Gallery is twice the size of the world-renowned Urban Spa Retreat at Harrods in London. It attracts many well-heeled Malaysians and guests of the adjacent JW Marriott Hotel, where I was staying.
The Adorn Floor claims to house the world’s largest retail watch space, offering 70 luxury brands. During my visit, Cindy Crawford was promoting the launch of a new watch from Omega at their outlet here. I stepped out of Star Hill Gallery and into the lights and sights of the Bintang Walk. At night, the place truly comes alive. Live rock and jazz music is played on the street and the whole place is buzzing with bodies and beautifully lit up.
Part of the intrigue of the area is the experience of people-watching. The street swirls with all nationalities and walks of life. After all, a walkabout truly qualifies you as having done the Bintang Walk. I arrived just in time for the big August sales when many stores slash prices from 20-80%. Finding shoes in my size in Asia can be nearly impossible, yet I was thrilled to be met with ample choice of fashionable and fitting shoes.
I stopped in BB Plaza and found a massive maze of fantastic deals. Known as the 'old lady' of shopping, BB Plaza has withstood the test of time and houses a Marks and Spencers, along with countless little stalls and shops. Another old timer is KL Plaza which has been resurrected as a hip hangout boasting Planet Hollywood and Tower Records.
Lot 10 is a mammoth mall which caters to up-market shoppers. On the other end of the spectrum is the popular Sungei Wang Plaza where some of the best bargains in town can be found along with all kinds of everything. If computers are your bag, Imbi Plaza is the place for you.
Time Square is a massive shopping and entertainment centre housing a Cineplex. Still under construction is an amusement park, which will make it the area's biggest mall complex. With all the bargains I had snapped up, my hands were full, so I dropped off my bags at the Star Hill Gallery’s Customer Service Centre. Anyone is entitled to this convenient service. You can pick up your bags later or have them sent directly to your hotel.
Along the Bintang Walk, an eclectic mix of indoor and outdoor venues offer varied menus and ambiences to suit your mood. You can sip Starbuck’s coffee or smoke cinnamon Shisha out of tall Arabian hooka pipes. On one side of the street is McDonalds, on the other stands the Marriott. A multitude of massage parlours offer tired feet a treat, or refresh with a scrumptious scoop of Italian ice cream. Whatever you’re craving, keep strolling and you’re likely to find it amid Bintang Walk.
During all this excitement, I worked up an appetite, so I decided to go local and have one of my favourite Indian dishes – Masala Dosa. Sitting at a long family style table, I enjoyed watching the Indian families dining with their children and eating with their hands. My meal was incredibly inexpensive and extremely satisfying.
My next meal would be more of a splurge back at Feast Village. There I indulged in mouth-watering dim sum and desert at Luk Yu Tea House. The restaurant’s fusion of nostalgic and contemporary design offered a whole new dining experience as if I was back in historic China.I settled on a nightcap at the Village Bar, sipping rice wine while listening to live jazz.
Enwrapped with the ambience, I was surprised by the time as the restaurants and bars began to close at 1am. I slowly made my merry way upstairs to my room and slipped into dreamland.
My final reflection as I dozed of was of the surprising serenity of such a busy street. My senses had been stimulated yet weren't assaulted like they are in other cities of its size. Bukit Bintang was packed with people and traffic, yet I was able to easily enjoy its sights, sounds and conversations in peace. I looked forward to my next walkabout on KL's Star Hill.