The Chinatown district of Kuala Lumpur is centered around Petaling Street and is the place to go for street food and buying knick-knacks. It once housed a tapioca factory run by a prominent Hakka Kapitan, the highest ranking official overlooking the Chinese population in colonial Malaysia. He convinced the colliers to stay and work after the mines were flooded. The entire area was refurbished in 2003 and, fortunately, many original shophouses and long-standing eateries remain. There are also other hip cafes and restaurants opening around, too, making this a fun neighborhood to explore.
Take REXKL, a community and cultural hub built in the former Rex Theatre. It has a food court on the ground floor, and a sprawling bookstore on the two floors above, with a stage for concerts and events. Or, the Hungry Tapir, a plant-based restaurant that serves vegan and vegetarian Malaysian food, while boasting a full bar.
Other cultural attractions include Kwai Chai Hong, one of the most famous alleyways in KL. There are murals depicting everyday scenes from the 1960s with QR codes that play what the scene might have sounded like when scanned. Next to the alley are Bunn Choon Restaurant and Ho Kow Hainam Kopitiam; both are institutional dining spots in their own rights for dim sum and Hainanese style breakfast, respectively.
For a western-style breakfast, Cafe ETC has a good menu and affordable prices with the chic aesthetic of modern minimalist cafes. Vintage 1988 Cafe & Accessories Store is a larger cafe that you can relax and work at. For a great day-to-night spot, RUST KL CAFE & BAR is halal-friendly with a great selection of cocktails at night. Shhhbuuuleee Restaurant on top of REXKL is a more upscale choice with an innovative East Asian menu. For reliable cheap eats, you can’t go wrong with Al-Baik Di Bistro Restaurant’s Malaysian food.
Nam Cheah is a third culture millennial who spent half her life in Hong Kong and the other half in the UK.
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