When visiting another country, there are three things that every tourist must do: go sightseeing, eat, and shop. It doesn’t matter if one has allotted a modest budget for travelling expenses, but for me, I think it’s important to take home a little piece of any country I visit. My own home has become a wasteland of souvenirs. There are the Matryoshka dolls I got in Russia, the miniature clogs from Holland, the figurine of a sumo wrestler from Japan, and a miniature of the Buckingham Palace sitting side by side on my living room shelves. Maybe I’ve got a mild hoarding problem, or maybe I just like to shop. Whatever it is, I make sure that wherever I go, I only go to the places where I can afford to buy the merchandise.
I’m no Paris Hilton, that’s for sure, so whenever I get the urge to blow all my money on a single item, like that one time that I had the strongest urge to splurge on a ridiculously expensive bag from the Louis Vuitton flagship store in Paris, I tell myself to calm down and suppress my inner madam so I can think things through. And more often than not, prudence rules over impulse, so my credit cards make it through my trips without suffering too much.
In Malaysia, I knew that I had to exercise the same amount of caution because I know that here, there are so many ways that I could overspend. With its variety of shopping malls and markets, Malaysia is a shopaholic’s dream come true. And when Mega Sale season comes, prices go really low, so I scheduled a visit in time for this annual event. Just like what I always do, I decided to travel light and all I brought with me to the country fit in one backpack. To be honest though, I’m saving all my luggage allotment for the great finds that I know I’ll get here.
These are the places that I went to for some great bargain hunting in Malaysia:
1. Petaling Street Market
Chinatown Petaling Street is the place to be for bargaining for cheap clothing and accessories. Day and night, visitors keep coming to this place to dine on the famous street foods or to do some shopping. There’s almost everything here, and I almost got whiplash from looking at one stall to another to ogle the goods. Clothes, souvenirs, and electronic items are really cheap here, and if you’re looking for knock-off handbags, shoes, and watches, then this is the place to be. I wondered if I could find the cheaper version of the bag that I lusted over in Paris, so that became my mission at Petaling.
I was surprised at the massive number of knockoffs here. One stall was crammed with Adidas and Nike sneakers, another was filled with Louis Vuitton, Prada, and Calvin Klein bags. Another had different styles of Rolex watches on display. I wandered around, and though I was skeptical at first, some of the goods were rendered so flawlessly that it was quite hard to tell if it was a fake, or if I was looking at the real thing. There were some discrepancies with the prices, as one stall would sell the same bag at about 50 percent lower than another stall.
When I asked the owner of the stall with the more expensive goods about that, she shook her head and told me that her bags were of better quality and “Class A”, and to prove her point, she took a lighter and ran the flame up and down the bag’s surface. Apparently, a bag that is made of real leather will not burn, and those that were made of imitation leather will disintegrate faster than you can say uncle. A real Louis Vuitton bag costs about $1,500 for one of the classic styles, but I was able to buy the Class A knockoff at only $150. If I told my friends that I got the real thing, they wouldn’t even suspect a thing due to the exquisite craftsmanship. But only time will tell just how long this bag will last. I had to admit, it was a good buy though.
I resisted buying a fake Rolex, because I had to draw the line somewhere. And besides, no one would believe me anyway if I said that it’s an original. Did I mention that I’m not Paris Hilton?
2. Plaza Mont Kiara
This market is a favorite of expats and tourists for its specialty goods and calmer, somewhat more posh atmosphere. It’s a flea market, but not so crowded and chaotic in the true flea market sense. This market is also known as the Arts, Bric-a-brac, and Crafts (ABC) Market, and here you’ll find a lot of specialty items such as toys, vegetables, shoes, perfume, books, fabric, food, and even small animals. Though the toy dogs were cute, I had no intention of getting a new pet, so I walked around to find something that I could place on my mantle beside my other souvenirs at home. I was feeling a bit peckish, so I bought a karipap, which is a savory pastry filled with meat and potatoes, and it was really good. At another stall, I bought a bottle of cold coconut water to wash it all down, and it was so refreshing, and that made me perk up a bit because the heat in Malaysia can be somewhat stifling.
I found some pretty flat shoes at 4 RM or about $15, which was such a steal that I bought three pairs. There was even a onesie that I absolutely had to get for my 2-month old nephew, and I got that for $5.00. Not bad. My last purchase here was a small bottle of aromatherapy oil for $1.50. I hadn’t found anything fit to display yet, but that’s ok. I still had one more market to visit, and I knew that I would find something there.
3. Central Market
I was on the hunt for a souvenir item that embodies what Malaysia is all about, and upon asking around, the locals told me to check out Central Market. Here, I was told that there are lots of handicrafts around, and there are antiques, pewter, pearls, and other handmade items that I could buy. Central Market sounds like a legitimate place to go to for souvenirs, so after a hearty breakfast of kaya toast and coffee, I got on the Free Go KL City Bus and made my way there.
The covered market is a pleasant surprise. It’s clean, varied, and it has a food court upstairs, which is good news for me since I have the tendency to get hungry whenever I shop. The antique shops were truly amazing, but I realized that I had to be an heiress or a lottery winner if I wanted to take home any of the things in it, so I quickly moved on and went to the other shops. There was one stall that made personalized 3D crystal paperweights. I was told to give the guy who was making them a picture and he’d make it into a paperweight. I selected a snapshot of myself standing between the Petronas Towers. For about $20, it was a good souvenir. But I was looking for something else.
I finally chanced upon a shop selling portraits of Asian landmarks and landscapes, carved out of wooden veneer and layered to create a 3D effect. I bought one in the form of a pencil case, and I even bought two yards of batik fabric which I’ll make into throw pillows once I get home. Now I’m all set!
Of course, my shopping adventure isn’t done yet. Stay tuned for part 2 next week!