Surviving China Town. And not blowing the budget!

Surviving China Town. And not blowing the budget!

I had been warned off China Town. I had been told it was an unpleasant part of the city and it wasn’t worth going to unless you wanted to buy lots of knock off designer stuff. Well my objective wasn’t shopping; obviously I can’t fit anything else in my bag. And this is the start of my trip meaning anything I buy now will have to be carried with me for who knows how long or shipped home. But I decided to go anyway. So I hopped on the monorail to Maharajalela at about midday. From there it was only a short walk to Petaling Street. Better known as China Town. I walked into the oppressive heat of the market to see stall after stall of handbags, sunglasses, watches, electronic accessories and clothes. I had no intention of buying anything so I just wandered along the street. I heard a lot of “Hello, miss?” and “please look here” and “you want handbag?” as I walked past but I just said no thanks and kept walking. I was wearing sunglasses, which I think helped as I could avoid eye contact with the stallholders and ignore them.

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China Town walking street.

I reached the middle of the street where it becomes a crossroads and more stalls branch off to both sides. I turned left and spotted a delightful stall selling precut fruits for only RM1.30 a bag. Naturally I went for the pineapple and the mango. I munched away happily as I wandered through the market. They give you a bamboo skewer to eat with rather than a fork so it was a bit of a task to eat the fruit without dropping it.

Back at the center of the market a young man tried to hand me a flyer for the reggae bar around the corner. I politely declined by pretending that I don’t drink. Upon hearing my accent he asked the usual questions; Where are you from? How long are you here for? Have you finished studying? Oh, you don’t study? So you’re going to get married then? I seem to go through the same conversation every time I speak to a local. It really shows the culture gap. I left the reggae bar promoter to his job and continued my meandering. I stumbled upon another little stall selling Lava Buns. So of course I had to have a chocolate one. It wasn’t quite as gooey as I would have hoped but it was still good. As I was fumbling with the paper bag to get out the bun another young local man introduced himself. His name was Kai. He walked with me through the market as I ate. We more or less had the same conversation I had just gone through but it was still nice to talk to someone that wasn’t trying to sell me something.

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After taking a few pictures I decided to make my way back to the monorail. But not before one item caught my eye. I had seen tourists walking around with them but hadn’t seen where you could purchase them. I went up to the stall for a closer look.

“How much?”

“25 ringgit”

“Ah ok, nah I really don’t need it”

“Wait! discount? How much you want for?”

“No thanks, I really don’t need it”

“15 ringgit”

“Ok then, 15.”

And so I had become one of those tourists. I had a selfie stick now. Yes I’m a bit ashamed. I haven’t used it yet though. But at least now I may have a few travel photos with me in them. I expect I’ll be red-faced in the first few from the embarrassment of using a selfie stick but I’ll just blame the heat.

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I’m one of them now.

I was hot and sticky from my time in the markets and I felt like I had seen everything so I headed back to the station. Where I stumbled upon Amy from Amy the Nomad whom I had been seeing the sights with for the last few days. She was waiting to meet up with someone but it seemed that they had become lost on the way because she had been waiting a while. I decided to head back to the markets with her. It’s always a different experience when you’re with someone as opposed to alone so I didn’t mind going back.

We wandered around a bit more. This time trying on sunglasses though neither of us saw any that we liked. Just as we were about to head back the girl Amy had originally been waiting for appeared. Apparently she had been given some very dodgy directions and been sent around half of the city. She was starving so we went on the hunt for food. There wasn’t much appealing inside Petaling Street so we wandered further afield. On the advice of the guy from the reggae bar who stopped me again (By calling “Aussie, Aussie, Aussie”) we headed over to the Central Markets.

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You look! You Buy! You Buy!

We found a little Indian cafeteria style place with some interesting things on the menu. The caramel naan comes to mind. I was tempted to try it just to see what it was but in the end decided against it. I had naan the day before. Unfortunately that’s when the rain started. Luckily the Central Markets are indoors. They’re even air-conditioned which was pleasant after spending so much time in the heat. The central markets were nice but a bit on the expensive side. We were tempted by some hippie-pants. Until we found out the price of them. Luckily for us the rain didn’t last too long so we were finally able to head back to our respective hostels.

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So there we go. I made it through China Town without being harassed and without spending much. My tips for having a good experience there are:

  1. Wear sunglasses so that you don’t have to make eye contact.
  2. Know how to say no and keep walking.
  3. If you do want to buy something try to show as little interest as possible and attempt walking away. If they can lower the price, they will.
  4. Stay in the middle of the road and don’t get too close to the stalls if you don’t want to buy anything.

Enjoy!

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