In our second article from the Malaysia series, Shonita is going to cover all that you need to about the Shopping Festival in Malaysia. And for those of who have just joined in, you can read our first article on WSL’s Malaysia Expedition here.
Are you a shopping-buff? And are you always on the lookout for great places to shop with even better sales? Then you’ve come to the right place!
The theme for Malaysian Tourism Department is ‘Year of Festivals 2015- Endless Celebrations.’ And as a part of this endless fiesta, the country holds several cultural and sporting festivals throughout the year, one of which is ‘The 1Malaysia Mega Sale Carnival’. Yes! An actual Shopping Festival celebrated by the whole nation! Your dream beginning to come true, eh? Read on.
A shopper’s ultimate delight, this shopping extravaganza begins at the end of June and continues till the end of August. And true to the celebratory mood, each mall has varied activities lined up including dance festivals, Batik canting, Wau making (art of traditional kite making), Ketupat weaving, puppet shows and lots more!
So make sure to check the calendar schedule of the events online or through the mall’s brochure to get information on the events of your interest. And plan your vacations to coincide with these dates.
(For more on the other shopping fests, do check out our previous article).
To make things simpler, I’ve gone on a shopping test-drive and picked out the Malls you could go to, the souvenirs you could try and the bargaining-spots you could exploit. So if you are in the capital city, Kuala Lumpur (KL) at this time, here’s what should know and can try:
The Bukit Bintang Kuala Lumpur City Centre (BbKLCC) is probably the best place to shop at in KL. Located in the heart of the city, the area is equipped with 9 malls hosting over 3,000 stores. Nicknamed the ‘Shopper’s Heaven’, the area is well connected by roads and has an enclosed, fully air-conditioned pedestrian walk-way connecting the Petronas Towers to the shopping street. What a nice way to start! Malls such as Pavilion KL and Starhill Gallery and others are host to many Luxury brands including Burberry, Gucci, Louis Vuitton and Dior.
The convenience is no doubt maximized. Take for example The Berjaya Times Square Mall, one of the 9 malls located in this area. The mall is hosted by a 48 storey building, home to the Berjaya Time Square Hotel, an indoor theme park and over 1000 retail shops. So you can live, eat, enjoy at an amusement park and shop-till-you-drop, all within the premises of the same building. Make sure you have sufficient time on your hands because it would take you at least a day to cover a few malls at the street.
Tip: Ensure that you carry your passport to the malls. As a tourist, most malls offer a privilege card upon showing your passport, so you can get an additional discount packages on certain purchases.
And if time doesn’t suffice and you find yourself in a quandary to pick up those last few souvenirs before you fly out, there’s another option. The Mitsui Outlet Park, Klia Sepang is located at a distance of 5mins from KL airport and about 50 minutes from city centre, so you can shop till the very last minute. This outlet mall offers several amenities like:
- Free Shuttle Service between the mall and airport (super helpful for travelers with long layovers at KL Airport),
- Flight Information Display System (gives you a few extra hours in case your flight is delayed)
- Baggage Storage Service and
- Flight Check-in Kiosk.
Intrinsically designed as the perfect halt for travelers, this Japanese Mall doubles up as a convenient entry or exit point through KL.
Note: The mall has a few Japanese and Malaysian brands but it largely consists of western brands. It will be difficult to find too many local items.
Tip: Most malls in Malaysia open at 10 am and run up to 10 in the night, including during the Ramadan period.
- Local Brands:
If you’re not much into Western brands or are looking for something more in tune with the local brands or artwork, then try out stores like Padini and Nichii or brands like British India, Lewre and Vinci (for shoes) and Carlo Rino and Sembonia (for bags and accessories). You’ll even be able to find Batik stores or those selling ‘Balu-Melayu’, ‘BajuKurung’ (the traditional Malay attire) and sarongs through the exhibition stalls based on the ground floor of most malls. But if you’re looking for a wider variety and richer material, then do try out stores like Lizara (for women, available at the KLI airport itself), or Pink Jambu for Batik fashion. They are slightly more expensive but worth the investment.
Malaysia was recently declared a ‘Duty Free Shopping Destination.’ And while many of the brands offer a large spectrum of discounts, it may not be overtly simple to state that the prices roughly match those in India. So unless you are prepared to shop for certain out-dated styles or pick up clothing-wear from the clearance racks, you won’t be saving a whole lot on regular brands.
But don’t be disappointed too soon. For luxury brands, it is just the opposite as they are definitely cheaper in Malaysia than in India, so make sure to pick up the exquisite gifts from there. (Including the Alcohol at the airports).
- Night Bazars:
In addition to the malls, another interesting spot for local shopping are The Night-Bazars and the flea markets. They are the hubs providing the local flavour and the older bazar style of shopping. Dubbed as ‘pasarmalam’, they are located in most states and along with traditional items, they often offer local cuisines and delicacies as well. And even though the name states otherwise, these markets are usually open from afternoon till late in the night. So make sure you ask the locals for directions to one of these and note them as a must-do on your trip.
Note: You’ll also find ‘China-Town’, a local market mainly adept in selling imitation goods. Do note that these are purely imitation goods and heavy bargaining can be done at these shops.
There are broadly two types of souvenirs – the first type include memoirs from places visited such as fridge-magnets, post-cards, printed T-shirts and other accessories which can be found in the gift shop of every tourist destination. However, the second kind includes local artefacts and hand-made or hand-woven articles that are synonymous with the local culture. Here are I shall outline the latter in greater details.
A few ideas for souvenirs include the following:
- Batik Fabric: Atypical style of the South-east Asian print, Batik is a process of fabric dyeing that uses wax. The fabric, used for clothing, linen, bags, toys make for artistic and memorable souvenirs
- Songket Fabric: This fabric is a traditional Malay brocade of silk or fine cotton interwoven with gold or silver threads with floral or geometric designs.
- Pua:The PuaKumbu is a unique fabric, hand woven sometimes over a period of months. It is a heritage of the natives of Sabah and Sarawak states.
- Tekat Fabric:Tekat is the elegant Malay art of gold thread embroidery sewn into high quality velvet. It is now commonly used in Malay weddings and royal ceremonies.
- Royal Selangor Pewter: Home to the Pewter works, a visit to the Pewter factory in KL is a must. (More about it in the coming articles.)
- Pottery:Local versions such as the black labusayong of Perak or the Tenmoku pottery are very famous.
- Weaving:Pandan and mengkuang lead weavings are among the popular items as souvenirs.
So with that in place, make sure you grab your sneakers and a sunscreen cause you have a long day of shopping ahead of you!