Do not go to Chinatown in KL. Okay, you probably will (and should) anyway, but don’t try to get anything out of it. Reasons?
1. You want to go to Chinatown for the food
This is one of the main reasons I would go to Chinatown, especially since I’m not planning loading myself down with souvenirs or copy bags, which is mostly what they had. I went there once, looking for a snack, and was only able to find a wood ear drink. The second time I went, Mike and I found a restaurant that was a step up from street food. They charged us for the moist towelettes and the saucer of peanuts they served us. The third time, we got beer at a food court. The food court had nice Chinese-Malaysian dishes, but it was 11pm, and they were already closing.
Go to Jalan Alor instead. It’s just as touristy, but has more food and more variety.
2. You want to go to Chinatown for the copy bags
Okay, so shopping for faux designer things is one of the major points of tourism (otherwise there wouldn’t be so many vendors to cater to this phenomenon). I’m not sure about the bags, but Brian found that the copy Ray Bans in Chinatown cost more than the copy Ray Bans in Berjaya Times Square, which is less crowded and air-conditioned.
Go to Berjaya Times Square instead. You don’t have to bargain (although you can still do that if you want), and are protected from the elements. Plus they have the largest gumball machine in the world, as well as a piano staircase.
3. You want to go to Chinatown for the traditional crafts.
Don’t even bother. Only copy bags there. Go to Central Market instead. Again, part of it is enclosed in a building with air conditioning. And they cater to the traditional cultural crafts.
4. You want to go for the cheap hostels.
There are a lot of hostels in Chinatown. From reviews, they seem to suffer from the noise of the night market. There are also some on the outskirts of Chinatown, such as near Pudu bus station. Plus there are a lot on Jalan Alor and Bukit Bintang and all the alleys that wind around those streets. Prices are 100 MYR up, but the quality is probably better, a well as the location.
We’re staying in a monthly rental, so are getting a different rate. I’d still recommend it for short-term though. I know 80 MYR may be a bit much for two people, but at least you get a window in your room. And substantial towels. And toilet paper. And a hot water heater.
5. You want to go to Chinatown for the cheap household items.
Like plastic dishes or cheap flip flops. Mike was able to find cheap flip flops there. But we didn’t find any plastic dishes. After breaking down and buying them from Daiso, in Bukit Bintang’s newest mall for 5 MYR (microwave safe), we found plastic dishes in the mini mart across the street from us. No, we are not in Chinatown. We live in Hang Tuah, which is equidistant from Chinatown and Bukit Bintang.
6. You want to go to Chinatown for the atmosphere.
Okay, you’ve got me there. They do have a nice, glass-covered walkway and a lot of red lanterns and umbrellas. But Central Market has the glass-covered walkway. And Jalan Alor has red lanterns. Hell, even the 6th floor of Pavilion mall has lanterns, as well as giant paper cranes.
The point is, go, but don’t expect much.