Bukit Bintang

Bukit Bintang: Tourist hub for those from China, Middle East

One of Kuala Lumpur's pioneering shopping enclaves, Bukit Bintang has nine malls, dozens of hotels and guest houses, and plenty of eateries and bars to cater to various types of visitors.
One of Kuala Lumpur's pioneering shopping enclaves, Bukit Bintang has nine malls, dozens of hotels and guest houses, and plenty of eateries and bars to cater to various types of visitors.PHOTO: GETTY IMAGES

Malaysia's shopping district in the Golden Triangle is known to be a shopping magnet for tourists, especially those from the Middle East.

Shops lining the Bukit Bintang area in Kuala Lumpur boast big luxury brands with their posh signs, while tour buses and taxis clog up the streets.

Foot traffic in the area alone easily hits 2.5 million visitors each month, with walkways expanded to make way for sidewalk cafes selling cups of RM15 (S$5) coffee.

Malaysia has long been an attraction for Chinese tourists seeking good food, while drawing in Middle East visitors looking for a holiday destination that also caters to their halal needs.

In 2016, Malaysia saw 2.12 million Chinese tourists and almost 300,000 tourists from the Middle East.

An Arab Street was opened by the government in 2005 so Middle Eastern tourists who wish to get a taste of home can do so, with over a dozen Arabic eateries. Meanwhile, the night scene at the edge of the district pulls in a mix of locals, expatriates and Western tourists.

Bukit Bintang also houses one of the city's oldest malls, Sungei Wang, which has survived changes since the 1970s despite competition from other malls in the same row.

 
 
 

The entire Bukit Bintang area has seen a massive transformation over the last two decades.

One of the city's pioneering shopping enclaves, Bukit Bintang has nine malls, dozens of hotels and guest houses, and plenty of eateries and bars to cater to various types of visitors.

Development in the area saw a century-old girls' school making way for the Pavilion Shopping Mall, and old office buildings were turned into trendy boutique hotels.

Stores are also required to be refurbished every few years, while a new underpass that opened earlier last year caters to a rising number of pedestrians.

All that effort has paid off. A survey by Tourism Malaysia in 2015 found that Bukit Bintang is the top shopping area that foreign tourists go to when in the country.

Even as visitors tour other parts of Malaysia, many still make brief stops in Kuala Lumpur, with Bukit Bintang as one of the go-to spots - it is located less than 1km away from the iconic Petronas Twin Towers.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 03, 2018, with the headline 'Tourist hub for those from China, Mid-East'. Print Edition | Subscribe