Shop till you drop in Kuala Lumpur

“The shopping’s great in KL but that’s it! You wouldn’t want to spend more than couple of days there” a sun-tanned latte sipper in a Melbourne café advised her earnestly listening friends.

Gorgeous textiles from Malaysia
Gorgeous textiles from Malaysia

True, the shopping is great in Kuala Lumpur, you can buy anything there and what’s more everything is either reasonably, or incredibly, cheap. Even in the high-end centres like KLCC, under the Petronas Towers, you can snag a Gucci or a Zegna for a good price while over on the Bukhit Bintang, also known as the Golden triangle, in swanky malls like Lot 10 and Starhill there are more well-priced designer deals. Then, of course, there’s China Town, where you can buy copies of all the same stuff for less than song.

But the bargains don’t stop at clothes. There are plazas, like the BB (Bukhit Bintang) stacked with electronic goods and gadgetry; computer gear, cameras, ipods, ipads, phones as well as all the software and accoutrements to go with. Cheap DVDs and CDs, both real and pirated, abound.

The cavernous lobbies of the KL shopping mega-malls also favour the showcase, often featuring local crafts, clothes, jewellery and textiles by local producers and designers. This is fortunate, because it’s possible that in the grab for global goodies at Asian prices, the true treasures of Malaysia might go un-noticed – treasures like the rich variety of sumptuous textiles, the traditional costumes with a modern twist, or the beautiful lace kabaya, the delicate chain of three brooches that fasten them and the gorgeous sarongs that go with them.

Shops open late, always after ten, but often after noon, and close as late as midnight. They are always packed with people, most of them tourists, like our latte-sipping friend, trawling for the latest and cheapest. It’s a long, hard, serious business hunting bargains, haggling over prices and finally hammering home the purchase. So to ease the shopper from one deal to another, there are endless chains of pit-stop cafes, bars, eateries and ice-cream parlours. Then to break up the hours, there’s the spectacle, such as the fun-park with its roller coaster screeching and swooping around the upper reaches of Times Square Berjaya. And last, but not least, there’s the ubiquitous foot massage, to ready the worn-out shopper’s feet for the trot back to the hotel.

Yes it is true, the shopping is great in KL, in fact, the whole shopping experience is great in KL but that definitely isn’t it, there’s more – lots more.

 

Skis, ships and The Scream in Oslo’s Museums

With my head full of beautiful images of Vigeland Sculpture Park (see Travelstripe’s previous post), with my heart bursting with emotion, my notebook crammed with jottings and my camera charged with photos, I board the bus for the next Oslo wonder. How could it better than Vigeland Sculpture, I wonder?

Holmenkollen's giant ski ramp
Holmenkollen’s giant ski ramp

We climb into the hills for a brief look at the Holmenkollen ski park, site of the erstwhile Winter Olympics. The Holmenkollen Museum shows 4000 years of ski history which, even if you’re not a skier, or even a snow person, is fascinating. While the intrepid brave the simulator to experience a leap from the towering Olympic ski jump, I sit in the sunshine and listen to the shouts and laughter of the skiers whizzing down the slopes below.

Oslo's Viking ship museum
Oslo’s Viking ship museum

Next stop is the Viking Ship Museum. The ships displayed here were unearthed from ancient Royal burial grounds beside Oslo Fjiord. They were interred there more than 1100 years ago, with their royal owners, for the journey into the next life. These Royal Vikings were clearly not giants (like my friend from Onkel Donald’s on the previous evening) as their vessels are tiny.

The Kontiki
The Kontiki

Staying with the maritime theme, we move on to the Kon Tiki Museum, a place we Polynesians can relate to. After all, didn’t Thor Heyerdahl follow the same Pacific stars, catch the same winds and throw himself on the mercy of the same tides as our sea-faring ancestors and in a similarly flimsy craft?

In contrast, our last museum call is at the Fram, resting place of the world’s strongest ship. Built in 1892, it has travelled further North and South than any other ship in history. It was used for three great polar expeditions first by Fridjof Nansen, from1893-1896, then by Otto Svendrup, from 1898-1902 and lastly by Raold Amundsen, from 1910-1912.

Back in town, with only a few hours left of my last Oslo day, I dash up Universitetsgate to the National Gallery. Oslo’s National Gallery has a wonderful collection of sculptures (including Rodins), Norwegian paintings from the Romantic Period and last but by no means least Edvard Munch’s unforgettable The Scream.

This museum also has a very beautiful, 19th century French designed downstairs gallery, with marble pillars and sculpted ceilings.  It is now a café and here I sip coffee and munch a very good Norwegian pastry while reflecting on the day’s amazing sights and on my wonderful Oslo experiences.