Bargain-hunter Annabel Ross hits the sales in the retail-therapy mecca of Kuala Lumpur.
From ritzy malls to quirky boutiques to Chinatown knock-offs, there's something for every taste and every budget in Kuala Lumpur. While Bali and Bangkok have been favourite destinations of shoppers for years, KL is fast catching up as one of Asia's most popular shopping cities. The famous sales are a major drawcard, particularly in November during the Malaysia Year-End Sale - a 10-week bargain bonanza. From now until January, KL will hum with bag-saddled label-lovers making the most of huge discounts.
The city's most renowned shopping district is nestled within the famous Golden Triangle, KL's commercial and entertainment hub. In an area comprised almost entirely of malls, it can be hard to know where to start.
Luckily help is at hand with Andrea Dennis, who was named one of KL's top fashion bloggers by Topshop last year. Dennis says Pavilion should be at the top of your list. She's right. With more than 500 outlets, this huge retail haven provides a winning mix of luxury boutiques and high-street stores.
Here you'll find high-end designers such as Celine, Salvatore Ferragamo, Burberry and Gucci, as well as popular, more affordable chains such as Topshop and Zara. Opened in 2007, the mall has won a slew of awards since and, in spite of a constant stream of visitors, the place is so clean it sparkles. A must-see and our pick of the KL shopping malls.
Lot 10 This mall, which has been around since the early '90s, is enjoying something of a renaissance. Swedish retail giant H&M opened its biggest south-east Asia store in Lot 10 in September - a three-floor behemoth brimming with affordable, on-trend fashion.
Fahrenheit 88 A favourite with locals, Fahrenheit 88 is home to mostly inexpensive fashion, such as the Japanese casual wear label Uniqlo. The two-storey shop boasted some of the friendliest staff we encountered in KL and the most wallet-friendly prices. A local hero and chief designer on Project Runway Malaysia, Bernard Chandran, whose designs have caught the eye of Lady Gaga, also has a boutique here filled with his sparkling, avant-garde creations.
Other malls of note
Starhill Gallery Just across the way from Pavilion, the pristine Starhill is stocked almost exclusively with luxury labels including Dior, Fendi, Louis Vuitton, Missoni and Alexander McQueen. Fun for big spenders and window shoppers.
Suria KLCC Located in the Kuala Lumpur city centre at the base of the Petronas Towers, Suria KLCC is comprised of six levels of retail outlets selling clothing, homewares, health and beauty products, electrical goods and more.
Stores are a mixture of high-end and high-street and include Balenciaga, Bally, Mango and Jimmy Choo. You could easily spend a day here (and do a lot of damage on your credit card). We paused for high tea at the nearby Mandarin Oriental Hotel. For $25 for a generous set of sandwiches, scones, cakes and teas, it's a decadent and surprisingly affordable pit stop.
Mid Valley Megamall This mall is about a 20-minute taxi trip from the Petronas Towers but well worth a visit. It houses more than 400 mid-range stores including Converse, Wrangler and Bobbi Brown. The Megamall's more upscale neighbour, the Gardens Mall, is home to designer labels including Karen Millen and BCBG Max Azria.
An affluent residential suburb close to the Mid Valley Megamall, Bangsar is popular with expats. When taking a cab there, Dennis suggests asking to be dropped off at Bangsar Village 2, a small mall. From there you can walk the streets of Jalan Telawi and explore the boutiques.
Cat's Whiskers (7-1, 1st floor, Jalan Telawi 2, Bangsar Baru) stocks cheerful and fashionable dresses, tops, skirts, pants and jewellery, with many pieces costing $15. We stumbled across Replacement next door, a hairdresser/fashion boutique, and stumbled out with a not-so-cheap-but-very-nice net top. Across the road, Mirror Fashion Gallery (20-1, Jalan Telawi 2, Bangsar Baru) also carries a range of quirky, fashion-forward pieces at great prices.
For everything from flats and sandals to heels, platforms, pumps, peeps and wedges, Dennis recommends Shoes Shoes Shoes (31a, 1st floor, Jalan Telawi 3, Bangsar Baru). The shop also sells a range of accessories, jewellery, bags, and belts, made to match the shoes.
A note on taxis
Be wary when hailing a taxi and insist on knowing whether they use the meter, Andrea Dennis says. Some cabs will quote you an exorbitant fare, especially if you're an "obvious" tourist. Try to not catch a cab between 5pm and 7pm. Traffic is at its worst at this time, something we experienced firsthand. A taxi ride from our hotel to the Golden Triangle in the morning took us five minutes. It took us more than 40 minutes to get back to the hotel from town at 6pm.
Malaysia Airlines operates 14 flights weekly from Sydney direct to Kuala Lumpur. Return flights start from $1254. malaysiaairlines.com.
Villa Samadhi, a luxury boutique Relais & Chateaux property, is offering deals on its regular and luxe rooms until June, 2013. Two nights for two including breakfast, transfers and dinner starts from $705. samadhiretreats.com.