Ten years ago, if you were to look at a list of the duty-free giant shopping choices in this hemisphere there is no doubt that the top destinations would have been Dubai, Hong Kong and Singapore. Five years back Malaysia set out to challenge this group and when they set their mind to something, they generally succeed. Malaysia is a beautiful country rich in natural resources from oil and gas through to rubber, with a hard-working, well educated populace. The capital city, Kuala Lumpur, has been transformed into a vibrant, thriving centre of broad thoroughfares, parks, luxury hotels and shopping Malls. Dominating the sky-line of course is the world renowned Petronas Twin Towers, still the tallest such building ever constructed. Last week, I stood on the Towers’ 41st storey Skybridge with the city at my feet, while my guide pointed out to me the location of our interest – shopping malls. They were I saw, plentiful, modern and above all, big.
Now Bo Derek probably should have added that the only thing better than shopping is shopping in a sale; particularly if it’s a megasale.
Malaysia’s latest shopping extravaganza has already begun and runs through to September 1. Massive discounts of up to 70% are offered and Mastercard, the event’s sponsor, promises additional incentives and rewards for cardholders. During the period, a whole string of free entertainments and celebrations have been organized to promote the Carnival atmosphere.
The skeptics among you may question whether the price cuts on offer are genuine. The simple answer to that is ‘they are’. Malaysia has no Value Added Tax on clothes, watches, electronics, etc so there is none of this nonsense about getting refunds at the airport. Names like Gucchi, Versace and so on may be music to your ears and they are all here, but Malaysia is also an established world-class manufacturer of electronic equipment and quality clothing goods so there are no extra costs incurred in getting their wares to the market. Pirated and counterfeit goods are seriously frowned upon by the powers that be.
The country is also very user-friendly – everybody you will meet speaks English – usually the Queen’s English – and even the exchange rate is convenient; one Ringit (the local currency) is almost exactly ten Thai baht so you just have to add a zero to the ticket price, to calculate how much that dream dress is going to set you back. The Ringit is a strong, stable currency so you always know ‘where you are at’.
To do this shoppingjob properly is going to take all day and you are likely to get hungry and thirsty – spending money is hard work! All the malls I visited offered a stupendous variety of local and international cuisine. My unscientific survey suggested that I could eat in a different restaurant every day for a year, without repeating myself.
We would need to use all the space in ‘Shop WINDOW on Lifestyle’ to give you a comprehensive shopping guide so what follows is just a sample to stimulate your buying instincts.
We mentioned Petronas Towers so since you can’t really miss it, it’s probably a good place to start. This Mall forms the first five floors of the Towers complex and has an eclectic range of high and medium range products. If you have time, take a trip upwards in one of the building’s high-speed lifts.
BUKET BINTANG PLAZA
This huge mall, of course, does everything but it is the young and the young at heart, who flock to the Plaza for cool boutiques and the latest teenage fashions, at rock-bottom prices.
LOW YAT PLAZA
If you are a gadget person then this is the place to go. IT, telecommunications and electronics are here in abundance and the prices really are unbelievably low. Don’t miss it.
This is the ultimate in high-end luxury shopping. On its seven levels are all the top designer labels, some which you won’t find anywhere else in Asia. The layout is designed round themes to make things easier to find. The restaurants are unashamedly exclusive. The Gallery exists only to divert and pamper the Elite. Be king for a day.
Time limited? Don’t worry. Hop on a plane and you’re in KL in an hour.