Inside The Loop: Home Sweet Home

We continue preparing for the launch of the Skyscraper line of Asian-inspired, work-ready dresses today with another post for Malaysia-based guest blogger Courtney, from Inside the Loop. Enjoy!
Malaysia is far hipper than most people imagine and literally has something for every walk of life. It's warm (both literally and figuratively!), engaging, and -- I say this all the time -- it treats you like a friend the longer you stay. If you happen to find yourself in Kuala Lumpur, here are some of it most appetizing and unassuming spots. The holy grail of lists will not only direct you to the city's crème de la crème, but it proves my home, oh so sweet home, is certainly not lacking in energy, flavor or eye candy.


As the city becomes notorious for tearing down the old, making way for new air-conditioned malls, the rustic no-nonsense environment of a Wet Market is a welcomed change of pace from the abundance of modern buildings. The city's most colorful quarters reside within the walls of these famous "pasars," and I love to snap photos of cheerful vendors, sample exotic fruits, and buy thins I have no use for, but can't resist (medicinal Chinese remedy I'm talking to you). I'm a fervent foodie, who is passionate about nostalgia, so I love knowing I can do something as ordinary as weekly grocery shopping and come away with one of the most traditional, multicultural experiences to date. My favorites: Pasar Pudu, Bazaar Baru, Chow Kit, Pasar Bukit Bintag (also known as Imbi), and TTDI.

The Islamic Arts Museum is one of my favorite buildings in all of KL. It's breathtaking! In addition to the wonderful exhibitions (I just saw famed photographer Steve McCurry's "Afghan Girl" up close and personal), and each Friday the Egyptian chef (once personal chef to Jordanian royalty) cooks up a feast that's out of this world! The buffet is said to be like a mini tour of the Middle East - and it definitely is! You can eat there any day of the week for lunch, but only Friday is the special buffet.

Take in the city's skyline at the Trader Hotel SkyBar, cocktail in hand, of course! Thirty-three floors up, it's the best view of the famous Petronas Towers, just be sure to hang on until midnight to watch the Towers disappear right before your eyes.

Each time a visitor arrives, we head straight for the Kuala Gandah Elephant Sanctuary. It's a haven for rescued elephants and arriving by 2pm gives you an opportunity to feed, ride and swim with the gentle giants. Plus an hour and a half drive from the city is nice way to take in the outskirts of KL.

Sze Ya Temple is KL's oldest temple, tucked away in a back alley of Chinatown. I love my friend's take on the best way to experience Tse Ya: "Once there, cast divination stones to make sure the gods look favorably upon you desire to ask them a question. If you get a stone up/ one stone down configuration, you may pose a "What will it be like for me if..." question to the gods. Then shake the divination stick. One stick will eventually work its way out from the pack and fall to the floor. Each stick is numbered. Match the number on the stick to a numbered drawer in the back. Inside each numbered drawer in an oracular verse or commentary printed on it with the answer to your question. Always thank the gods with at least RM5 and hear a gong sound in honor of your questions and the answer you received."

Badan Warisan offers a cultural glimpse into a traditional Malay house. The "Rumah Penghulu" used to be a local headman's house originally located in a small jungle village in Kedah. After remaining vacant for many years it has been beautifully restored by the Heritage of Malaysia Trust. Nestled today in the shadows of the Petronas Tower, Badan Warisan gives us a powerful nostalic nod to a simpler time; and the two structures, when taken in together, offer the best compressed visual for "Malayisa Past and Present" there is! Tours are twice a day Monday - Saturday at 11AM and 4PM.

Nasi Kandar Pelita is Indian food nirvana. At least once a week we eat like Kings on honey chicken, tandoori, naan and veggies all for less than $10USD. Finish it off with teh tarik, a Malaysian "pulled tea" specialty made from black tea and condensed milk.

Lot 10 Hutong is the ultimate way to experience street food dining. Housed in the basement of a shopping mall, this food court offers fare from famous hawkers stalls from all over Southeast Asia, and that have been around for multiple generations! It's the best of the best, and it's seriously non-halal (meaning they serve pork)! Don't miss the Kim Lian Kee Hokkien Mee (stir-fried noodles) and Kong Thye Singapore Noodles. Lower Ground Floor, Lot 10 Shopping Center, open 10Am - 10PM.

Fatty Crab pretty much only serves crab and cold beer, but the surrounding hawkers will also provide food like satay and garlic shrimp -- all a must! We love the chili crab and are sure to order plenty of bread to soak up the leftover gravy. You whack them on the table and shells go flying, so leave the fancy clothes at home! No. 2 Jln SS 24/13, Taman Megah, Petaling Jaya.

Tamarind Springs is our favorite atmospheric restaurant. Indo-Chinese cuisine served in the jungle -- literally in a fancy treehouse -- and you feel transported from the hustle and bustle of city. Jln 1 Taman T.A.R., Ampang

If you need a break from the shocking initial grime, head straight Frangipani. It's French cooking on a very happening street. Afterwards you can hop around to the nearby bars for after dinner drinks. 29 Jalan Changkat Bukit Bintang.

Basil Leaf Thai Restaurant is located next door to our apartment and is one of the best Thai restaurants in town! Amazing set lunches for around $6USD (appetizer, meal, dessert and drink) and the lovely staff can't be beat. We've tried nearly everything on the extensive menu and have loved it all! Jalan Damai, behind the old City Square building.

New Heong Restaurant is famous for their Chinese Beggar's chicken that must be ordered at least a day in advance. The chicken is covered in clay and cooked underground! They break it in front of your and it's tender, juicy, and as a result of being buried along with Chinese herbs and shitake mushrooms, incredibly fragrant. It's a delicious must-try Kuala Lumpur and quite a visual experience, too. 03-4106-8698, 446 Batu 7/12 Jalan Ulu Klang near Zoo Negara.


Silverfish Books has an in-house press whose specialty is Malaysian writers in English, and one of those books was shortlisted for the 2009 Flannery O'Connor Prize, which is quite an honor. The staff, Raman and Pek Chin, offer friendly suggestions and will offer you tea and happily chat about favored reads. 58-1 Jalan Telawy, near Bangsar Village I. Located in Plaza Mont'Kiara.

Wondermomo is my go-to clothing shop for high-end, favored brands (3.1 Phillip Lam, DVF, Rebecca Taylor, Marni and a coterie of other designers) at a fraction of the US prices. They carry both men and women's clothing, denim, shoes, bags, eyewear, and other accessories. I rarely leave empty-handed, relishing the fact that their merchandise fits this American girl.

Jadi Batek is KL's best source for local cotton batik fabrics sold by the meter. I love to pick out a few different prints and turn them into napkins for gifts. The motley colors and patterns epitomize Southeast Asia's colorful way of life. 30 Jalan Inai, off Jalan Imbi

After touring all of the city and doing more than your fair share of sweating, cool off and relax at the Moroccan-inspired Hamman Spa. The idea of a hamman, meaning Turkish bath house, is a nice alternative to the ample reflexology and Thai massage spots dotted on every block. Be prepared to be massaged and exfoliated to baby-skin standards; it's heavenly! 3rd Floor, Bangsar Village 2, Jln Telawi 3


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