Friday, 22 April 2011

Nightlife: Bukit Bintang and Chankat

I didn't have long to explore the nightlife and dining in KL really so my views are limited accordingly. I certainly chose not to venture too far afield given that I was close to one of the popular haunts, Bukit Bintang (BB). This is part of the Golden Triangle and is home to a great many Chinese food outlets and market stalls and the nearby strip of bars in Chankat Bukit Bintang.

Being quite jet lagged on the first night and somewhat tired I didn't fancy a restaurant meal and went out on foot to explore. It's the start of the monsoon season here now but while it rains most days I'm told it doesn't rain all day. Dodging the showers was fun mind despite the Melia Hotel being very close by (maybe 10 minutes slow walk).

Bukit Bintang has loads of different eateries and a couple of food court style places (e.g. BB Plaza) so there should be something for everyone here. There were certainly enough restaurants of all denominations with high numbers of Chinese, some Indian and far fewer Malay and Arabic. Navigating about on foot is quite easy and if you do happen to get lost or just can't find where you are looking for there are loads of tourist police around, generally in pairs or groups of three and they are very friendly and helpful. They patrol the area and also have booths at key points to which there are sign posts too if you are really struggling. There are many hotels to an as in most hotels, I suspect the concierges are very helpful and knowledgeable.

The hotels also have tourist maps to help you find your way around, the only problem with them being that they cover the whole of KL and the detail around the central area is somewhat cramped with very very small writing. Workable but I found the iPhone with the 'Maps' application much better and of course with the 'Digi' data package you can get 'step-by-step' directions by utilising the GPS feature. Invaluable and much better for me than carrying around maps and books that you often need a magnifying glass to read. Garmin do a very good Satnav (the 3790t at about £220) and a set of maps for Asia that costs around £100. OK perhaps if you have that, or one of their, Satnav systems but maybe extravagant unless you are planning to come and live here. If you have an iPhone already there is no extra expenditure at all of course.

After strolling around BB I decided to take a walk down Chankat where there are several bars. For those hunting for Chankat the easiest description of how to find it is at about the mid point of BB there is a KFC on the corner. Turn down the road that the KFC is on the corner of and keep going, that is Chankat. At first it actually looks like you are heading out of any commercial area but keep going and you will see the small lights in the distance. It's only about a 5-10 minute walk.

The first place you come to is a an Italian/Pizzeria called Werners. This looks nice and seems popular. Going on there are several bars on the left and right, some more visually apealing than others but most empty at this time of night and on a Wednesday. If you go right to the end there is a very popular tapas place on the right, the name of which I forget. I decided to try here at first but even sat at the bar the service was painfully slow so I left. I suspect they were short staffed though and it was full and the food looked very good with a large range of tapas on offer, albeit hardly a regional speciality!! I next tried Finnegans, an Irish themed bar that looks a little tired IMHO. It is a long but relatively narrow bar and was very quiet when I went in. I bought a beer and sat outside to people watch. Beer here, as it seemed with many of the places, was around RM 24 for a pint of Heineken (they have Guinness also at RM 27) and around 17 for a smaller bottle. Most places seemed to run 'Happy Hours' starting from 4pm or so and ending at around 8pm when the prices drop considerably with a pint costing around RM14.

I din't try any other places that night. There is a bar almost next to Finnegans called the Ceylon Bar. This is quite stylish looking and if you go upstairs has a long bar and seating area inside together with a terrace area overlooking Chankat. There are large white comfy chairs and sofas here and it's clear that the terrace and comfortable seating gets taken quickly. I saw no evidence of draught beers so I suspect it is more of a bottled beer, or even cocktails, wines and spirits place with one or two tables opting for the 'buy the bottle' option of spirits. There is a DJ here and I suspect the section at the back near the DJ doubles as an, albeit very small, dance floor.

On the Thursday night I again ventured now Bukit Bintang and Chankat. I had a superb Chinese meal at the Dragon View restaurant on the corner of BB and the lane which runs of it in which there are a great many restaurants. The waitress was very helpful and was able to recommend 3-4 dishes when I indicated I liked Szechuan food (renowned for being hot). A bottle of Tiger was about RM 12 and the whole lot came to about RM 32. Cracking value.

After this I returned to Finnegans and it was quite dead again. It does appear that this is not the busiest part of town for nightlife and the Bangsar Baru area along with the Asia Heritage Row off Jalan Doraisamy are supposed to be more vibrant and I will check these out when I return. I walked down to Jalan P Ramelee which is about 10 minutes on foot from Finnegans and had a look around there also and nightlife wise this also seems busier. Coming back past Finnegans I called in for one last Guinness before heading back to the hotel. It has to be said that it was still not buzzing, much the same being the case for all the bars though a few of the more disco looking places were a little busier. It also has to be said that some of the music being played by in Finnegans and also the Ceylon Bar next door was dated to say the least. I could have sworn I heard "Tie a yellow ribbon" at some stage!!!! Happening and hip this area is not. Or at least not at 12:30am!! I still quite like the area though and it has quite a relaxed feel to it that will probably be absent from the more vibrant areas described above. More on the KL nightlife scene will be posted when I return here on or around 7 May.

I was planning to try the Sky Bar but in just two nights, with the first following a long period of travelling, there just wasn't time. Maybe when I return prior to going home.

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