Malaysia: A shopper's Shangri-La

By Roberta Mancuso

You need only two things when it comes to surviving Kuala Lumpur's annual shopping marathon - plenty of cash and rottweiler-like haggling skills.

From haute couture and luxury brands to flea markets and designer knock-offs, Kuala Lumpur offers everything a shop-a-holic with a credit card and plenty of suitcase space could hope for.

The Malaysian Government is on a mission to carve out a global reputation for its capital as a shopper's Shangri-La, urging consumers to look beyond the usual hotspots such as Thailand and Singapore.

Their answer is the Mega Sale (read: mega opportunity to bleed your savings account dry).

Virtually the entire city goes on sale during the annual Malaysia Mega Sale Carnival, with discounts ranging from 10 to 90 per cent on items such as jewellery, fashion, electronics, cosmetics, footwear and eyewear.

The sale began in June and finishes on September 3, lasting a whopping 11 weeks this year instead of the usual six to help celebrate the country's 50th year of independence.

And coupled with favourable exchange rates - NZ$1 equals 2.75 Malaysian ringgits - you'll get more value for money than usual.

Kuala Lumpur has a bewildering range of malls, plazas and department stores to cater for all tastes and budgets.

But the heart and soul of shopping in Malaysia's bustling capital is the Chinatown markets.

There's more game-playing and bluffing going on in Petaling St than in a casino's high-roller room, and shoppers have learn a few tricks to avoid being ripped off.

Selling counterfeit goods in Malaysia is illegal, but the markets are awash with knock-off brand clothing, watches, sunglasses, handbags and hats, as well as toys, trinkets, fresh produce, dried food and herbal remedies.

They're also crowded, uncomfortable and hot, and there's certainly no time for manners.

Elbows are regularly used to keep the choked conga line of shoppers moving. Pushy traders will holler at and harangue you, thrust their merchandise into your hands and even chase you down the street.

"I give you best price" and "special deals for you!", they'll sing out as you beat a path between their stalls. Although if you're a foreign female shopping alone, you're more likely to hear more slippery lines like: "I think you need a new watch, and a new boyfriend."

Much of the merchandise comes with an unrealistic price tag - think up to 10 times more than you're willing to pay. It's when you pretend to walk away in a huff that the real business starts.

- AAP

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