Kuala Lumpur: Talking shop

By Megan Singleton

I have just had my eyelashes permed in a tiny beauty shop hidden in one of Kuala Lumpur's busiest shopping malls. I'd heard about eyelash perming and always wondered what it would be like. How do they curl each individual lash and how long will it last?

As Betty Boop stares back at me from the mirror, I have the answers. Angela, my Malaysian therapist, runs the tiny River Beauty Salon on the second floor of the BB Plaza and as I lay there for 45 minutes with my lashes glued to a tiny roller the size of a cotton bud, her 6-year-old daughter hummed a little ditty beside my head.

Forty ringgit ($20.50) later and my black lashes blink like gerberas. I love them.

My original plan was for a decadent two-hour massage for about $40, but when I saw eyelash perming on their list - and so cheap - I just had to give it a go. Eyelash work is the next big thing in the beauty industry, especially eyelash extensions.

Kuala Lumpur is home to some interesting beauty treatments. The fish foot spa at Kenko Reflexology in The Pavillion shopping centre is not for the faint-hearted - or ticklish.

Hundreds of tiny fish nibbled dead skin from my feet (completely removing a blister) as I tried not to squeal or flick them off. It doesn't hurt, so once you get your head around the sensation you can chat to your neighbour and leave the tiddlers to do their work.

Originally discovered in Turkey, these specially bred doctor fish, have antiseptic in their saliva and are meant to be good for eczema and psoriasis sufferers. Personally, I would prefer a pedicure.

But if spa treatments are not your thing, the shopping is sure to impress. With six malls within a fish ball's throw from each other in the heart of KL, it's easy to slip into a retail frenzy.

Staying at the uber-stylish Ritz Carlton not only meant my initials monogrammed into my pillowcase and a personal butler to deliver coffee whenever I required it, but I could also walk to four shopping malls within minutes. So I did.

If it's prescription glasses you're after, KL Plaza is the place to go to have your eyes tested by a specialist and the lenses made and fitted to genuine Prada, Gucci or Stella McCartney frames in about an hour - and all for about $80.

Sungei Wang Plaza is six floors crammed with more than 500 stores selling shoes and chic clothing, jewellery and an entire floor of gadgets from phones to games and everything in between.

Attached to this is BB Plaza - you can only tell you're in a different complex when the lino on the floor changes. This is full of kitschy clothes and toys, and is also where my hole-in-the-wall beauty salon is found.

Plaza Low Yat is geek heaven - an IT mall with at least 400 outlets. You'll also find quality golf gear in department store Isetan over at Lot 10, and plenty of places in between to eat satays on the run or dine in for a full Malay meal.

Times Square - just around the corner from Sungei Wang - is so huge it has an indoor theme park complete with roller coaster. It also has the largest Borders bookshop in the world and so many other stores it's almost overwhelming.

Under the Petronas Towers, the fourth tallest buildings in the world, a designer mall caters to label hunters including Zara, Top Shop and lovers of expensive European designers.

But the best fun is haggling at the Petaling St night market. Stalls open about midday and that's a good time to go to avoid the throng, but from 5pm until midnight it's buzzing. A lot of the vendors are selling the same things, so compare prices first and then start by offering about half of what you're quoted. And when you're done shopping it might be time to do something about those lashes.

Megan Singleton flew with Malaysia Airlines and with assistance from Tourism Malaysia

- Herald on Sunday

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