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"Kuala Lumpur had a certain something. It was difficult to put his finger on what it was exactly. There was a sense of freedom perhaps, of anarchy even." — Shamini Flint, A Most Peculiar Malaysian Murder, 2009 (p. 53)

Cities > Kuala Lumpur > 7 Things Tourists Do in Kuala Lumpur That You Should Do Also...

5) Enjoy Little India

Brickfields: The Vivekananda Ashram and Tamil Indian Food

 

2023 Travel Update: As of 2023, Malaysia essentially is open for tourism by both vaccinated and unvaccinated travelers without Covid-specific documentation or testing. However, be sure to double check the official government site and travel alerts for up-to-the minute details.

Brickfields — just outside KL Sentral Station — is so named because it once hosted a brickworks that mined and fired clay into bricks for use around Kuala Lumpur in the late 1800s. It is said that the bricks used to build the beautiful Bangunan Sultan Abdul Samad were made in Brickfields, and that certainly seems likely.

In addition to heavy industry, the Brickfields neighbourhood has long housed Tamil people from India and Sri Lanka who worked in the brickyards and nearby rail industry. In 2010, the city formally dubbed it "Little India" in an effort to attract more tourists.

Old & New Brickfields

Many locals feel sentimental for the Brickfields of old, when it largely was a quiet location with modest residences and shophouses but a tightknit community. Given its proximity to KL Sentral Station, it isn't a surprise that the area has fallen to heavy redevelopment pressure in recent years. Even for a first time visitor to Kuala Lumpur, the difference in scale between the massive glass skyscrapers around KL Sentral on one side of the street and the small colorful shophouses in Brickfields on the other side is quite jarring. It isn't hard to imagine how redevelopment has cut into the traditional neighbourhood or to see how additional projects — like the new KL Sentral Suites — continue to separate and displace the community.

Not all of the change is bad, though. In 2010, Kuala Lumpur made the main street — Jalan Tun Sambanthan — far more walkable with wider sidewalks and colorful archways. These archways not only are attractive and give the place more of a formal identity, but also they protect people on foot from vehicles when walking along the rather unpleasant and poorly scaled street.

Also good for people on foot, in 2014, the NU Sentral Mall opened and filled the awkward two-block or so gap between the main KL Sentral Station and the KL Sentral Monorail. Of course, this convenience wiped out another chunk of the established community.

Eat & Sleep in Brickfields

Booking.com

Even with the neighbourhood smaller than it once was, travelgasm.com humbly proposes that it remains a great place for an Indian meal. Although it also is popular with backpackers — there are a number of cheap hostels one street over from the main street on the smaller Jalan Thambipillay — the people who live and work in the neighbourhood largely are either ethnically Indian or Sri Lankan or directly from either country, and as long as that remains true, it should be a good place for a curry.

Three eateries that we enjoyed at one time or another include Legend's Claypot Briyani, likely the most famous briyani rice joint in Brickfields; Sri Paandi for a south Indian curry; and hawker stall Uncle Chiam for a fried banana snack (pisang goreng).

Although much of the shopping largely is targeted toward — and priced for — the local Tamil community, there are plenty of stores selling clothing, jewelry, and housewares that could be of interest to a creative shopper, too. If shopping is your primary goal, you might also like to reserve a street market exploration and shopping tour for local advice regarding particular products to buy and expertise evaluating quality.

Vivekananda Ashram

Additionally, you should make a point of visiting a locally famous ashram — the Vivekananda Ashram. Built in 1904, originally as a reading room for the local Tamil population, the ashram now hosts religious, community, and educational events. In contrast to the Masjid Jamek (mosque), it is open to people of all faiths (and no faith) during events, and closed when events are not in session. Dress respectfully as you would to enter any religious building.

It is hoped that at least the ashram will continue to exist, but it wouldn't be surprising to see much of the neighbourhood fall to the wrecking ball in the coming decades. Take the time to enjoy Brickfields while you can.

Below, we have mapped out a walk on the high street — Jalan Tun Sambanthan — with an optional hook to the secondary street — Jalan Thambipillay — with its concentration of inexpensive hostels.

How to Get Here: Brickfields is just outside KL Sentral Monorail Station. Take KL Monorail Line (Line 8, Light Green) to KL Sentral (MR1). The main KL Sentral Station is connected to the Monorail KL Sentral Station via the NU Sentral Mall. Go up into NU Sentral and back down to your right to go to the KL Sentral Monorail Station. To start our suggested walk, take the Southwest Exit (to your left from the Monorail; to your right from NU Sentral).

travelgasm.com's Brickfields Little India Map (Full Screen)


Cities > Kuala Lumpur > Kuala Lumpur Best 7 > Next: (6) Visit the National Museum... >>

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All 7 Things Tourists Do in Kuala Lumpur That You Should Do Also:

  • 5) Brickfields
  • 6) The National Museum
  • 7) Batu Caves
  • 1) Petronas Towers & KLCC
  • 2) Bukit Bintang
  • 3) River of Life
  • 4) Jalan Petaling

Be sure to see our 7 Things Tourists Don't Do in Kuala Lumpur, but You Should, too.

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  • Writing & Photos By Brock Kyle. All Rights Reserved. Revision Published 12 January 2023. Feedback.