Bang Bang Geng is not a camera shop. Owner Chin Koon Yik enshrines his impressive camera collection (there’s a Kodak Autograph 3A made in 1914) on shelves and none are for sale. The dozens of analogue cameras attest to his cultish hobby of collecting anything photographic, from magazines, films and accessories to books. Chin’s aim is to share his film photography knowledge so the shop’s main product is his expertise. He provides lessons on shooting with a 35mm as well as a photolab service for film processing. The shop is named after the 2010 movie about four war photographers called ‘The Bang Bang Club’ and this sentiment is translated into this quirky mecca that pays homage to the dying art of analog photography.
Christmas comes early for young’uns and the young at heart during visits to Carousel, a vintage London-style toy store with giant window displays and a couple of life-sized Nutcracker figurines at the entrance. The welcome appearance of model airplanes, jack-in-a-box, rocking horses and toy soldiers, among other playthings from a bygone era, elevates this vibrant red-and-white shop beyond the ubiquitous toy chains in town. A candy cart featuring local favourite Fête Artisan Marshmallow’s gourmet treats is also an enticing prospect for toy-loving sweet tooths.
CzipLee is a place you walk in with the intention of buying just a pen but end up with ten. This stationery emporium is lauded for its array of writing materials, papers, impressive art supply and a covetable range of Moleskines. Within the shop, there’s also CzipLee Plus – the upper crust of bespoke writing instruments that boasts vocabulary like ergonomic grip (Lamy), hexagonal barrel (Faber Castell) and palladium plate (Sheaffer). CzipLee also does laser engraving and notebook embossing, which make perfect gifts.
One of the prettiest shops on the block, Kaleidoscope is true to its name, at least in that it features a dizzying array of different items. The bulk of their stock is homeware, but they also carry a huge variety of stationery and jewellery, with racks of clothes on the side, a long shelf of shoes and a whole load of ‘Keep Calm and...’ derivatives. It pays to take your time browsing here because Kaleidoscope is so densely packed that you’re likely to miss something if you zip through.
The many yok choi pou (Chinese medicine hall) on Petaling Street have been refurbished to keep up with the onslaught of modernised pharmacies like Eu Yan Sang. The 70-year old Kien Fatt remains the best medicine hall in that area as there are still sinseh (physicians) administering treatments in the backroom ’til today. Your health can be swiftly diagnosed through a pulse check and the sinseh will write you a prescription. He’ll then rummage through jars of cordyceps, wolfberries, dang gui and atroctylodes to whip up a health booster to replenish chi, combat colds or improve stamina. The tiny drawers behind the counter resemble private vaults, which store away precious tonics like century-old ginseng.
Taman Tun’s KSH Bicycle is one of the older guard when it comes to KL bike shops. They mix a good variety of road and mountain bikes and mid-to high-end accessories, fronted by the perpetually cheerful manager Leong. It’s not hard to see why the shop traded in its pokey Jalan Tun Mohd Faud store front for a swanky new lot just down the road last year. And while KSH may have lost some of its small-shop charm in the move, the quality remains. Be warned though: with premium brands like Intense, BH, Norco and Santa Cruz, a trip to KSH is rarely cheap.
One of the oldest names in the business, Lee Wah has been plying the flower trade on Jalan Tun HS Lee for decades. The store itself is not glamorous – buckets and buckets of cut flowers line a cement floor, and service is efficient but not overly friendly. You can buy your flowers here wholesale or just a few stems, and half the joy of shopping is watching the many and varied customers popping in and out of the shop to grab what they need. It’s as unpretentious as it gets. Plus, when Chinese New Year rolls around, this is one of the best places to source supplies.
This spacious and brightly lit Japanese optical boutique, stocks a wide array of premium hard-to-find eyewear from Japan, the United States and Europe, including handcrafted acetate sunglasses and retro wooden spectacles with prices that go into the thousands. Super by RetroSuperFuture, Lumete, Kagero Design Works and Masunaga are just some of the highly rated brands on show at Marq Optic Gallery, which has also earned a reputation for its outstanding personalised service.
Once you’ve sorted out your party theme, it’s easier to coordinate everything from costume to décor. Mummy’s Party Shop is your one-stop party-planning hub – score a Disney princess dress (for your child, we hope), a pirate get-up or even full Harry Potter regalia. Navigate aisles of greeting cards, paper goods, napkins, favours and balloons for every occasion. Goods gear towards birthday, anniversary and kiddy celebrations so you may want to look elsewhere if you’re throwing a bridal shower. To skip the fuss, Mummy’s Party Shop also has an in-house planner to help customise your party.
Though they specialise in vintage furniture and homeware, Outdated stocks a whole load of paraphernalia unrelated except that they’re all cool. Limited edition art prints lean against vintage cabinets, which are topped with typewriters, toys, models, stationery and miscellanea. Their proudest claim to fame is a clutch of refurbished vintage Eames chairs scattered throughout the store. Don’t worry if you don’t see anyone manning the till – they’re usually smoking on the balcony outside.
Best shops in KL: The full list
From slick concept stores to bargain finds, fresh produce and genuine heritage institutions – we’ve got the city’s best retail therapy right here.