musings on music, travel, books, and life from Southeast Asia

Posts tagged ‘Petaling Jaya’

Hungry for Kuala Lumpur

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I was in Kuala Lumpur last month for four days. It was pretty mucha non-stop frenzy of eating, CD buying, eating, book buying, eating, more CD buying, and more eating. In case you haven’t figured it out, Kuala Lumpur is a foodie paradise. You can find a wide variety of restaurants and food stalls to send your taste buds into overdrive all around KL and in neighboring towns such as Petaling Jaya. I ate local Malay cuisine at Yut Kee in Dang Wangi, sizzling steaks at the Coliseum and The Ship, Burmese monhinga at Gantawin, and Indian snacks such as samosas on the street. 

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There is a cool-looking retro A&W drive-in restaurant across the street from the Amcorp Mall in Petaling Jaya that I was tempted to try, but I had too many bags of books after shopping at  BookXcess, so I didn’t even stop for a root beer. I always intend to sample an even greater variety of food when I’m in the city, but I end up patronizing my favorite places each time and there is never enough time — or room in my stomach — to eat it all. Maybe next time.

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CD Shopping in Kuala Lumpur

In addition to buying books, one of the joys of visiting Kuala Lumpur — at least for me — is browsing the CD bins in the various music shops around town. Unlike in Bangkok, where CD shops with a decent selection of titles are becoming very scarce, KL boasts dozens of well-stocked shops, most of them located in shopping malls in Central KL or nearby Petaling Jaya.

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The best chain in operation, by far, is Rock Corner. They have branches at KLCC (next to the famous Petronas Twin Towers), Mid Valley Mega Mall, Bangsar Village, The Curve, 1 Utama Shopping Center, The Gardens, and Subang Parade. I’ve visited six of these branches over the past three years and they all are very well stocked, but my favorite is the one in Bangsar Village. It’s only a short walk from the Bangsar LRT station, the woman who manages the shop is very pleasant (and she plays good music, unlike the heavy metal dudes in some branches), and most importantly it has the best selection. They seem to be particularly on top of most important new releases, plus the back catalog they stock runs very deep, putting the woeful selection in Bangkok shops to shame.

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Thus, you can safely assume that I get a bit carried away when shopping at the Rock Corner stores, sometimes buying a dozen or more discs at a time. When I visited earlier this month, I found lots of new releases that were on my want list at the Bangsar branch, along with some cool unexpected oldies, titles I assumed that I’d have to order online if I wanted them. Because of the haphazard filing system, artists aren’t always where you would expect them to be, so I’ve discovered, it pays to thumb through the entire stock. It can be a tiring process, especially when they shelve the CDs with the spine out, like you see some bookshops do with paperbacks, but I’ve found some real jewels by being persistent.

 

Another smaller chain, Victoria Music, has branches worth visiting in the Amcorp Mall and BB Plaza. There is also a single Tower Records outlet still in business, recently relocated to the Times Square shopping center. But sadly, it looks like this Tower branch is running on fumes and may not be around too much longer. Their stock keeps shrinking and so has the number of employees. When I dropped by on a Saturday evening, only one guy was working. Nevertheless, I managed to find a half-dozen CDs amidst their dregs. But both Rock Corner and Victoria Music appear to be doing thriving business, judging from the number of customers that I see in their stores each time I visit. It puzzles me that KL has so many good CD shops, while in Bangkok it’s become very difficult to find a store with any depth in selection.

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I realize that more people are downloading music nowadays, but for me nothing beats the experience of perusing the selections in a well-stocked shop and talking music with a knowledgeable clerk. More power to retail, I say. I hope these stores can survive the digital onslaught and continue to profitably run their operations. If you enjoy buying CDs, even half as much as I do, it’s worth your while to visit Kuala Lumpur, especially the Rock Corner branches.

 

Book Bonanza in Kuala Lumpur

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There is still time; one week left for the Big Bad Wolf Book Sale being held at the Malaysia International Exhibition and Convention Centre (MIECC) in the Seri Kembangan area of Kuala Lumpur. I realize that hopping over to KL won’t be possible for most readers, but if you ARE in Malaysia, or passing through the region, you might to think about hitting this sale. It’s a pretty mammoth event.

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This sale is being touted as the biggest in the world; over three million books, all with discounts of 75-95 percent off the publisher’s list price. The sale will end on December 23. Last weekend the book sale never stopped, staying open from 9 am on Friday until 6 pm on Saturday. Imagine shopping for books at three in the morning and enjoying free food and drinks in the process. Both mind boggling and eyesight tiring. The MIECC is located in the MINES Resort City, Selangor Darul Ehsan. Seri Kembangan. One fellow book lover in KL suggested that I should “take a box” if I was planning on attending. If nothing else, anyone planning to go there should bring several sturdy bags or a dependable set of luggage. You’ll be tempted by the bargains.

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I was in Kuala Lumpur about two weeks ago, too soon to take advantage of this sale, but I did make my usual stop at the BookXcess outlet at the Amcorp Mall in Petaling Jaya. They had an outstanding selection of affordable remainder titles as usual, everything from trade size paperback novels to hardcover titles, and books in a wide array of categories, including travel, sports, photography, biography, science, business, music, history, cooking, and romance. I bought a few books for myself, a couple of big bags full of assorted titles for my shop in Bangkok, and several children’s books, flashcards, and puzzles to use for teaching the next time I’m Shan State. They also had a pretty cool selection of Dr. Seuss jigsaw puzzles. Tempting, but at that point I was pushing the weight limit of my baggage allowance, so I didn’t get any.

BookXcess only has this one branch in town, but it makes for a very worthwhile visit if you are a book fiend. And it’s easy to get to from anywhere in the KL area. Just hop on the LRT train and take it to the Tama Jaya station. From there, it’s a short walk across the parking lot (just past the vintage A&W drive-through restaurant) to the mall. BookXcess is located on the third floor. They are open daily from 10:30 am till 9:30 pm.

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Fun Finds

I love hunting for old books when I’m on the road. In Yangon, the outdoor bookstalls on Pansodan Road can sometimes yield little treasures, and in Phnom Penh I always seem to find a gem or two at Bohr’s Books. While in Kuala Lumpur last week, I visited some several secondhand bookshops and also the BookXcess outlet in Petaling Jaya’s Amcorp Mall for some good cheap remainder titles.

One of the goodies I found at the Junk Bookstore in KL (and yes, that’s really the name of this shop) was Every Little Crook and Nanny a 1972 novel by Evan Hunter, the author also known as Ed McBain. Every Little Crook and Nanny is a bit different than McBain’s popular 87th Precinct series of novels, ones that have been dubbed “Police Procedurals.” This one is more of a comic caper, reminiscent of Donald Westlake’s delightful Dortmunder books. The Hunter novel features a cast of (almost) lovable Mafia goons, a hapless kidnapper, and a bizarre police officer or two. Good fun.

 

I also found a battered copy of Hot Day, Hot Night by Chester Himes, which is the sixth novel in the classic Coffin Ed Johnson and Grave Digger Jones series. First published in 1969, this is a 1975 edition, big afros on the cover and all. A review in the San Francisco Chronicle called Himes “the best writer of mayhem yarns since Raymond Chandler.” Mayhem yarns? Whatever you want to call this style of crime fiction, it’s the addictive kind, and I look forward to reading this old Chester Himes novel very soon.

 

Yet another goodie I was thrilled to find was William Kotzwinkle’s Jack in the Box, one of the more warped coming-of-age tales that you are likely to read. Comic books, teenage hormones, and a wacky cast of characters make for a very humorous novel. Kotzwinkle is a brilliant writer who has written some of the funniest books around, The Bear Went Over the Mountain being one of most hilarious novels of all time, in my opinion. Really, that book was one of those laugh-out-loud tales that you’ll think about reading again a few years later, just to see if it’s still as funny as it was the first time. Jack in the Box isn’t nearly as guffaw-able, but it’s still an entertaining read. Kotzwinkle, by the way, wrote the screenplay for a movie you might have heard of: E.T. the Extra Terrestrial.

In addition to that lot, I found old paperbacks from authors such as Kingsley Amis, J.D. Donleavy, John D. MacDonald, Charles McCarry, Trevanian, Jonathan Raban, Arthur C. Clarke, E.L. Doctorow, Erle Stanley Gardner, M.C. Beaton, and two old “Quiller” novels by Adam Hall. Definitely not the latest best sellers, but this delightful mish-mash of books was just what I was looking for.

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