Binting Mall makes you
more beautiful.

Stock Up on Plastic –
The Future Is Shopping!

Story and Photos by Tim Boxer

have been to Malaysia and seen the future: Shopping! Three times a year – March, August and December – this multiracial land soars into commercial spin. It’s the monster Mega Sale, when merchants all over this tropical paradise slash prices by up to 70 percent while a supportive government revokes the sales tax.

The temptations are enormous. Be sure to pack plenty of plastic with your passport.

In August I found Malaysia teeming with visitors from all around the globe, especially the Middle East. During July and August, when temperatures soar in the triple F. digits in Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates and Kuwait, most people close shop, pack up and take Malaysia Airlines to a summer vacation.

The destination of choice this year is Malaysia. During the rainy season from June to September, the temperature hovers in the 80s, but that’s not as searing as on the Saudi sand plains.

The official kickoff of the August Mega Sale was held in lively carnival spirit on the streets of Kuala Lumpur, the ultramodern capital. Travel agents and media types from Russia, Iran, China, Thailand, Japan and beyond – including California and New York – came to partake of Malaysia’s imaginative foray in innovative commerce.

Datuk Abdul Kadir Sheikh Fadzir,
Minister of Culture, Arts and

“We want our event to attract more foreigners to come and shop during the Malaysian Sale Carnival,” declared Datuk Abdul Kadir Sheikh Fadzir, Minister of Culture, Arts and Tourism.

The objective is to create Malaysia’s very own shopping season, and make the country a leading international shopping destination by 2003.

So forgo your trips to the suburban mall and countryside warehouse outlets. Come to Malaysia for a thrilling shopping experience and you’ll save enough cash to treat yourself to a grand vacation at the same time.

During the month long shopping spree (actually until September 20), virtually the whole country is on sale. More than 40 shopping centers are participating with discounts up to 70 percent. Expect to find truckloads of unbeatable bargains at most retail outlets and shopping malls, plus steep discounts at hotels and resorts. See

At the Mega Sale launch, gorgeous Malay models showed off the creations of 18 local designers in a musically rocking fashion show that knocked the socks of the thousands of spectators swarming around the makeshift stage in the middle of the street.

Multilevel Binting Mall.

Many of the exquisite gowns reflected the traditional designs and culture of Malaysia. Among the designers was Zang Toi, a Chinese artist born in Kuala Lumpur, now living in New York. He is currently preparing a new collection for Sharon Stone.

This was orchestrated as a bold attempt by Malaysia to position itself as one of the fashion capitals of the world. Yes, New York has additional competition.

On meeting the press, Tourism Minister Abdul Kadir talked about the delights of his country, inviting everyone to “come and see all of Asia in one place.”

Malaysia is a multi-racial, multi-ethnic, multi-religious country of 23 million. Though the indigenous people are mostly Moslem, there are substantial numbers of people who originated from China, India, Thailand who are Hindus, Buddhists and Christians.

Mindful of press reports of unrest in nearby Southeast locations (such as the Philippines), Fadzir assured us that this is “a safe country for tourists. Moslems in Malaysia are more of a moderate form. We love to sing and dance.”

Shwing his a sense of humor, the minister added,  “There’s bound to be one or two madmen – I apologize for them now.”

Cute cops on guard at the mall.

Malaysia is a constitutional monarchy, the king’s duties being largely ceremonial. Of the 13 states, nine are ruled by hereditary sultans who elect a king from among themselves every five years. Federally appointed governors head the other four states.

The majority in Parliament, a Muslim party, governs in coalition with Chinese and Indian partners. While Islam is the official religion, the constitution guarantees freedom of worship to all citizens.

Offering a mini-lesson of history, Fadzir recounted how Indians were the first to arrive, followed by Chinese. Then came Arab traders, bringing Islam into the country’s consciousness. From the western world came the Portuguese, supplanted by the Dutch, who in turn were succeeded by the British.

In the 1977 Asian financial crisis, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) rushed to Malaysia’s aid.

“We looked at their terms and realized they would totally control our economy,” Abdul Kadir said. “We decided to rely on our own resources. We told them, keep your money, and we solved our own crisis.”

Petronas Twin Towers. Need we say more?

I strolled the city checking out a couple of the commercial complexes that Mega Sale Carnival was meant to promote. First had to be the extensive Kuala Lumpur City Center, the mother of shopping malls on this part of the globe.

All your favorite luxury names are represented here: Bulgari, Fendi, Ericsson, Motorola, Nokia, Piaget, Tiffany, Mikimoto, Armani Exchange, Hermes, Prada, Versace, Zegna, and on. In ths one mammoth building are banks, pharmacies, bakeries, food courts, florists, beauty shops and moneychangers. All it lacked was an inn.

Wheel chairs and baby strollers are available free for three hours. They probably figure that longer than that you’ll either max out your cards or collapse from fatigue and excitement.

They’re probably right!

Towering above the complex is the imposing Petronas Twin Towers, the tallest skyscrapers in the world. It claimed the crown when it opened in 1997, surpassing Chicago’s Sears Tower.

The two buildings rise up 88 stories. The observation tower is the skybridge linking the two structures at the 41st floor. The view of the city from this perch is breathtaking.

For another awe-inspiring view of KL, treat yourself to a buffet dinner in the revolving restaurant at the top of the Kuala Lumpur Tower. Completed in 1996 as a telecommunications tower, it is Asia’s tallest concrete tower, and fourth highest in the world.

The restaurant makes a complete revolution in 90 minutes. You certainly won’t get dizzy, but you’ll have an unforgettable experience of the spectacular ocean of sparkling city lights.

Bukit Bintang is another shopping center not be missed. It’s situated on the Golden Mile of KL, where Haagen-Dazs and Starbucks sidewalk cafes sit next to such establishments as Planet Hollywood and Tower Records. On the same street are several more top-end shopping malls.

Don’t miss the unique opportunities in Chinatown. This exotic enclave is closed to traffic  in the evening when it’s transformed into a bustling bargain center of stalls and booths hawking the latest videos and CDs, electronic good, perfumes, T-shirts, clothes, shoes, and almost anything else you may desire – from gems to coffins.

For local industry you must go to the Central Market, a bazaar-style arts and crafts center. This air-conditioned indoor emporium is a haven for souvenir hunters and browsers.

See Travel for sightseeing in Kuala Lumpur.

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