I believe that a good way to know a place is to visit its market.  That is why whenever we find chance on our few trips, we often try to drop by to some of community’s economic center.

I remember how I admired one of the most photographed public markets in Malaysia…

About 4 and a half hours from Penang, the SITI KHADIJAH MARKET, or central public market is located at the Northeast coast town of Kota Bharu, in the state of Kelantan, Malaysia. Tina, Gabby and I visited Kelantan last May 2011.

There’s really something so special about local markets. They usually define a place either rural or urban. While Siti Khadijah Market in Kelantan offers a wide variety of fresh produce and dry goods, the Pasar Seni in Malaysia’s capital city-Kuala Lumpur, boasts of anything from creative handicrafts, fascinating arts, even live cultural performances at almost every night plus a piece of country’s history.

The art-deco- Pasar Seni in Kuala Lumpur, taken Chinese New Year 2012

Our short trip to Central Market in KL provided a different kind of visual feast. The challenge was to hold on to our wallets prior to impulsive purchase.

Central Market is a walking distance from Petaling Street, the Chinatown of Kuala Lumpur. It’s easily accessible by bus, train or by foot.

The right lateral to Kuala Lumpur’s Central Market is called Katsuri Walk, the latest outdoor addition to the more than-century-old Pasar Seni. Many souvenir items, street foods, arts and crafts and local snacks, even ice cream are being sold and showcased for haggling at the Katsuri Walk. Care for some scoops of ice cream in DURIAN flavor? 😀  We didn’t dare but we already sampled durian ice cream sometime last year in a buffet restaurant in Penang. If you love durian, you’ll certainly like durian ice cream too.

Lanzones, longgan, rambutan, kyat-kyat (I'm sorry I don't know their Malaysian names)... Sige, Mamy, tawad pa sa lanzones! She bought a kilo of sweetness. 😉

We personally liked Central Market better than Katsuri Walk simply because the former is airconditioned. It certainly makes window shopping and shopping itself less tiring in this tropical country (the weather mimics that of Philippines EXCEPT Malaysia doesn’t have any typhoons, neither any weather disturbances; its location is unlike my home country in the typhoon belt).

Fully airconditioned stalls inside Central Market in Kuala Lumpur.
There must be tales from every carving and color.

Most Malaysians don’t know that we, Filipinos came from Malay race. That is why many of them are a bit surprised whenever we fill out forms and write Malay as our race. Malaysians and Filipinos share some similarities clearly apparent even with local handicrafts. Notice the sepak-takraw or woven sipa, colorful banig or sleeping mats and rattan crafts on the next photo.

Better to haggle than come home with an empty wallet. Bear in mind that this Central Market is one of Kuala Lumpur’s tourist spots; having said so, prices of items can be affordable and at the same time soar up to the high heavens.

More than the usual souvenir items like key chains, T-shirts and fridge magnets, a lot of interesting crafts are on stalls inside Pasar Seni. Even our kiddo, Gabby enjoyed the sights; he was even looking for a toy to take home.

Stalls are enticing; hold on to your wallets firmly, hahaha! 🙂

We were just strolling around, looking at commodities until my haggling power was tested at one of the stalls.

Irresistible for me.

I owe it to Gabby and Tina who found the stall with CONGKAK or SUNGKA to us Filipinos…

This LOVEly portable and light-weight-wooden-rabbit shaped-dark blue-batik-painted Malaysian congkak (pronounced as chongkak) was first priced at RM99 (PhP 1,386) which was way too much for my budget. Finally, the lady vendor agreed to my last price (a little more than the half of the original price).  There were a few more designs but I just fell in love with this blue one. Isn’t it gorgeous? Gabby and Tina also gave me their approval. Nice!

It came with free tiny glass marbles but I certainly preferred sigay or small seashells -the way we played it with my brothers, cousins and Lola during our wonder years. We have roamed most markets and craft stores in KL and Penang the past weekend but no sigay in sight. Perhaps those stalls near the seaside of Batu Ferringhi have it. But no worries, for as long as we have another family bonding to savor.

Back in Renaissance Hotel in Kota Bharu, Kelantan last May 2011, Tina and I were left in awe at a  vividly colorful double-headed dragon-designed congkak at the concierge of the said hotel. It was put on display with no seashells neither marbles but mentos candies for all the guests checking in. I asked immediately the receptionist where they got that beautiful congkak, and to our disappointment, it wasn’t a craft bought from their town but bought from Indonesia.

Almost a year after, we got no dragon-designed sungkaan, but a better one, at least for me. It reminds me so much of our late maternal grandmother, Lola Idang, who taught us how to play and enjoy the game.

While our kiddo at his young age flickers his fingers in playing various apps, I’m so glad he also finds time to play sungkaan with me.  Guess who’s always winning and who’s asking a rematch frequently? LOL! 😀

This Kuala Lumpur blog series includes :


  1. Sungka was one of my favorite games of years gone by. Ngayon wala ng thrill sa akin dahil the end result is predictable, even to a lamed-brain denizen like me, thanks to computers and the internet. I think people even know what I eat for breakfast and the sites I visit at night.

    1. hi maria. i didn’t know you fancy colorful bags. mostly kasi women i know like leather ones.

      ok, now i get it. for a seasoned traveler like you, you definitely developed an eye for something unique.

      1. Central Market sa Zurbaran district ng Maynila. Yung malapit sa MCU. No snow currently here in Iowa, as we are having a very mild weather. We are in the 60’s Fahrenheit in the past few days. Very unusually warm for January in Iowa.

  2. so colorful!

    when we were there (rico, his wife, and a friend), the friend also bought a sungka. kakatuwa ano? iba ang design. nakakaenganyo maglaro,. 🙂

    1. sayang, sana nasa malaysia na kami when you, rico and his wife visited KL. i read your and rico’s blog posts about kl-singapore. nag bus kayo, right? i remember you featured the executive coach you took from my to sg or was it the other way around? 😀

      adik na kami ni gabby sa sungka! peborit of the moment.

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