Fifteen shopping venues. Five hours. One city. Zero shopping bag.
That pretty much summed up the Tourism Malaysia Shopping Hunt 2016. Participants - comprising shopping outlet executives as well as local and international media and travel agencies from 12 countries - found themselves hurled into the middle of bustling Kuala Lumpur on a hot and humid weekday.
The objective? Decipher cryptic clues and take "wefies" at designated locations within various popular shopping malls and districts in the city. Being a self-professed shopaholic, the idea of an Amazing Race-like treasure hunt - with a retail twist - was a dream come true.
What I wasn't prepared for, was the exhaustion that came with exploring a plethora of malls. Malaysians are a lucky lot - our shopping complexes come in a variety of shapes and sizes!
That observation is shared by fellow participant Mohanad Ibrahim Ahmed Abuzaid. "It's difficult to visit everything in one day!" the travel agent from Sudan exclaimed as we roamed around Starhill Gallery.
Indeed, the event - held in conjunction with the grand launch of the country's nationwide sales campaigns - was a good avenue to showcase KL's many shopping centres.
The hunt was certainly an effective method to promote the 1Malaysia Super Sale (March 1 to 31), 1Malaysia Mega Sale Carnival (June 15 to Aug 31) and 1Malaysia Year-End Sale (Nov 1 to Dec 31) - notwithstanding the physical exhaustion at the end of the race, that is.
This year, the three sales adopted the tagline "Super Bargains, Fantastic Experiences". And an incredible adventure was just what participants of the race had.
Here are some things picked up from the shopping hunt around KL:
1. Take a walk - from one mall to another
Walking from one mall to another is a possible feat in KL.
Did you know that Suria KLCC, Avenue K, Pavillion, Starhill Gallery, Lot 10, Fahrenheit 88, Sungei Wang Plaza and Berjaya Times Square are all just walking distance from one another? Sure, Malaysia's scorching hot weather might have you thinking twice (at least Suria and Pavilion are connected by an air-conditioned walkway). But on cloudier days, travelling on foot around Bukit Bintang will unveil a cornucopia of sights and sounds - as well as burn some calories. Now who say shopping isn't a form of exercise?
2. …or just hop on a train!
Most malls within the city are just a stone's throw away from a monorail or LRT station. Granted, peak hours will have commuters huddled together like sardines within the coaches. But the flip side is you can avoid paying a ridiculous sum for parking. Save that money for a cup of overpriced coffee instead.
3. Find all of KL's hawker food under one roof
Never in a million years would I expect to find a marketplace-like atmosphere in the heart of Bukit Bintang. But that's what Lot 10's basement food court feels like. Whiffs of delectable street cuisines evoked pangs of hunger as I entered. From springy wantan mee to crunchy popiah, it can be overwhelming at first to take in the array of stalls. But if you're famished after that retail therapy and looking for some local flavours, this place is a convenient stop.
4. Look out for the unexpected
The Shopping Hunt is all about knowing your malls. Perform at a flight of musical steps within Berjaya Times Square.
Photo: The Star/Chester Chin
Some malls have some interesting surprises. For instance, it's easy for the indoor theme park at Berjaya Times Square to overshadow everything else within the complex. But did you know that it's also home to a one-of-its-kind-in-Malaysia musical staircase? Lit in vibrant dancing LED lights, the staircase is designed to resemble a classical piano keyboard. Take a walk and create some sweet melodies!
5. When in doubt - ask!
A chat with representatives at a malls information counter might just reveal more than the directory listing.
Photo: Chan Wai Yee
Okay, this might seem like a relative no-brainer. But when in doubt, a trip to a mall's information counter might just reveal more than the shopping centre's directory. A few friendly exchanges with the staff might even unravel some best kept secrets such as a sky alfresco dining area and a tiny Taipei gate for that photo op. So flash that smile, keep calm and shop away!