A road in Chinatown named by a sultan

This article first appeared in City & Country, The Edge Malaysia Weekly, on October 8, 2018 - October 14, 2018.

Late morning street scene

Hotel Mandarin Pacific is at the junction with Jalan Tun HS Lee

Westlake Petaling Street Restaurant is one of many restaurants there

Tian Jing is a boutique hotel in Jalan Sultan

PNB 118, which is under construction, can be seen in the background

Chinatown map

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Within walking distance to the Pasar Seni LRT and MRT interchange station is Jalan Sultan, which makes up part of Kuala Lumpur’s Chinatown.

Old prewar shophouses line both sides of the narrow street, linked to Jalan Sultan Mohamed at one end and Jalan Tun Tan Siew Sin, Jalan Pudu and Jalan Tun Tan Cheng Lock at the other.

Some of the city’s oldest thoroughfares — Jalan Tun HS Lee, Jalan Petaling and Jalan Hang Jebat — join up with it at various points.

Jalan Sultan was first mentioned in a 1899 map and was given its name by Sultan Abdul Samad. According to the book Kuala Lumpur Street Names by Mariana Isa and Maganjeet Kaur, the hill behind it was supposed to be the site of a proposed palace in Kuala Lumpur as the then colonial British government, in the 1880s, had deemed it necessary for the sultan and the British Resident to live near each other. Hence, the sultan was required to move his palace to Kuala Lumpur or to Klang, where the British Resident’s quarters were.

Sultan Abdul Samad’s grandson, Raja Muda Sulaiman, oversaw plans for the Kuala Lumpur palace, but the sultan, who liked his palace in Jugra, Kuala Langat, was not keen to move and kept dragging his feet. In the end, the palace was never built.

Raja Muda Sulaiman ascended the throne after the sultan passed away and constructed a palace in Klang.

Today, the bustling street is filled with cars and crowds of people who patronise the restaurants, hotels, tailors and traditional Chinese herbal shops there.

Occupying a 2-storey shoplot in the area is Westlake Petaling Street Restaurant, which is run by the second and third generations of the Lee family.

The current owner says the restaurant, which serves Chinese cuisine, was started by his father as a small shop in Jalan Petaling. When his father passed away, he took over the business and continued to run it with his brothers. Later on, some of his children and nephews joined the family trade as well.

They relocated to the current location a few years ago as the owner of their previous premises wanted to sell the property, he says. His customers are a mix of locals and foreign tourists.

Asked whether he owns the shoplot, he chuckles and indicates “no” with a wave of his hand. “This shop is valued in the millions. I am not getting any younger and do not want to burden my children with a massive bank loan, so I am renting it.”

The rental, he says, is more than RM10,000 a month. He uses the lower floor for his restaurant business while the upper floor is partitioned into a few bedrooms and rented to some workers.

According to Metro Homes Sdn Bhd  director See Kok Loong, 3-storey shoplots were transacted at RM2.5 million to RM3.5 million before 2011. The past couple of years have seen transactions of 4 and 4.5-storey shoplots, with land areas of 3,134 to 5,414 sq ft, going for RM5.5 million to RM8.8 million.

The rent for the ground floor of a shoplot is RM5 to RM6 psf.

The hotel and tourism market is the main economic driver in the area. See says Kuala Lumpur City Hall should look into classifying the street and its surrounding area as a heritage zone, like what was done in Penang and Melaka.

The boutique hotels and street food would complement the modern shopping malls nearby and offer tourists a different experience, he explains.