The Raw Cool of Malaysia


Kuala Lumpur and Penang are two of the coolest and authentically beautiful cities I have travelled to. There is this raw grit that is innate to both cities, and both have found ways to blend the old with the new. Trees and vines are not cut down, but rather built around. Exposed and crumbling stone walls are accentuated by integrating other natural materials. In both of these cities, designers and architects have used the natural wildness to their advantage, creating some of the coolest spaces and environments I have ever seen.

There is this raw grit that is innate to both cities, and both have found ways to blend the old with the new.

An old Petaling street brothel, Merchant’s Lane is a restaurant in KL that embraces old world charm with contemporary style. The endless vines, wild plants and exposed wiring mixes with what modern-day travelers want: cool comfy seating, trendy and unique decor, hammocks and a menu that will have you coming back every day of your trip.


A place to relax in Merchant's Lane


Other top spots in KL are Aku Cafe, Mingle Hostel and Malay streetwear shop, Pestle and Mortar. All have a distinct Malay cool, with a punch of hipster vibes.


Penang’s George Town is next level. Endless street food, street art and shops and cafes. The town is super relaxed, but carries an unmistakable air of cool. The Hin Bus Depot Art Center is an old bus and train station, now converted into a fortress of famous street art. Awesome Canteen is a chic minimalist cafe with hand-dripped coffee and burgers.

China House is a multitiered space that houses an art gallery, a live performance bar, a restaurant and dessert bakery with nearly 30 cakes baked daily. And for shopping, Sixth Sense is a curated lifestyle shop with clothes, accessories and home decor complete with exposed brick walls, plants and couches.

Penang oozes culture and raw creativity.

Trompe-l'oeil art fills Penang's streets as artists depict life in this colorful Malaysian city.


Both KL and Penang offer distinct experiences that are filled with raw, authentic creativity in nearly everything you see and touch. Arrive with an open mind, a hunger for art and a willing appetite.


MalaysiaOlivia ColeonTravel