In this week’s ‘Local Hidden Gems’ series, a look at a once-neglected alley in KL that’s now reinvigorated with new murals, trendy bars and more
In between Petaling Street’s flower shops, open-air markets and generations-old food stalls lies Kwai Chai Hong at Lorong Panggung, a lovingly restored laneway of prewar shophouses. With murals that nod to its vice-ridden past, hidden alleys and local eateries, it’s one of KL’s best-kept secrets and a peek into what was before in Chinatown.
In 2018, a group of five local entrepreneurs discovered the neglected alleyway and took its restoration upon themselves, investing over RM1.5 million of their own money to transform it into a tourist destination and time capsule of Petaling Street’s old-world appeal. Titled Project Kwai Chai Hong, the restoration spans 10 shophouses – six of which are on Jalan Petaling, another four along Lorong Panggung – as well as a laneway sandwiched between the two roads.
“The charm of this place and the nostalgic memory inspired us,” says Zeen Chang, managing partner of Bai Chuan Management, the company the five formed to tackle this project. “As we began work to mend this once-neglected laneway, we fell more and more in love with it. We want to bring people back to KL Chinatown – bring back the glory days of Chee Cheong Kai (the local nickname for Petaling Street, meaning “Starch Factory Street” in Cantonese) and make the place lively once again.”
The name “Kwai Chai Hong”, which translates to “little ghost lane” is said to be derived from the kids who used to play in the back lanes in its bygone days. Today, you’ll find trendy bars, old-school eateries serving kopitiam fare and Instagram-worthy street art to delight all your senses. Spy the 6 murals designed by local artists each accompanied by a QR code which, when scanned, plays an interactive clip or soundtrack.
How to get here: Kwai Chai Hong is located a few minutes away from Pasar Seni MRT and LRT stations. From the station, head to Jalan Panggung. The heritage lane is located behind the shophouses; just keep your eyes peeled for the entrance arch that reads “Kwai Chai Hong”.
This story originally appeared in the March 2020 issue of Going Places magazine.