If you want to visit a cool place in Kuala Lumpur and love street art, head to Kwai Chai Hong in Chinatown and check out the stunning murals.
One of the things I love about returning to a city is discovering new things that have arrived since my last visit.
On my second trip to Kuala Lumpur in Malaysia, I heard about a charming hidden alley known for its vibrant street art and nostalgic atmosphere.
It’s nestled in the heart of Kuala Lumpur, near Jalan Petaling in Chinatown, and is called Kwai Chai Hong.
As a lover of Asian street art, this tastefully regenerated alley was high on my list of things to see in Kuala Lumpur.
This post lets you learn more about Kwai Chai Hong, what you will see in Little Ghost Lane and where to eat and drink in KL Chinatown.
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Kwai Chai Hong History
“Kwai Chai Hong” translates to Little Ghost Lane or Little Demon Alley in Cantonese and was once a neglected area that became a hangout for prostitutes and undesirables.
The tiny cul-de-sac in Chinatown was thought to be named after the naughty children who lived there, the drunks that gathered in its shadows or the street gang members who called themselves Kwai Chai.
Thankfully, through a regeneration project managed by the Bai Chuan Management Company, various street artists got involved in preserving the significant cultural and heritage value of Kwai Chai Hong through art and storytelling.
The open air gallery now showcases a series of interactive murals and artworks depicting scenes from the 1960s when Kuala Lumpur was very different from today.
“Little Ghost Lane” is now a bright, colourful cultural spot attracting locals and tourists to enjoy its beautiful murals and spend money in its restaurants.
How to find Kwai Chai Hong Street in Chinatown
Find Kwai Chai Hong mural lane along Lorong Panggung, off Station Street and close to Petaling Street and Kuala Lumpur’s famous marketplace.
If you are using the MRT, it is a 5-minute walk from Pasar Seni.
If coming on the Monorail, it is a 10-minute walk after exiting at Maharajalela Station.
The entrance to the alley is not overly advertised, so you could almost walk past without realising it is there.
Look out for the steady stream of people disappearing through an ancient-looking stone entrance leading off the main street and next to the blue and yellow building. That’s where you’ll find Kwai Chai Hong.
What times is Kwai Chai Hong open?
Mural Lane is open every day from 9 a.m. to midnight.
Is there anything else in Kwai Chai Hong apart from street art?
Kwai Chai Hong is also the back entrance to some fabulous eateries in KL Chinatown.
Da Bao is a funky Chinese restaurant and bar with a lively, contemporary setting serving freshly steamed buns.
The silver lampost outside Da Bao is the most historical thing in Kwai Chai Hong. It was the first to provide street lighting to the city in 1903.
Next door is the Bubble Bee Cafe, serving mouthwatering treats. Try the Pandan shake for something a little different.
If you enter the Bubble Bee Cafe from the front entrance and walk through to Kwai Chai Hong, you will see the lovely mural of a little girl above the door.
Other restaurants and cafes in Kwai Chai Hong include Gui Gui BBQ, Bunn Choon, one of Petaling Street’s oldest pastry shops, and Pandan Republic.
A couple of bars called Concubine and Baijiu have upstairs seating with views over Kwai Chai Hong.
Baijiu is a cocktail bar named after the alcoholic spirit Baijiu that is drunk so frequently in China that it outsells all other spirits worldwide!
Other places to grab a beer and cocktails include Kapitan Haus, G-String KL, and SSS.
The front entrance of the bars is on Lorong Panggung and is eye-catching in blue and yellow.
Behind the shopfront, built in 1893, is the new Merdeka Tower.
It is the second-tallest building in the world, after the Burj Khalifa, and should open at the end of 2023.
What is the theme of the murals in Kwai Chai Hong?
The street art in Kwai Chai Hong is characterized by its attention to detail, nostalgic themes, and storytelling. Some wall art is interactive with props like a small seat and, unbelievably, a barber’s chair!
The murals connect us with the 1960s, encouraging visitors to reflect on Kuala Lumpur’s changes over the decades.
On each mural is a QR scan code. They provide an interactive experience of the mural paintings through sight and sound.
Vintage-style decor, Chinese lanterns, exposed brickwork, and sprawling foliage further enhance the atmosphere of Kwai Chai Hong.
And the lighting above each mural makes the alley a charming place to visit after dark.
What stories do the murals in Kwai Chai Hong tell us?
Hong Qiao – the covered bridge
Entering Kwai Chai Hong, the first mural you see is two sweethearts sitting together in a loving embrace.
Using a red wooden bridge to sit the pair on is ingenious and a perfect introduction to street art in Kwai Chai Hong.
This is a busy spot; everyone wants a photo next to these two, so you may need to wait for your turn.
The red lanterns and green foliage are the perfect backdrop against the crumbling walls in this ancient alleyway.
The old wooden shutter wall was also a popular place to take photos.
My favourite piece of street art in Kwai Chai Hong was the 10 ft high, vibrant tiger. I felt that the image had natural movement as if he (or she) were stalking its prey.
The colours that had been used made the mural pop. I would love to know what the Chinese sign says, but sadly, I couldn’t find any information about it.
There were signs for Tiger Beer nearby, so maybe that’s the connection. The lettering looks similar, but I can’t read Cantonese, so who knows!
Mural of an old man playing an instrument in Kwai Chai Hong
Across from the tiger mural is one depicting an old man playing an erhu. This instrument is a two-string violin fiddle, which would have created haunting Chinese melodies.
I love how the mural has been painted around the exposed brickwork rather than replastering the wall to make it look perfect.
I also like that the ferns and creepers have found a home in the wall, adding another dimension to the mural.
Children at Play in Little Ghost Lane
The next mural is a whimsical look at how children played back in the 60s. It would have been the old-fashioned way of interacting with each other and creating imaginary friends and games in the days before technology.
The little girl looks on from her window, maybe longing to join them or just happy to watch their antics.
Again, the exposed brickwork and original window gratings surrounding the mural remind us that Kwai Chai Hong is over 100 years old.
Lady of the night
Prostitution was big business in Kuala Lumpur Chinatown in the 1960s, and this mural depicts a “lady of the night” flouting for trade.
Notice that she has an actual red chiffon scarf in her hand. This is one of several murals that are interactive.
You will find the Chinese madam mural on the back of the Baijiu bar building, hence the blue tables outside for customers to use while they enjoy a beer or cocktail.
Caligrapher at work
Another of my favourite murals was of the Chinese calligrapher at work. The little wooden bench lets visitors become part of the art piece, which is fun.
Many immigrants living in Chinatown were illiterate and would seek the help of a calligrapher to write home to their loved ones in China.
Letters telling of the fortunes they were making or the struggles they had found were all documented to families. Love letters were also written to girlfriends and wives.
The Golden Age of Chinatown in Kuala Lumpur
The largest and most intricate wall painting in Kwai Chai Hong is at the end of the lane.
It depicts everyday life in Chinatown in the 60s. Ladies hanging out washing, children playing, and people eating in Ho Kow Hainam Kopitiam, a restaurant that opened in 1956 and is still popular.
My favourite piece was the interactive barber’s chair. Such a great photo opportunity!
Looking over Kwai Chai Hong from the balcony, you’ll see it’s a bustling place. I visited at lunchtime and still managed to take all the photos I wanted; however, if you want the alley to yourself, maybe an early morning visit is better.
Is there any other street art to see in Chinatown?
Yes, there is, and it is terrific. If you wander around Chinatown, you will find street art and murals on the side of buildings and down tiny alleyways.
The Goldsmith by Julia Volchkova is one of Kuala Lumpur’s most famous murals and can be seen on a building on the corner of Jalan Panggong by Beryl’s Chocolate Shop. She is also responsible for much of the street art in Penang.
Close to Kwai Chai Hong is Lorong Petaling, where two beautiful murals by the artist CO2 can be found. Both depict life in Kuala Lumpur in past times.
Also, a more modern take on street art in Kuala Lumpur is on the next wall.
Just by wandering around Chinatown, you will stumble upon different styles of urban art, and it’s all great!
Kwai Chai Hong is a must-visit. It’s one of the prettiest places in Kuala Lumpur I have come across.
It’s only a small lane, so 30 minutes will be long enough to capture some genuinely Instagram-worthy photos and immerse yourself in Kuala Lumpur’s bygone era.
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