REX KL – An Urban Creative Space In The Heart of Kuala Lumpur

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Just a stone’s throw away from Kuala Lumpur’s Chinatown, REX KL is one of the city’s latest creative spaces and is packed with chic cafes, edgy food outlets and eclectic tenants. Formerly a cinema, the building was abandoned for some time before it was given a new lease of life. As such, vestiges of its days as a cinema remain, such as the wide staircase which leads up to the second floor, the main theatre which has been converted into an exhibition / events space, as well as fixtures such as tiles and signages.

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This is my second time to REX KL (you can read about my first visit here!). The fam and I were there to check out their Buy for Impact showcase, which ran for several weekends in September and featured local social enterprises such as Masala Wheels, Helping Hands Penan, Krayon.Asia and Silent Teddies, to name a few.

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There weren’t many stalls, but they were all interesting.

We stopped by the GOLD (Generating Opportunities for Learning Disables) booth. They were selling T-shirts, Kindness Cookies in various flavours, mugs, cards and beautiful notebooks, all made by the disabled community. Moo bought a T-shirt and we also got some cookies, which were tasty. You can find out more about what they do here.

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Checking out the Krayon.asia booth, an online eco-art store and social enterprise that promotes eco friendly products and arts & craft made by the disadvantaged community, artists and crafters with special needs and those who are marginalised and have limited resources. The keychains they had on sale, which are made from recycled plastic beads, were absolutely adorable.
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Another social enterprise at the showcase was ENTO, which aims to promote entomophagy as a sustainable solution to the world’s food security problems. The company sells roasted crickets in flavours like salted egg, kimchi and barbecue. There were samples which I would have liked to try (I tried crickets in when I was in Phuket) but the Moo, who was hovering over my shoulder, gave me a horrified expression and a firm “NO”. You know how some mothers are lol.
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There was also a photo exhibition on the same floor, featuring stunning portraits of local artists and makers.

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WHAT ELSE CAN YOU DO AT REX KL ?

Even when they’re not having events and exhibitions, there’s plenty to do here.

You can grab a cuppa at Stellar, which is located at the entrance and has several al fresco seats surrounded by lush greenery. Order a hand-brewed Guatemalan or a flat white, or opt for a refreshing cold brew to go with delicious cakes. They also serve coffee cocktails for those who want a shot of booze (drink responsibly!)

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Bibliophiles can browse for rare books, indie titles and second-hand items at Mentor Bookstore. Although most of the books are in Chinese, there are a few English titles too.

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Just next to Mentor is where you can unearth nostalgic treasures and collectibles like old toys, records; even cassette tapes and old-school radios. There is quite the collection here, and if you’re a millennial like me, bring your parents so they can tell you how a record player works lol.

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There’s more on the ground floor: old stamps, postcards, etc.
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Come on a weekend for fresh produce from One Kind Market, which features locally grown vegetables and fruits from local farmers and traders.

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If you love craft beers, then The Rex Bar should be on your list. Helmed by Modern Madness, you get interesting Malaysian-inspired flavours like teh tarik ale and lemongrass lager, or (if you’re brave enough!) bak kut teh beer and durian beer. They serve a selection of non-alcoholic beverages as well.

There are plenty of things to eat within Rex KL: urban warung Lauk Pauk offers Malay favourites like Ayam Bakar (roast chicken) and Paru Sambal Hijau (beef lungs cooked in sambal), while ParkLife dishes out contemporary London cuisine with a healthy twist.

REX KL remains open during the CMCO period until October 27. While unnecessary is discouraged in light of the pandemic, consider supporting some of the local businesses while you’re in the area – maybe grab a cup of coffee or takeaway from the eateries there.

And finally, although events aren’t allowed yet, you can watch some previous live sessions on their Youtube channel:

REX KL

80, Jalan Sultan, 55000 Kuala Lumpur

Open Tuesdays to Sundays, 10 AM – 10PM

Visiting REX KL – The Iconic Cinema Turned Creative Space In Kuala Lumpur

What do you do with a once iconic cinema that eventually turned into an abandoned eyesore in the middle of Kuala Lumpur? You give it a new lease of life – by turning it into a creative space for events and entrepreneurs.

Back in the 1970s, Rex Theatre, located close to KL’s Chinatown, was THE place to be. It operated for years before shutting down in the early 2000s, as people flocked to newer cinemas in glitzy malls, and ‘classic’ theatres, which did not have the facilities and technology to match, lost their appeal. The Rex Theatre was used as a backpacker’s hostel, low-cost housing and even an entertainment outlet, but the crumbling building was not well maintained, attracting drug users and unsavoury characters into its disused halls.

The old Rex Theatre. Image via Says.com and https://forum.lowyat.net/topic/3313616/all

It would have been easy to just bulldoze it down and build something new. After all, the old theatre was sitting on prime land that would be perfect for a shiny office building, another mall or whatnot. Instead, a project to revive the theatre, spearheaded by a group of architects, was put into motion, and REXKL opened its doors earlier this year as a space where entrepreneurs, small businesses and artists could meet, share and thrive.

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Went to check out the place over the long Malaysia Day weekend. Vestiges of its days as a cinema remain, such as the old fashioned tiled floors and signages, giving the space an air of nostalgia, while neon lights added to the retro vibe. On the ground floor, which sported an open layout, was a chic bar called Modern Madness Beer, an old-school barbershop and a cafe.

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Malaysia Day bazaar, with trendy outfits and flea market-esque clothing on sale.

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Hand made pottery

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Store selling various knick-knacks and curios, from camp equipment to traditional games

 

 

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We also bought a bottle of sugarcane tuak, a traditional fermented rice wine drink commonly enjoyed by the people of Sarawak. Although no sugar was added, the concoction was naturally sweet, with an alcohol level of about 10 percent.

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Moving on to the first floor, there were shops selling beautiful arts and crafts, such as bowls, handwoven items, bags, jewellery and souvenirs.

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A store selling items many of us growing up in the 1990s and before would recognise – tiffin carriers for food, vinyls, casettes, snow globes (do people still buy them these days?), paper weights, pen holders, and more.

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Spot Mr Pricklepants!

 

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Up on the second floor, we met Mr Lam Ching Fu, author of the book My Journey By Bus, in which he documents his journeys by bus around several states in Northern Peninsular Malaysia. The book is a fascinating insight into the characters he meets and his observations of the towns and places he visited, many of which are off the beaten path. The book is available in Chinese and English.

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A collection of Lam’s beautiful photos, mostly depicting scenes in small towns

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The bus tickets Lam accumulated on his journey

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Also on the second floor was the main theatre which has now been converted into an events/concert space. The hall was intentionally left looking unfinished, with a massive brick wall, age-darkened concrete and exposed skylights to give it that industrial, ‘abandoned’ vibe. REX KL regularly hosts bloc parties and music shows in this space, so visitors can keep updated via their Facebook Page. 

REX KL 

Jalan Sultan, 55000 Kuala Lumpur

Open Tuesdays to Sundays, 10 AM – late