A standard feature of local townscapes is rows of shophouses – two- or three-storey buildings traditionally containing a shop at street level, with residential quarters behind and above. For visitors, their most striking feature is that at ground level the front wall is usually set back from the street. This creates a so-called “five-foot way” overhung by the upper part of the house, which shelters pedestrians from the sun and pelting rain.

Shophouses were fusion architecture: facades have Western features such as shuttered windows and gables, while inside there might be an area open to the sky, in the manner of Chinese courtyard houses. Some, especially from the early part of the last century, are bedecked with columns, floral plaster motifs and beautiful tilework, while later properties feature simpler Art Deco touches. Sadly, shophouses ceased to be built after the 1960s and many have been demolished to make way for modern complexes, though some have won a new lease of life as swanky restaurants and boutiques.

Travel offers; book through Rough Guides

Malaysia features

The latest articles, galleries, quizzes and videos.

Living the good life in Borneo

Living the good life in Borneo

Life in the beautiful region of Sapulot is relaxed and uncomplicated, and the communities who live here want to keep it that way. They are inviting visitors to …

02 Jun 2016 • Ros Walford insert_drive_file Article
7 reasons why Langkawi is Malaysia's ultimate island escape

7 reasons why Langkawi is Malaysia's ultimate island escape

Looking to unwind on a tropical island somewhere in Southeast Asia? Then head to the island of Langkawi, Malaysia’s ultimate escape from the country’s frene…

09 Feb 2016 • Stuart Forster insert_drive_file Article
Quiz: can you locate these national parks?

Quiz: can you locate these national parks?

National parks are some of the world's most awe-inspiring natural places, taking in mountains, glaciers, waterfalls and forests (sometimes all in the same one…

02 Jul 2015 • Rebecca Hallett help Quiz
View more featureschevron_right

Join over 60,000 subscribers and get travel tips, competitions and more every month

Join over 60,000 subscribers and get travel tips, competitions and more every month