Wet markets and shopping malls

One of my top priorities in Asian cities is to visit a big market. A wet market is just that — wet, uneven paving treacherous with snaking rubber hoses, puddles of who-knows-what, slippery patches, animal entrails (okay, not in big pieces, but something is making it slimy), and happy cats preening themselves after a meal.

Inside Chow Kit's wet section

Chow Kit market: Veggies, fruits, meat and fish are in the “wet” part.

Inside Chow Kit Market

Chow Kit’s dry side: Hardware and sundries have their own sections under the same roof as the food items.

I feel very happy and contented walking through a market like this, watching people wash and scrub and chop and tie things into bundles. Voices cry out things like “Tiga ringgit, tiga ringgit, tiga ringgit” (three ringgit, the price of something) and “Mangga, mangga, manis, manis” (mango, mango, sweet, sweet). The smells change and the slanting sunlight shifts and there’s something new around every corner — much of it completely foreign to my culture. Live catfish flopping in a big plastic tub, for example. Dismembered chicken feet tied in a bunch. What’s more, I didn’t see any other Western person there in two whole hours.

More Chow Kit photos here and here.

I followed up with a leisurely stroll down Jalan Tuanku Abdul Rahman, a street whose name I couldn’t even pronounce the first time I came here. Fabric shops, shops selling traditional wedding costumes, numerous motorcycle repair shops where tools and parts are strewn across the floor while men squat on their haunches to work on engines and wheels. Then a break for lunch, of course.

Nasi Kandar with Japanese Tofu

I was prepared to sit outside at a table in the rising midday heat — usually the only choice — but to my surprise, I was gestured into an air-conditioned dining room in the back, full of happy lunching Malaysians of every description. Yet another sign of progress toward developed-nation status — lunch with AC.

My good friend Kiran has been away from KL until yesterday, so today we made a plan to meet up, including Milton as well. A late afternoon trip to Silverfish books in Bangsar (I bought three books with the Silverfish imprint), some less than satisfactory mango smoothies (overpriced, and not made with fresh fruit!), and then an excursion to a new shopping mall so that Milton could check some cell phone prices. Ha, I fondled the overhyped Nokia N95 (about USD $900 here, for the 8 GB model), but it failed to impress me.

Kiran in a shopping mall

Kiran has iPhone envy — they are not sold here and reportedly cannot be made to work with local service providers (all phones here are unlocked) — unless you pay a guy to “crack” the iPhone for you. Kiran has heard there’s someone at another shopping mall who can do the deed. She asked if it’s true we can buy an iPhone in the U.S. for $399 (yes, the 8 GB). Then she claimed she’s not really interested in having one!

More photos here.


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