Saturday, November 24, 2012

Kuala Lumpur Indian Market

November 22, 2012 Kuala Lumpur, Quick and Easy – that was the name of our destination tour. The tour guide was phoned at the last minute and was ill-prepared and not a good reader, but that didn’t take the shine off of the tour or the day. I kept my eyes glued out the window, occasionally grabbing my camera to take a picture of something I had never seen before.

And at dinner that night, when talking about the number of people who had put in complaints about the tour, Greg said, “I will now let you eat and I will give the lecture I would have given if I had been the tour guide.” And then the dinner conversation sparkled with Greg’s mini-history of the politics, religion, and natural resources of India ending with, ... and so Malaysia is the poster-child of the nation who has done what the text books said couldn’t be done. His lecture began with, “What the tour guide didn’t tell you when we stopped at the War Memorial to honour the dead in Malaysia’s fight for independence was ....” I should have taken notes or at the very least, given Greg a big tip at the end of the evening. Instead of kept using my knife and fork . The guide dropped us off at an elegant shopping centre, and said we would meet again at 4 pm. The 45 minute driven from Port Kelang was a wall to wall traffic jam of container 18-wheelers, exasperated because one had spilled its contents on the high, making us a bit homesick for our own experiences with that on the trans-Canada Highway.

Our group of five had no plan. Emile Baladi’s destination lecture about Kuala Lumpur had been attended by 4 of the 5 of us, and I remembered him saying, if you want shopping, go to Little India. The prices are competitive among the merchants and you will be surprised at the variety of goods there. What I like about our group of five is this. Those with the skills come forward to do what they do best.

Wyona find an information booth to ask how to take the LRT to Little India. “Down this escalator, through the long food court, out the other side to the LRT and then 3 stops.” If we had followed those directions we would have been there sooner than the circuitous route to the airport first – but what did we care. Instead we took the advice of the woman changing money so that LRT tokens could be bought, tickets equivalent of 50 cents each and we learned how to use their tokens to get through the gate, how to use the tokens to get out of the gate, how to line-up in their air-conditioned subway, how to stay within seeing distance of each other and we got above ground on a couple of long legs of the journey. We could see an urban Kuala Lumpur that Greg, Moiya and Wyona did not recognize from the one they saw 40 years ago.

“Why did the destination lecturer say to go to Little India and not Chinatown as the tourist bureau suggest,” Wyona asked. For once, I had been taking notes in the lecture instead of falling asleep in them and I could remember him saying, “Every city has a Chinatown. Only a few have Little India.”

Greg and Dave made us time ourselves – you only have 45 minutes for this market. Now go! In one-half of a block and we knew this market had the wonderful shape of every other little market we have ever seen, though it was grander in the sense that one block of it was under the cover of green and opaque coloured high glass ceilings.

While we look at merchandize, Greg is usually standing in a corner, but in his case it is still water, running deep. I was out of the market sooner than the other women and he remarked that more women are wearing the religious head dress than were wearing it 40 years ago, a material sign he thinks that Islam is putting its stamp on Malaysia.


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