Thursday, February 18, 2010

Chinatown KL Style


Just got back from a trip on what one of my good mates slyly calls "The Glitter Trail", Kuala Lumpur then train via some lovely Thai islands to Bangkok, to Vientiane Laos, Luang Prabang and finally up to Hanoi.
I'll write about street food I ate at my food blog, Om Nom Nom Nom Nom, but in the meantime, here's me being Jack Nicholson's Jake Gittes to my diary one night staying in Kuala Lumpur's own Chinatown.

The only fly I saw in KL was at the KFC leaving the place. Nobody swore either. I swear lots but they don’t. Even when touts want to show me their pirate dvds even when the teksi drivers lane change into the bloodstream like traffic, nobody swears.

We meet Sam a man from not far away who’s been in KL for 5 years. Cheeky yet wise eyed Sam fixes windows. Work’s slow in KL when everyone’s so behaved. He was welcomed to his turf, Chinatown by stand over kids wanting 5 ringit a week for protection. He pays. "We all pay. It’s how we work here. Move somewhere else and there’s a new bunch of kids demanding cash."

The market sales kids all work for the same sort of, probably the same, mobs. 50 ringit a day and bigtime pressure to sell. One tried a “You don’t know what dey do to me if I don’t sell. I like you man. You break my heart.” But I look at the fucker’s shark tooth necklace and slick gangsta threadlines. Yeah, I think. You’re a player. You’re here to play. And that doesn’t wash with me.

The stalls are rented for 3000 a week and they make cash selling to humidity hassled foreigners. Shit shirts, watches and leather from pallets loaded weekly from Far East China. All the same gear. Only a handful of owners run everything. All stalls linked by CB radio. Power Without Glory style cockee scouts spread quick word on cops (big cop fear here), and stock shortage.

It’s desperate because it’s a game.

For players.