Tuesday, September 21, 2004

The many facets of Petaling Street

Who will buy? Posted by Hello

Pic: "Who will buy my belimbing (starfruit)?" indeed. A fruit seller at Petaling Street, with space and competition a commodity, even the traders there have a hierarchy just as in actual society. Whereas others have been allocated their little cubby hole with roofing, this lady is spotted selling her wares at the back of a stationary store at the very edge of the trading area without any facilities, most probably not a legal marketing spot in a sense. But she's there and whatever it takes to eek out a living for a senior like her, we wonder why there's no one else to take care of her in her golden year. So who is up to buying a fruit or two from her?

You can well see a stratified community of sellers at Petaling Street, one lane specialises in flowers where all manner of blooms of every colour imaginable are found. Hawkers Lane, which is in reality back alleyways with no modern amenities to speak of save a couple of stools and tables. Dining here is a mixture of open air aromatic sewage ambiance and an obstacle race in avoiding the rats scurrying near your feet, but make no mistake the best foods are found here and not in any hygienic food court. Fruit Alley where you will find apples, grapes and oranges imported from all corners of the world to more local fare of belimbings, ciku, mangoes and the more famous durians if they're in season. The fake goods corner provides perfumes, Russian made telescopes, Armani bags and eyeware, Rolexes, Manchester United Jerseys and not forgetting VCDs and DVDs of recent movies (of which tourists are very fond of bringing back as souvenirs at USD3 for a DVD). Truly Chinatown is akin to the image of the olden day bazaars where world travelers come to haggle for exotic goods. Well, you can still see Nigerians, Russians and Indonesians here hawking wares, at times going on foot and bothering dining patrons with offer of fake watches!

Also, where else would we find the modern juxtaposed so deeply with the past; the yuppie, suited and armed with the daily financial news, busy with his PDA and calling on his new 3G cellphone, can have his cappucino and cheesecake from Coffeebean or old timers, wearing a simple white vest, daily newspaper at hand, legs astride on the chair and 'chatting' with a group of friends at the table, still prefer the Kopi-O kau kau (thickly brewed aromatic coffee blend) and his morning dim-sum (small savory dumplings in various styles). Ladies would zip across the street to the latest fashion boutiques with selection from Paris, Milan or New York or the more money conservatives could haggle for bargains at RM10 for three shirts from the street vendor. Patrons, offering prayers to their God (s) at the local temple then hurrying to the shop next door to place 2 big, 2 small (lottery numbers), nourishing the soul and with hopes of nourishing the wallet all in the same day. Nothing more stark to elucidate this duality than in Chinatown itself, with its olden styled buildings, echoing occupants of old and happenings of the past and the modern facade erected recently, plastic and steel indeed!

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