Tuesday, July 06, 2010

A closer look at Petaling Jaya's neighborhoods

After reaching independence, Kuala Lumpur was developing at an exponential rate. Overpopulation issues were inevitable, and more land was required to be developed to address the housing concerns of the new Malaysian citizens. Petaling Jaya was developed as a satellite township for Kuala Lumpur comprising residential and industrial areas. Many of these housing communities were built in the 70s by Chinese workmen and form the basic fabric of Petaling Jaya's neighbourhoods. These houses were well constructed and addressed local weather issues by the use of large roof overhangs, internal air wells, air vents and were mostly free from defects.

Fortunately, these housing communities are still vibrant today and serve the needs of the local community. Lets throw all the superficialities away - gated communities with swimming pools, tennis courts, and houses with a dozen security cameras. This is your original down to earth, Malaysian neighbourhood.

I feel this image best describes what this neighbourhood is all about. This neighbourhood is epitomised by simple double storey or single storey terrace houses with tiled roofs, small roads, a small park, and a small area for shop houses. It's not the most elegant looking neighbourhood. Most of the buildings look drab, bits of rubbish are strewn beneath the trees, and you'll occasionally notice an unpleasant odour being emitted from the drains.

Security IS a real issue in this neighbourhood. Despite the absence of security cameras and alarms you can see a proliferation of grills with large locks on both upstairs and downstairs windows / doors. It can be particularly disheartening for a student if your laptop is stolen a day prior to your assignment submission.

This community is 'sustained' by some small eateries, some of them which are fully open air, hence requiring some supervision in the evenings. They're not as packed as the larger foodcourts, hence its easier to find places to sit and you don't have to wait so long for food.

This aunty faithfully manages her pork noodle stall every morning. You can find most local delicacies here, like wan tan mee, cantonese noodles, nasi lemak, and roti canai.

As a large part of the community here are 'poor and starving' students, food prices are a big concern. Prices for mixed rice can range from RM 3.60 to RM 7, depending on the stall and the amount of food you take. Just go to a stall with lots of people; most likely, the prices will be good.

One of the most generous portions of nasi lemak I've tasted for RM 5. Unsurprisingly, I got some stomach upset the following day - they could've kept their fermented belachan for several days already.

The most affordable mixed rice dish in KL I've tasted so far. Some other shops would probably charge RM 7 for this.

Taxi drivers occasionally stop by these neighbourhoods for a quick bite. I had an interesting experience once where an Indian taxi driver told me that he was once an executive for a large Australian company during the good old days. Unfortunately times were tough and he was forced to resign himself to the job. His own Chinese wife even refused to let him sleep in their own bedroom. He talks about yuppies / teenagers now who don't know how to drive courteously and are even rude at times on the road. Oh well, such is life.

Advertisement of a lorry for rent (presumably for when your shifting house).

Various unofficial creditors are also advertising their services. I even saw one advert 'Kita bukan Ah Long, kita hanya cuba menolong' (We're not loan sharks, we just want to help).

In the back alleys behind the shops, sometimes you can see some interesting items in the walls...

.. and some not so pretty things too.

A little gardening goes a long way. This is a local vegetable - cangkuk manis which is often used in local restaurants.

Most of the menial jobs here require foreign workers, and it has alarmed the communities to some extent that residents have even voiced their concerns to the local newspapers.

Everything just looks old and tired, wherever you move about in the neighbourhood.

This public phone has been vandalised until it remains unusable. Yes, we all have handphones, but what happens if you really need to make a call and you don't have a hand phone at your disposal? :s

That little sticker above says - Feeling bored? You will get sexy pics of girls, hot videos, cool ringtones, and much more. Hmmm.... Sometimes you get those irritating advertisements like this through SMS from and unknown number. You just can't stop them :s

Sometimes, you will notice a little altar underneath a  tree for the residing deity. How they choose which tree to use remains an enigma to me.

These neighborhoods may not be pretty or elegant, but at least they retain their character of what it means to be Malaysian. You can't find that anywhere in the newest 'exclusive' housing estates in town which are controlled by irritating security checks.



AnandaSim said...

Keep on writing Brandon. As a newbie to KL/PJ, you are exploring things that the oldies have taken for granted. I know old PJ well but tht was 30 years ago - there are so many places now that I did not visit. I was quite insulated from life and grit - typical Malaysian upbringing to only go to "high class" safe, conservative environs. Nowadays, when I go back I just want to see the texture and grit of down to earth Malaysia, not the plastic of shopping malls.

ET said...

heh, ur cousin here. mixed rice in ss3 is nice + cheap...haha


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