Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Kuala Lumpur Chinatown not yet a World Heritage site

If you haven't been to Kuala Lumpur, here are a few pictures to give you an idea of the rich architectural heritage we have here in this city, a once tin-mining town founded by a man from China named Yap Ah Loy.

Sadly, some of these century-old shophouses are gazetted to come down to give way to the MRT project. Chinatown has been drawn as a heritage site in the KL Plan 2020 but it is still eight to nine years away. Read the full story..Shopowners want to preserve Petaling Street as a heritage site

The picture below is of Jalan Petaling, Chinatown. Notice the stalls on both sides of the road. Those on the left have already started their business for the day. The road is closed to traffic come nightfall and the night bazaar begins where one can buy from fake branded watches (from as low as RM30 if you buy in greater numbers) to DVDs to clothes, football jerseys, shoes, bags, costume jewelry, trinkets (sold by Nepalese traders) and many others.

The most authentic Chinese food can be found here in Chinatown. It is common to see foreign visitors enjoying a sumptuous dinner of chilli crabs, butter prawns and other Chinese stir-fried goodies washed down by endless orders of beer, watching the world go by. If you are a visitor to Kuala Lumpur, this is one experience not to be missed. Believe me, it will be fondly remembered.

The signboard overhead says "Love Kuala Lumpur" in the local Malay language.

The picture below is of a century-old place. Jalan Sultan has been a bustling place since a century ago as it was the centre for early Chinese settlers. Doesn't this remind you of those old kung fu movies?

Chinatown, consisting of Jalan Petaling, Jalan Sultan and the surrounding area was where the Chinese first converged when they arrived on the Malayan shores in late 18th century.

63-year-old tailor, Khong Kim Lye, who has made suits for the late Prime Minister Tun Abdul Razak Hussein, the then Agung and Tun Tan Siew Sin among others, reminisced that,

“Jalan Sultan was home to gilds, associations and the early settlers. The ground floor of the buildings were occupied by mostly grocery stores, tinsmiths and clog makers while the upper floors were partitioned into 10 to 12 rooms, so there were about 100 residents in each unit, sharing only one kitchen and one bathroom. That was life in Jalan Sultan then.”

Portraying the classic architecture in the next picture: The classic facade of Kwong Fook Wing Tailor Shop and Yan Keng Benevolent Dramatic Association is loved by shutterbugs. The Association is said to be the cradle of Cantonese opera in the country.

The Yook Woo Hin Restaurant, which has a long history, (four generations to be precise), is still a popular joint among locals and tourists, but the family now faces eviction as the unit will be acquired to accommodate the MRT project. This shop makes traditional Chinese cookies including mooncakes and egg tarts which are their most popular fare.

Yook Woo Hin’s operator Lee Wai Cheng, 50, said the restaurant would not be making its famous mooncakes in the coming Lantern Festival as they would be busy fighting for the land.

“It’s the second time in the restaurant’s 83-year history that we do not produce mooncakes, the first time because we had to move the factory."

I hope there will be a change in plan preserving the facade of our city's heritage. A country's heritage should be preserved, not destroyed. Developments would need to work around it not over it.

Source: The Star

Related article:
Preserving Kuala Lumpur's Heritage - Jalan Sultan Mural

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