Leaving the Petronas Towers behind, I continued exploring Kuala Lumpur by catching the LRT to Pasar Seni Station to visit Central Market. Central Market is an indoor bazaar where you can buy just about anything your little tourist heart desires. Most importantly, though, it’s air-conditioned!
I wandered through the aisles at Central Market and found loads of kitschy knick knacks and innumerable knock offs (clothes, watches, electronics, etc.). In addition to all the cool vendors inside Central Market, there were heaps of shops outside the building along Kasturi Walk. I even found a row of artists and an art gallery snuggled deep within one of the building.
Before continuing my browsing, I stopped off for a refreshing chocolate smoothie with tapioca balls. After relaxing in the a/c for a while, I braved the heat and humidity once again and went to Pentaling Street. It’s only about a block away from Central Market and is home to KL’s Chinatown.
Pentaling Street is chock full of hawkers selling more imitation purses, watches, shoes, cell phone covers, perfume and jewelry along with a myriad of food vendors. I immediately felt overwhelmed by everything. The unbearable heat; the tremendous number of tourists; the constant pestering from hawkers; the tight rows separating the stall; everything was just too much. I guess I’m still not used to how the sellers can be so in-your-face.
Even though I was to meet Voon after work, I didn’t think I could handle staying in the area, so I decided to take a little wander around the neighborhood. I walked toward a building I saw from the LRT platform when I arrived. It’s cool-looking architecture caught my eye so I went exploring. As I approached it, all the intricate carvings and designs upon its many steeples intrigued me. The architectural style seemed Arabic in nature to me, but I’m definitely no expert. I think the building served as a train station.
Not wanting to stray too far from Chinatown, I turned back so I could meet Voon. We met near Pentaling Street and Voon treated me to a dinner of clay pot chicken rice, choy sum and old cucumber and pork soup. Clay pot chicken rice is exactly what it sounds like: a street vendor cooks chicken and rice inside a clay pot on his cart. The meat was tender and the sauce used inside the pot tasted like a sweet shoyu (soy sauce). The choy sum, which is a delicate type of Chinese cabbage, tasted like choy sum to me. I mean, it was flavorful and crunchy like all the others I’ve tasted before. However, the old cucumber and pork soup was something new to me, and it was savory and delicious.
I noticed that with every dish you eat, you also get a small dish of chili peppers or paste. I asked Voon how people could eat boiling soup or spicy dishes when the weather was always so humid, and she said it’s just part of the culture here. I like most hot and spicy things, but the heat scale and type of spices they use in Malaysia are completely different from what I’m used to at home. Let’s just say that despite loving everything I’ve eaten so far, I haven’t really loved it on the way out. But, don’t worry. I’m not letting this stop me.
Too cool off from the sweltering weather and hot soup, I tried an herbal jelly juice that had a weird but not unpleasant flavor. The liquid itself was dark green or even brown, but I assumed it was from the herbs and not because of dirty water (at least that’s what I told myself). The smell and flavor were a lot less pungent than the grass jelly drinks I’ve tried at home, so it’s already a winner in my book.
Voon and I chatted as we sat outside on a plastic stool and ate from a plastic table set up just a few feet from a bustling street. With all the street traffic and pedestrian noise around us, I felt at ease for the first time in Malaysia. Surrounded by a good friend and good food, I chalked this up as one of my best and most memorable experiences here.