Memories of Kuala Lumpur

Posted on February 2, 2016 
Filed Under Life

Morris 1000

Things I remember of Kuala Lumpur when I was a kid:

1. I remember being driven around in my father’s Morris Minor 1000 (similar to the pic above). He used to take us to Petaling Street to have the “best beef ball mee in the world”, just further up from Rex theatre, and for haircuts at the Indian barber, near Peel Road. The barber had to put a plank across the the chair for me to sit and the floors were always strewn with clumps of cut hair and the waft of coconut oil, Brylcreem and incense come to mind. The slick “curry-puff” look was my choice of hairstyle of the day.

That look. Why did we all want it back then?

2. I remember the stench of the Pudu and Chow Kit wet markets and how I had to help carry my mum’s haggled purchases while sloshing around in inches of icky water that always filled the markets.

3. I remember in 1969, when a curfew was declared and we raced to the sundry shop down the road from Freeman Road to stock up. The sundry shop was so inundated, the owner forego the usual jottings in the 555 books, and let everyone cart away whatever they wanted and trusted them to declare what they took later.

555 book
Everyone had a 555 book to their name and you could pay at the end of the month.

4. I remember the floods of 1971, and not having to go to school for a whole week.

5. I remember in 1975, armed members of the Japanese Red Army stormed the AIA building, near my school, St John’s Institution, seizing over 50 hostages, and again, we got off school for a few days.

AIA 1975
Bell-bottomed, platform-shoed, hostage-taker. Even the criminals were fashionable back then – NST filepic

6. I remember going to the A & W, in the AIA building, which had those huge, porcelain-white, curved staircases, and having Root Beer floats and one ringgit Coney Dogs every Tuesday.

A&W Coneydogs
Tuesday was Coney Dog day

7. I remember sneaking into Cathay cinema in Bukit Bintang in the dark, after my friend paid the guard 50 sen to sit on the stairs in the aisles to watch a movie.

8. I remember going to some shady shop, near Central Market, to play video games like Pac Man, Space Invaders and my favourite, Asteroids, and hitting the hyperspace button to disappear, if only momentarily, to another dimension.

You could hit the Hyperspace button when the boulders came to close and escape to a fresh screen. We all need a hyperspace button in our lives.

9. I remember saving up to go to McDonald’s – the first ever one to open in Malaysia in Bukit Bintang – and having a quarter pounder with a huge slab of meat and having their milkshake which was so thick we giggled hysterically because we couldn’t suck it through the straw.

10. I remember taking the chair-lift and cable-car up Bukit Nanas — half-priced for students — for a ride up the hill and into the forest. Once, we got off at the midway point and tried to go exploring on our own and were chased by a screaming man with a parang for trespassing.

11. I remember my mum taking us to Globe Silk Store, in Batu Road, later, Jalan Tuanku Abdul Rahman, every Christmas season to buy new clothes and how I had to live with her choices and going there every year for Don-branded school uniforms and the nearby Bata shop for shoes that were one size bigger so they would last longer.

12. I remember taking the Len Seng bus and later pink mini-buses at Foch Avenue, grocery shopping at Weld Supermarket and Fitzpatrick’s, taking buses at the smog-choked Klang Bus Station and Puduraya, getting platform tickets to await or send off someone at KTM, eating briyani at Bilal and roti canai in Simla, roving around Chow Kit, wandering around Jalan Masjid India, Central Market, Semua House, Kota Raya (great second-hand books store!), bowling at Ampang Bowl, riding the Matterhorn at Yaohan Mall, watching many, many movies at Odeon, Rex, Pavilion and Cathay theatres.

These memories come to me as reminders of how things were. I hope they’ve triggered some fond ones of your own life in Kuala Lumpur…


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