Cities²: Kuala Lumpur I

I will be doing a photo series of cities. It’s called Cities² because photographs capture in squares (more accurately, rectangles). So very lame, I know.

I went out to the city in between two 3-hour lectures for some business and for necessity (six hours with law of trusts and land law in a day can really cause psychiatric injury!). The few months of stringing that I did last year has created this habit of carrying my trusty 2-year-old deteriorating Fujifilm FinePix F60fd (yes, digital compact) with me almost everywhere I go. On impulse, I wandered off the main roads that I’ve traveled before, taking my time snapping photos. At times, you could be your own best travel companion! I watched Malay skater boys honing their game on sidewalks, foreign workers sending money home and police officers gathering and gearing up for their shifts.

Here is Kuala Lumpur squared.

This man hides under a tree from the midday heat beside the Klang River. He sells belts, caps and umbrellas. It comes to no surprise that he could possibly be illegally trading his goods as it is not an uncommon sight to see traders bundling their goods in cloth and running off at top speed to avoid municipal officers just like at Bukit Bintang. Only that he is brighter. He has a bicycle.

Most transitional shop houses (built circa 1880s) have Chinese characters plastered on their pillars. They usually bore good sayings or the name of the business. I can’t read Chinese, which is a shame, but nevertheless, it was not a foreign sight. With more and more foreign workers in Malaysia to hopefully strike gold, some have began to ply their trade to cater for the needs of their comrades.

I also went to the 1905 Hubback-designed building which houses the National Textile Museum at present which formerly housed the Federated Malay States Railway Station and Selangor Works Department. The wooden and marble flooring have been nicely preserved, and the museum is pretty decent for a Malaysian museum, albeit a little too dark, though I presume it is so to prevent decay of the textiles. I was mistaken to be a foreign tourist by the receptionist, probably because Malaysians don’t give two hoots about our museums or maybe I was flushed (as usual) from the afternoon heat. The many mannequins coupled with how deserted the museum was made it rather eerie.

At the washroom, I couldn’t help but notice these two signs. A sexist toilet. There was no similar ‘NO SMOKING’ sign on the ladies’ toilet door, effectively presuming that only men smoke.

And there is the Elitist Toilet. Probably gold taps, silk toilet paper and carved ivory flush handles. Unconsciously, instead of entering the VVIP, I used the ‘normal’ toilet. Why? Mental conformity? Perhaps.

Who qualify to be the VVIP? The foreign tourists from first world countries? Politicians? Guests of honour?

Who should use the ‘normal’ toilet? Locals? Foreign workers? Janitors?

What a damned class-conscious society this is. What suckers to the elite.

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