I believe that a good way to know a place is to visit its market. That is why whenever we find chance on our few trips, we often try to drop by to some of community’s economic center.
I remember how I admired one of the most photographed public markets in Malaysia…
There’s really something so special about local markets. They usually define a place either rural or urban. While Siti Khadijah Market in Kelantan offers a wide variety of fresh produce and dry goods, the Pasar Seni in Malaysia’s capital city-Kuala Lumpur, boasts of anything from creative handicrafts, fascinating arts, even live cultural performances at almost every night plus a piece of country’s history.
Our short trip to Central Market in KL provided a different kind of visual feast. The challenge was to hold on to our wallets prior to impulsive purchase.
Central Market is a walking distance from Petaling Street, the Chinatown of Kuala Lumpur. It’s easily accessible by bus, train or by foot.
The right lateral to Kuala Lumpur’s Central Market is called Katsuri Walk, the latest outdoor addition to the more than-century-old Pasar Seni. Many souvenir items, street foods, arts and crafts and local snacks, even ice cream are being sold and showcased for haggling at the Katsuri Walk. Care for some scoops of ice cream in DURIAN flavor? We didn’t dare but we already sampled durian ice cream sometime last year in a buffet restaurant in Penang. If you love durian, you’ll certainly like durian ice cream too.
We personally liked Central Market better than Katsuri Walk simply because the former is airconditioned. It certainly makes window shopping and shopping itself less tiring in this tropical country (the weather mimics that of Philippines EXCEPT Malaysia doesn’t have any typhoons, neither any weather disturbances; its location is unlike my home country in the typhoon belt).
Most Malaysians don’t know that we, Filipinos came from Malay race. That is why many of them are a bit surprised whenever we fill out forms and write Malay as our race. Malaysians and Filipinos share some similarities clearly apparent even with local handicrafts. Notice the sepak-takraw or woven sipa, colorful banig or sleeping mats and rattan crafts on the next photo.
Better to haggle than come home with an empty wallet. Bear in mind that this Central Market is one of Kuala Lumpur’s tourist spots; having said so, prices of items can be affordable and at the same time soar up to the high heavens.
More than the usual souvenir items like key chains, T-shirts and fridge magnets, a lot of interesting crafts are on stalls inside Pasar Seni. Even our kiddo, Gabby enjoyed the sights; he was even looking for a toy to take home.
We were just strolling around, looking at commodities until my haggling power was tested at one of the stalls.
I owe it to Gabby and Tina who found the stall with CONGKAK or SUNGKA to us Filipinos…
This LOVEly portable and light-weight-wooden-rabbit shaped-dark blue-batik-painted Malaysian congkak (pronounced as chongkak) was first priced at RM99 (PhP 1,386) which was way too much for my budget. Finally, the lady vendor agreed to my last price (a little more than the half of the original price). There were a few more designs but I just fell in love with this blue one. Isn’t it gorgeous? Gabby and Tina also gave me their approval. Nice!
Back in Renaissance Hotel in Kota Bharu, Kelantan last May 2011, Tina and I were left in awe at a vividly colorful double-headed dragon-designed congkak at the concierge of the said hotel. It was put on display with no seashells neither marbles but mentos candies for all the guests checking in. I asked immediately the receptionist where they got that beautiful congkak, and to our disappointment, it wasn’t a craft bought from their town but bought from Indonesia.
Almost a year after, we got no dragon-designed sungkaan, but a better one, at least for me. It reminds me so much of our late maternal grandmother, Lola Idang, who taught us how to play and enjoy the game.
While our kiddo at his young age flickers his fingers in playing various apps, I’m so glad he also finds time to play sungkaan with me. Guess who’s always winning and who’s asking a rematch frequently? LOL!
This Kuala Lumpur blog series includes :