Definitely the fresh morning, wet grass and musky lemongrass and cinnammon teinted smell from the jungle are all the more intense in this season. For one that has lived in Paris and felt the excitation of a long longed for sunny day, the rainy season in the tropics brings a lot of unexpected joys. It is not only about the relief from the hard heat but above all that image of little invisible droplets congregating together in winds breathing over green canopies all the way aroind until they become big enough to explode over here. Well until it lasts, given the unrelenting burning of forests around here. The rainy season however brings a great deal of humidity and what starts as freshness turns fast into a steaming torture, as soon as the sun shows up for a little while before the next downpour. And so was for the start of the morning in Pudu market, where at nine the sun was already making a mean serious appearance over the wet streets. In the short-lived yet powerful heat, the smell of the garbage became all pervading in the side I got off from the car, giving a feel a sort of live rotting experience, naturally just in front of the stalls selling fresh vegetables, meat and fish. Now this is one of the confusing moments where your eyes tell you one thing and the nostrils plead you to turn vegetarian, hah. In the end the market is very fresh, it is just an issue of urban planning.
Despite this entry into the place, the day turned out to be a very rewarding walk into a living neighborhood. The market is just a market, although I am grateful not to have seen any sharkfins like they used to sell here twelve years back (what a barbarian selfish practice). Yet all around unfolds an old neighborhood still perfectly running its wheels. Tradition is so alive that earlier in august, I found here a highway underpass occupied by the celebrations for Ghost Month. There were paper made statues, several rows of offerings and shrines for the dead and incense. The temple nearby that was taking care of this together with other temples in KL, is a very humble business compared to the magnificent roofs of Malacca and others, testifying the simplicity of means of this prevalently Chinese immigrant neighborhood.
All around the market, the neighborhood shows different layers of urbanisation waves. There are lovely pre-war shophouse with their sober and elegant bricks and wide windows. Nearby other “boxed” windows housings show some later style of development (I am sure the guy that put the cement frame around the window, probably to protect it from the rain, felt very smart about it). The neighborhood harbors a number of workshops and activities that still give lymph to its survival.The printing shops are still going on below, they rythm this saturday morning with their clankering beat, while people sit by in the little restaurants to let the rain pass.
And yet this comfortable and casual oldness is not the only dominant trait of Pudu. At least not in its history. What today seems simplicity has been few decades back gnawing poverty, Pudu was barely a settlement still contending its place with the jungle. The reality of being the “other side of Bukit Bintang” has fuelled families to look for fortune and leave for the sake of the children: gangsters stories were rife in the place. I recommend you to read this beautiful recollection with pictures by Mahen Bala for Time Out Magazine to enter the bygone days.
After the brief spell of heat, the rain starts again and we rush under the shophouses five foot galleries. In Jalan Brunei we turn around and the four cafés on the four angles are all swarming with people, some eating, some looking around and some chattering. It may be the rain but it feels that people love to come back to Pudu.