Photographs copyright: DAVID McMAHON
On our way back from Langkawi last month, we spent a few days in Kuala Lumpur and the concierge at our hotel told us that we simply had to check out Chinatown. He added that the best time to go was late evening, saying that the place really came to life after dark.
He wasn’t kidding. Petaling Street is a gateway to a realm of many enriching experiences. Apart from commerce, there is the novelty of cheek-by-jowl shops, the glistening array of goods for sale, the zeal of the shopkeepers and the unmistakable feeling that this is a place where no one sleeps.
I watched a couple of vendors pushing heavy trolleys around the crowded street. Intrigued, I stood oblivious to all else as one of them, a woman, opened up a strong conical plastic bag and poured ice into it. Then she opened a can of Coke and poured the contents into the bag. Next she inserted a straw into the bag and tied the top neatly together. Then she took the payment from one of the stall holders and handed over the made-to-order iced drink.
A few metres down the street, I asked this vendor if I could take some photographs of him and he nodded. He seemed to be keeping up a reasonable stream of commerce in the crowded precinct. But because of the angle from which I was shooting (and the throng around me) I didn’t think it strange that he was positioned on the corner of an alleyway.
Much later that night, as we left the area, I realised that his ``stall’’ was nothing more than an old motorcycle. Obviously, he loaded up all his equipment, rode in like one of the heroes in an old Western, plied his trade and then rode home again at the end of the night.
Hopefully his theme song was that film classic, "For A Few Dollars More".
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