“Never go alone if you were shooting around Petaling street!, someone just got murdered over there a few months ago.” those were the word that my old physic teacher told me during my stay at his house in Kuala Lumpur. “You better off by wearing a cap, you look to much like a tourist without it.” he further added. That was the first advice that my teacher actually gave to me when I told him of my interest to explore Kuala Lumpur all by myself.
Some antique foreign money that is on sale
Kuala Lumpur has always been a fascinating place for me ever since I was young. Its a place that represent Malaysia on international level and I always thought it was the most advance city in the whole Malaysia. I have never consider it as a dangerous place before and that is until I have seen the street life of Kuala Lumpur with my own eyes. Its Crowded, hectic, and heavily congested. The scene changes within a specific period of time where office worker commute their transit via the LRT in the morning to the joyous crowd at the Chinatown in the evening, its truly a sight to behold especially for someone who is used to the calm life in suburban area of Labuan.
The view of the Maybank tower from my hotel window.
Over the year, there is one particular place that manage to slip through my list and that is the infamous Pasar Karat.
Pasar karat is more of a flea market that open during the weekend. From what I heard, It’s full of interesting character that is looking for a legit source of income, a place that is full of interesting character. I still remember the word from an old Chinese photographer that I met years ago who used to shoot around the street of KL Chinatown, he did show me some of his picture from that area (which is not that impressive) and how he keep on mentioning that you need massive ‘balls’ to shoot around the area as it was guarded by a triad who have their own member guarding the area within a certain radius. The fact surprised me a bit but it doesn’t deter my curiosity to explore the area.
A guy showing off the duck that he just prepared at the back of his restaurant, where Pasar Karat is actually located.
Even after the next few years, I couldn’t find this elusive Pasar Karat but eventually, I found it by accident and to my surprised, its just next to the hotel that I used to stay in Petaling Street. It was during the recent IPA KL Street Photography workshop and around that time, the street photography community is buzzing with the work by Che Ahmad from his ‘A Walk of Life’ series and some of the picture from the series was taken at Pasar Karat. It was Che Ahmad (one of the mentor during the IPA Photography workshop) that pinpoint the location for me but I never really knew that it was that close to the place that I was staying.
Street dentist service. Slightly unhygienic yet popular with the people due to the cheaper service fee compare to the Licensed and certified Dentist.
On the second day of the workshop, I decide to find the Pasar Karat as it seems to be an interesting place for our photo assignment (and to recreate CheMat iconic picture) and I have to be early as they only open within a certain period of time which is from 7am until 10am.
And guess what, it was really just down the balcony of the hotel that I was staying and soon I find myself immerse within the crowd of people;
The moment when I realized that the Pasar Karat is just next to the hotel that I was staying.
The Pasar Karat is as mentioned earlier, a flea market that consist many people from all walk of life trying to sale something or simply looking for a bargain. Few minutes later I discover that the Pasar Karat stretch along the back lane of the shop houses near Petaling Street (i have no idea on the street name around Kuala Lumpur), which is truly interesting as it does seems to be full of potential for interesting story and picture ( I was participating a street photography workshop at that time).
The busy crowd along Pasar Karat.
I was a bit hesitate whether I should pull my camera out and hang it around my shoulder but after I remember the story that the old Chinese photographer told me a few years ago, I decided to walk through the area just to get the idea on how the place actually work.
I have a nice chat with them and they were joking on something which I couldn’t remember what, but something about animal.
The atmosphere is again, surprisingly familiar, and it feel pretty much the same as the busy hustle of Gaya Street at Kota Kinabalu. After a few minutes of walking, I couldn’t sense any malice from the people as the rumour were saying and every time I smile at them, they smile back. There is probably some slight misunderstanding with the people and soon I started to loosen up.
I am basically an introvert and some of the easiest way for me to start a conversation is by pulling out the camera which I personally believe, an all access passport/excuse to almost any situation that I could imagine.
After a few conversation with the people along Pasar Karat, I finally realized something that people who sale their stuff along Pasar Karat doesn’t have any permit to sale on that particular area from DBKL. A guy that I manage to talk with told me that people over here often got chased away by DBKL (Dewan Bandar Raya Kuala Lumpur) and usually not in a friendly/polite manner. So its quite often that people mistaken someone with a camera as a DBKL officer in disquise, hence the usual warning to not take their picture.
I did strike a long conversation with him and he was nice enough to reassure me that the place was actually very safe to what most people think off, but a bit of precaution wouldn’t harm anyway.
It is certainly nice to hear the other side of the story and after spending a total of 1 and a half hour around Pasar Karat, I manage to snag a few bargain on some old NGEO Magazine. If people say that Pasar Karat is a dangerous place to visit in Kuala Lumpur, then they obviously never try to stand in the middle of the LRT track. Regardless of what other people have to say on Pasar Karat, I truly wish that DBKL have a proper way to handle some of the issue.
I really have no idea on what the guy was trying to say but he did mention that the girl in the picture was her daughter. (this is not from the same guy from the previous picture).
Pasar Karat is really an interesting place to visit and I really recommend people to visit that place although just try not to offend the people with your camera. The next time I visit that place, I will be sure to wake up a bit early. 🙂